UK Museums and Heritage Sustainable Packing Group: Exploring Sustainable Strategies for Soft Wrapping Paintings.

Rebecca Ellison, Rebecca Hellen, Alice Tate Harte, Alexandra Gent, Kim Kraczon, Victoria Ward, Clare Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores methods to improve the sustainability of packing artworks, focusing on soft wrapping of framed paintings. In 2022, the UK Museums and Heritage Sustainable Packing Group was formed. The research described in this paper focuses on one aspect of the group’s activity: seeking to find materials and methods which reduce environmental burdens and comply with conservation standards for soft wrapping two-dimensional artworks for short journeys between display, storage locations and conservators’ studios. The project investigated the physical qualities of recycled content polyethylene (PE), bioplastics and paper-based alternatives, along with common barrier materials such as virgin PE sheet and Bubble Wrap®, to form comparative datasets. Each material’s environmental impact, potential for reuse, interaction with artworks and ability to maintain adequate buffering against environmental changes during transport was researched. Alternative methods were also explored to reduce the quantity of sealing tape and promote its reversibility and reuse. The environmental impacts of the materials were assessed by sustainability specialists at the University of Manchester’s Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub. Reusable and recycled content films offered the most promising alternatives to the PE wrapping most used at present. The use of a tying method, eliminating the need for adhesive tape, also showed potential for further investigation. The low-cost testing methodology should be refined to better control the variables and allow for more repeatable testing, but these preliminary results will help to refine future research directions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalStudies in Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Jun 19 2024


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