Guidelines for Re-housing: Renovation and Moving

During renovation, considerable change in material properties can occur to collection objects. Damage can be caused by improper handling during moving, inadequate safety precautions and housings in temporary storage, or premature introduction into the new storage areas. It is essential to take into consideration that objects can be affected by shock, vibrations and changes in environmental conditions which can result in a severe damage in their structure and mechanical properties.

The steps involved in renovation, moving, re-housing, and eventually temporary storage arrangements must be planned with the greatest care in order to pursue collection preservation strategies. Moreover, consultation and cooperation with all staff should be kept throughout the entire process.

This technical bulletin is intended to give a quick overview of all stakeholders included in any of these projects and their responsibility at all time, as well as acting as guideline for moving collections with precautions. Staff positions listed in the document are intended as roles, other than job titles and aren’t necessary exhaustive; they can vary between institutions.  


Whether the institution is housed in a purpose-built building or an existing building, renovation projects can take place for various reasons, such as upgrades of the HVAC system, exhibition rearrangements, security improvements, etc. To prepare and design an appropriate plan, it is very important to address all of the following subjects.

Staff Coordination

PROJECT LIAISON: one person, at least – depending on the size of the institution - needs to be appointed the Project Liaison between the organization and external contractors such as architects, HVAC and security systems engineers that are executing the renovations. When construction begins, the Project Liaison must also become the institution's on-site manager responsible for the supervision of all third parties and the quality control of the project.

MOVE COORDINATOR: one internal person that acts as a collection care manager and registrar throughout the whole project development along with the Project Liaison. Responsible for the physical and intellectual safety of the collection.

PREVENTIVE CONSERVATOR/S: staff member/s responsible for collection care needs from early planning stages of the new storage areas. Must give specification to architects and engineers the recommended environmental conditions and building details that will ensure a safe and stable environment as well as secure access to collections in order to meet conservation standards.

Pre-Planning: Security and Safety Measures

Determining collection needs, keeping in mind Mission and Strategy of the cultural institution, is a fundamental phase when designing a renovation project. Analyzing and understanding the past and current environmental conditions in the previous and new storage-area is also essential to developing a new environmental context survey. Building details should include specifications as appropriate locations of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, HVAC air intakes, HVAC interior vents, and water pipes; appropriate finishing materials, such as paint types and flooring; location of light banks and switches; door sizes to accommodate oversized collection items; required open areas for accessioning and handling of the collections and for free standing storage units; appropriate reconfiguration of remaining shelving; and other specifications that may be dictated by the scope and contents of the collections.

The use of appropriate building and storage materials, properly tested before installation, will eliminate a large area of potential future harm. See the National Park Service publication “Exhibit Case Construction Materials” for much information on collection storage and exhibition furniture: materials that are considered safe to be used in proximity to collection materials. Unknown materials should be tested by a conservation scientist to determine if the products will have a negative impact on collections items (e.g. Oddy Test).

A Collections Priority List that outlines the most historically and monetarily valuable parts of the collection needs to be developed. Locations of these materials during all stages of renovation and temporary storage need to be noted. Appropriate staff persons and responders need to be made aware of these priority items and location list so that collections can receive preference in the event of a disaster. It may be appropriate to provide a tour for the Fire Department or provide them with a marked floor plan of the locations of the priority collections so that, if time permits, these objects can be evacuated in the event of a fire.

The Project Liaison and the Move Coordinator must have as a first priority the safety needs of the institution's personnel and its collections. The Project Liaison must review the plans, contracts, and specifications of the renovation to ensure that they provide adequate protection for the institution and its collections. The Liaison must develop, with contractors’ applicable regulations, a plan to prevent any disconnection of security and fire alarm systems, as well as a daily checklist to ensure that all safety standards are being met during the different stages of renovation and construction. 

An Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan needs to be written or updated in anticipation of such misfortunes as injuries from accidents; systems failures; flooding from broken pipes or roof leaks; or fire from welding torch or cutter sparks, temporary heaters, or smoking.

Develop a list of emergency resources available for coping with a disaster. See the Getty Conservation Institute publication Building an Emergency Plan: A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions for a list of personnel (p. 230) and equipment (pp. 242-245) commonly needed. The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts can provide information on and contracts for vendors with specialized services.

