by Laura Stirton Aust

Each time an artwork is transported it is vulnerable to damage.  A short trip to the framer or conservator may result in a tear, a puncture or a stain.  Packing works on paper properly into a carrier will limit the dangers of transit.


Whenever possible works on paper should travel flat.  A purchased portfolio is one alternative for transit.  Or, a hand-crafted portfolio also works.  Either should be light weight, rigid, clean and at least an inch larger than the art.  Two pieces of foam cored board or corrugated cardboard hinged together with packing tape is all that is necessary for works of art on paper.  Be sure to tape BOTH sides of the hinged edge to prevent accidentally getting adhesive tape on the art.  Always protect the surface of artwork with glassine or acid-free tissue.  Even fire and dust damaged works must be protected.  The moisture in a persons hands is enough to make soot or dirt sink into paper or cloth fibers and cause permanent staining.  If possible, place each work between a single folded sheet of glassine which covers both the front and back sides of works on paper .


The glassine covered art is then placed in the portfolio and held in place with corners of folded paper.  A corner may be constructed with bond paper.  First fold one corner of the sheet to the opposite edge to make a large triangle.  Then fold that triangle in half creating a pocket.  Fit the pocket over a corner of the glassine covered work and tape the two shorter outside edges of the triangle to the bottom of the folio with paper tape (masking or other low tack tape should lift off easily without skinning the inside of the folio.)  Less is more when using tape.  Always consider the person who will be removing the artwork.  It should be evident where the tape is and how to remove it.  Folding one end on itself will make lifting the tape easier.  Never use invisible tape or "Magic Mending" tape.  Fit all four corners of the artwork with these paper triangles and tape them in place.  The art should be secure without any tape touching the glassine.



The art is secured to the bottom side of the folio or side which lies on the table when the folio is opened.  It is important to identify the top side of the folio because if the bottom side were lifted during opening, the art might fall out of its corners.  Folio markings are best made in a wide, soft, graphite pencil.  Markers can penetrate several paper layers and often will smear or run with moisture from hands or an unexpected rain shower.  The words "LIFT THIS SIDE TO OPEN" will assist in opening the folio properly.  Also, identify the contents with a name, an accession number or artist name.  No marks are necessary on the bottom or back of the folio.

One or two strips of tape on each of the three open sides of the folio will keep the folio closed.  I reuse my travel folios and therefore try to keep them looking clean and neat.  Pieces of packing tape placed on the outside of the top and directly underneath on the outside bottom can be left on the board at even intervals as a sealing location for a strong paper tape.  The paper tape will lift off the packing tape cleanly without leaving adhesive residue or skinning the foam cored board. 


It is a good idea to cover a folio with "Tyvek" paper or plastic as protection from moisture.  Again, use as little tape as possible to secure the covering.  Completely dry any moisture off the plastic before placing the folio on a table or removing the tape.

Packing art for transit should become routine with simple guidelines.

  1. Wash hands before assembly

  2. Use clean, light weight, rigid materials

  3. Cover the surface of the artwork with glassine

  4. Never let the edges of art protrude from a folio

  5. Secure art with corners to prevent movement

  6. Use the right tape for the job

  7. Clearly mark the package with pencil

  8. Insulate folios from moisture

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