Behind the Scenes with Susan Lucke: Transporting Noah’s Ark


As the Collections Manager & Registrar for the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at UC Santa Barbara, I am tasked with shipping valuable art objects in and out of the museum. Usually, it is a pretty standard process. But in the Fall of 2018, curatorial staff wanted to include the multimedia sculpture, Noah and his Ark in Common Bonds: Artists and Architects on Community opening in January of 2019. Created by Karon Davis, this complicated work helps to illustrate the multiple narratives of the exhibition.

As a loan to the museum, this multimedia work had to travel from the Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles to the AD&AM, at UC Santa Barbara, safely. This delicate yet cumbersome sculpture was constructed mostly of plaster of Paris in situ on a sheet of plywood directly onto the gallery floor. It had never been moved before!

As every good Registrar knows, it’s important to develop a trustworthy relationship(s) with fine art shippers and art handlers, a group of individuals highly trained in moving and installing art. Shippers and art handlers are the lifelines to the museum registrar and have saved many in times of critical disaster.

In this case, my GOTO team was Cooke’s Crating and Fine Arts Transporta-tion, Inc. out of Los Angeles. They work with many galleries in the Los Angeles area and many of their art handlers double with the local galleries for work.

Completing a site visit to the gallery, Cooke’s was able to gather an accurate assessment of how the work was installed on the floor, a sense of the size that included accurate dimensions, and the sense of materials.

Cooke’s then supplied a proposal for transport which included removal from the gallery floor, fabrication of specialized pallets, and transportation costs to the AD&AM.

How did they remove it from the floor? Using four art handlers, they gently lifted the edges of the plaster and placed a pump underneath the plywood structure which had been positioned under the main structure of the sculpture: the boat.

The sculpture was then elevated enough so that (4) 2 x 4-foot pieces of lumber could fit evenly under the body of the boat while supporting the sculpture in movement without damage. Serving as handling mechanisms, the lumber was lifted by art handlers and placed on a specially designed and fabricated pallet.
The wood handles were then screwed into the pallet; high-density strapping was secured over the sculpture to hold it in place.
A second pallet had been designed and completed to hold the smaller parts of the sculpture.

Both pallets were carefully loaded onto a truck using a lift gate and placed inside; loose pieces from the boat were placed in a bin box.

noah 1
Noah and his Ark arrived safe and sound at the museum. And I took a deep breath.

The sculpture is now on view in our online exhibition of the same name. Enjoy!

– Susan Lucke, Collections Manager & Registrar 

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