Crew securing paintings to a screenIn this post, Blanton registrar Sue Ellen Jeffers explains the ins and outs of moving and storing art…

Moving art. What’s the big deal? How hard can it be? Maybe a little like creating order out of chaos?

The Blanton has recently finished building a state of the art storage facility so that works of art that have been stored off site can finally come home to the museum. While this is a wonderful thing, it creates quite a daunting task for us, the museum’s collections management staff. Moving hundreds of collection objects will take a lot of advance planning and preparation. There are sculptures and paintings of all sizes, as well as some really heavy large stone and bronze sculptures, each needing to be handled carefully. Some objects are packed in large wooden crates, others in cardboard cartons, others in bubble wrap.

One of the first things we have to decide is where, exactly, these art works will go in the new storage facility. On a shelf? On a screen? (A screen is a large moveable “wall” that multiple paintings can be affixed to – see photo.) We only want to move things once! Some works are very large, and they will only fit on certain painting storage screens that can accommodate their size. Other works are three-dimensional and must go on shelves. Very large sculptures will be placed on pallets on the floor, but we must decide if we want them grouped together. And if so, how? By medium? By collection?

We also have to determine how many truckloads and the number of weeks required to bring all of our collections back. We have to know the dimensions of all the works and how each is packed so we can figure out how to combine objects on a truck to make the most efficient use of space without endangering the art works. How many loads of artwork can we receive each week and safely unpack and store away? How should we prioritize which works are delivered first? How many trained art handlers will we need on hand for this project? All of this must be scheduled around The Blanton’s many other activities and programs.

The moving trucks must be climate controlled and have air ride suspension because the works of art should not be subjected to wide variations in temperature or humidity and we don’t want them to have a bumpy, potentially damaging ride to their new home. Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in moving fine art and have the needed equipment and staff trained in handling delicate art works.

Once the art works are here, we will carefully unpack each one and put it on the pre-determined shelf or screen. Each screen and shelf will have an ID number, and the location of each object will be noted in our collections management database so we can find it in the future.

And that is how The Blanton’s collection management staff creates order out of chaos!

Photo: Members of the museum’s installation team securing paintings to a screen

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