It fell to me and my colleague Bridget to courier a collection of 48 precious documents, mainly from the Churchill papers, all the way to the Morgan Library in New York. The Morgan is hosting an exhibition ‘The Power of Words’ which has just opened on 7th June and we were there just a week before, installing the originals.
Despite the luxury of having agents chauffeuring us at each end, plus the benefits of Upper Class on Virgin Airlines, it was still quite a stressful experience! On such trips, there is no guarantee that the security at the airports won’t insist on opening the carefully sealed and insulated carry cases and you can never be 100% sure that the agent will be able to come onto the plane with you to help secure the cases. Because of the age and value of the material, we also had to have an export license arranged by the agent. There was a long and slightly anxious wait at British customs while the officer there thoroughly checked out this document….
However, we were safely ushered to Virgin Airlines Upper Class lounge to wait for the flight, which was rather lovely. The highlight was probably the toilets which were large enough to live in, with Van Morrison playing while I washed my hands with very posh soap.
We were totally spoilt on the flight with food, films and drinks (we were very sensible!) but had to remember to keep our eyes on the cases which had their own seats near to us. All went smoothly and our passage through passport control and customs at the US end was surprisingly quick and simple. We were then thrown into rush hour traffic on the way to a hot and humid New York and were relieved to be able to deposit the cases into the cool, controlled conditions of the Morgan Library for overnight storage.
After condition checking with Morgan staff, we installed the documents into their museum cases, placing our flush mounted documents onto their interestingly named ‘pillow mounts’. Despite the name, there were no pillows involved – just Perspex and plastazote foam.
All in all, it was a tiring but enjoyable time for us. The exhibition has had very positive feedback so far and two different colleagues will have the pleasure of bringing the documents back in September.