Objects are not transferred from the controlled museum environment to the studios or workshops of exhibit contractors.
What are the potential risks of moving objects to contractor facilities?
Objects should not be sent to the offices and workshops of contractors (exhibit design firms, fabricators, mountmakers, shops making reproductions). Not only does the object face the risk of damage while in transit but the facility itself can also present hazards. These locations are rarely equipped with the controlled environments and security features necessary to ensure an object’s safety. An exception can be made for the laboratories of contract conservators if the conservation facility is reviewed and found to be appropriate.
The specific risks involved in transporting objects from the museum environment to contractors’ worksites include:
- • The risks of transport, including physical shock, vibration, and mechanical stresses.
- • Lax physical security at the worksite, resulting in vandalism or theft.
- • Exposure to damaging climatic conditions (inappropriate humidity and temperature) and insufficient protection from atmospheric contaminants at the worksite.
- • Exposure to uncontrolled and damaging lighting.
- • Unsafe handling practices of employees and visitors to the facility.
How can the exhibit team assist the contractor’s work while retaining the object at the museum site?
- • Enable contractors to work at the museum site: When possible, the exhibit team should invite the contractor to the museum to work in close proximity to the object. The team can set up a suitable workspace close to the exhibit holding area, as described in Guideline 3.3
- (Note: The contractor will usually expect to be reimbursed for travel.)
- • Assist contractors to work without the physical object: When it is not possible for the contractor to travel to the museum to document the object or work on-site, the exhibit team can provide detailed information that allows the contractor to “reconstruct” the object at their own worksite. The information must be as accurate as possible to ensure that the contractor has confidence in the data and will produce functional work.
- (Note: Exhibit contractors will often require that they make their own measurements and templates if they are to take responsibility for their work.)
- Information that can substitute for the object itself, includes:
- • Precise object measurements
- • Photographs and sketches with dimensions clearly marked. The size of an object is often best communicated with photos that include measurements within the frame itself. Sketches depicting how an object will appear when on display rather than in storage are also useful for communicating the object’s appearance “in the round” and any changes in its volume. (A civil war uniform, for example, will have a much greater volume once it is displayed on a mannequin rather than laid flat in a storage box).
- • Catalogue and accessioning information will provide details about the object’s history and provenance
- • Templates and patterns. These are useful for checking object layout and ensuring that objects fit into cases and onto exhibit mounts properly.
- • Color swatches and samples. These will enable exhibit designers to choose appropriate colors for panels as well as background paints that will contrast well with the displayed materials.