Monday, 30 June 2014

Couriering 101

Monday 9th June morning session 10.45am

This session was a chance to highlight the practical issues of couriering for those who may not yet have gained experience of couriering, or instructing others on the principles of couriering. It was also a chance to share some reminders to all the importance of working together and making couriering simple and cost effective whilst also following best practice.

The Role of the Courier
First up was Thor Nørmark-Larsen, Section Leader Registrar’s Office at the National Gallery of Denmark discussing the role of the courier. He began by identifying the range of stakeholders involved when couriering, starting from the Courier’s perspective.

Courier’s Central Role
The courier is there to ensure the safety of object, with the right to comment and instruct if and when required. They ensure correct handling of the objects according to the lending institution guidelines, monitoring the handling, transport, condition, repair, installing and de-installing throughout the loan process. Importantly, they are also there as an ambassador for the lending institution. They need to be able to find solutions and be flexible whilst having the ability to be firm when required. There is a big difference between being firm and just aggressive and rude!

Tricks of the trade: Important to have documentation and tools to hand when Couriering
It is essential to have a copy of the loan agreement to refer to, especially in case of a dispute. It’s also useful to have to the courier guidelines of the lending institution to hand along with the courier schedule from the transport agent or registrar, list of works, crate list, and the usual all important kit - gloves, flashlight/electric torch, pens and paper, mobile phone with contacts including 1ICE number*, a tablet/iPad or a camera. The Registrar needs to ensure that the courier has a pack with the information about hotels, time of installation, transport, names, if there is a police escort, etc.

*In case of emergency there is a new suggested system for having an emergency contact on your phone: 1ICENameofPartnerNumber (with the international code). There are apps and certain phones you can set to access this information even when the phone is locked. You can put in several numbers and order them 1, 2, 3, etc.

Scoping out the space
When the courier enters the gallery or storage space they consider the general impression of the surroundings including:

• Lux levels and climate – does anything seem wrong or concerning?
• Security – are there guards, cameras, alarm systems, entrance, and exit routes as agreed
• Installation space – is it in proximity of heating systems, pipes, aircon units etc
• Handling – is there anything concerning about the way objects are being handled by staff or contractors
• Tools of construction workers – if works are still going on
• Condition of the objects in the space – make sure that the paperwork is signed off and you are completely happy with the condition

The main focus of the Registrar

A good registrar should always consider from a courier’s point of view – whether they are present or not. They need to ensure the working space has a quiet ambience and people feel secure. They need to make sure that the installation team is updated on the schedule regularly so that they follow it closely and also the agreed procedures. This will allow the courier to feel confident about the install team.

The Conservator
Some may just focus entirely on the condition checking, but in some organisations they can be involved in the installation as well or can even be the role of facilitator with an overview of the exhibition. Important that the courier understands and respects everyone’s role.

The Art Handling
Whoever is responsible for the art handling needs to know the requirements from the Lenders regarding installation in advance – again regular daily meetings were recommended discussing where they will be installing and that the courier’s plans are briefed to the team. Notes and photos of the packing materials are very useful. Also good to have packing tables and tools ready, request to create a clear space and use gloves or alternatives as communicated by the courier.

Lenders Responsibility
The loan should be formalised before sending courier. Should also have facilities report/insurance/immunity from seizure/letter of confidence, transport and packing all agreed in advance. There is also the political aspect and thinking about being future partners. Emphasis was placed on the fact that couriers are often necessary, but so is keeping costs as low as possible – and there needs to negotiation.

Shippers Role
The Shippers will receive all the work details and work list and will be the contacts regarding couriers and foreign colleagues. They will organise licences/permits required, deal with packing demands and the car/trucks.

Next Thor gave two examples of very different situations in Denmark, a local loan situation and a complicated Matisse exhibition.

With the local incoming loans the Lenders do not expect hotels or per diems. The objects are not covered by National Indemnity but under Danish Government Insurance and agreement by letter. By comparison a major Matisse exhibition meant that National Indemnity was required. Three venues involved with works that were of extremely high value, and so to be a success it was very dependent on good collaboration. They had to consolidate transport and organise police assistance. There were many incoming loans and couriers from all over the world and there was the need to deal with different cultural ideas.

