I had a recent request for a disaster protocol I helped develop for an international exhibition of paintings. The borrower found it very helpful and called for permission to use it for a current exhibition. She suggested I put it on the distribution list. So, here it is, and please use it if it is helpful.

Protocol for Emergencies

Shelley Reisman Paine
2407 Sunset Place
Nashville TN 37212

An emergency is defined as any event which alters or may have the potential to alter the environment or safety of the paintings. Listed below are examples of obvious emergency situations. Other emergency situations are less easy to define. These situations can include unusual smells or vapors in the gallery, or any other unusual occurrence. When something out of the ordinary occurs, the staff should assume it is an emergency or a potential threat to the collection and contact the consulting conservator, Shelley Reisman Paine, for further instructions. She can be reached at 242-0979 or by beeper, 923-6481.

The conservator has the right to recommend to TSM and BSM to remove paintings at any time until emergency conditions have been properly remedied. Any dispute regarding the removal or reinstallation of the paintings will be handled directly between the directors of TSM and BSM.

The purpose for this protocol for emergency is to establish in advance the special care and handling required by the paintings in the MASTERWORKS exhibition. The following are a list of obvious emergencies and the methodology required:

1. Vandalism

In the event a vandal marks or damages a painting(s) the following should occur:

A. Call Delta room to contact Evadine McMahan or Bill Griffith who will contact Shelley Paine on her beeper, and designated TSM staff.

B. The painting(s) will be removed from the exhibition, by collections staff members and placed in a safe location within the climate controlled collection storage area. The painting will be remain horizontal on a table.

C. In the event that no collection department staff is available, the armed guard should remove the painting(s) and place it face up on the gallery floor. The Chief of Security will then take it to the small laboratory and remain there until it can be transferred to the highest security location in the collection storage room.

D. The painting(s) will remain in collection storage until the BSM has been contacted and they have given authority for any treatment.

In the event that acid or alkaline touches the painting it will:

A. Call Delta room to contact Evadine McMahan or Bill Griffith who will contact Shelley Paine on her beeper , and designated TSM staff.

B. The painting will be taken to the conservation laboratory. The painting will remain horizontal on a table.

C. Tap water will be applied to the surface area on the painting with a sponge or a cotton swab.

D. The painting will be removed from the frame.

E. The tap water will be reapplied with a sponge or cotton swab.

F. A final rinse of the area will be made with distilled water.

G. The conservator, once at the TSM, will measure the pH of the area and buffer as needed to neutralize the surface of the object.

2. Fire, flood or other emergencies requiring evacuation

In the event that there is an emergency which requires evacuation out of the building and/or transfer to the State Computer Center, the painting(s) will be handled in the following manner: A. All potential exits from the building will be mapped. Procedural instructions for evacuation are under 4. Security procedures for an emergency, at the end of this document. The materials and methodology is as follows:


  1. An envelope will be made in advance for each painting from Royco Mil B Class 1 ( a laminate of polyethylene/aluminum/polypropylene).
  2. A double walled cardboard cover for each painting.
  3. Rolls of aluminum tape will be purchased and kept with the cardboard and the envelopes.


  1. The paintings will be enveloped in the gallery or in a staging area depending on the exit chosen for evacuation and the time permitted to do the procedure.
  2. The cardboard will be placed over the front of the painting's frame and then placed inside the Royco envelope.
  3. The sides of the envelope will be folded down to the size of the frame and then secured in place with the aluminum tape. The tape must be applied to form a continuous seal thus creating a micro-climate inside the envelop.
  4. When the paintings can be taken from the envelope the following procedure will be used: A. The paintings will not be removed directly from the envelop at any time. B. A small portion of the tape must be peeled away and the painting inside allowed to equilibrate with the climate for a period of 24 hours. C. The tape can then be removed and the painting allowed to equilibrate for a second 24 hour period. D. On the third day the painting can be removed from the envelope.
  5. Any painting which is either damaged by smoke or water should be unglazed, unframed and allowed to dry horizontally.
  6. Guard post #4 will be notified by the armed guard that there is an emergency, and he will bring the loading dock elevator down and open both doors.

3. Environmental emergencies


The gallery is to be maintained at 55% + 2.5% within any given day and + 5% over month at all times. If this 55% range cannot be maintained then, with the permission of BSM, the conditions will be maintained at 50% + the same ranges. Major fluctuations or abrupt not non-repairable climatic conditions may require evaluation of the collection from the gallery and possibly from the building. The methods for removal are the same as in #2 above , the means to determine if enveloping or evacuation is needed is as follows:

A. If a potential emergency or if the climate is reaching its outer limits, 52.5% or 57.5% relative humidity or 77 or 66 degrees F, call the Delta room and contact Evadine McMahan or Bill Griffith who will contact Shelley Paine on her beeper, and designated TSM staff if necessary.

B. If the relative humidity falls below 40% for a period of 24 hours, then the paintings, designated as "A" (see attached list - 18 in total), will be placed in the envelop and remain the the gallery, unless told otherwise by TSM or BSM. The "A" painting will be identified in the gallery by attachment of a color symbol below the painting near the floor. This will permit easy identification of the "A" paintings.

C. What is most important is the rate of the fall in relative humidity. The more consistent the relative humidity or the more steady the fall the less effect the drop will have on the paintings. Therefore, if the relative humidity falls without apparent reason to 40%, or if there is no apparent means to correct the drop then the paintings will be placed in the envelop and remain in the gallery, protected by an armed guard.

D. The paintings will be placed in the envelope when the relative humidity reaches 35 % for any reason. Although it is not likely, if the relative humidity exceed 70% the paintings will be placed in the envelopes.

Building mechanical systems

There are many different mechanical systems in the building, for example, electrical and plumbing. Should there be any malfunction of these systems the following is recommended:

Call the Delta room and contact Evadine McMahan or Bill Griffith who will contact Shelley Paine on her beeper.


A. Although gutters have been installed under all the potentially problematical pipes a potential still always exists for a leak. In the event of a leak, the paintings effected should be removed, by the person who notes the leak, from the wall and placed in a safe area within the alarm system in the gallery. The armed guard will then notify Evadine McMahan, who will contact Shelley Paine and appropriate TSM staff.


A. The problem of electrical systems is largely smoke. If there is smoke in the gallery and HVAC system that provides air to the gallery, then the paintings should be placed in the envelop. and evacuated if necessary.


In the event that the sprinkler system is discharged the following is recommended:

A. All paintings should be removed from the gallery to a safe work space, and then unglazed and unframed and allowed to dry horizontally. The paintings should be elevated 2" to allow air flow under the object to facilitate drying.

B. If the water appears discolored, or if the Painting Conservator deems it necessary, the surface of the paintings will be cleaned using distilled water applied with a cotton swab. This work can be done by the Painting Conservator and or the Representative of the Paintings.


A. No supplementary lights will be allowed to photograph or video tape the paintings in the collection. The media will use instead the transparencies provided by BSM or use available exhibit light conditions.

4. Security and emergency/evacuation procedures

Removing the paintings from the building is the last resort in the protection of the collection. Moving the paintings to another secure, although perhaps not climate controlled, area within the building is preferred.

The paintings should be enveloped in the gallery prior to leaving the building. However, if there is no time to envelop the paintings then they will be moved first to a staging area, enveloped and protected by an armed guard at all times.

The type and location of the transportation vehicles will be determined in advance and available on a will call basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The location of all possible staging areas and their location to an exit will be mapped and routes to these areas established by the TSM and Building management company as part of preparing the emergency plan.

The gallery will be secured in the following manner.


  1. The alarm rings or evacuation crisis is identified by the TSM staff or armed guard. Emergency trained staff member, one to remain inside the building and one who will go outside the building each take a radio.
  2. The emergency trained staff member to go outside does the following:

    A. Contacts the State motor pool to put a vehicle on standby. After hours Motor pool emergency contact: Mr. Floyd Cliff, Capitol Park Apts. 242-55

    B. Alerts any other TSM staff and guards of any need to meet artwork at the stairwell or freight elevator door exits.

  3. The emergency trained staff member inside does the following:

    A. Takes the radio from Bari's desk or from an unarmed guard.

    B. Calls Shelley Paine on the beeper (923-6481) with the code 11111 to indicate an alarms is in progress.

    C. Stands in gallery and listens to radio to determine the location of the emergency and if evacuation is necessary.

    If the alarm is in the tower evacuation is probably not necessary.

    If the alarm in within A-H levels there is a change for evacuation.

    If the alarm is a fire in DOT, TSM staff should be concerned for their safety.

    D. If the emergency is called off then call Shelly Paine (923-6481) on beeper with code 22222 to indicate the alarm is over.

  4. Security guards does the following:

    A. Gallery guards escort visitors from the building.

    B. Perimeter doors and grill are locked bu// gallery guards and the armed guard.

    C. Armed guard goes to a location between the double doors and the grill and listens to radio to determine if the emergency relates to the Museum area. If it does not relate than the guard will stay on post unless he fears for his safety.

    Armed guard or staff allows emergency trained staff and Shelly Paine into the gallery.

  5. If evacuation is necessary the emergency trained staff does the following:

    A. Determine whether paintings should be evacuated to collection storage or out of the building. If it goes out of the building it can go up the freight elevator or the stairwell across from Bari's desk.

    B. If time permits the paintings should be placed in the aluminum bags, cardboard placed over the surface of the frame and the bag taped closed before they exit the building.

    C. The paintings are then carried to the elevator or up the stairs.

    D. The emergency trained staff member should alert staff outside the building to receive the art work at the stairwell or at the dock. If the freight elevator is used, the paintings will then be loaded onto vehicles or taken out the pedestrian doorway.

    E. Other staff will then receive the paintings and the guards will stand watch.

  6. If evacuation is necessary within the building the staff does the following:

    A. The locations and route for the evacuation, in order of choice are:

    1. The collection storage room on B level in the painting cage. Through the freight elevator and down the back hall.
    2. The collection storage room on B level outside the painting cage. Through the freight elevator and down the back hall.
    3. The collection storage room on A level Down the freight elevator and down the hall.
    4. The coffee room next to the staff elevator on D level. Up the freight elevator, through the dock to the room. B. A staff person will be stationed at each end of the route to supervise the evacuation effort.

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