The primary focus of the Exhibition section is the care of artwork on loan to the NGV. The aim is to borrow, display and return artwork in the condition in which it was lent. Sitting within the Conservation department, this section looks outward, working day-to-day with external departments such as Registration, Exhibition Design, Curators and Exhibition Management, and lenders as part of project teams to manage exhibitions from inception to arrival, display and return to owners.
Exhibitions conservators work across all media types and assess physical condition and display requirements for artworks made from a range of materials and from varying originating environmental conditions. Contracts and loan agreements need to be adhered to when working with non-collection artwork. Conditions of loan such as display in locked case must be met, and signed permissions sought before any remedial treatment is undertaken. National and international exchange of loans and exhibitions requires working within specific guidelines in areas such as the selection of packing materials, transport, environmental control and quarantine. Exhibitions conservators use preventive conservation techniques devising non-permanent and non-invasive display methods. A key aspect is the management of loans from different environments through measures such as the use of microclimates, for example, keeping the humidity at a specified level.
A responsibility of Exhibitions conservators is acting as a courier. This involves travelling nationally and internationally on passenger and freighter aircraft with the artwork to ensure a safe passage. It also allows continuity of condition checks, satisfying insurance requirements and oversight at all times. Occasionally these tasks/reports are in languages other than English, and couriers must oversee the work while it is packed, unpacked and installed.
Professional development takes many forms for Exhibition conservators. Contact with national and international colleagues, whether as host or visitor, highlights similarities and differences in material practice from galleries country to country, and allows invaluable exchange of useful tips, equipment and treatment approaches.
Exhibitions conservators must be calm under pressure, enjoy problem solving, outside the boundaries of their roles if necessary, be flexible and able to juggle multiple complex exhibition projects concurrently.