So you’re moving your collection too?

The moving team attended the IIC Nordic Group – NKF’s XIX International Conference in Oslo last week. Three days packed with case stories on moving projects in all shapes and sizes, dos and don’ts in pest management and packing, and in general the challenges for museums relocating or rehousing everything from single objects to extensive collections.

 Lots of issues and challenges were brought up in the presentations given by museum staff from 9 different countries. Both ethical and logistic problems were discussed and experiences were shared. For example, where the conservators fit in when an institution plans to move museum objects, as was the case when The Museum of Cultural History in Oslo debated whether or not to move their Viking ships. The long process costing millions of kroner and resulting in no move got Susan Braovac thinking about the role of the conservator and how we can contribute in these debates. Not being a part of the decision making process from the beginning, can sometimes leave the conservators with an impossible timeframe to move a collection. For instance Joana Amaral from Portugal, who presented a case story on relocating the Museu de Arte Popular in Lisbon, showing that politicians can have an unrealistic idea of how long it takes to move a collection safely.

The significance of knowing your materials and proper packing of fragile or sensitive objects was emphasized in Marion F. Mecklenburg’s talk on transporting art and the objects potential inability to withstand temperatures below freezing point. Furthermore, Merle Strätling from the National Museum, Norway, shared experiences on the use of Thermo Lignum, which is the heating of objects as a part of managing pests, and the importance of e.g. knowing Tg (glass transition temperature) in lacquer, when heating an object to more than 50 degrees centigrade. While relocating furniture at the moving team encountered packing materials sticking to objects and deforming the surface, because the heating made the surface treatment soften.

Not only conservators attended the conference, but collection managers and other museum staff along with private moving companies, which gave a good dynamic to the conference. Among other things, this conservation team learned the paramount importance of having and maintaining good communication with everyone involved in the move of a collection, including in house dialogs about the job at hand.