University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Courier Trips

June 15, 2010

Courier Trips. If you peruse the admin meeting minutes you may notice that every so often a registrar or keeper is away on a courier trip. What are these trips and what do they entail? The answer varies widely depending on the section and the final destination. Courier trips occur when we loan an institution an object from the collection that usually requires some special attention. Many times this means that there are a lot of objects being loaned, the objects require mounts or rigging, or the object is travelling overseas and needs customs paperwork to be filled out. The reasons always vary.

So are these just little vacations that we take and bill to other museums? Well, yes and no. Often times these trips require the courier to be awake at crazy hours, handling objects in stressful time sensitive situations as well as mundane and rote condition reporting of artifacts. Throw in all the perils of international travel and suddenly it’s not so surprising that no hands go up in a meeting that is centered around scheduling courier trips. Often times the provenience of the material dictates who goes on the trip. So if we are loaning an African mask to a museum the keeper of the African section will go. However this isn’t always the case as time conflicts and other priorities often get in the way of a clear cut choice.

This isn’t to say there are some perks. Often times we get to fly business or first class when we hand carry objects onto the plane. Or even just when there is an object in the plane in storage. Sometimes you just need the clout to be able borrow the pilot’s cellphone in case of emergency. No coach passenger would be afforded such a luxury.

Occaisionally you can even take a vacation. Like when I couriered our Ainu material from one museum to another in Japan. The objects needed to be stored for a month before they went on display so I traveled a bit on my own dime. The Japanese were happy to not have to pay for a flight back to America and then back to Japan. Agreements can be reached.

So with that, I am currently on my way to Japan to bring back a statue on loan to the Nara National Museum. Stay tuned for some updates about my stay in Osaka and Nara. I’ll try and shed some light on the ups and downs of such trips.

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