National Gallery of Australia
The Objects Conservation team has been busy with the many overlapping projects currently going on at the gallery. Over the past few months they have been involved in the deinstallation of the old Asian Art gallery and installation of objects in the new space. Deinstallation involved moving some very large stone and timber works that had been in place (and built into the building in some instances) since 2007. Preparations for the Australian art major rehang saw many silver objects come through the lab, requiring several weeks dedicated to silver polishing. The team has also been assisting with the daily lighting of Urs Fischer’s Francesco, which has recently completed it’s burning. Another cast of the sculpture will be on display in mid-December.
In October Beata Tworek-Matuszkiewicz retired from her position as Senior Object Conservator but has been back in the lab already, working two days a week on contract. Sarah McHugh was recently appointed as the Senior Objects Conservator.
Over the past few months, NGA Paper Conservation team have been busily preparing works for the Asian Art rehang, which saw James Ward enthusiastically restore and remount an 18th-century Japanese hanging scroll called Monkeys. This overlapped with the new Australian art major rehang due to open in December for which many works were conserved, including Andrea Wise’s precarious and complex treatment of a large 19th-century Glaister ambrotype. In the meantime, Fiona Kemp prepared and undertook treatment of Matisse and Picasso prints and drawings for the major exhibition also opening in early December. To add to the busy time in the section, there have also been four travelling exhibitions on the road: Terminus at Heide, David Hockney returning from tour, National Indigenous Art Triennial and Art Deco returning to Canberra for display at CMAG.
Paintings Conservation have been busy with a string of exhibition preparations including the major show devoted to Hugh Ramsay and the new Australian Colonial Art exhibition, both opening in early December. They are also looking forward to the influx of works by Matisse and Picasso and the pleasure of examining them during the installation.
After 12 years at the NGA, Sharon Alcock has decided to retire from the section. They are sure they’ll still be seeing her around but want to wish her the chance to relax a bit and enjoy the beach in all its seasons instead of just the weekends.
For the last few months, Micheline Ford, Carmela Mollica, and Michelle Hunter have been busy conserving and preparing a large number of textile works for the newly located Asian art rehang. Much of the textile space was taken up with a large 3m x 3m Suzani1 embroidered wall hanging. It took a full team effort over five weeks to complete the major treatment, and the team has been very grateful for the extra assistance of Melissa Bolin who was with us on contract a few days a week.
The space is currently a flurry of legs, torsos, and bottoms as we are in the final stages of mounting 30 Ballet Russes costumes for inclusions in Matisse & Picasso exhibition opening mid-December.
1Purchased 2008. Conserved with the assistance of Maxine Rochester.
A3 Collection Services
A3 Collection Services is the new business started by me, Cheryl Jackson. I’m a conservator with 32 years’ experience in paper, photographic and preventive conservation. The idea behind A3 Collection Services is multi-faceted and the focus is on regional Australia where conservators are thin on the ground. Services I offer include:
- in preventive conservation to collection managers in small GLAM institutions
- in the materials and process identification of black and white and colour photographic materials to emerging conservators
- hands-on photographic conservation techniques to professional conservators
- digitisation of collection materials in small GLAM institutions to archival standards
- disaster preparedness and response training and facilitation for small GLAM institutions
- installation and condition reporting of original materials into showcases in travelling exhibitions, and checking and monitoring light, UV, temperature and relative humidity levels in the spaces
- conservator-for-hire in your lab, if you have a hectic workload for a short amount of time.
Fully insured and fully mobile – just me, my tool kit and my van. A3 Collection Services does not have a secure lab space so we do not take in conservation treatments.
Art Gallery NSW
Carolyn Murphy presented a joint paper with Amanda Pagliarino (Head of Conservation, QAGOMA) on ‘Implementing the Bizot Green Protocol for Loans’ at the AICCM National Conference. This paper tracks the development and implementation of a shared approach to sustainable collection care recently endorsed by the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors (CAAMD).
Sarah Bunn and Dominic King were involved in the preparation of a number of Japanese prints from the AGNSW collection as well as making book and scroll supports for inclusion in the Japan Supernatural exhibition, which opened at the AGNSW on 2 October. Analiese Treacy prepared a group of works from the Brett Whiteley Studio (BWS), including drawings in ink and wash, and photographs for inclusion in the Lavender Bay exhibition, which opened at the BWS on 25 October. Work was also completed by Analiese on a large number of Klippel works from the AGNSW collection for inclusion in the exhibition Assembled: The art of Robert Klippel, opening at Tarrawarra Museum of Art on 23 November. Analiese and Dominic are now preoccupied with the upcoming exhibition Shadowcatchers, which draws on a broad range of photographic material. One key work by Patrick Pound involves the mounting and framing of over 120 found photographs, meticulously clustered together and presented in custom black frames.
Cancy Chu, Melbourne University PhD student, spent two weeks in September at AGNSW analysing plastic components from Yang Zhichao’s Chinese Bible, 2009, using our new FTIR. Cancy’s research will contribute to the Australian Research Council funded project, PolyMuse, which aims to provide a national framework for managing malignant plastics in museum collections.
Paula Dredge gave a public lecture at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery on the subject of Sidney Nolan and his use of modern paint as a result of her research for her book published by the Getty Conservation Institute.
Carolyn Murphy is a partner investigator on a new Australian Linkage grant project, Archiving Australian Media Arts. Towards a method and national collection, with Swinburne University, ACMI and other partners. Carolyn will be working with Steven Miller, Asti Sherring, Lisa Catt and Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd on this project, which will assist the Gallery in developing better approaches to archiving and providing access to Australian media arts heritage in our National Art Archive collection.
Andrea Nottage has joined the painting conservation team to undertake the treatment of Arthur Streeton’s Auratum Lilies. The funding for this treatment has been provided by Conservation Benefactors. The removal of disfiguring waxy varnish and thick restoration layers has revealed the nuances of the artist’s original brushwork. The painting will be showcased in the Arthur Streeton exhibition in September 2020.
Melissa Harvey has been busy stretching a number of recently acquired oversized canvas paintings including Virginia Cuppaidge’s Blue Talor, 1975, and Chris Huen Sin Kan’s Muimui, Doodood & Baltsz, 2018.
The team has welcomed Jake van Dugteren as a part-time technical assistant who will undertake a survey of obsolete/legacy equipment related to time-based art collection works. This is a significant step forward in identifying the preservation needs of this collection and building skills within this emerging conservation specialisation.
Frames conservation have three large restoration projects in progress. Dr Malgorzata Sawicki and Genevieve Tobin are in the overpaint removal stage on the Gloucester Buckets frame in preparation for the 2020 Streeton exhibition. Basia Dabrowa began work on the Frank Mahoney Rounding up a Straggler frame, and Grace Barrand continues to work on the Cignani frame, now in the final stages of gilding and retouching. Preparation for the Fieldwork exhibition was also completed including major restoration of the Julian Ashton A Waterhole on the Hawkesbury River frame, and Basia continues to prepare works for outgoing loan. Tom Langlands has finished the reproduction of two Cetta frames for Joseph Backler portraits from 1858 currently unframed in the collection. Research is underway into six Streeton frames to be reproduced for the 2020 Streeton exhibition.
Grace participated in the Skills Summit panel at the AICCM National Conference with her experience as an emerging conservator and learning practical conservation skills on the job.
Lily Yang has been busy washing, remounting and repairing The Plum Blossom painting by prominent Chinese artist Guan Shanyue. Conservation treatment is nearly complete, and the painting will be reframed in a new black lacquer frame made by AGNSW reproduction frame maker Tom.
Australian National Maritime Museum
Lucilla Ronai undertook an extensive conservation treatment of Snapshots on the Coast of Queensland, a collection of 26 watercolours by Frederick Elliott. She removed the backing of the watercolours and interleaved archival card between the works and the original mount. The work will travel on loan to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery for their exhibition Sublime Sea: Rapture and Reality.
Jeff Fox, Lucilla and Nick Flood completed the annual maintenance of the Tasman light. The lighthouse lens and pedestal were constructed in 1906 for a light station on Tasman Island, in Storm Bay, south-east Tasmania.
Major structural repairs have been completed by contractors on the Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse. The lighthouse will open again to the public in December 2019.
Lucilla and Nick travelled to this year’s AICCM National Conference in Melbourne. Lucilla co-authored a paper with Dr Liz Carter from Sydney Analytical. Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy: Could this be the fast and the furious analytical method for cellulose nitrate identification? presented their research on the identification of transparent film in the National Maritime Collection. Nick spoke about the rusticle display that the conservation lab developed for the exhibition James Cameron – Challenging the Deep.
Lucilla and Nick contributed to Wendi Powell and Jennifer Todd’s National Conference poster Tips, Tricks and Favourite Tools. They spoke about their new favourite tool, the Micro-Grabit 4-Piece Small Bolt Extractor Set (4507P) and how it can be used to remove broken screws from Fini frames.
