Sunday, 27 May 2012

Art in Transit: Handbook for Packing and Transporting Paintings

Art in Transit: Handbook for Packing and Transporting Paintings by Mervin Richard
Marion F. Mecklenburg and Ross M. Merrill is available for free from the Smithsoninian Institute.

Marion F. Mecklenburg and Ross M. Merrill is available for free from the Smithsonian Institute.

Synopsis: This technically detailed Handbook focuses on different approaches and procedures that will enable museum specialists (packers, registrars, curators, and conservators) to effectively use the results of the research of specialists in the field.  It includes tips and techniques also of relevance to those transporting high value artwork.
Summary review:  If you’ve ever wanted a comprehensive document telling you what to do when packing and transporting artwork, this is a good place to start.

Although written for art galleries and museums, there’s a lot of information which will also assist the professional artist who is transporting valuable paintings.  Other artists will also find useful information in this large and comprehensive handbook.
  • Accessible:
    • written in the language of lay people rather than art technologists / historians
    • bullet points unpack the processes into easy stages
    • key terms are highlighted in bold
    • lots of useful sub-headings
  • Comprehensive and evidenced synopsis of scientific evidence for best practices in the transport of paintings and other artworks
  • Advantages and disadvantages of different techniques are identified
  • Fascinating glossary
  • Information derived from a variety of publications of note
  • Use of a pdf format enables
    • easy navigation of the document onscreen
    • searches of the document
Think Again?
  • NOT a “how to send paintings for beginners” document
  • NOT for everybody.  Is it relevant to artists producing low value paintings (relative to art in museums)?  However some tips still relevant - and a useful resource of questions arise (eg case labels in different languages)
  • NOT a quick read.The language may be accessible - but there’s still an awful lot of information.
  • NOT a small document - 6.1MB pdf
Who should buy this?:
  • Those wanting to know about good practices detailed in this book
  • Those transporting valuable paintings to clients and to/from exhibitions
  • Museum conservators
  • Gallery transport technicians
Who should not buy this?
  • Those unconcerned about archival practices and nature of packing required for valuable paintings and other works of art
  • People who don’t work in museums have no need to buy this since its is freely available online
Author / (Publisher) Mervin Richard, Marion F. Mecklenburg and Ross M. Merrill / (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Available from:
  • no need to buy - it’s available for free from the Smithsonian Institute (click the title).  
  • However if you’d like you'd like your very own personal copy you can try buying from via Amazon where copies are available for between $250-$1,000
Technical data:
  • Copyright © 1991, 1997 National Gallery of Art
  • First edition 1991. Second edition 1997
  • No. of pages
  • Hardcover - pages
  • Paperback pages;
  • ISBN-10 ISBN-13
  • pdf document - 6.1MB file size

The contents include the following.  As you can see this is a technical document rather than a “how to send paintings for beginners” document.  It’s also particularly related to the conservation of very old paintings where the painting may be fragile
  • Assessing Risks
    • Criteria for the Selection of Paintings for Loan
    • Selection Criteria for Frames
    • Selection Criteria for Paintings on Canvas or Paper Mounted on Canvas
    • Additional Issues for Large Paintings on Canvas
    • Selection Criteria for Contemporary Paintings on Canvas
    • Paintings on Wood, Ivory, or Bone
    • Paintings on Metal and Other Nonporous Rigid Supports
  • Transit Climate Conditions
    • Expected Transit Environments in Summer and Winter
  • Temperature Protection
    • Insulating Materials
    • Temperature Half-Time
    • Temperature Half-Times of Packing Cases
  • Relative Humidity Protection
    • Wrapping Materials for Paintings: Polyethylene
    • Wrapping Materials for Paintings: Glassine
    • Wrapping Materials for Paintings: Kraft Paper
    • Wrapping Materials for Paintings: Kraft Paper or Glassine Covered with Polyethylene
    • Wrapping Materials for Paintings: Inner Packing Case
    • General Properties of Silica Gel
    • Use of Silica Gel in Packing Cases for Painting
  • Shock and Vibration Hazards
    • Shock and Vibration Hazards
    • Vibration Fragility of Painting
  • Shock Protection
    • Fragility Factors
    • Probable Drop Heights
    • How to Use a Dynamic Cushioning Curve: Procedure A
    • How to Use a Dynamic Cushioning Curve: Procedure B
    • Optimum Static Loads - Quick Reference Table
    • Load-Bearing Areas
  • Vibration Protection
    • Vibration Control for Canvas Paintings - Backboards
    • Vibration Control for Canvas Paintings - Foam Inserts behind the Painting
    • Vibration Control for Canvas Paintings - Stretcher Lining
  • Packing Cases
    • Case Construction - Structure
    • Handles
    • Skids
    • Chemical Stability of Packing Materials
    • Soft Packing
    • Sample Packing Case No. 1
    • Sample Packing Case No. 2
    • Sample Packing Case No. 3
    • Sample Packing Case No. 4
    • Sample Packing Case No. 5
    • Sample Packing Case No. 6
    • Sample Packing Case No. 7
    • Case Labels - English, French, Spanish, German, Italian
  • Role of the Courier
  • Glossary

Monday, 21 May 2012

Hemnes Bookcases - after the carpentry!

