David Packer, Museum Registrar at The Fitzwilliam Museum provides some useful pointers as well as guiding us through the process of borrowing work from international collections.
- Try to allow a minimum notice period of one year when submitting loan requests. Allow much longer if your exhibition is marking a major anniversary, as other projects may be looking to display the same objects. When the formal request is submitted, you should be precise, citing object accession numbers, describing how these objects will fit into the exhibition narrative, and giving the exact dates of the display.
- If the exhibition curator is visiting international collections for research, encourage them to take a tape measure and digital camera so that they can obtain detailed physical descriptions and materials information from the outset.
- Compile a list of your staff with second language skills and their level. Over time you will become familiar with key phrases, for example in insurance policies.
- Start the appointment process for a transport agent as soon as you have a workable and stable object list. Although there will be many changes, set out when you need the objects as a basis for the negotiations. This will put you in control of your installation schedule.f the exhibition curator is visiting international collections for research, encourage them to take a tape measure and digital camera so that they can obtain detailed physical descriptions and materials information from the outset.
- Use the UK Government Indemnity Scheme where eligible.
- It is expected that the borrower will appoint the shipping agent: it is best to stick with Artim or ICEFAT members in the first instance, but the lender will retain a veto. It is advisable to appoint an art agent rather than attempting to navigate the complexities of customs, import VAT, etc. yourself. Ensure that the agent has airside access in order to supervise the shipment properly during palletisation and loading.
- Transporting international loans is expensive! Ask for the costs up front or as early in the process as you can: if a ‘loan fee’ is being charged, ask what this includes: is it admin only? If conservation work incurs extra cost, ask what measures will be taken to make the object safe to travel. Try to separate this from purely aesthetic improvements – you can make a decision about those if your budget allows. Expect to pay for conservation and condition reporting, the transport agent, construction of crates, packing labour, mounts and stock frames, courier travel, hotel and per diem.
- If you have approved immunity from seizure status, set deadlines for the publication of the object details, including images, in order to secure immunity on entry to the UK. The objects must be published online four weeks before entry, so ensure that those lenders know what information they need to provide and by when: if they don’t provide the information, immunity will not be in place. Don’t forget that UK immunity is still subordinate to the UK’s obligations under international treaties such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention and CITES regulations.
- Check dates of public holidays in different countries. Most work desk diaries have a table of these, if not look online. It is useful to know when your counterparts in overseas institutions are not going to be there, and when transport might be affected. If you are going to be shipping on public holidays, bear in mind that a lot of shops might be shut, other facilities not available, key staff not at work, and that the transport will cost a lot more because the crew are on double-time. Also, be aware that in some places very many people are away from their desks for much of August.