Nikolai Astrup, Growing Season at Sandalstrand.
In the past 18 months, we have overcome previously inconceivable challenges, adapting to constantly changing circumstances and navigating new rules and regulations. The difference in art movement processes is vast. With staff travel severely limited, many organizations turned to ad-hoc tools such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Dropbox, text messages, and Whatsapp to oversee transit and installation.
The problem is that these generic tools are not secure enough to be entrusted with cultural heritage objects and it requires unnecessary admin to agree whose guidelines will be followed with what tools for each project. It must also be ascertained whether each party has access to the necessary combination of accounts, devices, and training for the agreed protocol. It would be much easier for everyone to use the same platform for all projects.
Virtual Courier was created by art industry professionals and features multiple security protocols to protect client data. Additionally, a historic record is formatted, filed, and stored for future reference, both in case of damage or claim, and to aid future projects, such as with a video on packing instructions. This record is not editable and cannot be tampered with, unlike an image shared via WhatsApp, for example.
So, when KODE Art Museum and Composer Homes in Bergen, Norway, heard about this specialized art world tool, they decided to try it out on the touring exhibition ‘Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway’. They knew they would not be able to send a physical courier to accompany the almost 100 objects traveling from Norway to institutions in the US and Sweden but liked the idea of overseeing the shipments remotely and having all documentation together in one place.
Born from the transit disruptions of the pandemic, Virtual Courier was developed not only to address shipment concerns in the short term, but budget and sustainability issues in the medium and long term. The capacity to use it in conjunction with bookend couriers and/or environmental sensors also provides new possibilities for improved shipping protocols.
Though KODE opted to use Virtual Courier because a physical courier was not possible, staff travel is one of the biggest contributors to the carbon footprint of most arts organizations. It’s also a low hanging fruit compared to tackling the other significant sources of emissions (by increasing Sea Freight instead of air and adopting the BIZOT Green Protocols in buildings.)
We estimate that the use Virtual Courier for this exhibition led to a total carbon saving of 49.92 tons. On top of the CO2 saved from avoiding staff travel, we estimate a saving of around 55 days of courier staff time.
When organizations make sustainability savings, monetary savings follow. Considering courier costs, which include flights, hotels, and food expenses, we estimate the cash saving of using Virtual Courier for this project is $67,000 – and that’s on top of the courier staff time mentioned above.
Damage annotations and detail image in condition report.
KODE used Virtual Courier collaboratively with the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde museum in Stockholm, and Nordic-based shipper and logistics partner, MTAB. Annett Schattauer, Collection Registrar at KODE, oversaw the project and all its moving parts.
As a first step, the institutions, along with painting conservator Fridrik Bertelsen, compiled condition reports for the exhibition objects. After adding the condition reports to the Virtual Courier group, KODE then shared the group with the partner institutions.
The first leg of the exhibition was to take place at the Clark in Massachusetts. With artworks coming from private lenders across Norway, as well as KODE in Bergen and Waldemarsudde in Stockholm, it made sense to consolidate the objects in Oslo before shipping to the US.
Viewing Transit Check footage from the Virtual Courier group.
Pickup and consolidation of the objects was thoroughly documented by the shipping agents’ Transit Checks. Transit Checks include GPS-tagged photo or video documentation and can be added at each key stage of movement, such as palletization and vehicle loading or unloading.
Group members receive an email notification every time a new Transit Check is performed, meaning all parties can track the progress of a project in real-time, and intervene if there is any issue. So, staff from the Clark Art Institute in the US, Waldemarsudde in Stockholm, and KODE in Bergen, could all see the Transit Checks performed by shipper MTAB the instant each check was complete. Details – such as a short video of the objects being loaded onto the truck, the timestamp, name, signature, and comments of the documenting user – ensure complete accountability.
Key details were captured at each stage of the journey by those taking care of the artworks, and instantly shared with the partner institutions around the world. When the MTAB truck was parked in a storage facility overnight, KODE, Waldemarsudde, and the Clark could all see the exact location marked on the transit check and view images to confirm the truck’s seal was unbroken. Later, after a flight delay of two hours, the entire team had access to video footage of the shipment finally making its way airside and then being the first cargo to board the plane, as well as its location in the front compartment.
This permanent multimedia record not only demonstrates agreed best practices were used to reduce the risk of any damage occurring, it can also be referred back to in the future, for example, in the event of an insurance claim to pinpoint liability.
High quality images and video stills in Virtual Courier Transit Checks
With Virtual Courier, all parties work collaboratively on the same platform from end to end of a shipment’s journey. What’s more, access can be restricted at any time, so sensitive or confidential information always stays secure. Should KODE wish to change which of its partners has access to specific data, they can do so at any time, even after the shipment is complete.
Virtual Courier replaces the need for multiple ad-hoc tools and allows users to document and track shipments on one collaborative platform. Instead of relying on a hectic combination of email, SMS, phone calls, Whatsapp messages, and Zoom calls, the process is simplified and all in one place – every step of the journey is instantly visible in the Virtual Courier dashboard.
“It’s been a difficult, hectic time. This tool has given me more time, more confidence, and less stress. It’s even eco-friendly! If everyone would use it, it would make all our lives easier” – Annett Schattauer, Collection Registrar at KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes.
KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes is one of the largest museums for art, craft, design and music in the Nordic countries.
‘Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway’ takes place at the Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts, 19 June – 19 September 2021; KODE Art Museums, Bergen, 15 October 2021 – 23 January 2022; and Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, Stockholm, 19 February – 28 May 2022.
Would you like to try Virtual Courier on your next project?