Do’s & Don’ts of Packing Art & Collectibles

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When packing and handling any valuable artifact or piece of art, it is very important to spend the time and effort planning the proper techniques to pack and transport the item. The requirements vary depending on the value of the piece, although the central premise of assuring that it gets to and from its destination unbroken is a critical consideration.


Art Packing Example Thanks to
I.T.S.: International Transport Services

Special consideration for packing and shipping valuable art:
Whether your valuable objects only needs to be packaged for a few days or for many years, it is imperative the packaging and handling of valuables is sufficient and will not cause any damage, discoloration or deterioration to the item. These dos and dont’s of packing and handling valuables will help your keepsakes stay safe and assure they emerge from shipping and storage in the same condition as they began.

• Always consult an art conservator or packaging service before shipping. Find out the safest packing materials for each valuable. Certain materials could deteriorate the object if they are not compatible with the original contents.

• Only package valuables that are in good condition. More damage is likely to occur to an item that is already weakening.

• When packaging any valuable, always wear white, cotton gloves. This will prevent unwanted finger prints or dirt from getting on the object.

• Anticipate that the item could experience different humidity and environment changes. Line the box or crate with insulation paper, polyethylene or bubble wrap around the box. This will create a moisture and thermal barrier.

• When using boxes to pack, use soft sand bags or pillow between smaller pieces of art or valuables. This will reduce the possibility of the objects hitting each other and breaking during transportation.

• Label the content of each box or package to reduce confusion or the possibility of the valuable getting lost during transportation. Also, all boxes with fragile items should be marked accordingly.

Fragile Boxing Tape Example Thanks to
Removal Supply

• Don’t use any packaging materials that contain acid. Make a special note to use cardboard boxes, boards or other packaging materials that contain acid-free substances. Certain acids could drastically change the valuable object.

• Do not use nails or staples when securing a box or crate. The vibrations can cause serious damage to the item. Instead, try using screws or heavy-duty boxing tape.

• Do not work in a cluttered, dirty environment such as a basement or an area where there is any dust or dirt. A clean, isolated packaging area will prevent dirt or dust from entering the package and affecting the valuable’s condition.

• Don’t use just any packaging materials. The materials must be compatible to the original materials used for the piece of art or valuable object. Research this through an art conserver before going ahead with packing and handling.

• Do not rely on man power to lift heavy objects. Use trolleys with cushions to help move objects.

• When packaging framed art or photographs, do not allow the packaging tape to touch the frame or art. This could seriously damage them.

• Never roll any artwork that is on paper when transporting. Place the paper between two sheets of acid-free backing board. Rolling the paper can cause permanent damage.

Other Important Considerations:
1. Ship Only When Necessary

The best way to transport an irreplaceable document, book, or work of art on paper is to pack it securely and deliver it yourself. Even under the best of circumstances, shipping by common carrier always involves some risk. Objects may be exposed to crushing, shock, vibrations, or drastic changes in temperature and relative humidity (RH). Packages can be left out in the rain. The risk of damage can be minimized by choosing a reliable carrier and, even more, by packing the object securely.

2. Choosing a Carrier
UPS and Federal Express: These carriers will not knowingly accept art objects, unique items, or irreplaceable artifacts, and for that reason we would not recommend UPS or Federal Express as carriers for works of art or historical materials. Both of these carriers have limited insurance limits on art in transit, often just $500, so be sure if you are considering these carriers to determine in advance if they will cover a claim for the value you insure the package at.
Fine Arts Shipping Services: These companies offer door- to-door trucking with special handling for valuable or irreplaceable objects, and some also offer packing and crating services. Fine arts shippers are very reliable, but usually expensive. Check your local telephone directory for possible local providers, or consider these relevant links; Lile- Logistics Services, Tate- Fine Art, and Fed Ex Custom Critical.

3. Objects Framed Under Glass
If the object is framed with glass and cannot be safely removed from the frame, it is best not to ship it. If sending such an object is absolutely necessary, apply strips of masking tape to the glass. The tape may not keep the glass from cracking, but it will hold the glass in position so there is less danger of damaging the object. The tape should cover the entire surface of the glass in parallel strips that are both vertical and horizontal. To absorb shocks, framed pictures must be cushioned extremely well.

4. Fragile or Delicate Objects
Special care must be taken with fragile objects. Those created with media such as pastels or charcoal drawings are especially vulnerable to vibrations, which occur during travel. Such materials should be hand-carried whenever possible. If pastels must be shipped, speak with a conservator first.

5. Crates
Crates afford the most protection for valuable art or three-dimensional items. Although waterproof containers can be made at great cost, ordinary wood crates are not waterproof or even water resistant. The most you can expect from the average well-made crate is physical protection. To ensure that the contents are not exposed to rain or other hazardous conditions, you must use a reliable carrier. Each object should be wrapped and packed so it does not slide around in the crate. Enclose a packing list of all objects as well as your name, address, phone number and any special instructions. Wood, especially plywood, is the material most commonly used for crating. If you make the crate yourself, use flat head screws. Nails are not as strong and are difficult to remove when unpacking. Removing nails may cause jarring of the contents and damage to the crate, which might otherwise be reused. Large crates should have handles or wood extensions that allow them to be lifted and moved easily. For pre built crates, try: Caseworks Crating & Shipping, or for a video or software related to crate-building, visit Vision Alliance Networking- Crate Building.

Visit the following site for more information and resources on international shipping:
I.T.S. International Transport Services:

To find an art packaging/shipping service company near you, visit the following sites:
Directory of Packing Services
Harsh Transports
Safe Ship

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