Jeff Fox worked on a new blog for the ANMM website about his treatment of a cameo of Sir Joseph Banks.
Kaleigh Kenney, Jeff, Lucilla and Nick prepared 19 objects for the temporary exhibition Australian Sailing Hall of Fame on display in the foyer of the museum’s Wharf 7 Heritage Building.
Workshops, symposia and media
In November, ANMM hosted Opportunities Abroad: Talks on International Training, an AICCM NSW Division event. Speakers included Kate Hughes (SLNSW) who attended the ICCROM International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper, Jennifer Todd (ICS) who participated in the AIC Traditional Techniques in the Conservation of Leather Bookbindings course and Lily Monk (David Stein & Co) talking about her visit to Portugal and the Masterclass on Public Murals and Street Art Conservation she attended.
ANMM was honoured in this year’s AICCM Awards in a ceremony held at the AICCM National Conference. Sue Frost received the Outstanding Service to the Conservation Profession award and Jan Russell and Sue Brian were given Outstanding Conservation Volunteer Awards. Lucilla and Nick collected these awards on their behalf while in Melbourne.
Kaleigh Kenney (GCCMC student) spent three busy weeks with us over September and October during her internship. Kaleigh, thanks for your delicious brownie and all of your help.
Elwing & Gurney Archival, Book and Document Conservation Services
James Elwing, PMAICCM, on the long-term experience of private practice
I am now 72 years old. Having been in conservation for 40 years, and in business for the last 26, I would recommend the practice of private conservation to other conservators who, like me, have spent a good deal of their professional lives working in museums and archives.
Those old enough may remember the conservation lab at Westpac Archives, which I built up from 1982 onwards, to have it liquidated in 1993 in the aftermath of the kind of banking fiasco we are again becoming accustomed to. Almost all archive staff were made redundant.
Jill Gurney and I reeled from redundancy and the dismantling of the conservation unit.
Anticipating a long period of unemployment or unsatisfactory employment, we decided to set up our own business.
Elwing & Gurney has now existed for 26 years, located in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. The business model has allowed us to work directly with clients; to concentrate on individual book, document and photographic projects; and to propose and design procedures, without the pressure of exhibitions or faux institutional self-management objectives.
The business has also allowed us to incorporate our creative work, design bookbinding, photography and painting, into its financial structure. It has been a satisfactory life.
I value the 17 years I worked part time at the Powerhouse Museum as Archives Conservator during this period, not least because it provided multi-disciplinary contact with other conservators, and provided a safety net for the business.
It was, however, in stark contrast to my normal work environment to be shoehorned into a noisy and demanding open office environment.
Jill Gurney also worked as a part-time conservator until recently at NSW State Records at Kingswood, and similarly values the experience.
Initially equipment-rich but space-poor, we are now well-equipped for purpose and own a modern business premises with air-conditioned and filtered specialty areas.
It would be foolish to ignore the passing of time. When institutional conservators retire, they redirect unfinished projects, clean up their paperwork, scoop up their personal effects into a cardboard box, and then go on with their lives. The workshop or lab survives.
When self-employed conservators retire, they perform a more complicated version of the above, but in addition have a significant infrastructure to pass on or disperse.
This concerns us. In the long term, we want to avoid liquidating a productive facility.
Our difficulty now is that our capital lies in the unity of library, equipment and premises. We want to preserve this productive capital in the face of a desire to pursue other personal projects.
The work involves a significant degree of self-realisation and a sense of purpose, so it’s a bit of a honey trap really.
While we currently have as much interesting work as we can handle, we too must anticipate this change. Ultimately the only way to avoid an equipment fire sale and an empty premises is to seek a purchaser with similar interests.
There is no great hurry, but watch this space. In the meantime we would be happy to correspond with institutional conservators with an urge to go rogue.
James Elwingm has completed work on a Kodak advertising display from the 1950s including enlargement and contact prints of Studley Park, a stately home in Narellan, NSW (below). Badly stained mounting card was retained and protected behind mat windows that showed relevant text and photographs.
Jill Gurney has completed work on reassembling a large landscape-format Council valuation and rate book from the 1930s, which had been badly treated, then dropped. The work required massive section repair, resewing, and return to the reasonably intact leather binding (below).
International Conservation Services
AICCM National Conference 2019
Seven ICS staff members attended this year’s AICCM National Conference, and appreciated a very well run and useful event. Rehan Scharenguivel gave a paper on biocides for wet specimens, and Wendi Powell and Jen Todd presented a well-received Tips and Tricks poster.
Julian Bickersteth was part of the Skills Summit panel, which came off the back of the recent AICCM Skills Audit.
We congratulate Wendi Powell on winning the Mid-Career ADFAS Scholarship.
Wendi Powell and Jen Todd recently attended Binds 19, the Australian National Bookbinders Conference in Sydney, as well as some associated workshops.
Wendy Reade attended the ICOM-CC Glass and Ceramics at the British Museum in September.
Jen Todd is undertaking a secondment to the National Library of Australia during December and January.
Karina Acton, our Head of Conservation for Objects and Outdoor Heritage, is moving to a new relationship with ICS as a consultant, and we are looking forward to working closely with her in this new role.
Nicola Ashurst is our new Head of Conservation for Objects and Outdoor Heritage. Nicola has 30 years’ experience in the field of traditional masonry materials conservation and repair. Nicola is the co-author of English Heritage’s five-volume Practical Building Conservation technical handbooks, which remain the preeminent guides in their field. Nicola returned to Australia in 2010, joining Traditional Stonemasonry to manage major projects for almost seven years. She re-established her own consulting practice in 2016. We are thrilled to have Nicola on board!
Bruno Bell has joined ICS Melbourne, bringing a wealth of experience in metals and archaeological conservation from his native France. Bruno has a Master’s degree in conservation from the Sorbonne University, Paris. He has worked on numerous archaeological projects in France, as well as in Greece and Egypt, including a Monash University project at the Roman site of Ismant el-Kharab in the Dakhleh Oasis. Bruno ran his private practice in Normandy for many years, providing high level services to private clients and regional museums.
Sergio Merida joined ICS Sydney in September. Sergio trained in Florence at the Palazzo Spinelli Institute of Art and Restoration, specialising in ceramics, stone and archaeological materials. He worked in Italy in private conservation and in academic institutions, then for Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation in Edinburgh. Most recently he has worked in London for the Victoria & Albert Museum and other London galleries and museums.
Amy Jackson from the Objects and Outdoor Heritage team and Katherine Figueiredo from the Fine and Decorative Arts team both joined the Powerhouse as Assistant Registrars in December. Good luck with the massive project of preparing for the big move west!
Grace Bushrod has been promoted into the role of Projects Assistant for the Outdoor Heritage and Objects team. Grace came to us from Art Index in June 2019, and worked in our Business Operations team until November 2019. She now uses her extensive knowledge and administration expertise to support a wide range of projects in the very busy OOH team.
Brhiannon Roberge joined ICS in November as our new Administration & Projects Officer for the Fine & Decorative Arts team. Brhi completed a Bachelor of Global Business earlier this year, a course that allowed her to learn Mandarin and travel to China during her studies. She is interested in business administration and is keen to build up her experience in supporting conservation projects.
Claire Heasman and Oliver Hull have welcomed baby Alfie into the family. It’s a rare moment for ICS to be able to congratulate both mother and father as staff members.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Powerhouse Museum
Staffing arrangements in the Conservation Department at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences have changed temporarily. Trish Stokes is currently Acting Head of Collections & Major Projects, with Kate Chidlow Acting Conservation Manager. Both appointments are in place until February 2020.
The Conservation Lab spaces are being reorganised and refurbished to better support the work required to prepare the collection for relocation. Conservation staff have continued with business as usual, successfully working around changes to deliver into a busy exhibition schedule, acquisitions and loans program.
The Collection Relocation and Digitisation Project Assessment team has been joined by Assistant Conservators Irene Finkelde, Kyra Kim, Fiona Hurel, Kristyn Bullen and Emily Vearing. Since the project commenced earlier this year, the team has assessed more than 80,000 objects. This includes flagging objects that contain a hazard or suspected hazard and providing treatment, packing, storage and handling recommendations. We also said goodbye to one of our Assistant Conservators, Ruth Drayson, who was offered a position at the State Library of NSW.
The CRD Digitisation Phase commenced in October with Conservation Photographers Emma Bjorndahl and Michael Myers joining the team.
Suzanne Chee has been appointed Team Leader of the CRDP Conservation Phase. This phase will address recommendations made by the Assessment Team. We have also established a team to identify and, if necessary, treat objects containing hazardous material in the collection. Elizabeth Reed will move from the Assessment Team to the Conservation Team and Brooke Randall from the Assessment Team to the Hazards Management Team. Lili Wang also joined the Conservation Team as laboratory technician.
