In late 2010, the museum was contacted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art requesting the loan of the museum’s Thomas Birch (American, 1779 – 1851) oil painting The Shipwreck, 1837, for the exhibition Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and “The Life Line”. The exhibition focuses on Philadelphia’s magnificent Winslow Homer painting, The Life Line, to explore the making and meaning of images of rescue. The Washington County Museum of Fine Art’s shipwreck painting was a perfect fit, since Birch’s work would have been known to Homer and the painting so effectively communicates the power and terror of the sea. The loan request was approved and the painting is currently on view in the exhibition at the in the Philadelphia Museum of Art; which is on view September 22, 2012 through December 16, 2012.
Thomas Birch's "The Shipwreck" on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Before the painting was packed for transport to Philadelphia the objects team inventoried the painting and created condition reports that traveled with the painting. Doing condition reports, including detailed photographs, prior to the painting being transported is important in ensuring that any changes that may occur during transport or while the work is on exhibition are noticed quickly. Inventorying the work prior to its departure and making sure the Past Perfect database is updated with its location as “On Loan” is important to maintain intellectual control of the painting even when it is away from the museum.
Back of Thomas Birch's "The Shipwreck" prior to being packed.
The WCMFA is excited when we receive loan requests for works of art from the collection, especially for such significant exhibitions as this. It allows more people to see works of art from our collection and introduces people to the WCMFA that may not know about us. The inventory assists with loan requests, in providing us with great images and updated information to share with other museums and institutions that are interested in borrowing works of art from the collection.
*For more information on the exhibition Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and “The Life Line” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art visit http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/749.html