Shipping and Transport

A Day in the Life of An Art Handler

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Packing up a natural history museum’s worth of taxidermy? Check. Full Tyvek suits and respirators in 105-degree weather? Check. Surviving off canned tuna in the wake of a hurricane landfall? Double check. You won’t see the same day twice as an Art Handler at Carolina Conservation, but that’s what gives the job its appeal to our incredibly dedicated and talented crew.

Because Carolina Conservation works nationwide to save our client’s collections, our Art Handlers are constantly on the road and have collectively logged over a million miles across the highways and byways of the U.S. One of our latest trips to Pittsburg, P.A. proved particularly interesting and painted an accurate picture of what their (often hectic) day-to-day life can look like.

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Tuesday

7 a.m. – Our Art Handling team packed the Sprinter van with all 160 items from a client’s completed job. The extremely fragile collection included delicate ceramics and ornate antique mirrors requiring specialized packing for travel. Proper load arrangement and packing ensures that no items are at risk during transit- even in the event we have to suddenly hit the brakes when cut off by a texting driver

11 a.m. – After our high-stakes game of Van Tetris, we hit the road for Pittsburgh, P.A.

5 p.m. – While driving through the Virginia National Forest and the majority of West Virginia, we endured a blizzard and near total darkness. While not ideal driving weather, we preferred it to the hurricane force winds and severe flooding we’ve experienced in the past

10 p.m. – We arrived safely in Pittsburgh, P.A.

Wednesday

9 a.m. – Since businesses and schools were closed, the roads were quiet on the drive into the client’s office building. Unsurprising, as most sane people stay indoors when the wind chill is a record breaking -19° F. By comparison, the average February temperature at McMurdo Station in Antarctica is -16.2° F

9:30 a.m. – Upon arrival to the site, the receiving door was frozen shut. We devised a secondary plan to unload the collection in small batches into a cart that we wheeled into the building and up the elevator to the third and fifth floors. In many instances, we had to wait for the wind gusts to die down so the artwork wouldn’t fly away

11 a.m. – With no freight elevator access, we had to wait until the main elevators weren’t in use to accommodate our carts and collection items. At one point, a custom built ramp was used to unload a large piece of petrified wood weighing hundreds of pounds. Throughout the entire process, the wind got progressively worse and the temperature continued to drop

3 p.m. – After a final delivery inventory and client sign off, we got back on the road expecting to arrive back to the studio around midnight. After hitting an hour and a half traffic standstill in West Virginia, we made the decision to take a detour using an alternate route. In doing so, the van got stuck on a steep hill covered in ice and snow. The only signs of life around the area were a barn and an empty house at the bottom of the hill we were stuck on. Sleeping in the barn was not a desirable option

6:30 p.m. – After digging, pushing, shoving, kicking, swearing and exhausting every possible effort to free the van on our own, a roadside assistance dispatcher advised that we call highway patrol for help. Thankfully, officers showed up within 10 minutes. Using tow straps attached to their squad car, they were able to successfully pull the van out. High-five officers 👏🙏

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10 p.m. – After our West Virginia Icecapades, we were able to drive to a hotel in Fairmont, West Virginia, where we defrosted and (fortunately) did not have to sleep in a barn

Thursday –

4:30 a.m. – After filling our tanks and our bellies, we finished out the trek back to South Carolina

While no two days may ever look the same, our Art Handlers’ advance planning and ability to adapt strategies in the face of a challenge means we consistently deliver a high-level service experience no matter what the day presents. Amidst the hectic schedules, inclement weather and things not always going according to plan, our passion for helping our clients during an often-tumultuous time remains a constant. That, and a large coffee, too, if you please.

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