Stockpile emergency supplies, such as plastic sheeting, plastic gloves, rolls of unprinted newsprint paper, sturdy boxes or plastic crates, paper towels, and other products to assist in emergency response and recovery.

Evacuation procedures need to be in place, and all staff need to receive training in safety and disaster response.

Firefighting plans need to be developed in conjunction with the Fire Department. Security arrangements need to be developed in conjunction with the police and the contractors.

Planning: Training and Testing

The Project Liaison, the Move Coordinator and the Preventive Conservator must decide upon an appropriate time schedule for staff training in the use of the new equipment, testing of the new HVAC system, and monitoring of the environment (temperature, humidity, air quality, and light) before the collections are moved into the renovated storage areas. Several institutions have had small-scale emergencies when they have occupied a new space without leaving adequate time for testing and adjustments to new equipment.

A minimum of two weeks is recommended for training of personnel and testing and monitoring of conditions in the storage rooms and in any untested storage cases. Testing and recording equipment need to include environmental datalogger for temperature and relative humidity, a light meter for visible light levels, an ultraviolet light monitor for ultraviolet levels, and metal coupons, such as Purafil's 'Museum Silver 6 Pak' Corrosion Test Kit, to monitor for gaseous pollutants. 

Prior to collections being moved into renovated storage rooms there should be two complete air changes with fresh, outdoor air to remove the solvents and other air pollutants that off-gas from newly applied adhesives and paints. Acrylic paints off-gas 95% of their solvents in the first 24 hours.

A move can be used as an opportunity to begin an inventory of the collection. Measure the linear feet and size of the different collections. Develop a coding system of numbers, letters, or other such labeling devices that can be applied to the inventory list, the packing boxes, and the temporary storage locations.

Draw a floor plan of the temporary storage area and determine where in the temporary storage area each type of collection will be placed. Tape out the floor and assign the code of number, letter, or other labeling method to each area. Label the boxes and other materials to be moved to coordinate with the floor plan and taped areas so that the correct location of each item is clearly understood before the move begins.

Analyze and plan the move route very carefully. Determine all areas where the moving carts' wheels could snag, or a mover could trip. If there are such areas, two people will be needed for each run of a cart to manipulate the cart over the difficult area, and a person may need to be stationed at the trip point to warn the movers of the danger.

Determine beforehand how you want each type of collection moved. In advance of the move, train the movers in moving techniques, and conduct dry runs of the moving routes. If outside movers are employed, place detailed moving specifications in their contract.

Two types of moving carts should be employed: a cart with a shelf directly above the wheels and sides front and back should be used for book boxes, which can be stacked three high on the cart, and for large objects, such as sculpture, and a cart with a high shelf and low sides around the shelf should be used for small boxes, small individual items, and small flat folders.


The following precautions should be considered while the collection is in any temporary storage area:

  • Completely secure the area from unauthorized entries.
  • Make sure that all fire/smoke detectors and alarms and security alarms are operative and that fire extinguishers are readily accessible.
  • For water protection, place everything in the room on pallets or shelving that is at least 4-6" of off the floor.
  • For dust and debris protection, cover everything in the room fully with polyethylene sheeting or Tyvek®. If the sheeting would be directly in contact with an object, such as furniture or sculpture, first place pieces of acid-free paper at vulnerable points of contact or soft cotton sheeting overall to prevent abrasion.


Books and Archival Files

These paper-based materials can be packed in cardboard book boxes, as long as the boxes are for temporary storage only. All materials should be stacked flat in the boxes with crumpled packing paper stuffed carefully into unfilled areas, including the top, to prevent shifting of the contents or crushing of the boxes during moving and stacking.  Do not pack any of the items on their narrow sides or ends, even to finish filling a box.

Label each box with the following: a sequential number that is keyed to a separate sheet that lists the box's contents; an identification label of the contents, if it is deemed safe to reveal the box's contents; and a handling label such as “­THIS SIDE UP”.

Move the boxes stacked no higher than 3 or 4 on a low cart, or one at a time by hand. Be sure that the boxes are set down, not dropped.

