Author:
Julie O'Connor

On the 19th May, forty six Conservators and allied professionals; some with a design perspective, and others from the museum sector met at Yaama Dhiyaan meaning “welcome family and friends” in Sydney for the AICCM Textile Special Interest Group symposium “Emerging Technologies in Textile Conservation”.

The symposium was divided into four sessions: firstly, emerging technologies and materials analysis: secondly the design process and workplace health and safety; while the last two sessions focused on treatments and installations.

During the first session, Jennifer Newman, a Wiradjiri woman acknowledged country before Wendy Dodd, who is both a textile artist and previously a conservator for many years at the Australian War Memorial, opened the discussion about mixed materials artists use to produce textiles including sausage skins, foil, as well as more traditional textile fibres. Then Suzanne Chee and Sue Gatenby from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences who both work at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science; Suzanne in her capacity as a textile and exhibitions conservator and Sue Gatenby in her capacity as a conservation scientist reported on their research into degradation products on the swimwear collection to design a strategy to slow their degradation.

On a similar theme related to materials analysis, Dr Catherine Smith, senior lecturer at the Department of Applied Sciences incorporating Clothing and Textile Sciences at the University of Otago, and her colleagues, Doctors Bronwyn Lowe (lecturer and cultural material researcher) and Rachel Paterson, senior research fellow, used a range of analytical techniques in their paper to analyse and characterise the material composition of Taonga Maori textiles. 

The second session was introduced by Jessie Kieley who is a Melbourne based designer who was a finalist in the iD International Emerging designer competition held in Dunedin in 2015. Her collection “Fashion Baggage” developed from her perception of fashion and excess. Then Kristin Phillips from Artlab and Kate Douglas from the National Gallery of Victoria looked at different ergonomic solutions to minimise injuries caused by prolonged stitching, dressing and transporting mannequins.

The third session, began with a consolidation treatment of flaking paint on a Cheongsam dress by Sarah Bensen who was until recently a Conservator at the Heritage Conservation Centre in Singapore. Skye Firth from International Conservation Services has the arduous task of piecing small fragments of silk to reconstruct the Birdwood flag, created by the ladies of the Field Forces Fund in 1917. Forty metres long, four metres up by Kate McLaren and Bronwyn Cosgrove from the National Gallery of Victoria used digital printing to reproduce a missing section of a Vessantara Jataka scroll and examined the logistics of mounting and installing large textiles in exhibition spaces.

The final session of the symposium, focused on an extensive conservation treatment by Michael Marendy on a silk gown identified by its construction as a “Robe a la Francaise”; the conservation treatment by Louise McCullagh of a frockcoat circa 1870 unearthed during excavations in Melbourne’s CBD; the conservation treatment of a landau horse drawn carriage by Carmella Mollica and Kerryn Wagg; and the challenges of mounting costumes on artist designed, metal heads and frames, experienced by Carmela Mollica and Michelle Newton-Edwards as part of the “Spirited; Australia’s Horse Story” exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.

The first evening concluded with celebration drinks for Ian Macleod who recently retired from the Western Australian Maritime Museum after 37 years of service.  His pioneering treatments on submerged iron artefacts and modelling of decay mechanisms affecting historic shipwreck sites have helped make these sites more stable and accessible. He continues to work in the field as he currently manages the conservation treatment of the WW1 Submarine HMAS AE2 in the Sea of Marmara in Turkey.

The three workshop sessions including the costume mounting by Tess Evans from Heights Heritage Conservation; metal thread cleaning by Ian Macleod and Rinske Carr at the Wharf 7 Heritage Centre at the Australian National Maritime Museum and the textile adhesive workshop by Zenzie Tinker and Natalia Zagorska-Thomas at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science were well attended in the days following the symposium.

Delegates were entertained by our attendance at three fashion show events; the Innovators show, Raffles and Resort Review fashion shows organised by IMG during Mercedes Benz Fashion week at Carriageworks. Other delegates attended the Isabella Blow event at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science during the course of the weekend.