Exhibition Logistics Transformed: Savings, Security, and Simplified Communication

"Virtual Courier really simplifies communication between parties. Instead of having to communicate via a lot of different emails back and forth, having Virtual Courier as a common space for all important information makes cooperation transparent and so much easier."
Cecilie Marie Gottfred Petersen
Photo Conservator, Picture Collection, University of Bergen Library

William Henry Jackson, “Petrified Fish Cut”, c1870, albumen print, Ron Perisho Collection

Rising to exhibition challenges

The University of Bergen Library identified three major challenges when organizing the three-year traveling exhibition ‘Across the West & Towards the North’:

  • Low budget
  • Lack of an in-person courier
  • Only two curators and two conservators

Collaborating across two continents, with three lenders and partners in six US states, would require seamless protocols and highly effective communication.

Data security concerns

During the pandemic, many have turned to ad-hoc tools such as Zoom, Skype, text, and Whatsapp messages to navigate complex art movement and installation processes.

Tracking shipments, packing/unpacking, and installations using multiple tools and platforms – none of which were designed for this purpose – is not only cumbersome and impractical, it also poses security risks. Tools such as Zoom and Whatsapp don’t have 2-factor authentication for both sender and receiver, raising concerns about data being hacked and stolen. Indeed, Facebook (Whatsapp owner and buyer of Zoom user data) has been hacked 8 times in the last 10 years, with half a billion users’ data breached. Additionally, free tools make their money by selling user data. It’s part of their T&Cs.

Just like with email, data can also be passed on and edited without the sender’s knowledge.

To protect lender data, and address the identified challenges, University of Bergen Library decided to use Virtual Courier.

Media Checks can also be used to provide guidance, e.g. installation and packing instructions.

Saving €55k, 2 months staff time + 47 tons of carbon

Compared to using in-person couriers, Virtual Courier saved an estimated 47.64 tons of CO2 from avoiding staff travel. Being able to oversee the project remotely also saved approximately 39 days of staff time.

Considering the costs of sending in-person couriers – including flights, hotels, and food expenses – Virtual Courier also provided an additional cash saving of €55,000. Which, as project overseer Cecilie Marie Gottfred Petersen commented, is ‘remarkable’, particularly in a budget-conscious industry where institutions are increasingly looking to do more with less. Can our institutions afford not to make these savings?

Many staff have considered courier trips as perks of the job, but the reality of sitting in a truck or at the airport, and hopefully getting a few hours to see sights is not so glamorous in the end. In a cost of living crisis, it would perhaps be better to use this shift to virtual couriers to negotiate a well deserved raise for those safeguarding our cultural heritage.

“The Virtual Courier interface is really beautiful, and ultimately very user-friendly. It was great to quickly snap photos and videos on my phone, and within seconds have everything uploaded, geo-tracked, signed, and stored in the app.”
Shannon Egan
Director, Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College

Condition across continents

The exhibition consists of 150 objects – mostly photographs – and would take in multiple locations in the US before ending in Norway in 2024. The task of consolidating the objects was made more complex by the fact that the exhibition would split mid-tour in the US, with some objects going to multiple venues and others going into storage.

With Virtual Courier, every stage of the shipment can be recorded by performing Transit Checks. These specialized checks include GPS-tagged photo or video and help form a chain of condition that demonstrates agreed best practices were used, reducing the risk of damage and pinpointing potential liability.

Insurer analysis has just revealed that Articheck customers consistently avoid damage, compared with all other methods.

When a new Transit Check is added, an instant email notification is sent to the group members, informing them of the update. This meant University of Bergen Library could track the project in real-time or, due to time zone differences, check progress the next morning by reviewing perfectly formatted and tracked documentation. The team could easily follow updates of the objects arriving at their locations in the US, and even see the timestamp, name, signature, and comments of the user performing the Transit Checks.

Viewing a Transit Check in the Virtual Courier group.

Collaborate securely

Having documentation in one place allows partners to work collaboratively on the same platform and oversee shipments remotely from end to end. A much-needed improvement on the haphazard Whatapp/Zoom/Skype combination. Which, in addition to security problems, requires the coordination of accounts for users, determination of how access can be provided and controlled, agreement on who will store the data and where, and so on.

Access can be added, removed, or restricted at any time. University of Bergen Library knows exactly who has what access level, even after a shipment is complete – ideal for a traveling exhibition with multiple venues.

Articheck is a closed system with multiple security protocols including 2-FA, which partners must always use to log in. Adding another level of security to protect sensitive data, like artwork value or location, and giving University of Bergen Library complete control.

Enhanced risk mitigation on a budget

Cecilie Marie Gottfred Petersen, Photo Conservator at the Picture Collection of the University of Bergen Library, commented that Virtual Courier met their budget requirements while bringing safety and oversight to the project. She also noted how it transformed communication between parties.

“Virtual Courier really simplifies communication between parties. Instead of having to communicate via a lot of different emails back and forth, having Virtual Courier as a common space for all important information makes cooperation transparent and so much easier” – Cecilie Marie Gottfred, Photo Conservator, University of Bergen Library

The University of Bergen Library was established in 1948. The Bergen Museum Library’s collection, dating from 1825, formed the basis for the University Library’s holdings.

‘Across The West and Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography’ took place at Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College, with a complementary exhibition on display concurrently at Eckert Art Gallery, Millersville University, before traveling to museums in Utah, Seattle, and Norway.

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