Suzanne Chee, Chris Redman, Teresa Werstak, Rebecca Main, Skye Mitchell and Tim Morris worked on preparation and delivery of objects for Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson: Step into Paradise. The exhibition features over 150 garments, textiles, photographs and artworks from Kee’s and Jackson’s lives and works.
Gosia Dudek, Chris, Skye, Rebecca Main, Teresa and Tim worked on preparation and delivery of objects for Linear. The exhibition brings together the unique, diverse and personal voices of 10 leading Indigenous cultural practitioners from across Australia, alongside artworks and objects from the collection.
Chris and Rebecca Main installed Cue: 50 Years of Australian Fashion. The exhibition features twenty garments from the five decades of Cue’s history.
Sue Gatenby, Rebecca Ellis, Bronwyn Dunn, Bindiya Kumar, Elizabeth Reed and Irene Finkelde attended the AICCM National Conference, Making Conservation, in Melbourne.
Sue Gatenby presented a paper with Dr Floriana Salvemini (ANSTO) on ‘Non-invasive neutron imaging for the structural characterisation of ancient Japanese swords’.
Bronwyn Dunn was appointed chair of the AICCM Education and Training Committee. The committee has formed to investigate training needs and to pursue opportunities both in Australia and overseas, for further education, training and internships for all Australian conservators.
State Archives and Records NSW
In October we took receipt of five new disposable glove recycling boxes – another step towards a more sustainable Archive. This initiative has already seen a huge uptake in our public reading room.
Paul Smith has completed the treatment and rehousing of a significant 67-metre-long petition. The 1879 document petitioned the government to commute three death penalty sentences—two white men and one Aboriginal man—and was signed by Edmund Barton, Barrister at Law, who went on to become first Prime Minister of Australia. The petition gained so much attention over the course of the treatment that it has subsequently been rolled out (literally) for filming. The finished product will be included in upcoming media releases.
Elizabeth Hadlow is leading a review of current policies to create an updated suite of policy documents.
Earlier in 2019 the team at SARA began the transition to Axiell collections, our new information and collection management database (ICMS). In November, having worked through the initial teething issues, we have the opportunity to host a number of our colleagues from the State Library NSW to discuss our successes, challenges and ongoing adaptations required for the transition.
Conservation is supporting a large stabilisation project for our commercial operations in the GRR, consisting of approximately 6000 plans requiring tape removal and repair. While Clara Cesarone, Dominique Moussou and Abigail Hundley have already started a pilot of the work to be undertaken, we will be looking to recruit at an Assistant Conservator level initially on a short-term contract of six months. If you would like any further information, get in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rare Book Week in October saw us participate in a number of events including displays and a behind-the-scenes tour. Dominique offered her expertise hosting a tour of the lab and the various book treatments that we have underway.
In November, SARA participated in its first Sydney Open with our new partner institution, Sydney Living Museums. The team prepared for yet another behind-the-scenes display, with a focus on the built heritage records we hold.
Elizabeth has been assessing and preparing a selection of glass plate negatives for the upcoming exhibition How to Move a Zoo.
Conference attendance and training
In association with the Australian National Bookbinders Conference, Dominique undertook a Victorian account-book binding workshop, topping off her many weekends throughout the year spent at Callan Park bindery. The result speaks for itself. Abigail has already had the benefit of her knowledge transfer as she has started resewing an old prison register.
We welcomed Diane Westerhuis from Camden Haven Museum, who joined us in the lab for a week through the Museums & Galleries of NSW placement program. It was a pleasure having Diane and we are grateful for her assistance with our Deceased Estate rehousing project.
Elizabeth wrote, produced and starred in a handling video to be produced for internal staff inductions. It was a big coup to get off the ground, but having finalised the script and staff/talent, we got it ‘in the can’.
State Library of NSW
Comings and goings of staff
We have a few new faces in the Collection Care branch. Ruth Drayson has joined the Paper and Photographic team, having previously worked on the Collections Relocation Project at MAAS. Keyeele Lawler-Dormer has joined the Digital Excellence Program team. Before arriving at SLNSW, Keyeele was employed at the National Archives (UK) and State Records (NSW). Welcome to both!
The Digital Excellence Program team in Collection Care is working through 133 books that form part of the volumes found in the Ferguson bibliography at the State Library of NSW. Ferguson’s bibliography of Australia is a seven-volume guide to books published prior to 1901 in and on the topic of Australia.
