A large part of our workload is dominated by loans in and out of our collections and ensuring best collections care. But what about those we send to ‘protect’ our works whilst in transit and/or installation? Andy Davis’ engaging talk at UKRGs April event in the beautiful Hospitium at York Museum Gardens, made me reflect on just that, and the often ‘selfless’ plight of the courier.

The courier trip is often coveted by my colleagues and I can see the eye rolls when I attempt to emphasise that a courier trip is really not as glamorous as it may sound. However, despite spending months speculating and approving every minutiae of our work/s journey from loan request to crate specification, display plans to transport routes, it is often that I am only left to give a cursory glance over my courier itinerary whilst on route to the airport.

Landing on my most recent courier trip 

Only recently did a colleague refuse a courier trip as they were not willing to travel and stay in a particular city. This, in light of Andy’s talk, made me think about the policies and procedures in place when selecting a courier or agreeing to lend in the first place. When we discuss our loan requests the emphasis tends to be on the suitability to loan and the associated environmental conditions or risks to the work/s at the Borrowing venue, as opposed to scouring the crime statistics or infrastructural risks to sending a member of staff to a particular city.

Andy’s talk certainly emphasised the importance of researching the place you are visiting, from simple things like the weather and packing appropriately, to transportation and logistics, awareness of disease, conflict or communication infrastructure. The importance of planning is essential for the safe transit of both yourself and the work/s being couriered, but also to ensure a greater enjoyment throughout the courier experience and to gain more from the opportunities that acting as a courier can provide.

Olivia Macguire, Gallery Registrar, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts