Art Gallery NSW
Paper Conservation Team
The Paper Team has recently completed treatment of a diverse selection of works from the Pat Larter archive now on display in the Lowy Gonsky Gallery. The exhibition showcases Larter’s talents across a range of media and promises to raise awareness of her work as a notable performance artist. The team has also been involved in the mammoth preparation of a number of complex artworks featured in this year’s Dobell Drawing Prize, including the mounting of an oversized curved work, carefully mounted onto what we fondly call ‘the skateboard ramp’. Analiese Treacy completed treatment of a number of prints, drawings and watercolours for the Streeton exhibition, many of which have rarely if ever been seen before. Sarah Bunn has been overseeing the safe installation of works included in the Fieldwork touring exhibition, opening at MRAG (Maitland Regional Art Gallery) in time for Christmas audiences. Lois Waters has been working on a selection of fascinating archive material for the upcoming Margel Hinder exhibition, much of which forms the basis of her sculptural works and informs her practice. Jonathan Dennis has completed the mounting and framing of close to 20 works for the Art Gallery Society Kids Drawing Prize, which will be on display in the Society Lounge.
Collection Care and Conservation
The Australian Museum finally opened its doors to the public on 28 November after 14 months of closure. It is a welcome sight to see families, kids, and visitors back in the Museum, wandering through the new spaces and galleries. The entire team was focused on operational readiness plans, working with the Exhibitions and Facilities teams to return the galleries to display standard. The Collection Care and Conservation team can now focus on the ongoing programs that can be facilitated while we wait for the rebuild of the CC&C lab to commence. It has been a long 12 months for the team without a lab; negotiating challenges presented by COVID-19; the major renovation; and building impacts. We are anticipating moving back in early 2021 after a well-deserved Christmas break.
Social news, staff changes, events, professional news
Heather Bleechmore and Sheldon Teare were interviewed by ABC Sydney news leading up to the reopening of the Australian Museum to the public. Heather spoke broadly about what the Collection Care and Conservation unit gets up to while Sheldon was filmed cleaning and discussing conservation concerns of the Irish elk specimen in the Westpac Long Gallery. Heather was also interviewed by Simon Marnie of the ABC Sydney radio weekend program, which focused on the new lab with viewing windows and the role of conservation in the Museum.
Image: Sheldon Teare navigating brush vacuuming around the Irish elk fossil.
Melissa Holt, Irene Finkelde and Clare Kim undertook treatment of a pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) to clean significant surface and ingrained dirt through brush vacuuming techniques. Minor treatments were also undertaken on other specimens to repair damaged or detached sections.
Rehousing Dry Types project
Irene and Melissa continue to work in the Mammals and Birds departments to assess and condition report Dry Type specimens. So far in the project they have completed 900 condition reports, with 6,000 documentation photographs captured and linked to the EMu database. Rehousing of type specimens has commenced and, so far, 500 specimens have been rehoused in custom-designed boxes and archival-grade materials.
Examples (before and after) of the delicate rehousing work being undertaken for Dry Type specimens.
Collection Enhancement Project
Clare has continued to liaise with Natural Sciences collection staff for the Collection Enhancement Project. Recently she has been undertaking Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy to build a spectral database of known reference samples and to analyse and identify samples of materials used for collection storage. This enables Collections Care and Conservation to provide recommendations about appropriate materials to use in the future for collection storage. Clare has been having discussions with the newly employed Technical Officers within the varying Natural Sciences disciplines to provide guidance about handling and supporting specimens during digitisation.
Sheldon has been working with Exhibitions teams to prepare the Wild Planet gallery for the Museum reopening. Specimens required pest management treatments and reshuffling into showcases. Sheldon has also assisted in the installation of some collection items into the temporary exhibition space Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family. Planning continues for the exhibitions program for 2021 and beyond with Robert Clendon planning for Unsettled in May 2021. Megan Dean-Jones can also begin planning for the assessment of hundreds of mineral specimens selected for the new permanent Minerals gallery.
Megan has also been focusing her attention on ensuring that material removed from exhibitions for safety reasons during the building works was reinstalled in time for opening. Megan primarily looked after the Westpac Long Gallery as well as the Surviving Australia Gallery. A series of display cases containing about 20 significant fossil skull and jaw specimens in Surviving Australia had to undergo structural and lighting upgrades. This provided Megan with a perfect window of opportunity to photograph and carry out comprehensive condition assessments on the fossils, which had never before been processed by Conservation.
Rehan, along with other Sydney conservators, has started an informal group centred around sharing ideas related to IPM, called ‘Warrang/Sydney IPM Group’. The group has allowed for sharing of resources and ideas with a geographic-specific approach.
The Australian Museum has upgraded its Hanwell remote environmental monitoring system. The system aims to improve reporting and analytics of storage environmental conditions. Future systems will include reporting and more detailed analytics of environment and preservation metrics.
Michael Kelly continues to condition check and document a returning loan of artefacts from the Museum’s Egyptian collection. This was a long-term loan to the University of Sydney’s former Nicholson Museum, and Macquarie University.
Staff have attended several online conferences and training courses. Sheldon, Clare, and Irene attended a Taxidermy course over three virtual sessions. Clare, Sheldon, Irene, Melissa, and Robert attended the NZCCM conference. Melissa and Robert also attended the IIC conference. Clare and Irene attended the 2020 Safety and Cultural Heritage Summit and Clare attended Plastics in Peril: Focus on Conservation of Polymeric Materials in Cultural Heritage. Sheldon and Rehan attended Inclusion Culture: Empowering LGBTQIA+ public servants in NSW. Rehan, Irene and Mel attended a virtual talk by Dr Sandy O’Sullivan on ‘The Colonial Project of Gender’. Rehan has completed an online course on IPM run by Gretchen Anderson through MuseumStudy.
Australian National Maritime Museum
Jeff Fox, Luci Ronai and Nick Flood have just had their fourth anniversary at the Museum. Not that it feels like four years. It’s been great working with you all.
Image: Alayne Alvis joins the team. Image by L Ronai.
In October, we welcomed Alayne Alvis to the team as Senior Conservator, Exhibitions. It’s been a blessing to have Alayne arrive during such a busy time. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our small team.
Image: ANMM commemorates the War in the Pacific. Image by N Flood.
For Remembrance Day a small commemoration ceremony was held in the Museum’s foyer. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific. Lest we forget.
Image: Engineers assess Downward force on an upward moving object (Wang Luyan). Image by N Flood.
In November, the site-specific sculptures Upward force on a downward moving object and Downward force on an upward moving object (Wang Luyan) received their annual inspections. Engineers assessed the artworks and made recommendation for their ongoing maintenance. Minor repairs are scheduled to take place early in the new year.
Image: Routine maintenance on the Seafarer’s Memorial by Jeff Fox. Image by L. Ronai
Jeff carried out routine maintenance on the Seafarer’s Memorial. This monument, comprising two large Admiralty-pattern mooring anchors, requires regular localised corrosion treatment and maintenance of the painted surface.
Sara Freeman travelled to the museum from the NLA to deliver and install Cook’s Secret Orders into our Under Southern Skies gallery. With this loan arriving, we have removed the facsimile of the object we had standing in its place. As the months go on, with each page turn we’re looking forward to seeing more and more of the real thing.
Image: North and South (Neil Frazer) moves out of storage and onto display for the first time. Image by L. Ronai
Image: Muriel Binney’s Sydney Harbour panoramic frieze in photography. Image by L Ronai.
It’s not every day that a museum gets a new gallery space. The new Sydney Harbour Gallery connects the main galleries of the Museum to the redeveloped event space on the Ben Lexcen Terrace. Nick and Luci prepared objects for display, including the huge diptych North and South (Neil Frazer) and facsimiles of the Binney frieze.
Image: Gallery view of the Paradise Lost exhibition. Image by L Ronai.
Paradise Lost: Daniel Solander’s Legacy is a touring exhibition from the Embassy of Sweden, Canberra, and the Solander Gallery, Wellington. It consists of 10 loan works on paper. While at the museum they are paired with eight Banks’ Florilegium prints from the National Maritime Collection.
Image: Opalised plesiosaur specimens in the Sea Monsters exhibition. Image by A Frolows
Over a two-week period during the deinstallation of the Sea Monsters exhibition, Nick, Alayne and Jeff fitted out boxes and crates for the loan objects that will be journeying with this travelling exhibition. Some of this packing really challenged our grey matter. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun finding creative solutions for difficult-to-pack objects.
Image: Luci and Jeff at the end of a difficult installation period. Image by N Flood.
Image: Nick and Nicole Dahlberg (Exhibitions Coordinator) harnessed in to install a paddle for the Alick Tipoti exhibition. Image by L Ronai.
Mariw Minaral (Spiritual Patterns) is an exciting exhibition on the work of Torres Strait artist Alick Tipoti. Luci, Agata, Jeff and Alayne took on the heroic task of mounting and framing seven of Alick’s very large lino prints. Meanwhile, Nick prepared the exhibition’s 3D objects and even had the chance to do some ‘honest’ work, welding up several of the object supports for the show.
ANMM hosts Defying Empire, a free exhibition from the NGA. Screenshot from ANMM website.
The ANMM is hosting the NGA’s Defying Empire exhibition on the last leg of its Third National Indigenous Art Triennial tour. Tina Baum (Curator), Kathleen Worboys (Project Officer) and David Wise travelled from Canberra for the install. Having been through this process numerous times already, it was impressive to see the team from the NGA work like a well-oiled machine.
Conference or webinar attendance
A number of us in the lab donned our headphones as we worked and ‘attended’ the NZCCM Virtual Conference 2020. Congratulations to the NZCCM for a fine example of what can be achieved in these times.
Image: Luci Ronai in her recent Conservation Starter video. Image by L Ronai.
With her most recent video about Ask a Conservator Day, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5ewOcZ_JUo, Luci has recently reached the 20-video mark on her YouTube channel The Conservation Starter. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4r66EnLu8RyDfrA0kaxgrQ.
Image: Ask a Conservator Day on Instagram. Images by L Signorelli and A Frolows.
ANMM too got into the spirit of Ask a Conservator Day. The whole team contributed to the Instagram story: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17848509104395577/. Thanks to @pinknantucket and @AICCM_OZ for their Twitter questions about rusticles and shipwrecks.
Chau Chak Wing Museum (CCWM), The University of Sydney
After 12 years working for the Sydney University Museums, Alayne Alvis moved onto other adventures at the Australian National Maritime Museum, working within their Conservation Department. Alayne’s extensive knowledge and skills with everything conservation (and knitting!) are greatly missed!
It was sad to see Gemma Torra i Campos finish up with us in November. Visiting from Barcelona, Gemma started working with the CCWM team in February 2020. She treated many significant objects from the Nicholson, Macleay and the University Art collections leading up to the opening of the new museum. One iconic piece Gemma worked on is the LEGO replica of Pompeii now on display in the Roman Spectres exhibition.
Image: Gemma Torra i Campos cleaning the LEGO Pompeii. Chau Chak Wing Museum 2020
From August to November we were lucky to have Kyra Kim and Colin MacGregor working with us in Conservation to treat a variety of objects, to install exhibitions, to conduct environmental monitoring of the new spaces and to assist in the relocation of collections.
Image: Kyra Kim installing a brushturkey. Chau Chak Wing Museum 2020
Colin was on hand to treat and install collections from North East Arnhem Land as part of the new Gululu dhuwala Djalkiri: Welcome to the Yolngu Foundations exhibition. Colin also spent time treating small paintings from the Power Collection and a variety of objects for the Object/Art/Specimen exhibition.
Image: Colin MacGregor carrying out a consolidation treatment. Chau Chak Wing Museum 2020
Kyra packed scientific instruments prior to the collection relocation. She furthered her treatment skills, stabilising mounted fish specimens from the Macleay Collections prior to installation in the Natural Selections exhibition. She also cleaned and inpainted existing fills on an Egyptian sarcophagus now on display in Object/Art/Specimen. In addition, Kyra created a variety of mounts for objects from the Egyptian Collection, which are now on display in the exhibitions Pharaonic Obsessions and The Mummy Room.
Madeleine Snedden is currently acting in the role of Conservator and has been kept very very busy leading up to the opening!
The Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney opened to the public on Wednesday 18 November. Opening with 18 new exhibitions, 70 per cent of the items on display have not been seen publicly for over 20 years. The exhibitions consist of 3,500 objects on display from the Nicholson Collection of antiquities and archaeology, the Macleay Collections of natural history, ethnography, science and historic photography, and the University Art Collection.
Fox and Hinge
Off to a flying start!
Come the end of 2020, Fox & Hinge Conservation will be celebrating its first four months of operation – six months since its establishment, allowing for two months of initial set-up of physical spaces, equipment installation and lab commissioning.
With Wendi Powell as Head of Paper Conservation, Fox & Hinge is serving private, institutional and commercial clients in treating the full range of paper media, from artworks to maps, plans, books and documents, along with vellum, parchment, photographs, mixed media and three-dimensional paper-based works.
Recent weeks have seen a pleasing flow of such works through F&HC’s doors, including works by artists Norman Lindsay, William Dobell, Brett Whiteley, Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, H Tebbitt and F McCubbin. These have found their way back to delighted owners following treatment. Pleasingly too, many of these works saw their refreshed state enhanced by framing at the hands of the team at Sophie Brown Conservation Framing, F&HC’s sister business.
The early months of operation would seem to validate the thinking behind the establishment of Fox & Hinge Conservation: as a business in its own right, filling a market niche, and as the natural adjunct to Sophie Brown’s conservation framing business.
F&HC is now up and running, with space for growth a bonus. Some of that space currently lends itself to the hosting of professional talks and presentations – events that, we hope, will further assist the development of a collective of interests centred on artworks, from their inception to their ongoing protection, preservation and management.
Early next year we will be seeking to expand the team so if you have an interest in joining us we would love to hear from you!
This year, 2020, was a challenge for all of us and in so many ways. We would like to think that 2021 will see us not only regain the COVID lost ground but break new one through the power of active collaboration. Please think of Fox & Hinge Conservation as a keen participant in any such movement with fellow professionals.
For further information, please contact:
Wendi Powell, Head of Paper Conservation,
Fox & Hinge Conservation
02 9518 6677
Sophie Brown, Director,
Fox & Hinge Conservation
02 9518 0624
International Conservation Services
ICS is fortunate to have won a number of awards over the years for conservation projects but few have been as satisfying as winning the 2020 National Trust Heritage Award (Conservation of Interiors) for our work on the Butterfly Room at the State Theatre, Sydney.
The character lounges or retiring rooms are one of the unique features of the 1929 State Theatre being themed gender-specific ante rooms to the theatre’s bathrooms. The Butterfly Room was designed to evoke a luxurious and uniquely feminine atmosphere at the State Theatre, with exquisite butterfly murals and the butterfly theme taken up in the furniture, carpet and mirrors.
By the year 2000, no obvious traces of the original Butterfly Room murals and decorative finishes remained and the walls were finished with numerous coats of paint and wallpaper. Over two and a half years, ICS meticulously removed the later paint layers on the moulded plaster butterflies on the ceiling and carefully removed the wallpaper and later paint layers on the walls and joinery.
The project has been technically challenging, and was executed by various teams of ICS conservators as opportunities between use of the theatre occurred. Overseen by Adam Godijn, our conservators include Matteo Volonte, Eden Christian, Claire Heasman, Suati Rojas, Arek Werstak, and Jennifer O’Connell.
The project contributes to our knowledge of the appearance of rich interwar decorative schemes in an extremely important and beloved Australian theatre. The conserved Butterfly Room is now a unique window into 1929.
Image: Butterfly Room conserved panel
Image: Matteo Volonte and Jennifer O’Connell conserving the Butterfly Room.
Image: The Butterfly Room during treatment.
Objects & Outdoor Heritage
Tracey Emin is famous for her confessional and autobiographical works but perhaps less known for the variety of media she works in, which includes bronze. A recent work involved placing over 60 life-size bronze birds in and around a number of buildings on Bridge St in Sydney. Earlier in 2020, ICS prepared a maintenance schedule for the artist’s studio and the City of Sydney.
Claire Rowson and Amy Walsh have just completed a round of conservation maintenance on these exquisite artworks and become very attached to them in the process.
Image: Amy Walsh and Claire Rowson with Tracey Emin’s Distance of your Heart. Photo credit: City of Sydney.