Local example was much simpler situation for registrar but tougher for art handlers and the conservators as they had more to do. Matisse example was tough for everyone involved! Really important to send the right type of courier.

Best Practice when selecting a Courier
Next the question ‘When should we send a courier?’ was raised, and ‘Who chooses?’ Should you send a technician, registrar, curator, conservator or security office? It was a chance to emphasise the need to look at requirements for the objects coming on loan and what is best for them. You shouldn’t always send the same person but think who is best suited to go. Also there is a need to consider training people up regularly rather than relying on the same few people was highlighted. Need to think about experience versus acquiring experience - if it is a stable object then do you just need someone who is well trained but not necessarily very experienced?

So should you always send a courier? Definitely not was the idea put forward. A lot of works don't need couriers – we really need to think about budgets and be practical. Do you know and trust the institution you are lending to? Do you know that they have professional trained staff? It is easy to say that you always send a courier but it should be discussed internally whether it is necessary. If you are loaning fragile objects then it does make more sense to send a conservator, if there is a potential security risk then a security officer, if there are large and difficult to move/mount objects then an art handler or technician.

Too many couriers could potentially pose a risk working in the space.

Also be fair regarding your requirements - always focus on the condition of the work. Try to keep costs low with length of stay, flights etc. Share couriers where possible but pay attention to the legal responsibility. Lending for Europe - collections mobility report and toolkit. We need a common standard with condition reports, agreements, state guarantee, facilities report, standards for couriers but also need to overcome cultural barriers.

The Nordic Way

Thor continued the session speaking about the Nordic way where they are working together to reduce carbon foot print. They don't have a formal organisation like the UKRG, there is no president and no fees but instead they hold a meeting every year and change the country who hosts. They are getting more structured but still fluid and flexible in way they work as they find it a good way to build partnerships and relationships. They feel confident to talk about faults and flaws. Thor felt that their similar languages and political ideas also assisted this - they trust each other more then other countries with cultural differences. They have trust in their systems, feeling that they will benefit in the future and they are not out to be tricked by the system or other people, so their politics reflect into their working relationships. There are still issues though, for example Norway is not part of the EU and transport agents have to remember about permits. They can be too relaxed because you know each other – can become lazy about getting information and requests in on time.

Courier training
Lastly we heard from Kirsi Hiltunen, Senior Conservator at the Finnish National Gallery who outlined their process for training up new couriers.

She started by recommending that new couriers should start their training by working with their own collections and installs of loans in to fully understand how procedures work in their own institution. This also gives them a chance to assist with undertaking condition assessments and reports. It’s important that they get to work with a range of different materials and learn how to deal with these and different types of damage. They should gain a real understanding of how to handle and why gloves are important. Go through holding and lifting habits, and learn the basic packing systems usually used. Pack objects individually and some in multiple, and learn about equipment for lifting and moving - going through difficult routes such as windows and balconies. Need to protect yourself as well as the objects. They’ll also have the opportunity to see different packing techniques from external organisations, crates and equipment. They’ll learn what other couriers demand, act and expect – it’s important to show them incoming paperwork.

A key point to learn is that good documentation is so important – you cannot always trust memory!

Yet again the idea was put forward that the best courier for the job should be chosen according to the object(s), rather then someone wanting to go on a jolly. Always try to find easier trips for their first couriering experience - if a flight is involved then it should be non-stop. If road transport then it might take hours to go over certain boarders so the courier needs to be prepared! Crucial to be flexible and polite. Yes there is a legal responsibility but also need to trust each other. Shared couriers need to make sure that they have all the appropriate paperwork and communicate well - maybe have a formal agreement between the institutions.

Overall some of the same important points kept coming through which are good reminders for all:

• Choose your courier based on the needs of the object.
• Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. We should be working together and try to keep costs and demands low.
• Good communications is key. Politeness and flexible approach helps to maintain a good working relationship.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tools for the Future session

The afternoon of the second day was given to contemplating the role of recent technology in the museum environment, and what the future may hold.

Making the iPad Work for the Registrar

Perhaps usually regarded as a device for entertainment, email or social media applications, Brent Mitchell gave an interesting demonstration of how the iPad is used in different ways at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, USA.

