Skip Navigation or Skip to Content

How to handle furniture

Preparation

As one of the bulkier and heavier types of museum collections, furniture is often difficult to handle and move, and is therefore more at risk of damage.

Be aware of old repairs and weak joints as well as structural weakness caused by historic infestations of furniture beetle.  

Handling guidance

When handling and moving furniture, consider how it is assembled. Check if the object is designed to separate into pieces, as many large cabinets and dressers often do. Although be sure of this, as a misguided attempt to separate parts may result in fixings or dowels getting damaged.  

When lifting furniture, lift from the lowest load bearing point. This is often the legs or the rails supporting the seat of the chair or top of a table. Inspect the object first to consider which parts seem structurally stable and resilient to handling. Do not lift by handles or by ornate fixtures as they have not been designed to bear the weight of the object. When inspecting inside drawers and cupboards it is advisable to limit the use of handles and knobs, lifting out and supporting draws and cupboard doors by the body where possible.

When moving items of furniture and wood, secure moving parts like doors with unbleached cotton tape to stop them swinging open during the move. Padding corners beforehand will also limit damage caused by any accidental bumps. Consider moving the object on a pallet or other device to limit reliance on personal strength during the move.

Do not lift by parts which are not designed to support the object’s weight 

Do not lift the object unevenly

Do not allow the object to balance on one load bearing point (if it is not designed to) 

Lift the object squarely

Beware

Gilding and upholstery are particularly prone to damage and should be touched as little as possible. Synthetic twentieth-century upholstery foam is particularly prone to degradation. Because of this, it is best to avoid placing pressure on upholstery. This will ensure the object does not become misshapen.

Want to know more?

In addition to this self-guided training we provide other services including webinars to give you an opportunity to ask questions and meet our experts. Please contact us for more information.

Email partnerships@nms.ac.uk

License for reuse

These training pages are licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

We are delighted for you to reuse, build on and publish the training content in these pages for non-commercial purposes. When you do, we ask that you credit National Museums Scotland and share the content under the same licensing terms.

Creative Commons License

Back to top