Procedures for Handling Art in an Emergency

I.1 "Protection of Art in Emergency Situations" from the Seattle Art Museum's Emergency Planning Handbook, rev. ed. (Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1994). Used by permission.

4. Do not carry a painting by the top of the frame. Carry it with one hand under the frame and one hand to the side, or with a hand on either side of the frame.

5. Hold the frame where it is strongest, never by the fragile gesso decoration.

6. If there appears to be loose paint present, carry the painting flat, painted surface up, to prevent flakes from falling off.

7. Paintings should never be stacked. However, when rapid response is necessary and safe space is limited, paintings may need be leaned together against a wall. If this is the case, place the paintings face-to-face and back-to-back, ensuring that the frames overlap and that nothing is in direct contact with the painting surfaces, front or back. Watch for screw-eyes and wires on the backs of frames that could damage the paintings.

Emergency Handling of Small Objects, Vases, Sculpture

Particular care must be observed in the handling of small, fragile are objects. Before moving, determine a safe, out-of-the-way location where they cannot be bumped or hit.

1. Do not lift or carry a fragile object by its handles, spout, rim, finials, or by any projecting part.

2. Use one hand to support the bottom of the object and the other hand and arm (like a gentle hug) to support the sides.

3. Never lift a sculpture by a projecting member such as a hand, arm, foot or head.

4. Ensure that the earthquake safety wire, if any, has been removed before attempting to move a small object.

Emergency Handling of Furniture

Furniture is particularly vulnerable to damage by water or excessive humidity. If the exposure to water or other danger has already occurred and no further danger is present, the furniture should not be moved until conservators or registrars advise.

1. Do not drag or push furniture.

2. Do not lift furniture by arms, legs, back, finials, or other projecting parts.

3. If possible, remove marble tops before moving furniture.





Use common sense.


Use extreme care in handling paintings.


Always carry only one painting at a time.


Always have two or more people lift or move any painting which one person finds

even slightly difficult to manage alone.


Always carry framed paintings by the frame, with two hands on opposite sides of the

painting. Never hold a frame by the ornate deceptions at the corners or centres of

the sides.


Always hold the face of a painting toward your body when you are carrying it.


Never touch the surface of a painting with your fingers.


Never hold an unframed painting with your knuckles pressing into the reverse of the



Always be very careful of where you put your hands when holding a frame. Gold leaf

is very fragile and can easily be knocked off by the pressure of your hands.

10. Walk smoothly when carrying a painting so that you don't jar or vibrate the canvas

and paint layers.


Know where you plan to put the painting and where you are going before you lift it.

Do not move it unnecessarily.

12. Put paintings where they will not be accidentally knocked into, or be in the way of

emergency crews.

13. Always rest paintings vertically against a wall and not flat on the floor, unless there is

no other alternative. Use non-skid pads. If none are available, place paintings at a

safe angle, from which they will neither fall over nor slide flat. If possible, rest

single frame paintings face against the wall.

14. Paintings should not be stacked vertically against each other. If necessary, stack

them back-to-back and front-to-front. Always make sure that any wire, screws or

protruding pieces on the reverse of frames cannot cause damage. If possible, use

cardboard/soft foam pieces to separate stacked paintings.




Use common sense.


Use extreme care in handling collections.


Move every object by itself.


Do not lift by handles, spouts, arms, rims, tails, heads or projecting parts. Use two

hands and lift from the base or secure area only. Separate jars and lids whenever

I.2 "Handling Collections in Emergencies" from the Barbados Museum and Historical Society's "Emergency Plan" (Barbados Museum and Historical Society, St. Michael, 1994, photocopy), Appendix 1. Used by permission.

I.2 "Handling Collections in Emergencies" from the Barbados Museum and Historical Society's "Emergency Plan" (Barbados Museum and Historical Society, St. Michael, 1994, photocopy), Appendix 1. Used by permission.

possible and transport individually. Carry with one hand at bottom and one hand at side or near bottom for support and balance.

5. Transfer small objects to boxes or trays, wrapping in tissue paper.

6. Use a cart if possible to move more than one object at a time. Use protective pads, wedges, or blankets to stabilize objects on cards and prevent them from abrading each other. Be aware of projecting parts - they may require extra padding and extra precaution.

8. Know how a piece is to be handled before lifting; know where you are going and where you plan to put it.

9. Always be careful of where hands are placed as paint, gold leaf, feathers, etc., are easily knocked off.

10. Collect and preserve fragments broken off of any of the collections. Save all pieces.

11. Place objects where there is no chance of their getting accidentally knocked into or being in the way of the emergency crews.

12. No piece should touch another.

13. Do not allow parts of objects to protrude beyond the edge of shelving, where they might be bumped into.

14. When moving objects to new areas, store heavier objects on lower shelves to lower the centre of gravity and minimize danger of a rack toppling over.

15. Place padding underneath if you must place an object on a palette, on the floor.


E.g. books, unframed photographs, parchment document and files.

1. Use common sense.

2. Use extreme care in handling paper documents. Wear gloves if possible.

3. Lay unmounted sheets between clean sheets of cardboard.

4. Unframed graphics should never be placed against each other. If this is necessary, always place tissue between each piece.

5. Objects other than flat graphics should be maintained in approximately the same horizontal or vertical position in which they were exhibited.

6. Know where you are going and where you plan to place the work of art before you lift it.

7. Walk smoothly when carrying a print or drawing so that you don't jar or vibrate it.

8. Put works of art where there is no chance of their being accidentally knocked into or in the way of emergency crews.

9. Support books well. Do not hold by the spine only. Carry in container if possible.

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