On the 24th and 25th of October, second year students of the Masters of Cultural Material Conservation gave presentations on their minor thesis research. The projects were diverse and thoroughly interesting. Below is a small selection of abstracts from the projects presented. Congratulations to everyone who presented and completed their minor thesis!
Evaluating Value: Significance Assessment and Aboriginal Art Centre-based Collections of Cultural Heritage.
By Lily Bennion, Prof. Robyn Sloggett (Supervisor)
This thesis research is premised upon the challenges of collection management in remote Aboriginal Art Centre-based collections of cultural heritage in Australia. This challenge was identified in the 2017 Arnhem Northern and Kimberley Artists Association (ANKA) preservation key needs survey, Safe Keeping a report on the care and management of Art Centre-based community collections, which surmised that; ‘a majority of collections surveyed are at risk from poor storage conditions, incomplete documentation and insufficient back up of existing collection records, as well as a lack of an overall collection, documentation, conservation and risk management strategy’ (Scott 2017, p.24). The directors and staff of the Aboriginal arts centre, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts, in Kununurra Western Australia also identified these challenges in managing their community collection. In collaboration with Waringarri this research evaluates the potential of significance assessment as a methodology for collection management in art centre-based community collections. In doing so, the genealogical and conceptual development of significance assessment as a methodology of collection management in the Australian heritage sector is outlined. Comparing this institutional methodology with the contextual and cultural requirements of the art centre foregrounds the restrictions of the process in relation to the ethical ontology epistemology embedded in Indigenous methods of preservation; embodied through performative reiterations of culturally specific knowledge transfer. The thesis emphasizes that culturally specific methods of collection management need to be developed by the community stakeholders to establish sustainable solutions to the requirements of art-centre based collections. Empowering the community stakeholders to preserve their own cultural heritage can enable professional development in cultural materials conservation and establish socially fulfilling employment in remote communities.
Conservation Management Plan: Coining Master Tools at the Perth Mint
By Claire Rowson, Prof. Robyn Sloggett (Supervisor)
This thesis combined several modes of conservation reporting to assess a collection of coining master tools at the Perth Mint. The challenges currently faced by the collection are unusual in its dual-purpose as a working industrial resource as well as an important cultural heritage asset for the organization and its stakeholders.
The research identified a three pronged value system including use in production, to authenticate legal tender coinage and in embodying the rich cultural narrative of the Perth Mint and its continued contribution to the economic and cultural landscape of Western Australia. Comparative assessment was particularly effective as the author was able to draw on the internship experience undertaken at the Royal Mint Museum to communicate a deep understanding of like collections.
The author moved through significance assessment, risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis to finally make recommendations for the custodians that favoured preventive conservation storage measures integrated with the establishment and maintenance of proper collection management procedures. Synergy between the chosen reporting methods helped to communicate the benefits of remedial and interventive conservation treatments for objects with the greatest value to the organization, avoiding costly mass treatments for all collection items.
The thesis ultimately became an exercise in communicating cultural value and conservation advocacy in the non-museum context.
Microclimate Framing in Tropical Environments
Hannah Stewart, Dr. Nicole Tse (Supervisor)
This thesis investigated the use of microclimate framing to protect sensitive objects in non-standard environments. Microclimate frames have been used extensively in conservation due to their ability to buffer against environmental fluctuations. This research applied microclimate framing techniques to an environment with both high temperatures and high humidity to investigate the possibility of reducing fluctuations in RH. This project also measured the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) inside frames. Three types of frames were made: fully sealed microclimate frames, microclimate frames with activated charcoal cloth inserts, and regular frames with natural ventilation. Two humidity chambers were set up: one replicated regular museum conditions (~22°C, 55% RH), the other replicated a hot and humid climate (~30°C, 75% RH) along with a real time exposure in the Philippines. Results demonstrated that the microclimate frames maintained relative humidity below 75%, whereas the ventilated frames did not. Internal humidity in the charcoal cloth frame gradually reached a maximum of 68%, whereas the external humidity reached 78% RH, demonstrating the efficacy of combining a sealed chamber with a buffering material. The practical driver for this and further research is the potential for microclimate frames to be a simple, cost effective alternative to expensive climate control systems, as well as adding to the current arsenal of preventive conservation techniques.
Biocides in the Conservation of Fluid-Preserved Specimens: Mould inhibitors for specimens stored in glycerol
Rehan Scharenguivel, Dr. Petronella Nel (Supervisor)
Natural science specimens form a majority of collection material in museums and are crucial to research and educating the public on environmental science. Wet specimens are a significant aspect of these collections. An alternative medium that has been used, which is of low risk, is glycerol. However, glycerol does not have the same antiseptic qualities as ethanol and therefore requires the addition of a biocide to prevent mould growth. This thesis aims to understand the need for the biocide and to analyse the suitability of three possible solutions. The three biocides that were investigated were tea tree, eucalyptus and clove oils. The methodology chosen was to use disc diffusion on a malt extract agar (MEA) plates. The mould species investigated was Aspergillus nidulans. The results of the test were visually and statistically analysed for confidence. The results indicated that clove oil is the most likely to be an effective biocide. Tea tree oil may have had some effect and the eucalyptus oil did not reduce mould in the circumstances tested. It is emphasised and discussed that further research is needed and that this paper forms the groundwork for research into displaying specimens in glycerol, the problems involved and possible solutions.
An Investigation into the Conservation of the Limestone Pedestals of Janet Clarke Hall, University of Melbourne.
By Ka Ian Kong
Constructed over a period of approximately 70 years, the Victorian Heritage Register Janet Clarke Hall is a three-storey red brick building featuring contrasting sandstone and stucco dressings, Waurn Ponds limestone and bricks, sandstone trim, dressed timber, glass, lath and plaster. In 2013, an extensive programme of the renovation was carried out to restore and repair the front façade of the Gothic Revival style wing facing Royal Parade built in 1891. Some architectural elements are repaired while the other was considered too badly damaged to remain in place. The triangular pedestals located at the base of the Gothic Revival Arch at the entrance of the front wing of Janet Clarke were one of them which were left untreated in the courtyard without much attention. The thesis shall survey and unravel the significance of the Waurn Ponds limestone pedestals, which are no longer produced due to the closing down of the original quarry. In discussion with the college principal, the thesis also shall also investigate the condition, treatment and rehousing recommendations for the conservation of the historically and architecturally significant building elements and college education.