A “Day” in the Life of the Glamorous Courier

February 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

Written by Amber Germano, Associate Registrar

One of the most important jobs of a Registrar is to help ensure the safety of the museum’s collection.  It’s a challenge when the collection is within the museum.  Imagine what happens when something must leave.  The artwork can be packed as safely as possible, but once outside there is only plastic, foam and wood between a masterpiece and who knows what.  So it is sometimes necessary to send a courier to escort the artwork to its destination.  It may seem glamorous to fly around the world with priceless things, but it is actually a lot of hard and stressful work occurring on a minimal amount of sleep.  Who can sleep when you have a multi-million dollar painting in your care!?

 It is 10am, the art shipper arrives at the museum, and the crated artwork is strapped in the truck.  The courier, already up for five hours, gives the shipper the OK.  They padlock the doors, and the courier hops in the front checking the climate control.   The traffic to JFK is miserable which gives the courier plenty of time to think about everything that could possibly go wrong.  What if the climate system fails or the truck breaks down?  What if customs wants to open the crate?

 Arriving at the airport, the courier and precious cargo are delivered to the warehouse for palletization.  The flight is at 6pm but the cargo cut-off is noon.  Uh-oh, it’s 12:30, we’ve missed the cut-off.  Luckily the courier has a customs broker representative present to help oversee this process, and they’ve pulled a few strings.  Regardless, the palletization process can take hours, and sitting is not an option (if they have seats, you won’t want to sit in them).  The courier and the customs representative act as a team to ensure the safety of the artwork, as the cargo employees are not trained art handlers.  So the team makes certain that the artwork is not riding on its side on the same pallet as live lobsters or dead horses, etc.  Once the pallet is packed, the courier must leave the artwork to check in for the flight, but not before making a note of the pallet number.  The courier needs to make sure that the pallet is on the plane.  The courier and artwork must travel together.

 The customs representative gives the go signal and tells the courier the position of the pallet on the plane and they’re off.  At 5 am local time the plane lands, everything is done in reverse and about 5 hours later the courier leaves the crate safely in art storage to acclimate.  The courier has been up for about 24 hours now, but it’s 10am and check-in is at 3pm.  Sleep eventually comes and the next day brings the courier back to the museum to unpack the crate, check the artwork’s condition and, with a sigh of relief, see the artwork safely installed.

After the artwork arrives and acclimates, Amber Germano, associate registrar, condition reports on the object to ensure nothing was damaged during transport.


Entry filed under: Registrar.

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