Take preventative measures

A condition report should be made before an item travels and again on arrival; it may also be sensible to take digital photographs. Each journey should be monitored and logged via satellite tracking systems and the consignment tracked remotely via a ‘live’ CCTV system. It is also advisable to use an expert art mover registered by the UK Government Indemnity Scheme, which enables museums to benefit from heavily subsidised insurance, providing the transport used is registered.

Minimising transport costs

One of the best ways efficiencies can be achieved is through museums being as flexible as possible in their transport arrangements. A deal on ‘return loads’ and ‘part loads’ is an effective means of bringing down costs, especially if there is no specific deadline for the delivery. Items can be stored in a specialist warehouse until the truck is due to leave for its next location.

Packing is a major cost so it is vital to carefully consider the level of packing required for each item; a crate is the safest way for art to travel but it is also one of the most expensive, and not always necessary. For example, a transit frame, which secures the picture into a frame, and is then wrapped in polythene attached to the back of the painting, may be suitable. However, the shocks of a road journey can easily be transmitted straight to the painting, so it is vital to use an expert art mover with specialist trucks to prevent vibration damage.

Avoiding transport delays

For international shipments the biggest delays can occur at customs, so having the correct documentation is absolutely vital. Small items can be sent by air as hand-carry, a far quicker and easier option than choosing to send by road and surprisingly economical. On the road, choose an expert mover with high-tech trucks in which the consignment’s progress can be monitored remotely.

Understating the difficulty of a job can cause delays when technicians arrive to move works of art or museum pieces. It is therefore prudent to furnish movers with full contact details of what it is being moved, who they are picking up from and advising in advance if the pieces will need special handling or re-hanging.

Once the works arrive at their temporary or permanent home, several other issues need to be considered:

Storing fragile works: getting the environmental conditions right

The key to storing art and artefacts safely is choosing an environment where the temperature and humidity can be effectively controlled. In underground vaults temperatures are naturally constant, but in specialist warehouses it is necessary to heat and cool the building to ensure works remain in peak condition.

For most pieces a humidity of 50 per cent is ideal, together with a constant temperature similar to a museum environment. However, metal sculptures require lower humidity, as low as 35 per cent, to prevent oxidisation, while paper and manuscripts require around 55 per cent humidity to avoid the growth of mould.

If installing air conditioning, don’t forget this process also dries the air and changes the humidity. Close monitoring, therefore, is crucial. At Crown Fine At we use data loggers and regularly draw up graphs of temperature and humidity ranges to ensure they are correct.

Plan for emergencies:

A key consideration is the need to mitigate against the threat of emergencies such as fire and flood, so emergency evacuation procedures must be carefully planned. It is advisable to consider leasing a vault in which museum works can be stored if the need arises. For economies of scale consider working with an expert mover who can both move the items and has their own storage vault.

CASE STUDY: Moving challenging artefacts ~ The Mary Rose Guns

Crown Fine Art worked with the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth over a number of years to undertake the historic move of the ship’s guns.

Three of the ship’s largest cast bronze guns – which weigh around three tonnes each – were moved from the existing museum into temporary storage. Then, when the context galleries were ready to receive the ship’s artefacts, all the guns, including the lighter, more fragile cast iron guns were moved from the existing museum, to their new position opposite the ship’s hull. These include other cannons weighing 1 tonne and 3 tonnes – as well as the anchors and gun carriages; all in all about 30 large objects.

Moving the guns into their final positions was a huge challenge as the access and design of the display area and the enormous weight of the guns ruled out conventional lifting equipment and techniques. To overcome these challenges, we designed a specialist lifting trolley to enable the weighty but fragile cannons to be manoeuvred into place within their new glass display cases. Manoeuvrability was limited because of the design of the gallery and the guns are very heavy and awkward to move.

Now her historic guns are back in position in excellent condition on the gun deck as they would have been on 19 July 1545, shortly before she sank.

CASE STUDY: Queen’s College Library, Oxford

The famous library closed for refurbishments – including a new roof – and relied on Crown Fine Art to keep its contents safe in the meantime.

Crown moved 35,000 antique books from the library and stored them for three months before returning them.

The main consideration here was that the spines can be fragile and easily damaged in transit. So the books were wrapped in acid-free tissue and packed flat inside boxes lined with blankets and foam to cushion them.

Labelling is also vital to aid re-shelving and to allow clients to access items easily during storage, so books were packed in order and labels attached both inside and outside the box.

A collection of priceless manuscripts from the upper library, going back to the origin of the building, was also preserved and removed along with ancient glass-covered display cases (which had to be dismantled) and a collection of antique globes. Other items moved included a 15th Century wooden sculpture and an antique model of the solar system.


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