Guideline 4.2

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Guideline 4.2:
The exhibit team follows safe packing and transportation procedures



What basic safety precautions should be taken during object transportation?

Transport of exhibit objects must be planned in advance and supervised to prevent damage or loss of objects during transit.
The exhibit coordinator should ensure that all team members are versed in safe object movement and transport, arranging for training, consultation or the assistance of a professional art handler, as needed
Curator, registrar, or conservator should be consulted before handling objects, especially if an object appears unstable (shows tears, breaks, or lifting and flaking surfaces).
Particularly vulnerable objects should be flagged to signal the need for special handling, packing and transport requirements.
Qualified individuals should pack collections for shipping.


Overview of safe object transportation procedures

Plan route in advance. Have a plan for where you will move the object and how it will be prepared for transport before moving it (look at the object and decide how best to lift it onto its support.) Clear pathways beforehand; if required, have someone open doors for you.
Move objects using sufficient personnel. If the object is too large or awkward to be safely moved by one person, ask for help. Never drag, slide or pull even large objects.
Remove unattached elements such as drawers and, where possible, tie down other loose components with cotton twill tape.
Provide supports and containers. When moving objects, whatever their condition, they should always be on rigid, padded supports or in protective containers, such as a padded tray, box, folder, or cart.
Use a container that is the appropriate size. Do not try to force an object into a container that is too small. Do not leave an object to rattle about in a container that is too large: Containers should not allow objects to tumble or fall over.
Never stack objects one on top of another. Separate individual items and parts of one object such as the lid and body of a ceramic pot with safe cushioning (paper or foam).


What precautions must be taken for packing and transporting collections traveling outside the institution?

Establish a multi-step process to guide all transport activities: begin with an assessment of object condition and vulnerabilities, and assess potential transport methods and routes (perform a mini risk assessment); select the safest route; assess the packing requirements and design packing; apply appropriate packing methods; include safeguards for shocks and vibrations; include equipment such as sensors and data-loggers; include unpacking instructions and an object evaluation when the object arrives at its destination.


Further Resources:

  • The international conference, "Art In Transit" was held at the Tate Gallery in London and then at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It was sponsored by Tate Gallery, the Canadian Conservation Institute (Ottawa), the Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution (Washington), and the National Gallery of Art (Washington). The conference included 3 days of papers.


The contents of the conference were outlined in detail in a front page article in the January 1992 issue of the "AIC News.”
For further information or to order these publications contact:
National Gallery of Art
Publications Mail Order Department
2000B South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
Tel: (301) 322-5900
Art In Transit: Studies in the Transport of Paintings, $18.00.
Item ISBN 0-89468-163-X
Art In Transit: Handbook for Packing and Transporting Paintings, $15.00.
Item ISBN 0-89468-165-6.
(Note: Shipping and handling extra)