Firstly he explained how the device is used for Condition Reporting purposes.  From a basic template, reports can be easily created and then amended as necessary in PDF Expert.  The user was able to magnify images, take new photography, highlight specific areas and make detailed annotations in several different colours making it simple to track changes.  (Copies of) these documents are saved online using Dropbox with relevant staff having access. 

Secondly, Brent outlined how the iPad could play a role in exhibition administration.  Filemaker Pro was used to manage and link all additional files, photographs, notes and other consolidated information to the objects.  There were different tabs relating to the crate; packing; installation; venue; courier, etc. and pop-up menus to standardise terminology.  Objects could be connected with exhibition floor plans, layouts and there were useful checklist functions.

Lastly he mentioned a whole range of other relevant apps and accessories that could be used alongside those above, naming Trello; My Measures; Printer Pro; and Eye-Fi as being particularly useful.

There were clear benefits to using the iPad for registrar tasks in this way (clarity; speed; ease of use; mobile workflow; flexibility), as well as some obvious disadvantages (expensive outlay; Wi-Fi dependent; camera quality; technology glitches; user training), and it would be up to individual institutions to make a decision on whether it was appropriate equipment at their museum.

Drones Might Fly – Is the Sky the Limit for Technology in Collections Management?

In the subsequent talk, it was down to Sheila Perry from the National Galleries of Scotland to present an entertaining – and sometimes whimsical – look at the relationship between machinery and the museum.  Is it always a good idea to pursue the latest technology in collections management?

There were three key topics of discussion:
-          Do the benefits of storing collections in mechanical or automated storage systems outweigh the risks and costs?
-          Are there advantages of using modern labelling and object tracking regardless of the type of storage?
-          How many collections management tasks could be completed remotely or without human interaction?

The first question was answered through several case studies: Kardex vertical storage solutions at the National Gallery of Scotland; the robotic newspaper retrieval system at the British Library (Boston Spa); and the Kiva warehouse robots used by Amazon.

The main benefits of increased capacity, improved environment and better tracking were countered with doubts over the fallibility, reliability and disaster recovery.  The conclusion was drawn that ultimately all of these systems rely on the accuracy of the original input data, i.e. the basic documentation and object marking, and ultimately there was always the chance for human error.

The response to the second question focused on smaller self-contained pilot projects within museums, like the cataloguing, packing and bar-coding of the portrait miniature collection at the National Galleries of Scotland.  The Otago Museum in New Zealand was also highlighted as the only institution to have trialled RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) on their collections (and staff!) to remotely track and automatically update object movements.

Finally, in the last question, the future was contemplated.  With Google launching a driverless car, we were asked to perhaps imagine a driverless fine art transport carrier.  Would there be courier guidelines for un-manned vehicles?  Or maybe object transport via drone or robotic quadruped (BigDog) was the way forward?  Perhaps the future would be devoid of ‘real’ collections altogether, these having been replaced with replicas, or time-based media collections: a limited one-time-only opportunity to see museum objects.

In summary, with all the technological developments and resources available to museums, it is important to use these effectively, and in a manner appropriate to the task at hand.  Good collections management should be prioritised and should be at the forefront of any potential development project – do not ignore the essential groundwork.  It is also useful to have advocates for progress in your institution, someone pushing and looking forward.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Valuation and Insurance session

In the morning of the second day I attended the session on valuation and insurance, which comprised of three presentations.

1/ Firstly, David Bellingham of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art explained that auction houses value works of art for sales estimates, prior to an auction, and also for insurance purposes and defined the primary and secondary market for artists. Every appraisal is unique and inextricably linked to:

- external factors, such as supply & demand, current taste, art market trends, state of the economy, recent prices by a similar artist or, of similar works of art, and
- internal factors, such as the cultural value attributed to the artist (the artist’s brand), date of the work, the subject, the medium and scale, authenticity, provenance, its exhibition and
literature history and finally, an x-factor such as rarity.

Using the sculpture Equivalent VIII 1966 by Carl Andre in the Tate’s collection (the infamous bricks) as an example


he gave us an insight into auction house appraisals. Based on calculations of the original price paid for this work by the Tate, the iconic status of the work due to the media exposure it has had, the artist’s validation by a museum and the highest prices achieved by Carl Andre at previous auctions, the price for this work would be between £1.5 - £2 million, if it were to come up for sale in 2014. The insurance value for the work, Mr. Bellingham asserted, would then have to be between £2 - £3 million, a value that is between the high sale estimate and twice the low estimate. It was interesting to hear an insurer from the audience contesting the validity of this assertion and claiming that there should be no difference between sale price and insurance value for a work of art. If the value of this piece was £2.5 million today, the insurance premium would be about £8,750 which is about 0.35% for a private collection; it is important to mention that insurers offer much lower premiums to public institutions.

