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Wednesday 3 June 2015

The Ministry Explains it All: Courier Trips

Ok, we're all aware that museum pay is pretty poor, temporary contracts are frustrating and trying to champion the needs of collections management is a battle we are all constantly fighting. But, there are undeniably some pretty wonderful things about working in a museum, and for once were not talking directly about the collections. There is the (granted infrequent) opportunity to courier objects and travel the world. Ok, well maybe just a trip to the home counties

Courier trips are museums way of flexing their muscles, claiming ownership and an opportunity for lending institutions to check that those borrowing from them have fulfilled all of the requirements that they promised in the UKRG facilities report and/or make sure that no borrowing institution hands make it onto the object. 

Loans out  and acquisitions are the usual reasons why you would be sent as a courier namely because the objects are fragile, high value or incredibly rare and distance can vary from down the road to Australia with one object to hundreds on a truck, plane or train. It's a variation game but a few things remain the same:


  • Per diem - freebie lunch is always a winner, even if it is a off colour sandwich from a service station and a bag of discos
  • A day out - getting some real sun and time away from the lab/office/gallery
  • Getting to see behind the scenes at another museum - we always love a sneeky peak of another museums offices to compare
  • Responsibility - repping the museum so you have to be flexing some of those muscles too
And sometimes you can just chill 


  • Thinking about a million things at once - are they wearing gloves? have i got the exit forms? Is the object safe in the truck? See below
  • Spending hours waiting - On trucks, in airline sheds, on trains, for installation. Yep you will be spending a lot of time waiting around for decisions, movement and transport 
  • Early mornings - All long trips begin with an early morning start, sometimes even before Macdonalds is open. Its crazy. 
  • Responsibility - paperwork, so much paperwork. Exit forms, condition reports, entry forms, courier packs, tickets 


Your train of thought for the day will be an endless repeat of:  
  • Is this the right object?
  • Is it in the crate?
  • Does it need a mount/did we make one? 
  • Has it broken in transit?
  • Is this definitely the right museum?
  • My god, has it broken?

Appropriate  hashtags
  • #trucklife - because spending six hours on a truck justifies your new existence as a trucker
  • #trainselfie - what else are you going to do with all of those hours on a train, work emails?
  • #notcuteenoughforacoffee the early morning will do nothing for your chance to flirt your way to a free coffee at Pret
  • #Arewenearlythereyet - The answer will forever be no. 
  • Courtesy of Powerhouse Museum, Sydney 
  • #howmanycrates - more crates, more problems. 

Once you're at the borrowing institution its time to install, sign paperwork and be freed from the constraints of the day but be warned it does feel like you can claim some ownership over the object once you've carefully attended to its every need and walking out it does seem like you're leaving your kid behind, worrying about the objects welfare, mount and appearance will stay with you until its back in the stores or displayed in your own institution. Safe and sound 

Do you have any tip, tricks or panics about couriering collections? Let us know on twitter @curiositytweet 

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