Couriering Fijian Loan

Our Assistant Curator, Louise recently went on a couriering trip to Norwich to install some of the museums most impressive Fijian objects into the UK’s largest exhibition of Fijian material, created by the Sainsbury Centre. Here’s what she has to say about the journey:

‘Couriering is when a member of the museum, usually the conservator or member of the collections team accompanies objects on loan to another museum. The courier is responsible for making sure the objects arrive safely, are condition checked, installed safely and oversee the closing of the case. They will repeat this journey in reverse for when the object returns.

The eleven objects on loan to the Sainsbury centre are from Fiji and were mainly collected by two donors, Sir William Macgregor who was Chief Medical Officer and Arthur John Lewis Gordon, the private secretary of Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon the first Governor of Fiji in the late 19th Century. Both gave parts of their collections to the University of Aberdeen Museums in the early 20th Century. Due to their donations Aberdeen has an internationally important collection not only from Fiji but from all areas of the Pacific.
The objects were packed into custom made boxes and placed into secure crates at the Collections Centre. The Conservator created what we call ‘condition reports’. These reports describe the object and set out any conservation concerns including what temperature and humidity is needed to protect the object. Once the objects are packed and the condition reports printed the crates are picked up by a specialist art handling and removal company who take the objects to Norwich.couriering-3

I then travelled to Norwich to the Sainsbury Centre when the exhibition curators were ready to start installing objects into the exhibition. I met with the centre’s conservator on arrival and the first step was to go through each condition report and check each object to make sure we are both happy with the condition of the objects and that nothing was damaged during transport.


For this exhibition I was lucky enough to work with specialist mount makers to make custom mounts for the objects. Again both parties agree on what will work best for both the object and display and mounts are created. Once everything is ready the objects are installed and the case is locked. The cases won’t be re-opened until I return to the pick up the objects for their journey back to Aberdeen.

The exhibition is entitled Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific and has a wonderful display of beautifully crafted objects from Fiji. It is well worth a look if you get the chance. I was lucky enough to get to view objects from other collections including The British Museum and Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology at Cambridge whose collections are simply beautiful and quite similar to ours in style and history. Couriering is certainly a perk of the job, getting to see wonderful new exhibitions, new objects and meeting new colleagues from other museums. It is however a huge responsibility and hard work…

The exhibition runs from 15 October – 12 February 2017 at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts


About uoamuseums

The University of Aberdeen's Museums include King’s Museum and the University's Zoology Museum. The museums can claim to be Scotland's oldest, with records of museums and collections as far back as the late 17th century. Thanks to their status as a Recognised Collection of national significance, the Zoology Museum’s displays are currently being improved, while King's Museum hosts changing exhibitions drawn from across the collections, particularly those formerly in Marischal Museum. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the museums, and there are no charges for admission. Marischal College now houses the Museums Collections Centre, caring for and conserving many of the collections.
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