2/ Lora Houssaye from Centre Pompidou and Aurore Basly from the Louvre then discussed the benefits of non-insurance and how it works in France and in other jurisdictions. National Museums in France normally bear their own risk for their own collections and for when they lend to each other and to regional museums while the objects are in transit to and on display, more like the UK indemnity system. Non-insurance is either granted automatically or by contract by the Ministry of Culture to National Museums, outsourced storage warehouses, for long loans, for transits in-between museums within the Paris area, or between museums and storage venues. Transport must be couriered. The borrower pays the cost of damage and the lender bears the cost of total loss, although they admitted that things get more complex when depreciation as a result of damage has to be calculated. This system offers huge savings, while museums are still able to insure a specific high risk, if deemed necessary and the premium allows it.

The two French speakers also outlined the benefits of a shared liability system, e.g. facilitation of partnerships, long loans and reciprocal loans. It is important that for this system to work well, it has to be agreed by the governing bodies of both institutions with a contract clearly setting out each party’s responsibilities.
The presentation finished with the recommendations that lenders provide reasonable valuations, they accept government indemnity schemes and agree to share in an equitable manner the coverage of touring exhibitions as a way of reducing costs. In addition, it was news to me that the indemnities of Bulgaria and Norway also cover loans while abroad at no cost to the borrower!

3/ Last but not least, the temperature rose in the room when Stephan Zilkens, Swiss fine art insurance broker of the company with the same name who had given almost the same presentation at the ERC in Wolfsburg ten years ago, listed all the pitfalls of government indemnity, without an opportunity for real debate. After a brief introduction to when different countries introduced indemnity schemes (Sweden was first in 1974) and the diversity of these schemes across Europe and the US, he listed the following reasons why commercial insurance is better:

- Governments do not have the huge reserves required to underwrite the risks covered by indemnity schemes
- Indemnity relies on risk management conducted by people that are no experts in managing insurance risks and in handling of claims
- Covering touring exhibitions with a combination of indemnity and insurance policies can be problematic
- The warranties of the state indemnity schemes are often vague with regard to packing, transportation, depreciation, etc with the exception of the US scheme
- Heavy burden for the taxpayer if the worst case happens (earthquake; terrorist attack)
- Private lenders often do not accept indemnity
- State indemnity schemes often have no clear definition regarding risk reducing measures (isn’t this what registrars are trained to do?!)

Mr Zilkens claimed that insurance premium rates have gone down by 80% for bigger exhibitions since 1975 and asked why the national budget should be burdened with 200,000,000€ risk when insurance is available for around 100,000€. That’s fine if you have 100,000€ to spend!

He also presented us with statistics on claims frequency from museums, galleries and private collectors, causes of loss in % of frequency and % of paid claims. These statistics were based on his company’s own research (as industry ones are not available), which he claimed are approved by leading institutions and did not include the period over which they were gathered.
His presentation is available here:

It was left to Jane Knowles, Chair of UKRG, to stand up and invite an open discussion of how indemnities work and their benefits as a serious way forward for reducing exhibition costs and managing risk to cultural property.

Nickos Gogolos
Registrar, Victoria & Albert Museum

Sunday, 15 June 2014

ERC - Security Matters

One of the Monday morning sessions at #ERC2014 covered various elements of security and risk management. Starting off with Trygve Lauritzen, the Head if Security and Operations at Munch Museet, Norway, followed by Simon Mears a Security  Consultant from Denmark and finishing with Pascal Matthey, from XL Group, Switzerland.

This was a extremely useful session. For many registrars these outlined threats and risk assessments are known, however, speaking to attendees after the session we all felt this was a useful refresher which reenforced to us how very real these threats are and the importance of why do things the way we do. Importantly we were also given glimpses into future possible risks to be aware of.

As experienced security professional and working at the Munch Museet Trygve gave a very practical and relevant talk on security for a museum registrars perspective. This talk was structured around  four main points - transport security, general threats, future threats and document security.

Transport Security: provided some good statistical information behind his case studies, including the points where art is at most risk which is while in road transit and in a stationary vehicle.  Art is 1000 times more at risk during road transport than it is in airfreight. Trygve also stressed the importance of  planning transport routes, overnight stops, back up plans if your truck is running behind schedule and where breaks will be made. Also, stressed the importance of agents drivers to be fully briefed on contingency plans -i.e. if pulled over do they know what to do,  eg Trygve firmly suggests that in such instance drivers should not fully open their windows, even if pulled over by police, as there are cases of fake police hijacking. For these and other such instances there should be clearly set out communication for the drivers, including numbers of the the relevant police / security staff.  Munch Museet security for transit includes sealing the doors of trucks with unique numbered seals which are checked at point of departure and destination to show they have not been tampered.

General Threats:Following transit, organised crime is our biggest threat, whereby art can be used as payment. We need to be vigilant to ensure insider information has mot been exposed, consistent routine instructions which all staff are instructed on.

Future Threats:Our future threats include the continuation of organised crime which may become more violent, infiltration via insiders, tampering of GPS and surveillance systems.

Document Security: stressed the importance of document security as part of our overall security strategy. The following should, as we know as registrars be treated as confidential and be protected - values of art, names of the owners of art in your possession, transportation times. At Munch Muset document security is part of IT security and strategy, whereby protected documents are encrypted through a strong password.

Simon Mears presentation was based around Grasp, which is a standard or risk management to further safeguard collections and artefacts for the future. It is a standard used by Lloyds European Insurers but is also now widely used by institutions. Grasp came about following the Momart warehouse fire and Munch Museet theft and was started in 2005, at which point 24 unwritters supported this standard.

Grasp itself works through a detailed tailored assessment of over 1,200 questions and takes approximately 3 hours to complete. It is in a yes or no format. Grasp uses a holistic approach to risk assessment, looking at natural environment, buildings, political environment and management. The latter should include disaster planning, training of staff on what to do in the event of an alarm, access and key controls. For museums this assessment would also specifically look at admissions policies and procedures, private functions, event staffing and food service whereby fire is an element of risk. In developing its work with institutions, Mear informed us that through Grasp they are working with various government indeminity schemes, and looking at common bench marks.
An underlining concern that Grasp has identified are the growing number of loans and shortage of secure suitable storage facilities.

The final part of this section on security was presented by Pascal Matthey. This section concerned itself with holistic risk management specifically for museums. Simular to that of Grasp assessment, through an holistic approach, the risk families identified as part of a risk register were - natural hazards, internal and external ie transport and stragical.

When undertaking this assessment Matthey told us first to consider the context, then assess the threats (risk drivers), audit your existing profile, determine extent if the risk and then respond to mitigate risks through moreover treatment of these risks. Worse case loss should be considerd when undertaking this risk assessment, the Maximum Foreseeable Loss or the MFL, is the largest monetary loss that may be expected from a single incident at any given point. So it is best to look at points of maximum exposure.

When undertaking a risk analysis of internal and external threats using brainstorming top risks are theft and robbery, then fire. When undertaking the assessment think about what that individual or persons would need to do to get physically into the building , what skills, knowledge and equipment would they need.

When however undertaking a risk assessment of natural perils, the threats a less predictable. 90% of incidents are caused by electrical or technical failure, in such cases the MFL can reach 100% loss. The final threat Matthey briefly mentioned was terrorism, but this now an unlikely risk.

Matthey also showed ERC audience other risk assessment models, including one based on probability, whereby the idea is to slice risk down into separate, manageable parts. Here the main risk elements are fire, water and theft. With this risk model, the areas where these risks are likely are mapped out onto a plan of the institution. For instance with water risk is most likely in the basement or roof from leaking or flooding, with fire, consider what would burn first and where would it start and how easily would it travel? For theft it would be the most attractive work. Using this model allows a more likely MFL model.

Samantha Cox
UKRG web officer
Registrar, Tate St Ives

Friday, 13 June 2014

Assessing Risk in Lending and Borrowing

Monday afternoon’s topic covered the very relevant topic of assessing risk in lending and borrowing.
The session was kicked off by our very own Kate Parsons, Head of Collections Management at Tate and Jane Knowles, Chair of UKRG with their presentation:

“I look forward to hearing from you”: A lending and borrowing scenario.

As the title indicates, the session discussed a scenario in which several works were being requested from Tate for an exhibition by the Royal Academy, showing the point of view of both the lender and the borrower. They cleverly illustrated how each party must consider practical, logistical, legal, financial and reputational risks. As is sometimes the case with loan requests, in the scenario this did not go quite as smoothly as either organisation had perhaps hoped, and served to highlight the potential pitfalls when lending and borrowing.

Kate and Jane advocated a risk assessment based approach to lending, which they had found to work well at Tate.

As someone who is relatively new to the Registrar role, the session was really helpful in highlighting the key risks in lending and borrowing, but also the need for both parties to act in the interest of the work(s) and be realistic, practical and flexible when agreeing and implementing a loan. The closing message was one we should all perhaps take note of, that it is increasingly important for the lender and borrower to work together to mitigate risk, to illiminate actual problems as well as perceived ones.

The second fantastic session on the topic was given by Eva-Lena Bergstrom, Department Director at Nationalmuseum, Sweden. Her topic was entitled:

Lending and Borrowing – Calculating Risks.

This session also highlighted the need to remove the barriers to co-operation between museums and to encourage the mobility of collections for public benefit. In order to achieve this, Eva-Lena argued the need to reduce costs, currently so high that they often impede all but the large National museums. She suggested that there were four key issues which could address this:
• Improving indemnity schemes
• Improving valuation processes
• Simplifying risk assessments
• Making transport procedures more reliable and less expensive

The session drew upon the work done in the EU OMC Risk Assessment Group, 2010-2012. The over-riding message was to ask ourselves for what benefit are we acting when considering a loan: the object, the museum, the private interests or the public?

Panel Discussion
Perhaps unsurprisingly these two sessions led to a lively panel discussion which drew upon the Web Poll questions asked prior to the conference about risk assessment. The poll questions concerning uninsured liability sparked the most discussion. The practice of loan agreements asking a borrower to accept liability for damage to a work up to six months after the work has returned was highlighted, in particular the need for wording to be clear to establish if it is referring to any damage, or damage which occurred during the loan that only becomes apparent after its return. The panel discussion ended with the message that we need to recognise that the lender must take on some risk in order to provide access and that we need to shift away from the idea that the borrower must accept all risks.

On a personal note, I had a fantastic time at ERC 2014 and felt that this topic was one of the highlights of the conference. Both sessions drew heavily on the speakers excellent knowledge of the sector, were highly relevant and provoked a great panel discussion.

Many thanks to Jane, Kate and Eva-Lena.

ERC Helsinki: An overview

As a member of the UKRG Committee I was fortunate enough to attend the brilliantly organised ERC in Helsinki. From the conference itself to boat trips, Moomins and the Finnish Male Screaming Choir it was both entertaining and extremely informative, not only in registrarial issues, but also in the nuances of the wonderful Finnish culture. I’ve come away feeling better informed about so many issues, but also having met and networked my way around a plethora of interesting, engaging and inspiring colleagues. As someone who does not work with loans I was worried that it would be too loans and exhibitions focused, however, the sessions provided were all encompassing and very accessible and so I have come away with a new perspective on all aspects of the registrar's work. In particular, I learnt a lot about couriering and how the role of the courier is a finely tuned balancing act between providing the upmost care to the object in question as well as being a project manager, institution representative, problem solver, and documenter at the same time as respecting other cultures and colleagues across the globe. No mean feat!

Another session that stimulated me was the brilliant one by Kate Parsons and Jane Knowles – their ‘real’ case study approach was extremely educational and highly engaging. Their representation of how to manage risks in lending and borrowing through the use of an imagined real case with emails, letters and phone call transcripts created a real sense of the various elements in a registrar's job and the way that risk should and can be properly managed. This was then followed on by Eva-Lena Bergström who spoke about calculating risks for lending and borrowing, focusing specifically on practical ways of reducing costs of lending and borrowing cultural objects within the EU member states and the EU collection Mobility 2011-14. This has a focus on improving and expanding indemnity schemes, improving valuation processes, simplifying the process of risk assessment, and making the transport procedure more reliable and less expensive. I was astonished to learn that over the last 5 years 2,296 exhibitions have been covered by state indemnity in Europe and out of those only 16 cases of damage were claimed for at least 100,000 cultural goods borrowed, a tiny percentage of less than 0.016%. I came into the conference not knowing that much about state indemnity and I left realising what a powerful and amazing resource it is for museums across Europe.

