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A day in the life of an Art Technician

Posted by BECTU Communications on 8 November 2018

As part of Union Week we asked a member of our Art Technicians branch to take us into the world of an art tech. Here she talks us through a 'typical' day.

"When you start working as an Art Technician you know you'll handle art and artefacts in all their various guises - you know; paintings, sculpture, and maybe the occasional bit of furniture. What you don't think you'll be doing is packing and handling moon pants.

On a day, years ago while working for a museum, I had the privilege of handling, packing and transporting the under crackers worn by Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969. Needless to say, space undies aren't your average pants - M&S certainly don’t stock them and they're definitely not budgie smugglers.

If my memory serves me right, Buzz's moon pants were on loan from the Smithsonian to the Science Museum London and were being returned to the States.

So how do you handle and pack space pants? Once you're over the fact that the pants have travelled to space and nestled in the groin of a spaceman... well you definitely wear gloves! The gloves are to protect the artifact from the grease and other contaminants on your hands - not so much to keep my hands from the 'moon rocks'. Actually, even though Buzz's knickers had been to the moon and back they were sparkling clean (not that I was looking mind...)

Then to keep the moon pants safe in transit, you use a wooden crate, padded out with museum foam because it doesn’t let off gas (insert pun here) and wrap the unmentionables in tissue to support them, and then wrap them again in plastic so moisture can’t get in. Finally, you seal it all up. Then it goes on the truck to be delivered to the airport.

And while all of this may seem unusual, Buzz's moon pants are only one of many bizarre and interesting artefacts and works of art that I've been lucky to handle. Mummified cats anyone? How about Tracey Emin’s used tampons? And what about bubble gum artworks? All just a day in the life of an Art Tech.

And through all the adventures it's great to have a union to have your back if anything goes wrong. BECTU Art Technicians branch is a place where I can share stories, get advice and ensure whatever crazy situation I find myself in tomorrow, I'll always be covered."

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