I recently came across this article by Phillip Schubert about how people actually wrap and transport works of art and other precious artifacts, and thought this was a great read. I have always wondered what goes on behind the scenes of museum exhibitions network security and the processes the curators have to follow when it comes to keeping wok pieces safe. Hope you find this as insightful as I did. Enjoy…
DIY Wrapping and Packing Art for Storage or Transit
A question often asked, and which is not an infrequent subject of web searches is, “What is the best way to package art for storage or transport?” Of course, there really is no short answer, for the methods are almost as varied as the types of art objects made.The several altering methods for protecting art for storage or transit relies on factors such as the characteristics of the art piece, how long the piece will be stored and the way it will be transported method of transport. Ideally, you would hire a reputable company that deals exclusively with museum storage solutions and packing fine art. It might seem like an expensive solution, but it will be money well spent in terms of the amount of work it will save you. If you want to do it yourself, there really is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some general principles that can serve as a guide. At a bare minimum you will want your artwork to be protected from moisture, rough handling and acidic substances
The best way to protect paintings is to make sure that none of the wrapping material touches the surface of the painting, and when they are hanging that the warehouse lighting is not too intense. This is crucial especially when the art piece contains a textured/delicate surface, a heavy impasto or the paint is still-tacky.
You can use broad strips of cardboard (preferably double-thick) to make a collar that surrounds the work and protects the face through an extension of the perimeter edges. Then wrap it with a high-grade polyethylene. As you would a Christmas gift, wrap it completely around, ensuring the face and back are covered so that you can then easily apply the tapings to the back. Use packing tape, but don’t overdo it. The idea is to allow air to pass through but also provide a barrier against moisture; don’t seal the overlapping edges of the plastic. A work that is completely sealed in can develop condensation as it passes through different environmental conditions.
If a painting has a practically flat face with a completely dry surface, the work can simply be wrapped in polyethylene as mentioned above. If you’re worried that the paint will become stuck to the plastic, consider creating a foam barrier between the work and the plastic by using a thin polypropylene foam. Though hard to find and not archival, a better solution is silicone paper. Remember not to use glassine or other paper types as they may stick to the surface. Additionally, if you substitute bubble wrap for polyethylene, you should certainly apply a barrier, and then cover in an outward fashion with bubbles–failing to do so may result in an embedded impression on the surface of the work. Try not to use blanket or fabric wrappings as their fibres and textures can embed the paint, damaging the work.
pH neutral materials are best to apply, regardless of whether the artwork consists of foam, tape, cardboard or paper. This means they are neither acidic nor alkaline. This is especially important for wrapped works that will be stored for an extended period of time. At the very least, the first layer of protection, in closest proximity to the artwork, should be acid-free and inert (stable or not subject to changes in chemical composition over time). By doing so, a buffer is provided against potentially non-pH neutral packing elements. Considering this, the subsequent packing methods will adequately safeguard artworks for as long as the medium-term
Framed or mounted works
Avoid rotating or laying a piece down if the edges of the paper or other substrate is visible when the piece is framed or mounted –this may lead to damage of the mounts (hinges) that hold the piece in position. Always position it face up when wrapping, and always place it vertically in its preferred orientation
The best method to package artworks for transporting is in shipping crates. That’s a task for qualified professionals. Otherwise (and less desirably), small-medium sized works covered as mentioned above can be packed into properly sized containers or boxes. Place a thick layer of at least 4 centimetres (2 inches) of styrene or other sheet foam on the bottom. Alternatively, but less desirably you can use multiple layers of bubble wrap or crumpled paper. Works should be stood inside either vertically or horizontally, placed back-to-back and face-to-face whilst ensuring smaller works don’t press into larger ones. If the works don’t fit the box comfortably, cardboard and crumpled paper (or other void-fill) can be placed into the negative spaces. The idea is to prevent the works from moving in any direction inside the box. Close the box and tape it securely.
Wrapped artworks too big for containers must at the minimum be comprehensively covered in cardboard that is double-thickness and securely taped.