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Making History: Antiquaries in Britain featured over 100 objects including a Late Bronze Age shield found in Beith, Ayrshire, a portrait of Mary I painted in 1554 just before her marriage to Philip II of Spain, and a Medieval-style jewel casket belonging to Jane Burden (William Morris’s wife) with panels painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal and given to her on her wedding day. The exhibition attracted more than 150,000 visitors nationwide. 

Following the success of the UK tour, Crown Fine Art was the Society’s preferred choice for the exhibition’s tour of America. The Society of Antiquaries was delighted with the performance and the quality of our work and wanted to use our services to pack and ship the Society’s treasures for their first trip to America in autumn 2011.

Society of Antiquaries had also used Crown Fine Art in 2010 when one of its most important paintings – ‘The Blue Silk Dress’, a portrait of Jane Morris by Dante Gabriel Rossetti – was lent to an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington and then to the Musee d’Orsay, Paris. 

The USA tour was shown at the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College in autumn 2011 and at Yale Center for British Art, New Haven in spring 2012, including some incredible, priceless objects, such as a contemporary copy of the Magna Carta from 1225.

Crown Fine Art was actively involved in the entire process from preparing a project plan, performing site surveys and providing guidance about the security and transport of the Society of Antiquaries’ valuable and historically significant collection. The company manufactured transport frames, crates and special dollies for the items and obtained CITES and export licenses, as well as transporting the collection to the US in two shipments.

Heather Rowland, Head of Library and Collections Society of Antiquaries said: “This exhibition was a rare opportunity to introduce some of our most precious artefacts, including several 15th and 16th century panel paintings and early illuminated manuscripts to an American audience for the very first time.”  

The team undertook visits to sites at Burlington House and Kelmscott Manor and designed bespoke crates and packing solutions for the items. The crates that they designed and built were of such a high specification that the art handlers in the US who unloaded the crates remarked on their quality and standard. 

“Naturally we were nervous about transporting some of the fragile items,” explained Heather, “such as the Bronze Age shield and our panel paintings which are vulnerable to vibration and environmental changes. But the packing and transportation was project managed and executed very well. Having a professional, knowledgeable dedicated team to work with was essential,” said Heather. 

Crown Fine Arts also project managed and handled the logistics ready for the transit to USA. 

We handled the packing lists and managed the transit in two shipments to the cargo area of the airport. We also managed the balance of the cargo for transit and handled the licencing for export, which is very time consuming and not something that the client had the capacity to undertake in house.

“There were many logistical elements that the team were really helpful with, for example, some of our items required conservation treatment prior to transport. The team liaised with the conservators working off site to agree the collection and return the items in preparation for packing,” continued Heather. 

Crown Fine Arts UK designed and developed crates and packing with bespoke sections for packing specific items with marked up internal packing to make re packing for subsequent moves during the tour easier.

The company also undertook the travel arrangements for the couriers from the Society of Antiquaries who were travelling with the items, and crucially, arranged it so that he client could be present at the airport to watch the building of the cargo pallets.

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