Tuesday, 12 September 2017

"Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Panel Discussion and Questions from the Floor

The final talk of the CPD event was a panel discussion between Sunnifa Hope, Helen Dawson, and Jen Kaines, chaired by Lyn Wall.

The first question raised, “What has been the most challenging decision you’ve had to make whilst on a courier trip or whilst hosting a courier?” gave many amusing stories of disappearing curators, unfinished galleries, and even guest couriers turning up ‘the worse for wear’. Clearly, couriering objects and hosting couriers is not always a simple task, and requires the ability to think on your feet.

The importance of good communication was also highlighted through the examples given to this first question, with Sunnifa Hope summarising “it’s about communication, having dialogue, deciding together what you’re going to do to allow the installation to happen. Just be prepared to come up with solutions with the courier and talk to them continually, whether it’s “you’ve got to stop doing this” or “can I do something this way?”

Questions raised by the audience emphasised the importance of decision making during courier trips. When asked if the panellists had ever decided not to install an object, and what happened afterwards, Jen Kaines provided an example of arriving at a gallery still wet with paint. In that instance, she and her colleague made the decision not to install at that time (installing around a week later instead). 

Likewise, Sunnifa Hope described a time she and a colleague had to decide what to do when a power cut meant that an installation had to stop and they had to decide whether to pack away the objects completely and return another time, or come back that day when the power came back on and work late into the evening (they did the latter).

Other than showcasing the importance of good communication, thinking on your feet and being confident in your ability to make the best decision for yourself and the object, the panel discussion gave further advice: sometimes a borrower may request a courier to be sent or a lender may request a courier from your institution; you can sometimes double-up your couriers tasks, so they can visit long-term loans as well as installing the new ones; and when sharing couriers, make sure it is explicitly decided what the responsibilities are and who can make the decisions (all the better if you can get something in writing).

So to end with the final section of the panel – Top Tips:
Sunnifa Hope – “You’re representing your institution, make sure you understand exactly what your loan is and the requirements of your loan are so that you can make decisions on the spot. And don’t plan anything else around that trip!”
Helen Dawson – “Know your object – not just how to install it but what might it do in a changing environment, how might it behave after a bad journey.”

Jen Kaines – “Never pass up a toilet stop, you don’t know when the next one will be.”

Sam Jenkins, Assistant Registrar, National Railway Museum

The Shipper’s Perspective, Julie Prance, Oleg Mazin, Thomas Webster, Momart

Julie, Oleg and Tom from Momart, kindly provided advice to couriers for airfreight shipments. Their aim to provide details on what we can expect from the shipper and to make the courier feel confident in asking the right questions, so that the transit goes as smoothly as possible.

Starting with the preparation, Julie explained her role as Project Co-ordinator. This role liaises direct with the sending and receiving airline, ensuring the correct type of pallet and freight is booked.
The Projector Co-ordinator will also provide a full itinerary for the courier. This provides all information that the courier might need for their trip. It is really important for the courier to check this before their trip to ensure they understand the plans.

Tom and Oleg are airport representatives from Momart; they began by explaining the importance of setting expectations with your airport representative. Question your representative from the outset to ensure you know exactly what is going to happen to your consignment and when. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, after all, you might not be aware of the local procedures.

For example, what type of aircraft is being used?
Is a container or a pallet being used?
Will the representative see the pallet loaded on the aircraft themselves? The answer in the UK, is ‘yes’ however this can’t be the case in other countries.
What happens to the pallet when it is packed? You want it stored in the ETV system so that it’s safely stored away until it’s time to load the aircraft.




When overseeing palletisation, note that a sheet of plastic will line the base of the pallet, crates will be placed, strapped down (listen for the ‘click’), the sides of the plastic will be bought up and another sheet covers the pallet, before netting is draped over the whole pallet. Ensure to ask your representative before hand, if you need it in flight direction and be aware if the crate can be stacked or not.
When pallets are shared, the airport representative will ensure that no dangerous or perishable goods are loaded on the same pallet.







