For more than three decades, the Woodson Art Museum has provided exhibitions to other museums. In the early 1980s, a local moving company built crates to be used for shipping the artwork. While our crate design has changed little over the years, we now build our crates in house.
Each crate is lined with lightweight Styrofoam on all sides and between each artwork to create a custom compartment for each work. This allows us to include up to ten paintings in one crate. Our system is easy to pack and reduces the risk of damage. The Woodson now has two sets of touring crates for our annual Birds in Art exhibitions, which often travel for more than a year. At the conclusion of each tour, the crates come back to the Woodson Art Museum and are unpacked; each work is examined and then repacked in its original crate for return to its lender.
Packing sculpture is more complicated than packing two-dimensional artworks. The crate design needs to provide good support for the sculpture and be easy and efficient for our colleagues to unpack and repack. Typically, each sculpture requires a different approach. Most bronze sculptures are stable and only need to be supported to prevent them from moving in their crate. Depending on the delicacy of wood sculptures, special cushion supports and braces may be necessary to hold a work in place during shipping. Less fragile sculptures can be set into crates with custom-cut foam that acts like a “nest.”
Birds in Art is not the only Woodson exhibition that tours; we also share exhibitions from our permanent collection. Earlier this week, we shipped Shoreline Symphony to Lost Valley Visitors Center, Ringwood, Illinois. With our crate building experience, I’m confident the exhibition will arrive – and return home – in great condition.