If you thought moving out of your Gungahlin townhouse was stressful, try shifting 260 objects which are thousands of years old. Some of which have never travelled before. Artefacts which require hand-built, form-fitting cases to travel.
For the professionals behind the new Rome: City + Empire exhibition at the National Museum, safely transporting and assembling ancient Roman artefacts is an artform in itself.
In a rare behind-the-scenes peek, National Museum head registrar Sara Kelly revealed the logistical extravaganza behind Rome: City + Empire.
In the process, I learn of the rigours of transporting and setting up objects which date from 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. I also learn that a head registrar is the kind of operator I'd want to seamlessly run my wedding, or funeral, whichever is first.
Do not touch that
Approval to enter the exhibition room is tight, which begs the question of why I've been permitted entry considering my grace, poise and ability to not trip over myself fizzled after I quit ballet as a teen.
The room is full of half unpacked artefacts, crates and pallets. I park my handbag at the door and begin to manouevre my child-bearing hips through the space, careful not to disrupt the working progress.
The exhibition curator is also allowed entry, plus the National Museum's conservation staff, and the five British Museum employees who have travelled to assess the condition of the artefacts.
The responsibility of object handling lies mainly with the British Museum staff, says Kelly. This team heads back to England once the objects and lighting are installed.
So how are the items packed for their lengthy passage? I ask - jokingly - whether bubble wrap does
the job. I am quickly assured that zero items are wrapped in bubble and I vow to never make a joke again.
"The objects are placed into museum-standard, double-insulated crates. Everything is placed in a box that meets its shape, and some of the crates have a special webbing to withstand vibrations," said Kelly.
Each case is fabricated internally, created to fit each object. British Museum staff cut all these materials by hand.
Double-insulated crates ensure the rate of temperature change is reduced during times when items are exposed to elements different to their normal storage climate, for example in the cargo hold when temperatures drop or on the tarmac where it can be hot and humid.
Once the artefacts arrive in Sydney they are moved into unmarked trucks bound for Canberra.
"We don't want to advertise the movement of a collection worth millions and millions of dollars," said Kelly. Which is why I suggested that using a Woolies truck as a decoy could be cool.
The trucks are climate controlled, which is apparently a relatively new resource. When Kelly first started with the museum they used chocolate trucks to transport artefacts.
Once items are unloaded at the museum, they are left to acclimatise for 48 hours in their crates which are placed in the exhibition room.
The relative humidity in the room is controlled and monitored to ensure it meets museum standards. If the humidity exceeds the acceptable range, staff are alerted via an alarm.
While many of the artefacts are crafted from robust materials like marble and stone, several items are fragile, having been made from papyrus, wood and textiles.
As light damage is accumulative, special lighting is set for each artefact to minimise this. British Museum staff, one of the National Museum conservators and a lighting professional take specific readings according to the lighting needs of each object.
Once public hours conclude, all lights are switched off. This is presumably when the artefacts come to life à la Night at the Museum.
As the objects have come from a reputable organisation, the National Museum has been granted special permission for quarantine officials to examine objects once they've been properly installed.
"It's our job and we do it for every exhibition, and we've been doing it for many years. But one of the most challenging things is co-ordinating the timing of the cargo flights, as these sometimes only run once a week," said Kelly.
"If one cargo flight is delayed by one day, it can throw the whole exhibition out."
Details about when the objects arrive are on a "need to know" basis. Dates are not revealed to anyone beyond a small working group.
"The security is rigorous and constantly monitored, and done according to all international protocols. The British Museum likes working with us because we're all on the same page."
A lot of resources go into the confidentiality of object transportation. Staff are tight-lipped about where the exhibition moves off to next. But for now, it has a home in the bush capital.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.