For me, one of the themes tied across the whole conference was collaborative working not only between departments within their own institution but also between different institutions, transport agents, countries and external organisations. A great example of this was given by Christopher Marinello from Art Recovery International who gave a fascinating talk about art theft and recovery. I thought it was amazing that ArtNet has image recognition software which should make art recovery a bit easier in cases where there is an image of a lost artwork, no matter how bad, dark, grainy, or inconclusive it is to the human eye – seems a great idea to use technologies that are already in use in the policing world and adapt these for art theft reasons. Another great example is that of the case of the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Louvre and the fact that they came to an agreement in 1974 to reunite the head and body of a neo-Sumerian statue. To do this they have a 4 year long term loan agreement with each other so each museum can display the full statue. This seems a great solution and positive outcome highlighting the benefits of collaborative working for the object itself as well as to the public.

All in all I had an amazing time at the conference. The sessions were well structured and balanced and the questions from the audience and Twitter thought provoking and, in some cases, the basis for further discussion and thought from the entire museum community. The parties and events organised for delegates were also great fun, with lots of dancing and singing at the Midsummer party at the Kiasma – and I’m pleased to say, the end being an Abba medley – very appropriate for the region we were in! It was also amazing to see a light sky at midnight – pretty spectacular and something everyone should try and see at least once in their lives. What I’ve taken away is a greater understanding of the registrar’s role, an appreciation for my colleagues and a desire to learn more and more. My favourite part of a talk in the conference was from Renee Pfister’s case study of one of the exhibitions she helped set up in a Mexican gallery – when she arrived the plinths were not as she expected. Instead, the Mexican manufacturer had felt it was only right to add their creative spin on the plinth and as it was in Mexico, add that Mayan feel to it. This meant a plinth that was a truncated square pyramid! A perfect example of how unexpected the role can be and how multi-faceted the registrar role really is.

Amy Graves - UKRG Treasurer

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

To tour, or not to tour...

Tuesday afternoon of the ERC 2014 conference brought around the interesting and very current topic of touring exhibitions. Touring shows are becoming much more of a regular occurrence within the world of galleries and museums, offering institutions the chance to internationally exhibit works through shared costs and collaboration. What can go wrong? Well sometimes, quite a lot, but as Renée Pfister and Kathy Richmond explained, no obstacle is unsolvable if a registrar puts their mind to it... 

International touring - managing the unexpected.

Renée Pfister has over 20 years experience working with the cultural sector, and brought 3 case studies to the conference that highlight inevitable faults and unexpected issues that can arise when planning and implementing a touring exhibition. 
Beginning in Brazil, Renée discussed an exhibition she planned at the Oca do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, containing a variety works of all media. Initial issues began with oversized and heavy works of sculpture being requested, works that were quickly swapped out for more manageable works (or so it was thought!) In particular, the new addition of a sculpture by Richard Wentworth caused much havoc due to its fragility and long length - so long it could not be palletised at the airport and needed to be freighted from Luxembourg! Issues continued to appear in the form of custom strikes (delaying sea freight by 2 days!) and customs officers not recognising artworks with multiple components as one piece of work. With the works finally cleared and arriving at the venue, all was set for install - but not quite. The venue did not have a heavy duty goods lift, meaning that all heavy works had to be hoisted or slid up ramps!