Three IKEA Hemnes Bookcases bolted to wall
Three IKEA Hemnes Bookcases - after the carpentry and bolting to the wall
my two pastel Artbins are demonstrating they can now stack/fit underneath!
This is the third in my saga about developing the ultimate solution for "The Art Library".  I decided in the end to have three of IKEA's Hemnes 90cm wide bookcase  on a different wall and one in another room.  The above is a picture of the three after a day's carpentry.  This was required because:
  • there is no way you should fill these bookcases full of books without fastening them to the wall.  As recommended by IKEA, they need to fastened securely to the wall.
  • my home was built in 1848 and has walls and floors which lean and lacks right angles which are 90 degrees
In the end we fixed on having a batten fixed to the studs in the lathe and plaster wall and then fixing the bookcases to the batten.  Sounds easy but the nature of the wall meant it wasn't quite so simple

Anthea, my carpenter, then also had to make the adjustments for the floor.  Over the years the joists have sagged which means that the right hand edge of the bookcase sits on the carpet while the left hand edge sits on a 3/4" block of wood - with the two uprights in the middle on gradated wood blocks inbetween.  It's still useful to have the adjustable feet for when I move - and they were very simple to operate even if we didn't put them to the ultimate test in the end!

The good news is that after all the adjustments, the three Hemnes bookcases all fitted together perfectly with no gaps.

The extra height on the left between the carpet and bookcase has also provided an ideal space for my two pastel artbin boxes which are an awkward size and shape for normal storage!

They are also completely rigid and there's no chance of them toppling when pulling out a heavy art book from amongst lots of other heavy books.  These IKEA bookcases still feel very solid and reliable for containing all my heavy art books.  Each shelf can take a load of up to a maximum of 30 kg of books.

Below is a photo taken about half way through the massive exercise of bringing all the art books back.  I'm still finishing the organisation of the third bookcase and will take another 'annotated' photo when done.

Three IKEA Hemnes Bookcases - half full of the Art Library
Bonus #1 - depending on how you look at it - is that my cat Cosmo can now jump from his usual perch on top of the door to a brand new high level run from where he can observe everything that's going on.  It also provides a launch pad for jumping down on our heads if we sit on the sofa now placed up against the bookcases!

Bonus #2 is I think I managed to lose two pounds while hefting heavy art books around the room three times!

The first two posts in this series about my quest for the ultimate solution for 'The Art Library' are:

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hemnes Bookcase x 4 for "The Art Library" #2 - RESULT!

This is my review of the Hemnes 90cm wide bookcase by IKEA - bought for my ever increasing library of art books.  In this review, I'm focusing on:
  • quality of the bookcase, 
  • ease of construction
  • whether the art books fit!
This post follows on from Hemnes Bookcase x 4 for "The Art Library" #1 which shows you what the bookcase looks like without any books.

Below you can see the top half of the first of my four new Hemnes Bookcases from IKEA. Three are still in their cardboard packaging and will be erected one at a time over the course of the next week.

IKEA Hemnes Bookcase loaded with art books and sketchbooks
Three more to construct - was it easy?  Yes!
click the image to see a larger image

Summary recommendation

If you've got an extensive library of art books like me, then you also need bookcases.  If you're planning to move and/or prefer non-built in bookcases, I highly recommend the IKEA Hemnes Bookcase on the basis of my experience to date.

For the reasons why see below.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Hemnes Bookcase x 4 for "The Art Library" #1

I've lost count of how many art books I have.  I just know I ran out of bookcase space a very long time ago.  I've also now run out of stacking space on every spare bit of floor and flat space.

The thing is stacks fall over.  Plus I always want the book at the bottom of the stack.  It gets very tedious.

So the stacks have to go and so this week I invested in four new bookcases.  I'm hoping it will be  enough!

The bookcases I've bought are the Hemnes 90cm wide bookcase by IKEA.

Hemnes Bookcase - white
(Width: 90 cm; Depth: 37 cm; Height: 197 cm
Max. load/shelf: 30 kg
I had originally toyed with building a giant bookcase right across one wall - but this seemed a bit pointless given the plan is to move.

The idea is that these painted pine bookcases will give me the most flexible options for the future - and with adjustable legs they give me the best option re 170 year old floorboards right now!

This is the pre-assembly blog post.  I'm calm - I have a plan of action - and "he who must not be bored while I sketch" is going to help me put them together.

If it all goes to plan we should have two assembled, in the right place (after quite a lot of furniture manoeuvring) and full of books by the end of tomorrow.  Then it's on to the next two - after a short breather while I write a review of how easy they were to assemble.

[UPDATE:  See Hemnes Bookcase x 4 for "The Art Library" #2 - RESULT! for what happened next ]

PS  I also bought an Alex storage drawer unit for my art paper.  Just trying to work out at the moment whether I've bought the one on castors as intended!
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