Tracey Emin, Distance of your Heart. Photo credit: City of Sydney.
The gardens of the National Trust Norman Lindsay Gallery at Springwood have an outstanding collection of original sculptures made by Norman Lindsay. The sculptures were modelled by the artist in cementitious mortars on armatures of steel bars, chicken mesh and fly-screen mesh. They have survived very well considering the materials and construction, but are beginning to need careful conservation works to their increasingly friable surfaces and structures.
ICS has been working with the NLG over many years, advising on and undertaking conservation works. The most recent of these highly fulfilling experiences was undertaken by Wendy Reade and Sergio Merida.
In November they undertook essential conservation works to four sculpture groups:
- the Woman Sitting with two female fauns
- the Squatting Satyr
- the female overlooking the pool
- the urn to the right side of the entrance path.
Fractures were grouted, exposed metal armature was stabilised, and discreet fills were undertaken to prevent water entering the body of the sculptures. All the works needed to be carefully tended during their curing period.
Image: Wendy Reade conserving Norman Lindsay Squatting Satyr.
Image: Sergio Merida conserving the Norman Lindsay Woman Sitting with two female fauns.
Image: Norman Lindsay Woman Sitting with two female fauns during treatment.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Trish Stokes has been appointed as Head of Collections. The MAAS Conservation Department will miss having Trish as Conservation Manager but are confident she will achieve great success in her new role.
Jessica Gray has been appointed as Conservation Laboratory Technical Officer. Jessica will be managing our environmental monitoring and IPM programs and assisting with the identification and management of hazardous material.
The Collections Relocation and Digitisation (CRD) project welcomes assistant conservators Danica Auld, Shubham Shrivastava, Anurati Krishnamurthy, Amy Heffernan and Jacinta Sanders. Ruth Drayson has returned from working at the State Library of NSW and Kyra Kim from working at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney.
Gosia Dudek has gone on long service leave but will be returning to MAAS in the new year.
Conservation scientist Sue Gatenby is retiring after 40 years in the industry. In her 27 years at MAAS Sue has undertaken numerous internal and external research projects. She would like to thank all her colleagues and friends for their support throughout her professional career.
Project and treatment update
The CRD Conservation Team has been condition reporting Category A objects, including the contents of the Governor General’s Carriage. They have also been treating a collection of Aligarh pottery and stabilising architectural plans from the Tooth & Co archive.
The CRD Hazards Team has been documenting, labelling and re-housing a collection of historic chemicals. They have also been reviewing how the Museum manages batteries and radioactive material in the collection.
The CRD Special Collections Team has completed conservation assessments on 79 archives including those of brewer Tooth & Co, Mercedes Australian Fashion Week, fashion photographer Bruno Benini, Massa Marttima , shoe company Joseph Box London, underwear design and manufacturing company Berlei Ltd, AFL’s Sydney Swans, and signwriting and graphic design studio Rousel Studios. The team has also commenced assessment of the arms and armoury collection and Speedo archive.
The Sydney Observatory is undergoing refurbishment after consultation with a heritage architect. We are planning to have artists-in-residence programs at the observatory early next year.
Plans are in the final stages for a new store at the Museum Discovery Centre, Castle Hill.
Upcoming exhibitions include Shape and Student Fashion. A new transport display and an exhibition of Persian art to celebrate Persian New Year are also in the works.
This month we prepared and installed objects at the Museum of Sydney for the exhibition Paradise on Earth and at the Chau Chak Wing Museum for the exhibition China: Auspicious creatures.
Several late-notice loans are also about to open to the public with two large tapestries travelling to Artisan in Brisbane for display in Drawn Thread and a collection of photographic equipment travelling to La Perouse Museum for display in Max Dupain and La Perouse: The Caltex Story.
What a rollercoaster of a year! O’Sullivan Conservation has continued its growth strategy this quarter, with keys to new premises picked up in November. Although the space is newly constructed and has not yet been fitted out, the team is excited for the opportunity to design a custom studio. With 170 square metres of floor space, a 5-metre-high roller door, and overall height of 7.5 metres, the building offers plenty of opportunity for long-term growth and the ability to undertake large-scale projects in-house. In addition to the exciting new premises, we are keeping our existing workshop for the treatment of smaller and more delicate pieces.
Image: The team in their new ‘office’, excited by the opportunity to argue over interior design preferences.
We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Hannah on her receipt of a Postgraduate High Achievers Award from the University of Newcastle. Hannah graduated with a double master’s in Business Administration and International Business earlier this year and this award recognises all the hard work she put in, achieving a distinction average in both degrees.
Additionally, Kaleigh has joined AICCM and both Eoin and Kaleigh have become members of the American Institute of Conservation (AIC), broadening their professional horizons and learning opportunities.
Recent projects include the UNSW Sculpture Walk maintenance works, as well as major treatments on two sculptures, Bronwyn Oliver’s Globe and Patricia Lawrence’s Torso Turning. The conservation of two lamp pillars from the Macquarie Street frontage of Sydney Hospital, which involved recoating of the pillars and the casting of a replacement for a missing element, was undertaken in October. The pillars and associated lanterns were returned dismantled to allow for rewiring. Treatment of a collection of Asian furniture and objects on behalf of a private client was also completed this quarter. Upcoming projects include treatment of a bronze sculpture located in a pond that contains freshwater eels, a task presenting new challenges regarding access and treatment.
Image: Eoin inpainting a Jubako box.
Image: Eoin reapplying wax to Globe.
Hannah and Eoin both virtually attended several of the sessions of the IIC built heritage conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, in November. Eoin especially enjoyed the session ‘Mind the Shadow Gap: Reflecting on 20 Years of the Museum of Scotland and Looking Forward to the Future’, a particularly engaging topic given his history with the museum.
Preservation Australia and Conservation Resources
Having finally vacated the studio in August, it seemed fitting to provide a last update on the two businesses. Conservation Resources has essentially closed – but the archival polyester sleeves and beautiful archival presentation boxes (i.e. Solander boxes) can still be ordered. The website is being updated very soon to reflect those changes. Conservation Supplies, a new business based at Andersen’s Bindery in Sydney has taken on some of the other products previously sold by Conservation Resources.
Through Preservation Australia, Kay Söderlund is still offering preventive conservation consulting and her regular workshops, but has closed the studio and hands-on work is no longer being accepted. Most of the studio equipment went to two conservation studios (friends and colleagues) in Sydney – Tess Evans of Heights Heritage Conservation, and Wendi Powell of the new Fox and Hinge Conservation. Very happy about that!
While the bulk of Kay’s library is on loan with Fox and Hinge, she does have quite a few texts that she no longer wants to keep. At some stage (!) she will draw up a list and send it through to AICCM members, but meanwhile, if you are looking for something in particular, it may be worthwhile to contact her.
Image: PA studio – finally empty
Kay’s last major project in the studio was a simple treatment of a significant Torah from the Rare Books collection of the University of Sydney. The Torah is 22 metres long and is made up of 51 sheets of parchment sewn together and attached at either end to a wooden roller. Prior to treatment, several small samples of the parchment were taken by ANSTO to undertake radiocarbon dating, as it is thought to be one of the oldest intact Torahs in the world. Unfortunately, the testing has been delayed due to COVID-19, so results aren’t yet available. The treatment involved surface cleaning, repairing lost stitching to secure the sheets, and mending tears and holes. These repairs were carried out using three-layer caecum with gelatin mousse as the adhesive. This was a new technique for Kay, who is indebted to Libby Melzer from Grimwade Conservation Services for all her advice, assistance and supply of the appropriate gelatin. Libby was very generous with her advice, even hosting a Zoom webinar for those in Sydney interested in the technique.
For Kay, it was lovely to have this as her last major project, not only because of the nature of the object, but mainly due to the fun of learning a new technique at the end of her hands-on career.
Image: : Not even half of the Torah!
Image: Torah during treatment.
She also had a lovely well-attended (as much as COVID could allow) farewell morning tea at the studio, with some reminiscing amongst friends and colleagues about the years they have all known each other. Conservation is such a special profession to allow these relationships to develop and strengthen throughout our careers. And there was a LOT of cake!
While Kay may have retired, she is still intending to remain actively involved in the profession, particularly through being the AICCM representative on Blue Shield Australia.
