Our global membership is regularly entrusted with managing the logistics of items of immeasurable artistic, national, historic or scientific importance. In August, Brazil-based member FINK Mobility was responsible for transferring a collection that arguably fits all of these descriptions: the Fiocruz Collection, held in the Casa Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro.

FINK Mobility is one of seven agents located across South and Central America, forming an ICEFAT continental cooperative network of fine art shipping agents adept at handling any intra- or inter-continental fine art shipping operations in the region. Although the Fiocruz project solely took place in Brazil, it was planned and delivered to the internationally leading standard to which we hold our entire membership of more than 70 fine art shippers around the world.

Fiocruz is a household name in Brazil for numerous reasons, not least because it is the public health research institution attached to Brazil’s Ministry of Health and thus a key player in Brazil’s fight against the coronavirus. Its key involvement has been its collaboration with AstraZeneca in the development of that vaccine in Brazil. The Rio de Janeiro-based institution has also led some of the world’s top disease-control campaigns since its foundation 124 years ago, developing internationally admired methods of fighting the spread of bubonic plague, yellow fever and smallpox. The Casa de Oswaldo Cruz is dedicated to preserving the institution’s research, archives and scientific collections. Since 1898, it has gathered and stored thousands of specimens and records from its long history of protecting Brazil’s public health.

The collection’s treasures range from the earliest years of Brazil’s national history in the eighteenth century to the present day. Particularly important items include a 1757 book on the ‘Health of the Peoples’, late-nineteenth-century public health records created by the eponymous scientist Oswaldo Cruz, diaries of scientific expeditions to the north and northeast of Brazil from the early-twentieth century and studies of the HIV/AIDS pandemic from the late-twentieth century. Some of the latest additions to the collection are extensive studies of biotechnology. 

Such a varied collection of immeasurably important artifacts and records requires carefully planned and managed storage conditions, which were not possible in their old home of Casa Oswaldo Cruz. Following a competitive tender process, FINK was appointed to transfer the collection to a new, purpose-built facility in Rio for its modernised storage, the Center for Documentation and History of Health (CDHS).

“Planning involved meetings about the transference of collections and approaches for risk management and preventive conservation,” says Renata Vinhas, General Manager of FINK Mobility, who managed the operation. Constant close liaison with Fiocruz was necessary, and Vinhas and the FINK team worked with Eliane Dias, Chief Librarian of Fiocruz, to manage the move and ensure that the collections were protected while in transit.

All items in the collection were individually packed by FINK, taking the utmost care to ensure the most friable works in the collection such as the original Cruz records were protected from any chance of environmental harm. The multiple trips required between the collection’s old and new homes were planned and carried out by FINK “with absolute safety, control and monitoring,” reports Vinhas.

Only when the unpacking of the whole collection was complete could Vinhas reflect on FINK’s role in the project. Beyond the significance of the collection, she perceives some real learning opportunities during the project for both shipper and client. “Being part of this project was more than an honor for FINK”, says the FINK General Manager, “this was an opportunity for exchanging experiences and for learning”.

ICEFAT members recognise the importance of the treasures they handle, but are never daunted by the task of being cultural guardians, and we collaborate closely with our clients at every step of the way. The Fiocruz Collection is now safely stored in its new home in the CDHS through the efforts of FINK Mobility, to be utilized and enjoyed for generations to come.