Career highlights of our Special Projects Manager

October 31, 2016

Michael Festenstein, our Special Projects Manager, draws on his 35 years of experience in the industry and discusses the challenges and rewards of his role.Career highlights of our Special Projects Manager

What does your role entail?

We are responsible for safely moving, installing and storing artworks and artefacts on behalf of the world’s museums, art galleries and collections.

My role as Special Projects Manager is three-fold. Initially I liaise with clients and identify their needs and objectives. The team and I then come up with strategic solutions in order to make these needs a reality before carefully executing our strategy.

Building trust and maintaining client relationships is extremely important within this sector and I have been lucky enough to work with a range of exceptional people from museums, galleries, art collections and heritage organizations during my career.

What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on and why?

We worked on a five-year project with The Mary Rose Trust completed this year which started with de-installing its heavy cannons and other objects from the old museum. We then moved them into conservation storage and later re-installed into the newly built museum surrounding the preserved hull of the original Tudor ship situated at the Historic Docks at Portsmouth. It was a tough project but rewarding in equal measure.

At the start of the project we worked closely with the architects regarding the logistics for moving these historic items at the design stage. We helped them understand the issues involved with moving the difficult objects and advised modifications to the design so we would be able to access the building and safely install the artefacts. It was only when we returned to Portsmouth, after the building work had been completed and were no longer working from plans and drawings, that we realised fully the sheer scale of the project.

How did you make it happen?

In preparation we had designed, fabricated and tested specialist hydraulic lifting equipment and devised novel techniques to enable us to place the exhibits safely onto their bespoke mounts. This involved very precise manoeuvring of the 4m, 3.5 tonne Tudor cannons up and down sloping gangways, around very tight corners surrounded by giant glass walls, over 10m deep voids and eventually into sloping glass display cases which recreate the gun decks of the original Mary Rose even down to the very cramped environment with no room to manoeuvre and very low headroom.

All in all it was a fantastic once in a lifetime project which required rigorous planning, very skilled art handling technicians, demanding project management, bespoke equipment and serious determination – with no margin for error. Having completed the projected, I’m delighted to see the museum has since received such a highly positive reception since reopening to the public.

And your favorite project worked on?

The Mary Rose is certainly in contention for the reasons I’ve explained.

Another highly gratifying and memorable project was packing, moving, storing and consequently reinstating Charles Wade’s extraordinary collection of over 25,000 objects housed in Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds while the National Trust undertook essential building maintenance work. The items ranged from miniature Dolls’ House furniture to Penny Farthing bicycles and even Samurai Swordsman’s armor. Each individual object had to be carefully documented, safely packed away, transported away in about 20 truckloads, stored in a secure climate controlled space and then eventually returned to the exact position where we found them, in the same condition, to ensure the house looked as though it had never been disturbed.

Aptly, during the process our team actually got snowed in and had to stay overnight!

What improvements have you seen since working at the new purpose-built facility, Art Central?

Art Central ensures a safe, very secure, efficient service to our clients providing high standards of care to their precious artefacts and works of art. Its central London location enables us to respond quickly to their needs, something they value highly.

In addition to the museum standard storage, clients have been using it as their own workspace to conserve and catalogue their collections. Others use it to display artworks in a neutral space for private viewings or photography.

Whatever the requirement, it is a flexible space and clients can always expect expert assistance from our highly skilled technicians.

What industry issues are impacting your clients at the moment?

Budget cuts to both national institutions and local authorities are causing challenges for our clients. Increasingly we are now involved with clients at very early stages of their temporary and permanent plans for both exhibitions and major refurbishment programs. We assist with feasibility studies exploring the possible logistics for potential exhibitions and identifying measures to provide the most cost-effective services. Crown Fine Art are increasingly looking at new ways to help our clients achieve the best they can in these uncertain times.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think the world I work in is very special, every day offers a fresh, interesting challenge. I feel what we do is very worthwhile and it is a great privilege to be entrusted with helping to look after our extraordinary culture and heritage and enable people to enjoy now and in the future.

 

This article was initially published on Museums & Heritage Advisor on October 25, 2016.

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