State Library of NSW
Exhibition and Loans Team
Helen Casey is researching historical navigational instruments to inform treatment and display in the new SLNSW Maps Room and in our upcoming 2021 exhibition Mapping the Pacific. Cath Bartley has been working on preparing nearly 200 items for display in the Library’s new exhibition, Coming Out in the 70s. It has been a challenging design layout to fit all items into a single gallery space. Helen and Cath are also preparing to take down four large portrait paintings on long-term loan to Parliament House, Sydney. The paintings have been on loan since 1985 and will come back to the Library temporarily to be digitised for the first time. Helen and Cath both enjoyed the online IMF2020 conference – an excellent resource for new ideas for displaying collection items. Private conservator Michelle Wassell took on a very tricky varnish removal for a newly acquired Herbert Badham painting, Hazy Morning, 1944. Michelle’s treatment has transformed the very discoloured painting, which will soon return to the Library for display on the new acquisitions wall in the Paintings galleries in time for the holiday season. David Butler has made a 1940’s-style frame for the work to complement the new look of the painting. David has also completed a fourth frame in the style of colonial frame-maker Solomon Lewis for a painting by Maurice Felton as part of the Library’s privately sponsored Felton Framing Project – it will also go on display in the Paintings galleries.
The Preservation Team has been helping out our Exhibitions and Loans colleagues, with work on Coming Out in the 70s, opened 28 November. This has a wide variety of items with a range of different display requirements. We cut Softlon circles to hold badges, placed magnets in t-shirt-shaped mountboard to display protest shirts, and constructed a variety of book supports using our new favourite lavender mount board. We have also assisted in preparing items for the new Maps Gallery to open next month. As well as mounting and framing original historic maps, we have prepared mounts for high-quality prints of subdivision plans from around Sydney, constructed shelving inserts for books to be displayed in bookcases, and placed maps in Mylar sleeves to enable readers to view them in display drawers. On top of all this, new collections keep coming in at a rate of knots, keeping us busy in the quarantine room, checking boxes, freezing and cleaning out boxes and tubs of assorted archives.
The Collection Care Digital Excellence Program (DEP) team has been busy assessing county plans for treatment and to send to offsite digitisation. The plans are of the original 19 counties of NSW and range from small hand-drawn iron gall ink sketches to printed lithographs. Some are in very poor condition and require considerable treatment before digitisation. The team has also been connecting to colleagues working from home (including overseas) with weekly endband practical tutorials. Below are examples of endbands created by the ‘Endbandits’ group. They include Islamic style endbands—the Southeast Asian chevron and chessboard-pattern endband—as described by Karin Scheper’s article ‘Endband varieties in the Islamic world’, and Coptic headband and plain wound double headband, as described in Greenfield and Hille’s ‘Headbands: How to work them’.
Images: Examples of endbands made by the ‘Endbandits’. Top left and bottom left: Southeast Asian chevron endband. Mid left: chessboard-pattern endband. Top right: Coptic headband. Bottom right: plain wound double headband. Images collated by Hoa Huynh.
Kiki Lawler-Dormer and Hoa Huynh have completed recordings of lightning talks for the upcoming virtual 2020 Conference and Annual Meeting of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC), hosted by the State Library on 2–4 December. In these talks, Kiki and Hoa discuss the workflow cycle of the Motion Picture Film Preservation Project, and potential research outcomes with digitised images of Aboriginal petroglyphs from William Dugald Campbell’s Aboriginal carvings, Port Jackson and Broken Bay, 1893–1896.
Paper and Photographs Team
The Paper and Photographs Team has been busy on-site since June, completing works for the upcoming Maps Room installation. There are 28 maps to be installed and although some have had minor treatment, others such as a 1781 reprinting of an Albrecht Dürer map of the world have been interesting treatments for Cecilia Harvey. Like many of the Library’s map collection, the Dürer map had been fully mounted to a canvas backing with animal glue, probably during the 1950s. Upon removing the canvas backing, which was distorting the map, Cecilia revealed hidden inscriptions and also the watermark IAV-WOLFEG from a German paper mill of the late 18th century. After washing and repair, the work has been pressed, mounted and framed ready for the Maps Room opening in January 2021.
