General Question

snowberry's avatar

What moving companies move museums?

Asked by snowberry (21413points) December 31st, 2013

I want to move antiques across country from Seattle, WA to Denver, CO, and I really want them to get there in one piece. It’s not enough to pay for “replacement value” because these items can’t be replaced. I want genuine, expert care in packing and shipping these items, and if I can find one that moves museums I’ve got a better chance at having my stuff arrive undamaged.

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25 Answers

bolwerk's avatar

You need an art shipping company. I’ve heard these guys work for NYC museums, but don’t take that as an endorsement. They have an office on the west coast too.

glacial's avatar

If you are genuinely interested, you should call a local museum and ask. Moving companies are regional businesses – those that the museums in my town would use would not exist where you live. I would worry that movers for specialty items like artwork would be out of your price range, though.

I wish you the best of luck with your antiques – I’ve had some truly devastating experiences with movers, and I don’t trust any of them any more. Whatever you choose, read the contract in full before signing, pack (perhaps cushion?) the items yourself, and find out whether the people you are hiring are actually doing the entire move. My last move was contracted out to a company I’d never heard of without my knowledge.

Check everything as it arrives. Don’t assume they’ve delivered it all.

What I’ve learned is that the only way you can be sure your items will arrive and be in good shape is to take them yourself.

jca's avatar

If I were you, I would pack and ship them myself, as per @glacial‘s suggestion. That way, you know they’re done right and if there is a problem, you can only blame one person.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@jca I think @snowberry is looking for an expert to pack because an expensive antique needs special structures and packing before shipping. @glacial has the right idea. You understand the costs could be tens of thousands, if it is several rooms of furniture and art.

glacial's avatar

My concern in letting professionals pack the items is that they are 100% concerned with covering their asses for insurance purposes, and 0% concerned with conserving the items themselves. There is nothing a professional packer can do that an individual cannot do, given enough time, patience, and knowledge of what materials to use. And the owner actually cares about the condition of the items.

bolwerk's avatar

For fuck’s sake, people are spouting off without knowing what they’re talking about. The type of firm that deals with this is called an art shipping company. It specializes in packing and shipping art, antiques, and expensive furniture. A few specialize in priceless items and customs for shipping things internationally. Read reviews and get opinions and investigate insurance, obviously, but that is the type of firm you need to do what the OP is talking about.

glacial's avatar

@bolwerk By all means, please tell us what information we’ve given that is incorrect. “Art shipping company” is not a specialized term; a simple google search would provide this and many alternative terms, and company listings to boot. And it doesn’t actually answer @snowberry‘s question. Companies that market their services as “art shipping” may never have dealt with a museum. So, you are also extrapolating from the OP’s question – please don’t judge us for doing the same thing.

Art handlers do cost a lot more than regular movers.
“His company has a fleet of climate- controlled 18-wheel trucks that move across the United States, a trip that could cost a collector as much as $11,000. “The same trip with a general freight supplier might run you $1,000,” he said – though without the same level of guarantee that the work will arrive in its original condition.”

bolwerk's avatar

@glacial: companies that do that kind of work call themselves art shipping companies. There are lots of them. I didn’t say anyone got anything incorrect, but most of the responses are useless. The “ship it yourself” advice is probably impractical, arguably stupid too, since it sounds like a large quantity of items.

In any case, he didn’t ask how to pack it himself. He asked what moving company to hire.

bolwerk's avatar

Or she. Sorry. I’m not sure what gender @snowberry is, sorry for being androcentric!

wildpotato's avatar

I used Suddath to move my grandmother’s antiques from Philadelphia to Oregon and Florida (half to my mom and half to my uncle). They were really, really good. Nothing they packed was damaged, nor were any of the items that I packed and they just shipped. They are a beginning-to-end moving company and therefore are expensive but we found the price to be well worth the end result of moving the stuff safely and efficiently.

snowberry's avatar

2 years ago we accidentally found a firm that moved both households and museum stuff. They told me that if I ever move again, to call them and they’d refer me to a reputable mover near me. But it appears they’ve gone out of business or been bought out by another company. So I’m back at square one. Their price for moving us was well within the ball park of other movers, so I had double reason to go with them. I wonder how well I’ll do this time.

