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Art Handling Workshop: The Repeat! at Lopez Museum on 26 September, Thursday, 9am to 4pm.

Due to the overwhelming response to the workshop, we have scheduled a second batch so please call 6312417 to reserve slots!

And thank you for the wonderful feature Business World Online: Preventive conservation, Philippine style

The Lopez Museum and Library last week offered a one-day course on Art Handling, with lectures on preventive conservation, interactive discussions, demonstrations and hands-on experience in packing and transporting two- and three-dimensional objects using different materials.

The venue was unexpectedly packed and the Lopez Museum had to turn away interested participants. A repeat sometime in late September is in the offing, but it looks like all the slots will quickly be snapped up by museum and gallery owners and workers.

The facilitators for the workshop were Lopez Museum consultants Peter Natividad, who is consultant for Collections Management; and Ricky Francisco, consultant for Systems and Facilities.

Artworks as museum pieces are our cultural heritage — “assets which are financially valuable — and our objective is to protect them and pass them on to the next generation,” said Mr. Natividad.

Mr. Natividad said that there is no local standard for collection management systems in the Philippines, so it behooves the museum/ gallery worker “to get involved in handling, and in continuing innovations and new systems in collection management in the Philippine setting.”

He hastened to add though that the Lopez Museum’s Preventive Conservation Program is patterned after international standards and was developed in the Philippine setting.

Apart from his work with the Lopez Museum, Mr. Natividad also consults for various institutions such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo Centennial Museum and Gallery and Banco de Oro.

He recently helped organized the Lopez Museum’s collection of 15th- to 16th-century pottery found in Calatagan, Batangas.

An independent museum, gallery and conservation consultant, Mr. Francisco works with the Lopez Museum and a few other private institutions in Manila and Singapore. As an advocate of Preventive Conservation, he has trained in various institutions such as the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and SEAMEO-SPAFA (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-SEAMEO Regional Center for Archaeology and Fine Arts).

Mr. Natividad stressed the need to classify art in categories: highly important, medium importance, and low importance to create risk and disaster management plans.

He mentioned the need for curators and collection managers to assess a museum piece: what its cultural significance, value, worth, and condition is.

One needs to record and document (including photo documentation), and the information includes the title of the artwork, medium and provenance.

“There is no perfect museum,” said Mr. Natividad. Thus “installers have to check the integrity of materials and make incident reports, in case artworks were subjected to some form of damage (dents, tears, scratches) in the process of handling and/or transporting. These could happen due to leaks and natural disasters like earthquakes.”

Prior to an exhibit, handlers should have a floor plan and diagram so they could determine the routes and passages to be taken, and be able to assess where it would be most risky. They should anticipate tight corners, low doorways, and other features that affect how the artwork will be handled.

“It is also important for artworks to have insurance coverage, as once a work of art is borrowed and transported, coverage is from nail to nail, from point A to point B,” or once it is removed from display (or storage) from one gallery/museum to another.

Messrs. Natividad and Francisco gave a number of tips on handling art properly.

1. Keep works of art away from environments that would expose them (especially on a regular basis) to water and high humidity. This includes windows and doors that open up to or are close to gardens as the moisture eventually results to damage such as cracks in paintings and mold growth.

2. Mold grows at humid environments above 65% relative humidity. There are affordable digital thermohygrometers available at photography shops. Use them to measure relative humidity. If you could afford it, use dehumidifiers when humidity is above 65%.

3. Avoid displaying your art where they are exposed to sunlight. Too much light can damage artworks like watercolors.

1. Remove all jewelry, especially dangling jewelry

2. Examine the condition of the artwork to see if there are damages or unstable parts before handling it. Putting it on a padded table could be helpful when you are examining it. Be sure that the table can support the weight of the work and that it is clear of anything that could scratch or dent the artwork.

1. Handlers should peek at the back of the painting before taking it off the wall to check how the work was attached to it.

2. Use just the right amount of pressure when removing the work from the wall to prevent any damage, as the artwork may have been exposed to insects or termites. Support the painting by holding it at the bottom and sides. Do not carry a painting by holding it from the top of the frame only.

1. Transporting paintings exposes them to great risks. If you have to move a painting to a different location, it should be properly wrapped, packed and adequately protected. Rolling paintings should be last resort, but if you have to roll paintings, do it properly so as not to damage them. Do not store them rolled.

2. Investigate the load and integrity of the material.

3. Carrying requires three people: two individuals to carry and install the work, and one to survey the surroundings and lead the way. Both handlers should face front while walking.

4. Plan your route, the path where you’re going to walk, and where to put the artwork down.

5. You should have padded blocks to cushion the impact when the artwork is put down.

1. Since imported boxes or storage units are quite expensive, one can have boxes custom-made locally, like in Paete. These boxes could be lined with products like glassine paper and other less acidic papers that are locally available to block acids from the box itself from reaching the the objects inside. These materials should be replaced periodically.

2. Use ph strips or a ph pen to determine the acidity of archival material. Acidity can be seen when the item is yellow and brittle. 

3. Use bubble wrap, making sure the bubbles are facing away from the painting or object. It would be safer wrap the object first in glassine paper before using bubble wrap.

4. Other materials one can use are styropore “peanuts” and “popcorn chips,” which act as fillers; foam core (various thicknesses); polyethylene foam and corrugated cardboard for extra cushioning.

5. When handling CDs and other flat objects, make paper corners by folding strips of paper into four. Tape on them instead of on actual artworks on paper. Don’t let tape have direct contact with the artwork. Leave some space so the work doesn’t move. Wrap the items in glassine, and use chemically stable materials such as mylar (to encapsulate documents and to keep humidity out). Use acid-free materials. As a rule, plywood and brown paper are acidic, avoid using them unless there are no other substitutes. If you have to use them, put buffering materials that are less acidic between these materials and the objects.


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