Collection Care have been working on the acquisition, packing, transportation, rehousing and treatment of the archive of Australian architect John Andrews. Work began in 2017 when the collection was prepared for shipment from Orange to Sydney and has just reached completion. Comprising 3538 architectural drawings and 488 boxes of manuscripts and photographic material, 1047 plans needed individual conservation attention and 17 boxes treatment for mould.
Steve Bell and Kate Hughes presented a talk on Preserving your Collections for Sydney Rare Books Week, including a tour of the conservation labs. Guy Caron has completed a major treatment including cleaning and repairs of the entire text block and charts of De Zee-Atlas ofte Water-Wereld, 1660.
Our Exhibitions and Loans team has been busy installing and de-installing exhibitions within the library and at other institutions where items have been lent. They have also been involved in the changeover in paintings hang in our Mitchell Galleries, and in the Amaze Gallery. Cath Bartley has been working on the Off the Shelf exhibition, presented as a digital experience in the galleries.
Workshops and training
Nicholas Beckett and Hoa Huynh attended Bind 19: Australian National Conference of Bookbinders. This was a 2.5-day bookbinding conference presented by the NSW Guild of Craft Bookbinders, which took place in Sydney on 25–27 October 2019, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the guild. The conference explored contemporary and traditional bookbinding structures and design as well as restoration techniques.
Natalie Cassaniti (Digital Excellence Program team) attended the Annual Australasian Sound Recording Association (ASRA) Conference 2019, on 12–13 November at ANU in Canberra. The conference theme this year is Sounds & Silences. Natalie was a panel member for the panel discussion, A Growing Concern: Advocacy and Development of Minority Audio-Visual Collections.
Ruth Drayson and Trish Leen (Paper & Photograph team) attended the AICCM National Conference, 13–15 November, at the Arts Centre in Melbourne. A poster ’Unblocking the Max Dupain negatives’ by Lang Ngo was exhibited during the poster session of the conference.
New Collection Care lab development
The DA has now been approved and planning is well advanced. The tender process for the build will commence soon with construction commencing in 2020.
Museum and Art Gallery of the NT
Whilst on holiday in Japan, Sandra Yee attended the ICOM conference in Kyoto and came back to Darwin with a goodie bag full of samples we’re excited to start testing.
For the last three months, MAGNT has enjoyed the assistance of French conservation intern Josephine De Moegen. Josephine joins us from the Conservation and Restoration of Heritage Masters course at L’École de Condé school in Paris. Her focus while at MAGNT has been on the treatment of bark paintings.
MAGNT opened the Therese Ritchie: Burning Hearts exhibition on 29 November after months of preparation. This exhibition had a total of 87 works on paper by Territory-based artist Therese Ritchie, who is best known for her provocative prints that make fearless social commentary. Fifty-seven of these prints were framed in-house by Conservation. Sandra Yee and Josephine spent weeks hinging, cutting mount board and spacers, and vacuuming up dust particulates that kept finding their way into the black frames.
MAGNT hosted a collections care workshop for a delegation of archivists visiting from the Chega! Exhibition in Dili, Timor-Leste. Sandra presented a phase-box workshop along with preventive conservation protocols for paper-based materials to assist them with their policies back home.
Over the last year, MAGNT has been undertaking numerous preparatory projects in the lead-up to our HVAC system upgrade currently being rolled out. Conservation Technician Paula Chappel has been busy preparing boxes and rerolling our South-east Asian textile collection, some of which recently went on display to Charles Darwin University’s Taksu–The Art of Bali exhibition.
Travelling exhibition Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series opened on 16 November, much to the excitement of all staff, and has had excellent visitation so far.
Eliana Urrutia-Bernard attended the AICCM National Conference in Melbourne and was pleased to announce that the next AICCM conference will be happening in Darwin. We look forward to having you all here in 2021.
The Objects team has been extremely busy in the past few months, juggling numerous large-scale, off-site storage upgrade works for state clients as well as keeping up with treatments for our many-varied private clients, and the day-to-day precinct conservation requirements.
Sophie Parker stepped up to acting Principal Conservator, Objects, for six months covering for Renita Ryan, who is acting Assistant Director, Preventive Paper and Books, whist Heather Brown is taking long service leave and pursuing her studies.
Megan Sypek has been packing a newly acquired collection of bark paintings from the Art Gallery of South Australia for storage. As usual, each bark has its own issues and requirements for packing and safe handling. The approach used has involved a custom-built box and polyester-covered quilt for each bark to support surface undulations and allow for bark movement. Locating blocks of foam have also been used is some instances.
