It's not every day that the Rock Hall gets a serious request to borrow Janis Joplin's iconic Porsche 356C cabriolet from our collection. Almost daily, visitors and fans from around the world ask questions like "Can I take it for a test drive?" But this time was different. We agreed to hand over the keys – though it wasn't quite that simple.
The Rock Hall’s collections department receives regular requests from museums, galleries, schools, event organizers and even television shows to borrow an artifact or two for their projects. They come from all over the United States, but more and more are streaming in from overseas. Just within the last year we have had inquiries from Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, Hungary, Russia, Dubai and Canada. Many are compelling, interesting and hard to pass up, while some are downright quirky.
One of the more exciting inquiries we have received this year is from the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. They asked to borrow Janis Joplin’s 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet to include in their exhibition entitled Porsche By Design: Seducing Speed, a 22-car display of rare Porsche automobiles owned by such personalities as Steve McQueen and Ralph Lauren.
Transporting museum artifacts from one place to another is often a complex process. Before an artifact leaves the museum, a condition report is carefully prepared by our collections staff and a thorough photo-documentation of the piece is done, taking detailed shots of every little thing. Special acid-free boxes or heat-treated wooden crates are used to pack the objects, the manner of which could look over-the-top to the uninitiated, but it's necessary when dealing with priceless rock and roll artifacts. It should come as no surprise that items are insured, and shipping is often through a climate-controlled truck with dual drivers, and closely monitored until it reaches its destination and a signed receipt stating that the object arrived safely is received. Sometimes, an artifact is so fragile and rare it needs to be hand transported.
Historical vehicles, such as the Joplin Porsche, present a greater challenge due to size and the impracticality of boxing or crating them. In these cases, we have to rely on highly specialized car transporters that deal mostly with very valuable vehicles.
To ensure that the Joplin car was handled properly, a collections staff from the Rock Hall flew to Raleigh to be there when the Porsche was delivered to the museum. The car remained in the truck until our staff was present to witness the unloading. With a camera in hand, our staff watched every detail of the move. We had the full authority to halt everything and ship the car back to Cleveland if we witnessed anything inappropriate, dangerous or out of the ordinary. Thankfully, it never came to that – far from it, actually, as the highly trained staff in Raleigh knew exactly how to handle such precious cargo.
Once the car was installed at its designated spot, the registration staff at the art museum went through the condition report prepared by the Rock Hall staff and confirmed the condition of the car. Once both parties have signed the condition report and delivery receipt, the care of the vehicle officially transferred to North Carolina Museum of Art, and our staff could finally relax and enjoy the rest of the day.
The Janis Joplin Porsche will be on view as part of the North Carolina Museum of Art's Porsche By Design: Seducing Speed from October 12, 2013 to January 20, 2014. The Porsche is no longer on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.