We were then talked through a private gallery exhibition in Mexico City, based around the work of Henry Moore. One confiscated crate and a delayed sea freighter later, the exhibition was successfully installed and was so popular a second exhibition venue came on board after the show had opened! 
The final case study focussed on South Africa, with an exhibition hoping to introduce Western art to a new audience. Renée was working with individuals new to the world of touring exhibitions, having to assist with every aspect of the exhibition. Issues arose regarding loans and copyright, as the lender collated and printed a catalogue without gaining any relevant permissions - something not factored in by the private client but an obvious red flag to such an experienced museum professional who immediately made the client gain all copyright clearance. 
Each of these case studies had similar issues that arose: international customs, transport, museum buildings and stakeholder management. To solve these, or at least reduce the risk of them occurring, Renée left us with the following recommendations: 
- extend transfer periods for shipping and exhibition installs
- identify key components for your installation kit
- always carry hard copy images of the artworks held inside sealed containers
- inspect the vehicles that will be carrying your cargo and try to work with consistent project teams across a tour.
- manage your client/lender/borrower's expectations and always keep a calm disposition!

Touring Turner

We then heard from Kathy Richmond from Tate, London, about her experience touring a Turner exhibition throughout Australia and Japan. This insightful case study offered us a sneak-peak into the world of touring a tailor-made exhibition that had never been shown at Tate, only coming together for the first time in its opening Australian venue. Kathy talked us through visualising the reality of the exhibition, working through logistical pitfalls and working effectively with third parties, all key factors in any successful international tour!

The exhibition itself consisted of over 100 works, which included oil paintings, works on paper, sketchbooks and even an original Turner paint box and palette. The show was to tour to Adelaide, Canberra, Tokyo and Kobe and was made up of 7 shipments. Talking us through the project details, we were told of the importance of having a consistent core team, which in this case was made up of a Tate registrar and project manager, and also planning installation schedules to meticulous detail - this exhibition was to travel to countries that were not only thousands of miles away, but also included courier trips up to 74 hours long!

The logistical pitfalls seemed endless - with inclement weather delaying two legs of transport (a bit of British snow vs. a category 5 typhoon!), paired with lengthy road journeys across the Australian outback and large works that needed specialist handling upon installation, glazing doors that threatened to open during transit and an exhibition space that needed special safeguarding due to its flooring - Kathy and her team seemed to take all these issues in their stride and we were shown a great example of how good planning, communication and effective team management can help overcome the majority of problems that may arise throughout a tour - unfortunately nothing could stop the snow!

So how do we anticipate the unexpected? Well, we can't - but we can be as prepared for it as we can. Have we asked the right questions? Do we have the right equipment? Have we got a good line of communication with our international shippers? Do we fully understand our role as registrar on the project?

This insightful and captivating session offered us a brilliant insight into the world of international touring and showed us how a little bit of extra planning goes a long way! 
Many thanks to Renée and Kathy!

Monday, 9 June 2014

But is it Art?

Daniel Birnbaum, Director of Modern Museum Sweden, posed some interesting questions and explored fascinating anecdotes in the first session of ERC Helsinki.
As 'guardians of the museum' he was keen to remind us that we are not involved in neutral activity and that our work has great cultural and economic consequences.
Using interesting examples ranging from Marcel Duchamp's Fountain and Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes he challenged us to consider what is art and can its status change? He argued that in many ways art and philosophy are the same thing.
Daniel also considered the huge valuations attached to many contemporary artworks today and the contradictions we face when an object can arrive after purchase in a taxi but is treated very differently when lent subsequently.
He also encouraged us to join the "Free the Goat" debate. Robert Rauschenberg ́s famous goat installation is thought by some to be imprisoned in a glass box. 
This first presentation was a thought-provoking start to the conference and the debates are sure to rage on.

ERC 2014 - Opening Reception

The Finnish Male Screaming Choir kicked things off with an amazing surprise performance at the top of the grand entrance of the museum. They then went on to perform within the galleries surrounded by the works of artist and Moomins illustrator Tove Jansson. It really was a great, fun start, which also allowed us all to mingle - it was also great to see so many registrars in one place!!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Our first blog post...

This is the first entry of our UKRG blog ahead of the #ERC2014 this Sunday.  

I'll keep this first entry short and look forward to the other blogs entries for #ERC2014 and future UKRG events.  But just to say I'm delighted we have many positive responses from bursary winners who are happy to blog on the sessions at #ERC2014.  I'm personally really looking forward to the 'Assessing Risk in Lending and Borrowing' session and in particular the 'Lending and Borrwering Scenario' talk by our UKRG Chair Jane Knowles and my Tate colleague Kate Parsons.  On top of being such a great opporunity to meet so many reggies from the UK and Europe the  #ERC2014 accessories are also getting me excited!!