Amongst the treatments of items belonging to private clients, Jo Dawe has recently undertaken a couple of ceramic repairs that included the application of gilding. She is hoping that this practice will assist her with her treatment of a privately owned, gilded Murano glass decanter, which has suffered breakages and losses and will require areas of gilding over some of the glass losses.
Filipa Quintela and Justin Gare have been involved in the conservation and preparation for display of new acquisitions from the AGSA by South Australian wood carver Maud Baillie (née Golley). These include a chiffonier, a carved cabinet, an armchair and a carved frame containing a portrait of the artist.
Maud Baillie was born in 1884 and lived on the remote Wedge Island, off the coast of Port Lincoln, South Australia. She was a self-taught artist, who developed very detailed and elaborate designs inspired by her island home surroundings. She regularly included items such as seashells, rope and vines in her prolific carvings, using only rudimentary tools.
Treatment consisted mainly of careful surface cleaning but there was also some restoration work necessary, as a small carved-ribbon decorative element (one of a pair) was missing on the chiffonier. Justin put his own woodworking skills to work in manufacturing a suitable replacement, copying the remaining ribbon element and colouring it to blend with the surrounding surface finish. The result restored the aesthetic appearance of the chiffonier (see Image one below for overall photograph).
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Both conservators, Amy Bartlett and David Thurrowgood, have recently left their positions at QVMAG. Amy is working in private practice and is completing her Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Arts) at the University of Tasmania. David is also working in private practice and has research projects underway.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery hosted Lorraine Polgase and members from the local Hobart Association of Australian Decorative Fine Arts Societies on a tour of the conservation labs at the TMAG city site. It was a wonderful opportunity for AICCM members Jenny O’Connell and Lisa Charleston to discuss painting and frame conservation in an institution. Concurrent tours were arranged by TMAG curators Mary Knights and Peter Hughes to facilitate a small group in the lab. Of course the tours were followed by morning tea at the TMAG café!
Arts Centre Melbourne
Nick Cave Project
In the last few months, the collections team at Arts Centre Melbourne (ACM) have been working on a Nick Cave touring exhibition. Stranger Than Kindness: The Nick Cave Exhibition is curated and produced by Royal Danish Library at The Black Diamond, Copenhagen, in collaboration with the Australian Music Vault at Arts Centre Melbourne. The exhibition draws on the existing ACM Nick Cave collection, personal Nick Cave material and material from a number of private lenders. Conservator Carmela Lonetti, with the assistance of volunteers Mar Cruz, Kat Watson and Marie-Claire Petrowski, has completed condition assessment of the objects adapting the ‘Concepts app’ to prepare travelling condition reports. The app allows for the import of images that can be marked-up with condition annotations in a layer over the original image. The images and annotations can be scaled up or down as required to view fine details without losing resolution or clarity. This documentation has been shared with our colleagues in Denmark as digital files, which they have also been able to complete digitally. This innovation has meant the elimination of paper, Mylar overlays and folders containing hundreds of static printed out images.
The collaboration with the Danish team developing the design with Nick Cave has meant that recommendations regarding the mounting and display of objects will be finalised via a consultative process as the exhibition design is refined. Custom book cradles, frames and flat-top display cases will be specifically designed to meet the needs of each object. It has been both interesting and challenging working in this remote manner, and having the digital files and quality images of each object has facilitated the process.
Asia TOPA festival will be landing at ACM in February 2020. Conservation has been involved with planning for the installation of the artwork Knowledge in your hands, eyes and minds by Phaptawan Suwannakudt. As a site-specific work, displayed at Sala Sa Jorake, Wat Pho temple, Bangkok Art Biennale, October 2018 to February 2019, this installation with large mural will be displayed in the Smorgon Plaza of the Theatres Building. As a part ephemeral and interactive installation, conservation will be involved in the documentation and monitoring of the artwork during its exhibition.
ACM will invite Bruce Ford to our archive early in 2020 to assemble our Microfade tester and to deliver training for its operation to a number of our collections team. The equipment will provide further opportunities for collaboration across the museum and gallery sector as we continue to develop more informed and qualitative recommendations for the display duration and lighting conditions for vulnerable and significant cultural material.
