Detail from Civil War-era letter from the exhibition MAIL CALL. Courtesy the Smithsonian National Postal Museum


1. With your crate dimensions in hand, and before the shipment arrival, always perform a walk-through of the pathway from your loading dock to your exhibition space or storage location to ensure that all crates will clear heights, widths, and corners.

2. The American with Disabilities Act requires that all exhibition objects and structure be at least 48" apart to allow clearance for wheelchair visitors.

3. When condition reporting objects, be sure to examine any accompanying materials, such as frames (front and back), glazing, mounts, and bracketing.

4. When examining an object, the designations "R" and "L" refer to face right and face left, as you look at the two-dimensional work. The designations "proper R" and "proper L" refer to the work's own right and left. When it is impossible to use these designations, the examination is done from a fixed point of reference on the work, and so noted on the report.

5. It is generally recommended that objects be housed in environmental conditions of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, and 50% relative humidity. Objects comprised of specific media or objects of an especially fragile nature may require more specific environmental controls, which are best advised by a conservator specializing in the treatment of the object in question.

6. Always leave crates sealed for at least 24 hours to allow contents to acclimatize before unpacking.

7. Always know before lifting an object where it will be placed, and ensure that the path is clear. Always use two hands and never grasp an object at fragile or weak points.

8. It is advisable to use clean cotton gloves when handling objects; however gloves should not be worn when handling glass objects or glazed ceramics.

9. When staging two-dimensional pieces, place them upright against the wall, face-to-face and back-to-back, with separators between faces. Stack similarly sized works together. Never lay panels or framed works flat on the floor, and use rubber or non-skid pads to prevent slipping and to protect the bottom of the objects.

10. The insurance value of an object can be determined by establishing Fair Market Value. Recent cost of the object, recent appraisal by a qualified appraiser, value established in documenting personal insurance coverage, and retail sale price of similar objects are all indicators of fair market value.

11. The dimensions of an object should be taken at the greatest points, and should always follow the same order: height, width, depth, and diameter (if appropriate) for consistency. Two-dimensional framed objects are measured on the reverse or sides, along the outer edges and along the left or right side. If the frame prevents this, "sight" measurements, indicating the measurements of what can be seen, are taken from the front edges of the painting.

12. When unpacking a crate, always note how the contents have been wrapped and placed. Keep all the original packing material to use when repacking.

13. When hanging two-dimensional works, position the center of the object at standard eye level. This is generally considered to be 60"-64" from the floor.

14. It is recommended that objects most sensitive to light, such as textiles, watercolors, photographs, and other works of art on paper be illuminated at 5-8 footcandles; objects moderately sensitive to light, such as oil and tempera paintings, wood, bone, and furniture be illuminated at 8-12 footcandles, and objects least sensitive to light, such as stone, ceramics, glass, metal, and most plastics be illuminated at 12-15 footcandles.

15. Use only pencils when performing condition reports, packing, unpacking, or doing any other work around objects. Pens, markers, and any liquids should not be allowed in the area. Remember to remove any jewelry that might come into contact with the object, including ID tags on neck chains.



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