You may have your consignment in a container, again, you need to ensure you inform the representative of any requirements in good time, and in both cases, it’s very important to make a note of the pallet or container number that your consignment(s) are on, so they can tracked.

Now that the pallet (or container) is loaded, check you are clear on the next steps with your representative. You will need to check in to your flight, but make sure you have your mobile switched on! Ensure the representative gives you the position on the plane – and do not board the aircraft (if it’s a passenger flight) until you have this information! If on a cargo flight, you should receive a phone call from your agent after you have boarded.

To end a few dos and don’ts from Julie - do have a mobile phone (ensure that the shipper has your number and that it is always switched on). If you are asked to report to Customs, make sure you do, otherwise its smuggling and don’t declare the consignment as your personal goods – it is cargo!

Enjoy your flight!



Vicky Skelding-Bloor, Exhibitions and Loans Officer, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Training Framework Continued, Courier Manual - At the venue, dealing with the unexpected and courier dos and don'ts

Building on the earlier sessions, Lyn Wall continued to run through the Courier Training Framework document.

Arrival
Arriving at the destination was discussed and some key top tips suggested:
  •          If arriving at an airport you would usually be met by a transport agent to be taken to witness de-palletisation – sometimes at the aircraft door or in the arrivals hall.
  •        Don’t declare the shipment as personal goods as it is cargo!
  •     If you are couriering on a Ferry don’t expect to stay with the vehicle/object - you are not allowed to stay in the car deck for health and safety reasons.


At the venue
  • ·         Be prepared to work in an unfamiliar environment with a new team.
  • ·         Be confident but diplomatic.
  • ·         When supervising unloading be alert to any hazards (busy roads, weather etc) and respond appropriately (ask for polythene if raining, ask for hi-vis jackets, extra equipment).
  • ·         If the work is being securely stored prior to installation check the arrangements are suitable and then make sure you understand what time and where you need to report back for installation.
  • ·         Upon installation preparation is key! Do you have a clean and safe space to unpack, do you have the right tools, do you have the right paperwork? Use your common sense and never be reluctant to ask a question!

·         Remember you should have the support of your colleagues at home if you need it.

Dealing with the unexpected
Lyn explained that a good way to check whether the courier training had been successful was to run through the scenarios provided in the pack.  By using the interactive element of the training it is possible to sense what areas learners might need extra support with.
During discussions about the scenarios with the UKRG audience some recurring messages emerged:
  • ·         Communication is the key!
  • ·         Raise issues early, speak up if not happy but also offer solutions.
  • ·         It is important not to have any restrictions about your trip – don’t organise personal appointments that might impact on your role as a courier.
  • ·         The object is the priority.


There was useful discussion with the transport agents in the room about loose loading (when packing crates were not loaded into an aircraft on pallets or containers). It was generally felt that this should be avoided but important to take advice. Some organisations might have a policy that it was never acceptable but other museums might allow it depending on the object and circumstance.

The discussion reiterated the recurring theme of the day that the framework was a flexible tool that had elements that could be tailored to each organisation. This has made it an incredibly useful document to follow producing a standardised approach to courier training.



Alice Rymill, Registrar, Bristol Culture: Bristol Museums and Art Gallery

The Training Framework, Courier Manual - Preparing the loan and the courier, condition reporting and the journey


What is a courier not?  On holiday.  The session opened with an ice breaker about what a courier is and is not.  Without doubt, the most common response was this: that a courier is not on holiday.  We all laughed, but probably because it sounds very familiar.  I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been encountered a bad courier at some point.  Whether they’ve come with a loan to your exhibition, or maybe it’s been someone from your own institution, or you’ve travelled with one with a joint consignment, it can be a frustrating, even nerve-wracking experience. 

The event today was all about trying to prevent exactly these types of experiences this within the sector through the new Courier Training Framework.  Developed by our very own Kathy Richmond, DesirĂ©e Blomberg of the Nordic Registrars Group and Wendela Brouwer of Nederlandse Registrars Group, it’s a sort of SPECTRUM for couriers, designed to standardise and improve the role of the courier for loans and exhibitions. 

