musee des confluence, moesgaard museum, kalash, himalaya, afghanistan, pakistan, exhibition, museum, ethnography, collection

Post card from Lyon: Behind the scenes of a museum loan

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Asia, Europe

Last week, I told you how two of our artefacts, a gandao and a gundurik from Kalash, made the journey to Musée des Confluences in Lyon. Today, I thought I would give you a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ view of what such a loan actually entails – because while many people might think that artefacts are just taken out of whatever storage facility, they are housed in, and placed in an exhibition, it is a lot more complicated than that.

musee des confluence, moesgaard museum, kalash, himalaya, afghanistan, pakistan, exhibition, museum, ethnography, collection

A view of Musée des Confluences. The museum opened in 2014, and sits beautifully where the Rhône and the Saône rivers meet.

Musée des Confluences contacted us many months ago, having heard about our collection of artefacts from the Kalash people, and asking whether they could borrow two figures for their planned special exhibition. After much writing back and forth, where we established the conditions under which the artefacts were to be displayed, their insurance value, the manner of transport from Denmark to Lyon, and the extend of the loan. Then, one day in later September, two specially made wooden crates were delivered to Moesgaard, both tailored precisely to the measurements of the two figures. A conservator and I then brought the figures out of storage and photographed them in minute detail, to make sure that we had documented in what state they were, when they left Moesgaard. They were then carefully wrapped and packed in their crates and picked up by an art moving company, who specialise in transporting such fragile cargo.

And a few weeks later, I followed. Having a courier present at the unpacking and installation of a borrowed artefact is standard practice in the museum world. The courier monitors the handling of the artefact from the time when it is unpacked until the moment it is placed and secured in the exhibition – a process, which in this case took four days. There are many little steps underway: we checked that the artefacts had not been damaged by comparing to the photographs I took before they left Moesgaard, we discussed how the artefacts were to be mounted and secured, and a smith constructed the armatures, which would hold the artefacts in place. Then the artefacts were mounted, and lastly they were carefully transported into the exhibition, and placed on their podium, so that they were shown at their best advantage. Here they were joined by a pair of new friends – two gandao figures from the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology in Florence. I imagine they will be happy to keep each other company during their stay in Lyon.

musee des confluence, moesgaard museum, kalash, himalaya, afghanistan, pakistan, exhibition, museum, ethnography, collection

The figures are unpacked and checked for damages. Fortunately, they had made the journey safely.

musee des confluence, moesgaard museum, kalash, himalaya, afghanistan, pakistan, exhibition, museum, ethnography, collection

The gundurik is fitted for the armature. It is made from metal, which is coated with a special foam, so the figure will be held securely but gently.

musee des confluence, moesgaard museum, kalash, himalaya, afghanistan, pakistan, exhibition, museum, ethnography, collection

The artefacts are gently placed on the podium.

musee des confluence, moesgaard museum, kalash, himalaya, afghanistan, pakistan, exhibition, museum, ethnography, collection

Lastly, the bases are secured to the podium.

Unfortunately, I would not be there to witness the final days of museum magic, where the sharp lights are turned off and the carefully curated museum lights are allowed to show the artefacts at their best advantage. The exhibition opens tomorrow and stands until the 1st of December 2019 – so if you are ever in the vicinity, I recommend you visit my two wooden friends in the ‘Fêtes himalayennes, les derniers Kalash’-exhibition at Musée des Conflusences.

//Sophie Seebach

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