Being closed for renovation is a great time to lend works to other museums. We have worked, or will be working, with close neighbors (Virginia MOCA), regional partners (North Carolina Museum of Art), national institutions (Smithsonian American Art Museum), and internationally known museums such as the Royal Academy of Arts in London or the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, to name just a few.
With that in mind, here are quick insights on what's involved behind the scenes.
• To protect a tempura-on-wood-panel painting, more than 550 years old, against temperature and humidity changes on an airplane ride, we use what could be described as a high-tech version of a kitchen seal-a-meal vacuum bag. Of particular concern is the potential warping of the wood; the back of the painting already is criss-crossed with stabilizing supports that would make a bridge engineer proud. It's the type of work that illustrates how the people who work behind the scenes here have very cool jobs.
• When packing big heavy statues, either marble or bronze, the container has to do more than protect against bumps and scratches. It needs to be designed to withstand something happening to the transport. If the vehicle winds up on its side, for instance, a 400-pound object would crush packing peanuts and punch through cardboard. The object must be protected not only from side-to-side movement, it must remain protected even if the transport winds up upside-down. That means the bottom has to be locked in, and all restraints must be done in a manner where no appendage—strapping down a statue by its arms, for instance— would have to bear more weight than it could handle. The holding brackets themselves, as shown above, need to include protection for the surface.
• Also as shown above, everything must be reversible. At some point the host museum will have to pack it up and send it back, so the instructions need to be clear and the restraints need to be reusable. The object should go back in the opposite way it came out.
• And finally, the best news of all. Incidents in this field are rare. The best thing you can say about this kind of packing is that the extra protection wasn't needed at all on that particular journey. Consider all this just another example of how this is a field where mistakes and losses are just not an option.
In coming weeks, we'll have more to say about our Works on the Road, but for now we close with a construction note. Seems like whenever we have welders working (as in here and here, today on the north addition) it's a cold, windy day. Since the welders are getting close to wrapping up, we suspect spring is getting close.