Ours was a whistle-stop tour through the training framework.  This session delivered part one of the training, focussing on preparing the courier to leaving the borrowing institution with the loan.  It covered everything from managing the expectations of the courier (it’s not a holiday in case you forgot) to teaching them how to read a condition report.  It looked at what preparation they, as the courier, will need to do before a trip and what preparation the institution (usually the registrar) will do for them. 

I think the emphasis placed on reading the condition report is one of the strongest aspects of the training framework.  It aims to explain both why the condition report is so important and also to build the skills required to confidently condition check and use the condition report when on a courier trip.  I know this is the area I am least confident about when couriering (Why is that old scratch not marked?  DO I NEED TO MARK IT?  Or is that just me?).

First impressions of the framework are that it is easy to deliver, thorough and adaptable.  Every aspect of a courier trip has been thought about carefully and where information is organisation specific, a handy set of prompt questions has been provided.  We’re definitely planning to roll it out at National Galleries of Scotland and I hope others will be too.


NO MORE COURIERS ON HOLIDAY!

Cassia Pennington, Exhibitions Registrar, National Galleries of Scotland

Friday, 4 August 2017

A Day in the Life - Sara Kellett, Head of Museums and Heritage, Crown Fine Art

Early mornings remind me why living 10minutes away from work is a complete blessing. One podcast and a brief walk later I arrive at our loading bay where 2 of our techs are making coffee and waiting for a courier to arrive - last night one of our vehicles collected works ahead of an early start this morning and they're getting ready for a long day driving to the Netherlands. By 7:00am the courier has arrived, her suitcase is in the cab, the final works are loaded and with a final coffee/croissant for the road the team are on their way. I head to my desk and open emails - the estimates I requested earlier in the week from US agents have arrived, perfect. It might seem productive to come in early ahead of the office getting busy but in reality it just means Gavan and I have coffee and catch up - Gavan heads up our galleries team so he fills me in on what his team are working on at the moment. A commercial gallery are visiting later in the week to discuss a project he’s co-ordinating and they're loaning a lot of works to an upcoming exhibition I’m working on so I make a note to be available to say hi. 

Everyone else starts to arrive in the office and the flurry of calls from our technicians updating us on terrible London traffic begins. One of our first jobs for the morning is a private address and someone has parked their luxury car in the middle of the road causing chaos, our technicians sit tight and we check in with the clients this will effect over the upcoming couple of hours without trying to make this sound too ludicrous a reason for a delay. It's Tuesday today so we leave this with operations to monitor and head to our weekly team meeting. We’ll chat through what we're working on, recent feedback, distribute some new projects and discuss the upcoming week. As ever after the meeting my to do list is looking significantly longer than before. 

After lunch Meredith has met with one of our technical project managers and updates me on a current exhibition she's coordinating, the works are all large and need to go up a large staircase when we deliver. A few ideas discussed and she's back off to the lenders again to discuss the method statement for moving the works up the staircase further.  

The vehicle that left this morning for the Netherlands is making good time so I call the venue - we'll still be there around 4pm to unload. Other good news of the day is that the owner of the parked car has returned. Hurrah!

All estimates from our team are double checked before being sent out so Tony and I look through one I drafted yesterday - Tony highlights a couple of my tying errors (to my annoyance) and we chat about a possible alternative routing to my proposal. We can't contact the lender so we both agree the route proposed is the most likely, but include cost for alternative routings/notes on other thoughts and yet another estimate from me is accompanied by a small essay of notes.


I go back to my inbox, reply to some more emails, make some more calls (as ever talk too much) and check my calendar. Wednesday is our day for 45minute training, I'm scheduled to lead the session tomorrow and following on from our refresher training at the airport a couple of weeks ago its courier based so I gather the courier information I've been saving and print everything out ready. Somehow its gone 5pm so I check everyone is on track to leave in the next hour – remarkably everyone is. The techs delivering in the Netherlands ring me to say they’ve offloaded, the vehicle around town is back too so I call it a day and try to remember what I said I’d get from Sainsburys for dinner!        