I do know about “art shipping companies”. I was hoping someone could send me right to a company they knew about. I will check with Suddeth. :D

bolwerk's avatar

@snowberry: the one I cited is pretty high-end, so I was a bit afraid to suggest it.

XOIIO's avatar

just use fedex, whats the worst that could happen? ~

snowberry's avatar


I have one item to ship, and I don’t live anywhere close so I can crate it. From what I understand, it all depends on the company you actually hire to pack and ship your stuff. (Storage is a whole different story, and I could tell you nightmares from that experience too). Suddath apparently has a parent company, which has excellent and lousy reviews. I’ll see if I can find a good one. Or pay the big bucks to have it crated and shipped by the art guys.

JLeslie's avatar

The company should absolutely do the packing. Then it is all on them and they have insurance. I have moved a lot, regular move, and they crate the things that are delicate, very large, or easily broken. They know what they are doing. If not crating, they have all the moving materials to protect the item. An art moving company will even be better at this sort of thing than the usual guys I deal with. The person in charge of the two or three man team usually has a lot of experience, they know what they are doing. You can watch them pack it up if you have concern about the packing.

I have had very very few things break in my many moves. Also, during my moves they have me list the “high end items.” Again, regular movers. Those items they can check over more thoroughly, list any scratches etc, and then if on the other end, God forbid, they have harmed your item there is a good record. When I ship my luxury cars you should see everything they mark on the sheet to protect themselves. But, it really does protect you too.

snowberry's avatar

Yeah, I understand @JLeslie But two moves ago Bekins told me they “took exceptional care in packing” my stuff, and my 250 year old settee traveled on its wing clear across the country. Not surprisingly, it arrived in pieces. They broke most of my stuff, irreplaceable stuff. Replacement value means nothing in this situation. I still cry about it.

And dealing with the insurance company is a worse nightmare. Even if you do everything right, you are in a position to be screwed as I was that day. No, I’m NOT going to trust them. Been there, done that! Regardless of who I choose, I might arrange to be there so I can make sure it’s crated properly and placed in the truck properly.

JLeslie's avatar

I can’t imagine not being there when they pack.

We bring some valuables with us in our car. If you only have a few pieces you are concerned about, maybe bring them yourself? Are you going to drive one of your cars?

snowberry's avatar

@JLeslie I have one piece I want to move. If I’m going to be there, it’s a 2000 mile plane ride one way. Woo hoo!

An alternative is fly out there, rent a car, and bring it back by car, which I am considering, but hubby would NOT be pleased.

JLeslie's avatar

Are you moving? Or, you are just getting this piece and want to move it where you live? I completely understand your dilemma. When I move I stress out a lot about some of my furniture and especially things I inherited from my grandmother.

gailcalled's avatar

Tryy calling the Seattle Art Museum ((206) 654–3210) to get some recommendations. Or conversely, the Denver Art Musuem (720 865–5000).

snowberry's avatar

No. I am NOT moving. I want to move one priceless and delicate piece of furniture from Seattle to Denver. I live 2000 miles from Seattle.

snowberry's avatar

I can think of one way it would work for sure: If the packer and mover knew they’d be flogged if the item(s) they were transporting arrived in anything less than perfect condition (multiple broken bones would be OK). Yeah, that’d do it!

JLeslie's avatar

Vancouver is fantastic and Seattle is ok too. Maybe make a trip out of it?

gailcalled's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled Not very far from Seattle and a fantastic city. She could make a long weekend. If your going to pay to fly out there you might as well make a vacation I always say. There is a ferry from Seattle to Victoria, that would be nice for a day also. Only negative is if she needs to go soon it might be a little chilly.

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