Post by: Lauren IppolitoAssistant Collections and Exhibitions Manager
Art handling is an integral part of the collections inventory project. Every object in the museum’s permanent collection must be temporarily removed from storage or display to be inspected, measured, and photographed. In order to care for and protect the museum’s permanent collection, the inventory team must use proper art handling techniques and appropriate supplies and equipment.
When an object is moved, the risk of damage to that object increases, which is why we handle objects only when necessary. As part of proper art handling technique, we must examine the object to determine if there are areas that may be unstable, know the destination for the object, and make necessary preparations for its arrival before any movement begins. There must be a clear path for moving the object, and the object must be moved slowly and carefully with enough people to safely handle the object. The equipment and supplies used to move and handle objects varies according to the type of object. However, there is one supply that we use for handling every object- nitrile gloves. As the photo below shows, we keep plenty of clean gloves in stock.
As we conduct the collections inventory project, we must transition our work space so that we can inventory objects as close to their storage location as possible in order to minimize the movement of the museum’s permanent collection. The first work space that we created was close to a storage area of smaller objects including ceramics, silver, art glass, paperweights, and wood carvings. To inventory these objects, we moved them using a utility cart padded with polyethylene foam. We moved small batches of the objects on the cart with padding as a buffer in between objects. One person pushed the cart while the other person kept objects stabilized during the move.
The second work space allowed the inventory team to have closer access to the painting storage racks. We relocated objects from a portion of a painting storage rack to create a space to hang each framed object to be inventoried and photographed. Due to the close proximity to the storage location and the limited space of the storage area, we carried each framed object to the work space. While most framed objects required two people to carry, there are many small framed works that are manageable for one person to carry one object at a time. The photo below illustrates the proper way to lift and carry a framed object- always with both hands, one on the side and one on the bottom.
When a painting is moved a further distance, we utilize the A-frame cart (see photo below).
As the collections inventory project progresses, we will create new work spaces and utilize other art handling techniques for sculpture, textiles, and furniture.