The team has also commenced the survey of over 550 miniatures in the collection. These items are enormously diverse, from early cased photographs and tintypes to miniatures on ivory and paper. The team of Nichola Parshall, Kate Hughes and Wendy Richards aims to look at condition and to prioritise items for treatment, as well as digitisation and housing of the collection. This work has also given the team the opportunity to examine the additional notes and information often stored with the objects, including one from 1951 that noted that the miniature was repaired with Tarzan’s Grip adhesive in that year!
In preparation for the exhibition Coming out in the 70s conservators Trish Leen and Kate Hughes were faced with the challenge of consolidating silver glitter onto a matt fluorescent pink screenprint. Discreet testing of adhesives was done to ensure the consolidant would not affect the surface reflectance of the fluorescent ink or glitter. Bermacoll was the perfect match and the poster has been returned to its sparkling glory.
Images of glittered screenprint item in its sparkly glory after consolidation. Images: Kate Hughes.
Dana Kahabka has formulated a useful range of concentrated polymer solutions from hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC) in ethanol, into their entangled state, with the aim of removing an aged triterpenoid varnish from a paper-based 17th-century Dutch map, Bonaparte Tasman Map. The dissolution of the glossy varnish was achieved by impeding the flow of solvent from the viscous HPC solution into the varnish with applications of 7wt% to 10wt% of HPC (1,000,000 molecular weight) through a barrier layer of porous abaca tissue. Approximately 70 per cent of the glossy varnish has been successfully removed.
Image: Bonaparte Tasman Map during treatment with 70 per cent of varnish reduced. Image: Dana Kahabka.
Book, Objects and Paintings Team
The BOP Team has been supporting the Library’s resumed exhibition program, making book cradles and treating items for display for interstate and in-house exhibitions (Pandemic, the Maps Room and New Acquisitions), as well as continuing minor repairs on our rare books collection. The rare book survey, put on hold during the shutdown, is recommencing, with the team also undertaking some rehousing of volumes identified as being in need during the earlier completed portions of the survey.
Collection Care Conservation Labs update
The SLNSW conservation labs were last refurbished in the 1980s and since then significant changes in work practices and space requirements have occurred. The Branch has grown while the accommodation has shrunk. The role of the Branch within SLNSW has also evolved, and we have been required to relocate some functions due to building refurbishment, which has meant that spaces are being used for functions for which they were not designed. In addition, over the past two years, new exhibition galleries have doubled the exhibition space of the Library. This in turn has placed greater demands on conservation spaces already stretched to capacity.
In 2019, after some years of false starts and funding issues, we secured donor funding to support the provision of new and larger conservation labs. Since May 2020, there has been a frenzy of demolition and building work converting an old library stack and office spaces into our new facilities.
For the first time, the Ainsworth Conservation Laboratories (official name) will accommodate all the conservators in one location in larger and dedicated spaces for specialist conservation work. The new laboratories will support Foundation events and enable the Library to schedule educational tours for the public to showcase in-house conservation expertise.
The suite of spaces consists of three labs, a photographic/analytical room, an admin area, a secure room for collection items awaiting work, and storage rooms for materials and equipment. The two main spaces, Lab 1 and Lab 2, will provide increased space for all conservation activities. In addition, we will have a dedicated laboratory for conservation treatments requiring the use of specialist solvents, as well as a separate space to undertake treatment photography and analysis of collection items using microscopy and XRF. The increased space for aqueous treatments allows for improved handling and treatment.
Associated with the new labs will be the subsequent refurbishment of the existing Domain Lab and the Shakespeare Lab. The Domain Lab will be refurbished to house large equipment (moved from the back-of-house area) as well as some materials storage. It is envisaged that framing, collection housing, boxing, box-making and mount-cutting will have dedicated space in the Domain Lab along with occasional conservation treatment work, and the Shakespeare Lab will become a quarantine space for screening, documentation and housing of incoming acquisitions prior to storage. Our existing quarantine space is temporary and inadequate.
Overall, the space for the Collection Care Branch has increased from 517sqm in the existing spaces to approximately 705sqm.
With luck, by the time you read this the build will be complete. We plan on moving into the labs at the end of Jan 2021 and we promise some photos in the next newsletter.