Packing Up The Collection

By Audrey Wang, AGGV Volunteer

In anticipation of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s building renewal project, our Collections team are faced with the mammoth task of preparing over 20,000 art pieces to be packed up. Allowing our visitors a peek behind the scenes, the LAB Gallery has been transformed into a staging area for the packing up, with AGGV preparators and technicians at hand to answer questions and demonstrate how these precious works are carefully prepared for the move.

Packing Up the Collection in the LAB Gallery

So, where does one begin? Rosemary Kemp, AGGV Registration Assistant, explains: “The job of packing the collection entails first examining how things have been stored while in our collection, and establishing whether that mode of storage is still effective. All three-dimensional pieces are unique in size, shape and sometimes have moving components that need to be properly protected from movement, vibration, harmful environmental substances, etc. All these factors have to be considered when they are being packed, and often specialized containers need to be created. Due to the variety of pieces and their unique packing requirements, there’s a constant process of problem-solving and adapting solutions.”

Yixing teapots from the Asian art collection awaiting processing for packing

Jason Stovall, as the AGGV’s Preparator Assistant, has the task of custom-making boxes and stands and is responsible for ensuring that the various objects are packed correctly, for their safety and longevity. What’s the best part of his job?

“The most gratifying aspect of my job is seeing the diversity of objects, prints and paintings that are in our collection. The storage vaults are full of rare and unique objects, many of which have not been seen in decades since they were brought into the collection. I am fascinated by the vastness of objects in our Asian collection. I am constantly surprised when I open a new drawer or locker!”

(Jason Stovall, Preparator Assistant)

Su Yen Chong (right) handling bound copies of the Forty-Eight Famous Views of Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige II

Another key member of staff is Research Assistant, Su Yen Chong, who spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the Gallery’s Asian print collection which numbers over six thousand pieces collected since the AGGV’s inception. A major aspect of the job was establishing the provenance of each print, and one of the highlights of this task for Su Yen was learning about the background to the acquisition of some of the Asian artworks. She explains:

The Gallery’s relationship with Isabel Pollard is well documented. It was a pleasure to go through archival materials including correspondences between Mrs Pollard and Colin Graham (the Gallery’s first director). I was able to understand the spirit and rationale behind the acquisition of hundreds of artworks.

Ando Hiroshige | Yoshiwara, Fuji to Left | Japanese, 19th Century | woodcut | Fred & Isabel Pollard Collection

Another exciting highlight for Su Yen was the opportunity to review the complete set of the Forty-Eight Famous Views of Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige II, something she describes as an “eye-opening experience” from the art-historical value of comparing the similarities and differences between the AGGV’s set and those from other institutions. From this fortuitous discovery, an exhibition of these prints is in the making. Stay tuned for more details!

Featured image: Jason Stovall (AGGV Preparator Assistant) at work in Packing Up the Collection in the LAB Gallery