A woman leans over a sealed box housed within a packing crate, adjusting red wires

Lead preparator Rita Gomez attaches a triaxial accelerometer to an interior microclimate box to monitor shock and vibration.

As an assistant scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute and member of its Managing Collection Environments (MCE) initiative, I’ve been working alongside the Preparations team at the J. Paul Getty Museum and with couriers from the Museum staff to conduct an assessment of the environmental performance of the packing cases it uses for the transportation of cultural objects.

While the MCE initiative largely focuses on the control and management of collection environments in the museum setting, an object’s transient period between venues represents an extension of the museum environment. Respected for the quality of their cases, the Preparations team was also interested in verifying their performance in transit.

For this assessment, we’ve undertaken numerous in situ studies examining exterior and interior temperature, relative humidity, shock, and vibration conditions for a range of packing cases used by the Museum to transport artifacts. In addition, we’ve monitored multiple packaged artifacts or mockups during the same transit to directly compare case performance when subject to identical environmental input conditions.

While the bulk of this monitoring occurs during ground or air transits, we’ve given special attention to the so-called “first mile/last mile” transitions, as handling of packaged artifacts at either venue or intermediate junctions is often thought to pose added risk of damage.

I will be presenting this research at the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works during the Collection Care session on May 30 in Chicago. A paper on the results of the study is expected to be published in 2018.

This post is part of the series Getty Hub, spotlighting the real people researching and conserving visual arts and cultural heritage at the Getty. Follow us on Twitter @GettyHub.
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