National Gallery of Victoria
The NGV hosted the two-week intensive component of the Getty Conservation Institute Preserving Collections in the Age of Sustainability course. Head of Conservation, Michael Varcoe-Cocks,participated in the course along with conservation, collection management and facilities colleagues from across the Asia-Pacific (see image, below). Michael and Coordinating Conservator, MaryJo Lelyveld, hosted a day-long roundtable on pathways to implementing the Bizot Green Protocol to loan gallery environments with colleagues from QAGOMA, AGNSW and other galleries represented as part of the Council of Australasian Art Museum Directors (CAAMD).
Senior Paintings Conservator, Carl Villis; Frames and Furniture Conservator, Suzi Shaw (see image, below) and MaryJo all presented at the AICCM National Conference. Representatives from all labs have lectured at Melbourne University for the Master of Art Curatorship course over the past few months on a range of issues in art conservation.
Almost all labs have been involved in the summer exhibition Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines from couriering works internationally to condition reporting on arrival – an amazing effort in particular from Exhibition and Loan Conservators Catherine Earley and Janelle Borig.
Also be sure to check out @ngvmelbourne Instagram stories for weekly conservation department highlights, which have been prepared by Conservation Project Officer, Jessica Lehmann.
Kate Douglas, Ellen Doyle, Skye and Di Knight have been busy preparing for permanent collection changeovers in December. Kate and Ellen attended the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand Symposium: The Common Threadand presented a paper on the NGV’s history of using in-house digital printing to enhance the display of our textile collection, with a specific focus on an 18th-century stomacher.
Kate and Skye have been travelling across Australia for loan items and the lab has also prepared recent acquisitions for display including a 20th-century Suffragette banner.
Senior Paintings Conservator Carl Villis attended the 2019 Conserving Canvas Symposium at Yale University in the US. Carl has also been working on preparing for display a couple of new acquisitions by historic female artists (see image, below), welcome additions to the collection.
Raymonda Rajkowski is continuing the collection-wide survey of NGV’s bark paintings, with support from volunteer Murphy Bouma. Raymonda is also nearing completion of the treatment of Edward Middleditch’s Summer Landscape (1955).
In preparation for the Ramsay retrospective exhibition at the NGA, Raye Collins completed her major treatment of Hugh Ramsay’s A student of the Latin Quarter (1901), and Michael Varcoe-Cocks completed the treatment of Hugh Ramsay’s Consolation (1889–1901). Michael has also cleaned and revarnished a new acquisition by Florence Fuller, Paper boy (1888).
Caitlin Breare is continuing with her major treatment of Thomas Clark’s The Upper Falls on the Wannon (1867) and is assisting curators with the soon-to-be-launched British Collection Database.
Frames and Furniture
Senior Frame and Furniture conservator, Holly McGowan-Jackson, has been researching the use of the FTIR spectrometer to identify coatings on gilded surfaces, together with Raymonda.
The Frames and Furniture section has also helped with the Ramsay exhibition in Canberra with Jason King creating a historically correct frame for Hugh Ramsay’s Interior of artists studio (1901). Suzi Shaw assisted with the Bamboo: Tradition in contemporary form exhibition installation at NGVA, as well as with ongoing preparation of new acquisitions and with display changeovers.
Holly and Jess researched and co-wrote an article on Australian frame-maker Lillie Williamson for the next issue of NGV Magazine.
Exhibitions and Loans conservators Catherine Earley and Janelle Borig have been busy with exhibition changeovers. This has seen them on their feet since early October, condition reporting works during the deinstallation of A Fairy Tale in Red Times: Works from the White Rabbit Collection, Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality and Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape and during the installation of the extraordinarily large-scale exhibition Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines, which includes around 300 items from more than 60 lenders.
Paper and Photography
In the Paper and Photography studio, Ruth Shervington and Louise Wilson have assisted with a variety of new acquisitions including the retouching of mid-century Japanese posters now on display.
Pip Morrison has been focused on the treatment of a large-scale Helmut Newton photograph. The whole team has also been surveying a large group of legacy works on paper including devising treatment and storage plans and, in some cases, completing minor treatments.
The Objects team of Marika Strohschnieder, Trude Ellingsen and Di Whittle have been busy preparing works for loans as well as processing new acquisitions. Di is continuing to work on an outdoor sculpture program. Trude attended the NZCCM National Conference 2019, Modern and Contemporary Materials: Research, Treatment, and Practiceand presented a paper on the treatment of Mikala Dwyer’s installation I.O.U (1997–98). The paper covered some of the issues involved in conservation of contemporary art, particularly obsolescence of functional components. Marika was involved in a Vision Australia program for those with low sight to experience the NGV collection.
Eamon O’Toole and Ben Raynor have been involved with mount making for Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines.