Contributions to the AICCM National Conference 2013, Adelaide 23-25 October


The State Library of South Australia holds one or more versions of 17 photographic portrait mosaics created between 1872 and 1908. They depict close to 1,800 men and women who settled in the South Australian colony between its founding in 1836 and 1876. Known as ‘the Old Colonists’, the scope of the collection is unique in Australia. The Library is nearing the end of a long-term project to conserve the mosaics in collaboration with Artlab Australia, digitise the portraits, create a consolidated index of names and provide online access to both the index and the portraits. A significant proportion of the mosaics were in extremely poor condition. The treatments applied to restore five mosaics that had been roughly cut into halves or quarters are described in detail. The reasons for the neglect lie in the value assigned to the mosaics by generations of family history researchers. They have not been regarded as cultural artifacts per se but as containers of individual portraits of researchers’ forebears. The Library’s past management of the collection reflected the public’s view of the mosaics’ significance.


Photographs; portrait mosaics; composites; significance

AICCM National Conference 2013
Paper author:
Beth M Robertson and Peter Mitchelson