You may not know that The Museum currently offers seven exhibitions for rental to other institutions. The exhibitions are drawn entirely from our extensive permanent collection, and have debuted first right here in Reading. Rather than a popular exhibition being ‘once-and-done’ after years in the making, since 2012 institutions have had the opportunity to bring RPM’s artwork to their city by booking one of the limited number of vacancies on an exhibition’s tour. Our works have traveled as far afield as California and Florida, and as nearby as Maryland and Virginia.
Touring exhibitions involve the time of RPM’s curatorial department even after they’ve left Wyomissing, PA. One of our most popular exhibitions, American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists’ Colony, calls for a courier from RPM to oversee the unpacking and repacking of the show at each venue. Requiring a courier ensures that the 111 paintings and works on paper are handled carefully and in accordance with RPM’s standards, and that no changes to their condition occur through the transportation and display process. This means RPM’s Collections Manager/Registrar can be found racking up her frequent flyer miles, traveling twice every three months - two times to each venue on the exhibition’s tour.
Just last week, Ashley Houston spent three days in Springfield, Missouri, as American Impressionism ended its run at the Springfield Art Museum (SAM). Ashley documented her trip to give you a glimpse into a day in the life of a courier.
Only an hour after landing in Springfield, Ashley was already down to business in the galleries at SAM. Every hour counts when there’s over 100 works to inspect and pack. Every work in the exhibition travels in an Airfloat StrongBox. SAM’s curatorial team had all 111 boxes ready and waiting in the galleries, leaning against an empty wall. Starting with the biggest paintings (some measuring over 7 ft tall!), each painting was taken off the wall one by one. Ashley thoroughly checks the painting for condition issues, noting in the Condition Report Book even the smallest changes since she last saw the work. She knows them like the back of her hand after 5 years of examining them twice every 3 months! Any issues are documented, and are fully considered before approving the paintings to travel on to future venues.
As paintings are taken off the walls, they are propped up by blocks on the floor to prevent delicate and intricate frames from having excessive weight placed on their bottoms, and to mitigate the chance of accidental shoe to painting contact! Paintings are matched with their boxes using the accession number (a distinguishing number assigned to all works in a museum’s collection, unique to each item) which is on the back of each painting and on a label on each box. Paintings are carried by the sturdiest part of the frame, wearing cotton or nitrile gloves. They are placed face down on a blanket-covered table on a piece of clean Tyvek. Tyvek is secured around the painting with blue painter’s tape. The works are placed face up in their boxes, surrounded on front, back, and all sides by dense foam for support.
After about 10 hours of work, all 111 works of art were packed and awaiting transport to their next venue by a fine art shipper. In this instance, the exhibit will split into two smaller versions, one traveling to the International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen, TX, and the other to the Knoxville Museum of Art in Knoxville, TN. Ashley will enjoy her next two weeks at home in Reading, getting back to her work on the permanent collection and planning for future exhibitions, before flying out to McAllen and directly on to Knoxville thereafter at the end of July.
Exhibits, events, & extras