Home

I May be Some Time: Caring for our Heritage in Antarctica

Camilla Nichol
Chief Executive
UK Antarctic Heritage Trust


It is almost 250 years since Captain James Cook set out from Whitby in search of the southern continent. Since then and even before, man has had a fascination with the great white continent – it has presented the greatest challenges of endurance, survival, science and exploration.

[Fig 1. Captain Scott at the South Pole]

The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust was established in 1993 with ambitions to ensure the legacy of past human endeavour in Antarctica was secured for future generations. This work continues today through the management of six historic sites on the Antarctic Peninsula and through our support of others Polar heritage organisations across the world.
The six sites we care for represent different periods in British Antarctic involvement and science on the Antarctic Peninsula since 1944. They are designated under the Antarctic Treaty and we are obligated to protect them from damage, removal or destruction.


[Fig 2 Base A, Port Lockroy, Goudier Island, Antarctica 1944-62]

Conserving Antarctic Huts
Managing historic sites in general is complicated, time consuming, resource intensive and requires expertise, judgement and compromise. Managing heritage in Antarctica is all of those things tenfold!  These wooden huts are placed 9,000 miles away from the UK in the middle of a frozen wasteland on harshest continent on earth. You can only access them via ship, and getting to them can be difficult and at times impossible.

Port Lockroy is the most visited site in Antarctica. As well as the museum, Port Lockroy also has a functioning Post Office and gift shop. The museum and its artefacts tell the story of those who lived and worked in this isolated wilderness.


 [Fig 3 museum display at Port Lockroy]

The other sites are significantly harder to get to and are unsupervised. This means that conserving them can be much more problematic. We do what we can to stabilise the structures and make sure that they are weatherproof as possible to prevent them from deteriorating and to help protect the artefacts within. We want to keep them standing so that they can be around for future generations because all of these sites are irreplaceable and once lost will be gone forever.

The Challenges
There are a number of challenges we need to overcome to get this work done each season. Working in such cold conditions means that work is inevitably slower, fatigue can set in more quickly, fingers become clumsier and solvents will cure glacially slowly. So progress is never achieved at speed and a season’s work can sometimes seem paltry.


[Fig 4 Annual maintenance of the windows at Port Lockroy]

Despite the Antarctic’s incredibly low rainfall, damp is a significant problem and mould in the more northerly sites can be a problem. Similarly, achieving good ventilation to dry out timbers comes at the expense of weathertightness, as any gap will be severely exploited by wind driven snow and ice particles during the winter resulting in build-up of ice inside the buildings.  


[Fig 5 Build-up of windblown snow in Base W, Detaille Island]

The long daylight hours and the strong UV levels in Antarctica also are a severe problem for many artefacts and the damaging effects of UV are soon apparent.
Normal museum pests are, mercifully, not such a problem, but other wildlife can prove destructive – gentoo penguins nest very close to, on and under buildings and are not shy about where they leave their waste. Fur seals can be both dangerous and clumsy, are curious, and often force their way inside structures.


[Fig 6 a common museum pest in Antarctica]

Who is it for?
The primary audience for our heritage sites are the tourists who visit, however we champion Antarctic heritage through many other forums so that it can inspire people all over the world with the stories of exploration and heroism that have come from Antarctica.  
Port Lockroy gets around 18,000 visitors a year. The other sites, due to their precarious locations are visited by many fewer people.


[Fig 7 Visitors at Port Lockroy]

Most people will never visit our museums, however, the stories they carry can resonate with people all over the world. Through our grants programme we support polar exhibitions and galleries across the world and engage with people online through a plethora of digital media. We share stories of the buildings, the animals, and the people who lived there.
So, Antarctic conservation is certainly fraught with difficulties, but needs to be conducted with the same rigour, thoughtfulness and insight as any conservation project in more temperate climes. 


