Thursday, January 14, 2010

Farewell to America's Rome

By: Christine Olsen, Registrar
As you may have read in my blog post “Making an Exhibition Happen” a lot of steps are involved in putting up and taking down an exhibit. In our exhibit, America’s Rome: Artists in the Eternal City, we had 134 works from 24 lenders, including Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Toledo Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum of Art. In addition to some of the other projects that I am working on which I have blogged about, such as the Through the Eyes of Others Travelling show which returns from NYSM in January and preparing for the Thaw Travelling show to go to Cleveland in February, I am currently working on returning the loans for America’s Rome to their lenders since the exhibit closed on December 31st. Instead of shipping with UPS, Fed Ex or a standard moving company, I work with a handful of exclusive fine art handling companies who specialize in shipping for high value and fragile cargo. Their trucks have special air ride suspension, temperature/humidity control and dual drivers with a security system; a few more options than the standard shipper would provide! Sometimes, lenders require an exclusive use shipment, which means that their loan is the only one on the truck. For those that do not require exclusive use, I often combine shipments for lenders that are geographically near one another; they call these direct shuttles, and many lenders like to know that their artwork is on board with loans from other museums who lent to the same exhibition.

As I have discussed in detail in my blog “Making an Exhibition Happen”, each loan has specific requirements from the lenders which must be followed; for example, just as upon unpacking and installation, there are three lenders to this show that require a courier to oversee de-installation and packing. This means making flight and hotel reservations for each courier, and scheduling de-installation and shipping to coincide perfectly with their visits. It is a difficult juggling act, and it has taken me weeks to work out the details. Finally, two lenders to this exhibit require that their courier also ride on the truck for the return of their artwork; one lender will ride all the way from Cooperstown to Detroit in one day!

All of the crates for the work in this exhibit have been stored since April in a storage space with security, pest and environmental controls (you can go back and see the pictures I posted of crates stacked in the hallway in my previous blog). When it is time for de-installation, the crates will be moved into the exhibition gallery to be packed by myself and other Curatorial staff. The artwork itself is thoroughly examined again by me for condition changes and has detailed pictures taken of its packing. As anyone who has read my blogs knows, condition reporting itself takes a lot of time, and I can only do it when the museum is closed to the public.
This is the life of every loan that comes in and out of the museum; after doing this for so long I have a system down so that this process goes smoothly. But of course there are glitches along the way and unexpected things that come up that I and my colleagues must contend with. It certainly makes the winter go by quickly! I will soon be blogging about loans that will be coming in for our Spring exhibitions, such as John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women…if the technical aspects of registrarial work interest you, stay tuned!

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