By: Leslie Fried – Curator, Alaska Jewish Museum
The Museums Alaska / Alaska Historical Society Conference 2016 afforded me the opportunity to attend a Packing and Crating workshop on the Tuesday before regular conference sessions. At this workshop we addressed issues concerning the protection of both outgoing and incoming objects, as well as the proper storage procedures. Worst-case scenarios were recounted by attendees, for example the lid of a very valuable basket that went unnoticed and was thrown away during its unwrapping (though later retrieved); and a set of plates from Picasso’s ceramics studio that was completely smashed during shipping.
In Packing and Crating, the importance of organizing the paper trail of an object was stressed, i.e. keeping track of where it came from or where it will go. A very helpful example of a shipping/receiving form was passed out. Mention was also made of the importance of securing proper insurance for the building and all of the items that are contained within it.
Also stressed was the importance of a controlled environment for objects. A specific procedural order should be maintained when an object arrives. It should not be brought into the main museum areas with other objects but is first quarantined in a climate controlled room where it can be assessed for insect infestation. Freezing the object may be necessary if in fact an infestation is present. If your museum does not have a suitable freezer, the object may be double bagged to insure that the invading insects do not spread to other areas. Also, responses to sudden differences in temperature and humidity can be negative.
Attendees practiced ways of stabilizing objects for storage or for shipping working with various materials generally used for this. It was very helpful to learn that some of these materials can be easily found, for example, Tyvek at Lowes, Uline, or in the form of paint suits at the various paint store. Volara can be ordered from Fisher Scientific. See chart below:
In practicing packing, attention was paid to the prevention of movement in all directions. In storage, the issue of how to remove an object safely from a box was raised. See images below:
I was unable to stay for Part II of the workshop because of the pain I was experiencing from a toe broken in the hotel the night before. But true to the cooperative and adventurous spirit of museum professionals in general and to museum packing and crating in particular, I was sent on my limping way with pieces of volara, a scissor, cardboard (for splinting) and adhesive tape to package my toe in the most efficient way possible!