Art handlers are experts at packaging, moving and unpacking priceless works of art, from pieces of parchment to fragile sculptures. They work for shipping companies, private collectors, museums, galleries, auction houses or other arts organizations. Job requirements vary by employer, but handlers typically receive training through accredited institutions or employing agencies. Before touching artifacts or art works, handlers practice every detail of the job, from building crates to framing and installing.
The Bronx Council on the Arts offers an Art Handler Certificate Program that requires 150 hours of training and an additional 50 hours at an internship. Training is split into workshops that focus on specifics, such as stretching and rolling canvas, mounting and hanging, re-framing or installation. The BCA notes that candidates who succeed in the program have basic abilities like measuring, communicating, using hand tools and doing math.
The New York University School of Professional Studies certifies eligible students in Art Collections Management and Display, but the program also emphasizes managing general collections, in addition to transporting them. The curriculum comprises electives and four mandatory classes, including Introduction to Art Collections and a course on caring for and displaying objects. Students choose from electives such as International Fine Art Logistics, Exhibition Design or Creating Public and Private Art Collections.
Some employers prefer to train new hires themselves, regardless of the employee's prior knowledge. The International Convention of Exhibition and Fine Art Transporters, for example, requires any employee who deals with art to undergo handling training. Initially, new hires are taught about the different packaging materials and techniques for safe shipping. Once they have a foundation, new employees practice folding, rolling, re-stretching and hanging imitation art pieces. According to ICEFAT, all employees also complete annual refresher classes.
Accredited institutions that provide thorough training in art handling aren’t plentiful, but some organizations put on seminars or workshops for professional development. For example, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, occasionally offers workshops geared toward art handlers. In 2015, the CCAHA planned to hold seminars on topics such as Caring for Paper Collections, Disaster Response and Recovery, and Storage Boxes for Flat and 3-D Objects.
- Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance: Art Handler
- Cleveland Museum of Art: Art Handler
- Bronx Council on the Arts: 2013 Art Handler Training Program
- New York University School of Professional Studies: Certificate in Art Collections Management and Display
- International Convention of Exhibition and Fine Art Transporters: In-House Art Handling Training
- Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts: Program Calendar
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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