The Chicago Area Registrars Committee Meeting

Questions on disaster planning & response to Terry Dowd, Inc. prompted by quick response and successful evacuation of the University of Iowa’s art collection during the Iowa flooding of 2008

Whether it’s the monetary value or the emotionally priceless feeling one gets from a portrait painted by a great grandmother, one question remains the same: What can I do for my artwork in the event of a disaster? That is exactly the question The Chicago Area Registrars Committee posed to Terry Dowd, Inc. when we were invited to speak at their last committee meeting on June 18th, 2009. It was our quick response and successful evacuation of the University of Iowa’s art collection during the Iowa flooding of 2008 that prompted the invitation.

After a brief accounting of what we did to ensure the safety of over 400 pieces of artwork in just 3 days, the floor was opened up to discussion. The main point we came back to with most of the questions asked was the importance of a Disaster Plan. This plan should first and foremost be an order of operations:

Priority – what is the very first piece of artwork to be addressed and which pieces are to follow? The list should contain identifying information such as artist, title, dimensions, brief description and should descend in order of importance.

Location – where in the facility or residence are the pieces from the priority list located? A floor plan with a numbering system is always the best way to do this.

Materials – do you have enough materials on hand to safely pack the pieces for removal? Prefabricated crating is a great way to ensure quick and safe removal, but you should have enough polyethylene, bubble wrap, cardboard and tape as well. In addition you want to make sure you have knives, tape guns, permanent markers and flashlights with your materials.

Transportation – do you have an idea of what it will take to transport the pieces to a safe area? Space in a truck can get small fast and you don’t want to run out or compromise the pieces by over packing the truck. The pieces should be transported via an air-ride truck for optimum safety and they should remain in a climate controlled environment.

Storage – do you have or know of a safe place the artwork can be stored while the aftermath of the disaster is dealt with? This safe area should have enough space to properly store your collection, it should be fully climate controlled, the security should be on par with the value of your collection and it should have ample space for any restoration work that might need to be performed.

If you have even the simplest of a disaster plan that follows this format, the speed at which you’ll be able to evacuate the collection will greatly improve; whether it’s one or one hundred pieces. A quick and safe evacuation can be the difference between little or no restoration and a costly or possible total loss scenario.

After our success in Iowa and while in communication with other successful organizations brought in to help, it became apparent that there was a need for a full services disaster response company solely for artwork. Disaster Planning and Response Art Rescue (DPR Art Rescue, is a company that answers the need for such an organization and was born from three companies that worked side by side in Iowa. DPR Art Rescue is a collaboration between Terry Dowd, Inc., Bernacki & Associates, Inc., and Parma Conservation, Ltd. that offers all the services associated with disaster response under one roof. Disaster planning, packing, evacuation, transportation, storage and conservation are offered for any sized scenario, all performed by one company, all with one phone call. You can never plan 100% for a disaster. However it’s our hope that the formation of an organization like DPR Art Rescue will go a long way towards easing many minds.

Chris Maravich, General Manager
Terry Dowd, Inc.

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