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Subject: Couriers


From: Graeme Scott <graeme>
Date: Thursday, October 30, 2003
Kate Woollett <katew [at] artgallery__wa__gov__au> writes

>Here at the Art Gallery of Western Australia conservation staff are
>currently reviewing procedures for couriering works of art
>interstate and overseas.  We are interested in what policies other
>institutions have instigated, what training couriers receive and
>which staff members travel with the works (i.e. is it always a
>conservator?).  We would like to hear from other institutions as we
>are trying to establish what is the current practice out there in
>the real world.

In the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in the Netherlands we use a sort
of decision tree to determine whether a courier is required and who
it should be.  The first decision is whether a courier of any
description is required. We will send a courier for objects which
are small and valuable, objects for which our knowledge of
condition, packing or mounting requires our presence, if there a
relatively large number of objects and we want to check their
condition or assist in their unpacking and installation, if we lack
knowledge about the lender or the circumstances of display or for
some other circumstance where we think our presence during the
journey or at the destination is required.

If a courier should indeed travel with the objects the question is
then whether it must be a conservator (for reasons of condition,
knowledge of the treatment they may have undergone, specialist
knowledge of how it should be handled during unpacking and
installation etc.) or not.  If not then we ask can it be someone
from our collections management staff ('regular' knowledge of
handling, packing and installation techniques), someone else from
the museum staff (knowledge of our museum's policies, representation
of the museum's interests for other reasons etc.), or even someone
not employed by the museum.

In practice this decision making is relatively quick and
transparent--if there are any questions we should always be able to
say why a certain decision was taken.  There are always grey areas
of course and there are always suspicions that some staff always
manage to land the 'best' trips. We do stress that these are work
trips and they usually involve a lot of hanging around in
uncomfortable warehouses and such but somehow a trip to exotic
destinations is always seen as a joy-ride to those left at home!  In
cases when there is no particular reason to choose an individual
staff member we do try to give everyone a chance.  The curators and
collections management department staff are trained in handling
objects and in normal circumstances no-one else should handle them
if a courier is sent.

Common sense and an open and fair policy (to all parties involved)
are the most important factors in my view, these trips can sometimes
certainly be a 'perk' in an otherwise relatively poorly resourced
profession, but they can be expensive to the institutions involved
and they shouldn't be abused.

Graeme Scott
Head of Collections Management
Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde
(National Museum of Ethnology)
Postbus 212
NL-2300 BS Leiden
+31 71 516 8786
Fax: +31 71 512 8437

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:40
                 Distributed: Friday, October 31, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-17-40-002
Received on Thursday, 30 October, 2003

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