Flat Paper in Flat Files

Empty the drawers. Smaller items can be placed, in their folders, flat on a cart and moved to the temporary or new storage area. Place the larger contents of each drawer in one or more acid-free folders, larger than the paper objects. Larger items, in folders, will need to be placed in a rigid V-folder made by taping together the long edges of two pieces of Fome-cor® or corrugated board. This "sandwich" of Fome-cor®, acid-free folder, and collection items, when held firmly closed at either end, can be carried upright by two people to the temporary or new storage area.

In case of drawings, each of them should be window matted and interleaved with acid free tissue or glassine. They should then be sandwiched between two sheets of mat boards, acid free cardboard or Fome-cor®. If the drawing is a made of chalk or other friable material, do not interleave or allow anything to come in contact with the surface.

Framed Items

If small, pack in open topped boxes, frames placed front to front and back to back. Keep the correct orientation of the picture (vertical or horizontal) to prevent shifting of the paper object inside. Place a piece of rigid cardboard against the face of any very delicate frame and between any disparately sized frames that are placed together. Move several boxes at a time side by side on a low cart or move one box at a time by hand.

If too large to pack in boxes, framed items should be carried by hand or on a specially designed care for moving framed artwork. Frames must be held two-handed on either side of the frame, not the top of the frame or the stretcher. For particularly large framed items, this may require the work of two people. Be careful to all screw eyes or other hanging devices from them before moving.


Carry furniture by supporting it at its frame, not at a weak element, i.e., do not grasp table tops, arm rails, chair backs, etc. Remove any drawers if possible, and secure doors shut on furniture such as cabinets. 

Sculpture and Other Three-dimensional Objects

Handle with clean, nitrile gloves. Lift only by the strongest part, as the main body of the sculpture; never by a projecting member, such as an arm or head. Always lift with two hands.  Hold objects with one hand supporting the bottom and the other supporting the side or top.  Tie down any loose parts of an object with cotton tape or strips of muslin. Always disassemble when possible; remove detachable parts such as lids and move separately.

If large, place on low cart with protective padding beneath; have two people, one on each side, supporting the sculpture and a third moving the cart. Use wadded acid-free tissue to fill in voids and to wrap all the protruding parts. Wrapping should be taped to itself, with opaque tape.

If small, pack in a small box with surrounding support or padding material; move on high shelf cart. Do not pack fragile objects and heavy objects in the same box. Alternately, place the item directly on a high shelf cart with padding material under and around it, if it can be completely secured this way.


ASHRAE Handbook - HVAC Applications. Museum, Galleries, Archives and Libraries (MGAL) Chapter 24. Ed. Heather E. Kennedy. Atlanta: 2019

BSI. 2010. Conservation of cultural property –Procedures and instruments for measuring temperature of the air and surfaces of the objects. BS EN Standard 15758:2010. British Standards Institution, London.

BSI. 2011. Conservation of cultural property – Packing Principles for Transport. BS EN Standard 15946:2011. British Standards Institution, London.

BSI. 2018. Conservation of cultural property – Specifications for location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections. BS EN Standard 16893:2018. British Standards Institution, London.

Carlson, Janice H. “Preparations for the NEB: Winterthur’s Experience with Materials Testing, Passive Scavengers and Monitors.” Edinburgh: Scottish Society for Conservation and Restoration, 1994.

Dorge, Valerie, and Sharon L. Jones, eds. “Building an Emergency Plan: A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions”. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute, 1999.

Frens, Dale H. “Temporary Protection: Specifying Temporary Protection of Historic Interiors During Construction and Repair”. Preservation Tech. Notes No. 2. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1993.

Green, L.R. and D. Thickett. “Testing Materials for Use in the Storage and Display of Antiquities – A Revised Methodology”. Studies in Conservation, 40, 1995, pp. 145-152.

National Park Service. “Exhibit Case Construction Materials”. Technical Notes 5. National Park Service, April 1999.

Wiltshire County Council Conservation Service. “Signposts to Collections Care: a self-assessment pack for museums”. Factsheet 2. South West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. March 2006, Salisbury, Wiltshire.

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