Behind the Scenes at the DAM

Crate-Building for a Pastel Painting's Journey

The next time you board an airplane, take a minute to consider some of the interesting things that may be flying along with you as cargo.  Down in the belly of the plane with your suitcase and skis are all sorts of other packages.  From mail to pets to computer parts, cargo comes in all shapes and sizes.  Among all those crazy packages occasionally lurks artwork traveling from one museum to another.

We have members of our staff who are specially trained to build crates to protect such artwork from all the perils of air travel.  It’s a skill that is half art and half science, involving mathematic equations and lots of good, old fashioned experience.  Intimately familiar with cargo containers and art transport, the Denver Art Museum’s art preparator, Mitchell Broadbent, assesses each artwork for travel and carefully packs it into a custom crate.

Mitchell built this crate for a delicate pastel traveling to Europe.  The construction—a box inside a box—is specially designed to minimize the vibrations felt by the painting during take-off and landing.  The layers of wood, insulation, and padding absorb movement so that pastel itself experiences a pretty smooth ride.

Now if only my luggage could get this kind of five-star treatment.

Sarah Cucinella-McDaniel is the associate registrar in the exhibitions and collections services department at the Denver Art Museum. Sarah has been at the DAM since 2004 and her favorite exhibition that has been on view here is Gees Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt.