Newsletter Issue Number:
AICCM National Newsletter No 135 September 2016

Keepsakes and Stories: Conserving Mementos from WW1 – an exhibition of WW1 Memorabilia conserved by Artlab Conservators from 24 June to 26 August 2016

The Flanders Field Poppy Trail is a special program of events to commemorate battles in which Australians fought on the Western Front in the Great War (1914-1918) and is an initiative of the Honorary Consuls of France and Belgium in collaboration with a local consortium: University Collections at the University of Adelaide, Artlab Australia, Army Museum of South Australia, South Australian Museum, Art Gallery of South Australia, State Opera of South Australia, State Library of South Australia and is proudly supported by Veterans SA and the Anzac Day Commemorative Council.

Artlab Australia launched the Conserve your War Memorabilia program in 2013 in preparation for the ANZAC Centenary 2014 – 2018, which was marketed to historical and cultural institutions across Australia to prepare for the approaching ANZAC Centenary. Since this launch, Artlab has received significant WW1 items for conservation treatment and it has been a privilege to include a selection of these in Artlab’s Keepsakes and Stories: Conserving Mementos from WW1.

Artlab’s participation in the Poppy Trail is an exhibition in the foyer at Artlab, Keepsakes and
Conserving Mementos from WW1, beautifully curated by Louise Stack, Artlab’s Coordinator Marketing and Executive Support Officer.  On the 24th June Keepsakes and Stories opened with an official launch by the Minister of Veteran Affairs, The Honourable Martin Hamilton-Smith, and amongst the guests were the owners of the memorabilia and the Artlab conservators who treated their items.

L-R: Louise Stack, curator of the exhibition; the Minister of Veteran Affairs, The Honourable Martin Hamilton-Smith; Andrew Durham, Director Artlab Australia

On display is WW1 memorabilia including: a painting by war artist George Colville; silk postcards, handkerchiefs and letters sent to loved ones back home; a soldier’s good luck charm; a bronze memorial plaque; a large map of the final British Offensive in 1918; and a delightful leather kangaroo mascot named “Joey” which was attached to a fuel cap on a Sopwith Camel plane flown by a Australian Airforce flying instructor in Britain during WW1.

An important component of the exhibition is the poignant and thoughtful stories behind the keepsakes, written by the owners of the items who generously contributed to the exhibition. 
The stories are very significant in this exhibition as the vast range of items which arrive through the doors of Artlab, all have a story. Their history, their provenance, how they came to the present owner, all this information provides a fascinating insight into the object or artwork for the conservators. Alongside the stories is a photographic display of Artlab’s conservators during the conservation treatments of the war memorabilia.

These wonderful WW1 keepsakes and stories give an insight into the personal world of the soldiers during the war and reveal the heartfelt sentimentality attached to the memorabilia which has been passed down through the generations in these families.