Packing Samurai

Now that we have said our heartfelt goodbyes to The Dragon’s Gift, museum staff are busy preparing for the opening of Lords of the Samurai. The period between the close of one exhibition and the opening of another is often called a “dark period” but that does not mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes. Right now registration and conservation staff are undertaking the delicate task of preparing more than 160 objects for travel to the museum.

The Eisei-Bunko Museum is the home of the Hosokowa Family Collection. Many of the objects featured in Lords of the Samurai are kept here

Preparing fragile objects for international travel requires a specialized team of art handlers and packers, overseen by Asian Art Museum staff.

Japanese art packers and transport specialists have a group stretch before a long day of work packing objects for Samurai.

Before packing, every object in the exhibition must be examined by a conservator from the Asian Art Museum and by a representative from the lending museum. Any pre-existing damage is recorded. Upon arrival at the Asian Art Museum, the objects will be checked again for any changes. This condition checking is repeated at the end of the exhibition, and again when the objects return to Japan.

Asian Art Museum conservator Shiho Sasaki condition checks an 18th century Noh costume (Catalog #145).

Asian Art Museum conservator Shiho Sasaki condition checks an 18th century Noh costume (Catalog #145) before packing.

Each object is carefully packed into an individual box lined with custom padding. These boxes will next be fitted into large wooden crates specially built to absorb vibration, insulate against temperature changes, and protect the artwork from bumps and other traveling hazards. The crates will be transported to San Francisco under the watchful eye of accompanying staff from both museums.

Objects packed and ready to be crated.

Objects packed and ready to be crated.

After a long day, the hard-working packing team enjoy a break featuring sweets and matcha, served in a lovely Hosokawa Morihiro teabowl. In the words of Asian Art Museum Registrar Cathy Mano, “the best break time ever!”

Break time. No, that is not a bowl from the exhibition!

Break time. No, that is not a bowl from the exhibition!

7 Responses to “Packing Samurai”

  1. xensen  on May 15th, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Really interesting post. Love the photo of the art packers and transport specialists. Thanks for this.

  2. bittermelon  on May 15th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Love it. That photo alone is so so precious. More behind-the-scenes stuff, please. Photos of snacks/tea = bonus.

  3. sharon s.  on May 15th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Very interesting! Great photos.

  4. cmano  on May 15th, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Shiho and I are looking forward to returning to San Francisco. This has been an incredible work experience for us. The exhibition will be absolutely breathtaking.

  5. edeb  on May 18th, 2009 at 1:23 am

    group stretch is awesome!

  6. cristina  on May 19th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Apparently the group stretch takes place at 8:30am and 3:00pm each day and is complete with music. Wouldn’t it be great if more workplaces did this?

  7. earlgreysf  on June 15th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Eisei-Bunko is home to the art and craft heirlooms of the Hosokawa family, Lord of Higo Kumamoto. The Hosokawas are one of the three prestigious Daimyo families that assumed the post of Kanrei (deputy shogun) in the Muromachi shogunate. There are four different themes in the museum each year. The displayed collection includes swords, armor, tea artifacts and beautiful, Noh-theater costumes.

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