Last week, two couriers from Penn Museum, Assistant Archivist Eric Schnittke and Collections Assistant Jim Moss, traveled to Madrid, Spain to oversee the installation of 64 Near East and Babylonian objects along with 20 archival documents at CaixaForum Madrid.
Antes del diluvio. Mesopotamia 3500-2100 aC (Before the Flood: Mesopotamia 3500-1200 BC) pulls together over 400 objects from 32 museums and collectors from over a dozen countries to tell the story of the origins of writing, city planning and monumental architecture in the cradle of civilization (modern day southern Iraq). Click here to visit Penn Museum’s own Iraq’s Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur’s Royal Cemetery exhibit.
Eric and myself spent five days overseeing the installation of Penn’s objects, along with couriers from museums from across North America and Europe, including the Field Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Royal Ontario Museum, the British Museum, the Louvre, and many others.
Museum couriers carefully unpack and check each object, before it can be mounted and installed into the exhibit. International Loans of this size take over a years’ worth of preparation by the Museum’s staff of Registrars and Conservators, to document and prepare each object for travel.
Penn Museum’s Registrar Office has recently purchased two iPads to aid in condition reporting, which is where the object’s current condition is checked against photos taken before they left Philadelphia, to verify that nothing has been damaged during shipping.
The CaixaForum building itself is a work of art. Built within a gutted electrical station, the ground floor was removed, and the building appears to float in the air. Topped with oxidized cast-iron to give it a rust colored look to match the brick below, the building is flanked by a vertical garden wall consisting of 250 species and 15,000 plants, contrasting the industrial with the natural. Click here to see an interview with architect Jacques Herzog.
While courier trips can often include long hours, we were fortunate to stay in the heart of Madrid, where we had the option of many fine restaurants to choose from, and were exposed to wonders of Spanish tapas. With the help of La Caixa’s professional team of installers, we were able to finish on schedule and were left with Saturday and Sunday to explore Madrid before our return flight on Monday.