When Material Handling Meets Museum Artefacts


Museums hold plenty of fragile, expensive and ancient exhibits. These exhibits all need to be packaged and transported with extreme care. Even setting up exhibitions requires time, often taking all night. So to avoid a long night of museums set up, efficient transportation and delivery of exhibits is required.

Transporting Museum Objects

The types of artefacts and pieces to be displayed in exhibitions are planned months or even years ahead of schedule. This is because of the intense and careful packaging and transportation of these items. Museum artefacts or art gallery paintings are incredibly fragile objects, and great care must be taken when transporting them from all over the world.

Throughout their travels, the exhibits condition must be constantly assessed at each stage of their transportation to ensure they are kept in prime condition. Detailed photographic records of each item must be made before transport. Throughout their travels, their condition is compared against these photographic records, making sure no damage has been done to them.

Great care is also used when transporting items. Museum staff often travel with items to ensure supreme care is afforded to them. This involves making sure loading or unloading activities are undertaken properly, that items are stored in the right way and secured adequately.

How to Package Museum Artefacts

Whether museum items are in transport or in storage, extra care needs to be taken to package them. There is the obvious need to keep items safe; museum exhibits are fragile and easily broken. But there is also a real need to carefully monitor environmental conditions to ensure items remain in the best conditions. Items such as bones or ivory must be kept under a temperature of 200C and in a room under 45% humidity. Leather objects need to remain under low lighting, of under 150 lux. Some fine art pieces, especially from the renaissance period, degrade under too much light.

For transportation, many different measures need to be undertaken. Small objects must be padded and cannot be carried via handles, necks, rims or any other projecting parts, as these are easily broken.

When transporting fine art pieces, each piece must undergo special conservation treatment. Cheaper art pieces are often wrapped in bubble wrap, Styrofoam and packaged in cardboard boxes. Expensive pieces undergo more special treatment and packaging. A custom archival box is constructed for each, each lines with inert museum grade foam, suitable for long term storage. For long trips, work should also be doubly packed in cardboard boxes or a custom-designed crate.

Long night of museums is coming to the UK on 17-20 May. This time think about what it took to transport all those objects to the museums!

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