Art storage and handling

Art storage  and circulation of cultural objects can happen internally within the institution whenever there is the need to carry out a photographic survey, research, exhibitions, etc..

Or externally whenever there are temporary exhibitions, restoration interventions, etc.

During these moments, handling should always be made with care, in order not to damage the objects (which can be irreversible).

In order for this task to be effective, the technical staff responsible for the handling must be fully equipped, whether the objects are being moved internally or externally.

We share some advices from the online course Preventive Conservation.

which you can see applied in a time-lapse video of The Met Museum.

Minimize risks

The goal is to minimize risks and ensure the preservation of the objects.

Let’s look at some of the main topics concerning a proper handling when moving or transporting cultural goods:

– Promote appropriate handling: by preventing neglect, we minimize risks (like deformation or breakage).

– Check the conservation status of the piece. Observe the state of the object, before and after having it moved, to better control the process of handling.

– Use suitable packaging (materials and packaging itself). It should minimize shocks and help in proper conditioning of the object.

– Transportation should be adequate and safe. Minimize the dangers inherent to travelling.

– Avoid moving the objects unnecessarily.

– Take into account the frailty, the rarity, the interest of the object and its state of conservation.

– Identify the objects’ weak spots (wings, handles, cables, edges, parts that already suffered interventions, cracks,…).

Handling procedures

– Concentrate on the task at hand (avoid talking on the phone while handling an object).

– Wear gloves to protect the objects of grease, moisture, acids and salts that your hands may release.

– Wear suitable gloves – they should fit your hand and be according to the material you are working with (for instance: do not use cotton gloves if you are handling glass, because the object may easily slip and fall down). On the market there are several types of gloves (cotton, latex and nitrile rubber gloves).

– Change gloves whenever handling a new object (to avoid contamination).

– Use both hands to hold the object you are handling;

– Move the objects one at a time;

– Take care that the surface where you handle the objects is soft and coated with a suitable material;

– Do not use wide sleeves, rings, bracelets or necklaces that can get caught or scratch the objects (they can damage or endanger them). It is best suited to wear a lab coat;

– Never use adhesive tape or modelling clay (plasticine) directly on the materials: they leave stains and lead to further damage;

– Use foam or other suitable materials to stop each object of tipping during handling.

Handling large or heavy pieces

Moving larger or heavier objects must also be well planned. So:

– Count with the largest possible number of people to help with the task.

– Use mechanical means (like pallet trucks, stackers, trolleys).

– Note and identify points on the route that may become or have obstacles (such as stairs, corners, narrow aisles, low corridors where the objects may not pass).

– Synchronize and watch carefully every movement (avoid sudden and inadequate movements).


Watch time lapse video of The Met Museum

Learn more about art conservation

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