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The Terra Cotta Warriors Return to China

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"39847","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"Nick and JNo"}}]]By Jennifer Noffze, Children's Museum Registrar/Archivist

We were sad when the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit closed, but my colleague Nick and I weren't sad for long, because we were the lucky staff members who returned the warriors to China! This took a 14.5 hour flight to China, a 17 hour flight home, and lots of driving in between, all to make sure that the loaned artifacts—including the priceless Terra Cotta Warriors—were safely returned to their museums.


Nick is The Children's Museum's Collections Preparator whose main job is to create artifact mounts used in exhibits. He also creates special crates and storage boxes that ensure the safe travel of artifacts. (To see all of the fun that Nick gets into, you can check out his blog series, "How does he do it? on Pinterest). Nick created all of the mounts in the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, including a really special mount for the painted head! My job as Registrar includes keeping track of all items in the permanent collection and also all loaned objects. Working with the Collections Manager, we create loan contracts, secure insurance, condition report objects and at times serve as a courier, which is a fancy word for "traveling with loaned museums objects."

Leaving Indianapolis

After the exhibit closed in early November, a team of four museum professionals from China came to Indianapolis to assist us with the de-installation of the exhibit. They helped us condition report each object and carefully pack the objects into 22 crates. Once the objects were in the crates, they were loaded onto trucks. Our Collections Manager, Joan Skroko, accompanied the trucks to Chicago and stood on the tarmac while the crates were being loaded onto the cargo planes via three separate pallets.

A Stop in Shanghai

Meanwhile, Nick and I were headed to Shanghai to meet the crates! We spent a week in Shanghai where over a period of three days we supervised the disassembling of the crates from the three pallets and the loading onto the three trucks that would transport the objects to Xi’an. After Chinese Customs sealed the trucks, Nick and I joined colleagues from a freight service for a 22 hour car trip from Shanghai to Xi’an!

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"39849","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"crates China"}}]][[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"39850","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"Fine arts trucks"}}]]

Home to Xi'an

When we arrived in Xi’an, we supervised the fine arts team while they unloaded one truck of materials at the Shaanxi History Museum warehouse. But we weren't done yet! We then supervised the unloading of the crates at the Terra Cotta Army site. When transferring objects like this, we wait at least 24 hours to open the crates and move the objects; this allows the objects to acclimate to the environmental conditions. Once the objects were removed from the crates, we began work on checking the conditions of the objects. Nick worked with the team to check the warriors and larger objects and I worked with another team to check the conditions of the smaller objects. We are happy to report that there were no condition changes—everything was transported safely!

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"39851","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"Crane Crates"}}]] [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"39852","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"Head"}}]]


It was amazing to work with our Chinese colleagues who were very gracious and gave us personal tours of both the Terra Cotta Warrior site and the Shaanxi History Museum. They also took us to four different Tang Dynasty imperial tombs! It was an amazing experience and we were so honored to represent the museum on this incredible endeavor. Welcome home, warriors!

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Categories: China, Collections,
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