Collaboration and Connections: Postprints of the AICCM Paper, Books and Photographic Materials Special Interest Group Symposium, Sydney 1-3 April 2004, pp. 141-150


The National Gallery of Australia has a small but significant collection of Aboriginal drawings from the 19th century, the majority being by Tommy McRae. The works are drawn in a variety of inks, including iron gall ink, with some exhibiting signs of advanced deterioration. Due to their cultural significance and rarity, the drawings are in constant demand for loan and display. A number of factors have been restricting this access – the nature of the works, their fragility and the fact that some are bound in sketchbooks. The complexities of the collection are compounded by confusion over the loose and bound components, exacerbated by a significant number of interleaving sheets showing phantom images of works, not in the collection.

The project involved close consultation with the Curatorial Department. An approach was developed to allow increased access without compromising the integrity of the works. Establishing the original format of each sketchbook was of primary concern to this research and would allow facsimile sketchbooks to be constructed as part of this approach to access. Conservation treatment was aimed at repairing and strengthening the drawings and investigating methods to arrest degradation.
This paper provides an overview of the collection and its associated problems, with particular reference to the issue of access. Results of materials and techniques analysed, undertaken in collaboration with the University of Canberra, will be presented, highlighting the implications for display.

3rd Book, Paper and Photographs Symposium, 2004
Paper author:
Ward, James; Wise, Andrea; Kemp, Fiona