Find out more about us, our work and our grants programme at www.ukaht.org

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tales of an Expat Registrar - by Brandi Pomfret


For those who I haven’t met yet, I’m Brandi, and I’m an British-American Collection Manager and Registrar who, after being born and raised in the US, moved last year to London in order to try my hand at the art world on this side of the pond. 



I’m sure all Registrars across the world can name the ways in which we are similar, despite our geographic locations – arranging transport of loans and exhibitions, confirming the packing of artworks are up to a universal standard, and, of course, metaphorically holding the hand of panicked couriers – but what has struck me since relocating is how different we are as well.
The easiest and most obvious is of course our terms for items of our daily life.  Growing up with family members from opposite sides of the ocean taught me at an early age of things like pram/carriage, pictures/movies, and aubergine/eggplant, but not until I had worked in galleries and museums was I introduced to Registrar-specific differences like skate/dolly, lorry/truck, and boot/trunk.

Non-surprisingly this has been the easiest hurdle to overcome, whereas perhaps the most complicated would be the role of the Registrar (and note for ease I will include Exhibition Managers in this term “Registrar” as well, since in my vernacular it references working with collections or exhibitions).
In the US, the Registrar is, among other things, responsible for all condition checking and packing of works.  Though I and my former colleagues are used to being questioned by UK lenders as to why the Registrar (rather than Conservator) would be condition checking a work with them, the full extent of how much Registrar responsibility is allocated to Conservators in this country had never fully sunk in.  I even heard recently of private collectors arranging a house move with a Conservator rather than a Registrar; having them arranging the packing, shipping and relocation into storage is truly baffling to my US senses.  It’s perhaps for this reason that I’m finding less occurrences of contract Registrars working on museum exhibitions, and with private collectors and foundations, whereas it is near standard in the US.
In my now 7 months of direct experience with UK trucking, I can assuredly say that couriers here are blessed with their required overnight stops (as opposed to our 3 day non-stop journeys from California to New York), as well as having lorries driven by members of the company you contracted for the job, not the usual husband and wife (and sometimes dog) teams you get in the US!


I doubt the idea of National collections not insuring their works will ever cease to give me heart palpitations, especially when lending between institutions, and that’s not to mention the concept of “non-national” and “designated collections”.  In the US, all collections are commercially insured, even those we deem our “national” collections.  Our other option - US Indemnity - is a lengthy, arduous process that occurs twice a year for exhibitions, not for temporary deposits or long loans in.  Please be kind to those US Registrars asking you seemingly crazy questions while they work on their applications, because they’re well over 100 pages and I can guarantee that no one enjoys doing them.  I’d take a UK indemnity application in a heartbeat compared to the alternative, though in a similar vein, the UK’s export licenses (for those works not covered by OIEL) are complicated and completed by Registrars, whereas the customs brokers complete these on your behalf in the US.  So perhaps it all balances out in the end!

At the recent UKRG conference in Edinburgh, we listened to a talk about changes in property laws, and I was amazed to hear that the UK didn’t have a procedure in place for deaccessioning portions of collections.  The United States has long standing laws governing museums and their collections, with specific information on deaccessioning (http://www.aam-us.org/resources/assessment-programs/core-documents/documents).  In the past decade, many states have individually addressed the issue of undocumented and abandoned property as well, outlining their requirements for disposing of these works which have long languished in institutions. It is a complicated process – many times involving posting ads in newspapers and strict timelines for attempting to locate owners – but it does exist.
I’m sure I could expound endlessly on my experiences thus far, but in all honesty, I feel I’m only just beginning to understand the intricacies of working in this amazing country.  My friends and colleagues here in the UK love to laugh about some of my American phrases (I apologise now to anyone I’ve confused or bemused by “reaching out” to you via email), but I’m grateful because each time it serves to remind me how even the smallest differences register to a Registrar. One thing I know for sure: the US and UK are better places because of us.


Brandi Pomfret is the owner of Echelon Arts Management and currently a maternity cover Collection Registrar at the National Gallery.