Transport of artworks on loan Sustainability


Museums and heritage institutions around the world manage valuable collections to make them accessible to as many people as possible, and to preserve them for future generations. These precious possessions ultimately belong to us all, for us to study and gain new insights, or simply to enjoy. International loans play a crucial role in this, ensuring that collections are accessible and can be presented to the public in context.


The international museum sector is aware of the importance of sustainability in transporting artworks on loan internationally. Recently, the Tate Modern Museum (London) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York) decided to stop sending loans by courier. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a rapid increase in the use of ‘digital couriering’. A new standard for the museum sector is being sought whereby works of art can be transported with the same degree of safety, but with greater cost efficiency and sustainability. However, people will always be needed for certain elements of the process, such as checking pallets before they are loaded onto cargo planes and assessing the condition of artworks before departure and on arrival.


In addition, there is also a strong focus on the physical aspects of transportation – namely the crates in which the works of art are transported. These crates are constantly being improved and made safer, protecting works of art in transit from vibrations and changes in humidity. But as a result they are also increasing in size, which makes transport less sustainable. Crates measuring up to 1.60 metres can be transported on passenger planes, while larger ones must be transported on cargo flights. The larger the crates, the more transport is needed to move the collection.


The assignment for startups:

Develop an innovative solution to make international loan traffic more sustainable. The solution may focus on digital couriering or on the physical transportation of works of art.



The startup may come from a different sector but must be aware of museum conditions and quality requirements.


Issued by:

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam