Newsletter Issue Number:
AICCM National Newsletter No 137 March 2017


National Library of Australia

Treatment projects

The team has been enthusiastically sharing the skills knowledge gained from the conference and applying it to collection material – for example repairing glass plate negatives and fibre analysis.

We are also excited to be working with our Photography team to use Reflected Transformation Imaging (RTI) to closely and interactively capture and enhance the surface of an object highlighting its texture, shape, and colour, allowing a closer examination of a wide range of objects! We have included an image of creased crepe paper, highlighting a variety of surface features by reducing the colour and shifting the angle of the light in a 3D shape created by combining a multiple still digital images taken with differing but measured and known angles of light. This can aid greatly with the identification of materials, techniques of manufacture, condition reporting, and treatment options.

Craig McKenzie and Freya Merrell capturing images using RTI. Image: Freya Merrell

Plain image of crepe paper. Image: Freya Merrell

RTI enhanced image of crepe paper. Image: Freya Merrell
RTI enhanced image of crepe paper – zoomed in. Image: Freya Merrell


It was another busy year in the exhibitions area, not only with comings and goings of staff, but objects too! Celestial Empire: Life in China 1644 – 1911 wrapped up in May 2016, followed by Australian Sketchbook- colonial life and the art of ST Gill, a travelling exhibition that was also on display at the State Library of Victoria.

This was followed by The Sell: Australia advertising 1790s-1990s, which is currently on display until 25 April this year. We are also gearing up for our upcoming exhibition, Melodrama in Meiji Japan, which has a delightful spread of Japanese woodblock prints with some impressive pigments and handmade papers on display in our temporary exhibition gallery from 24 May – 20 August 2017.

Our Treasures gallery has seen a number of rotations including the Hardy Wilson display accompanying the Celestial Empire exhibition, followed by And the Band played on, which was deinstalled late last year. We are currently preparing for a new Treasures Gallery iteration which will see more than 100 new objects in the exhibition, replacing over 80 of those currently on display. These include miniatures, bindings, parchment documents, maps, and photographs.

We are also investigating new electronic forms of condition reporting using Microsoft surface tablets and OneNote, to create an electronic form of handwriting, helping the Library meet our goal of a paperless Library by 2020, and hopefully making condition reporting quicker and easier to prevent double handling.

Conference attendance

Janet McDonald, Sara Freeman, Karen Holloway, Suzi Knedlhans, Rachel Sawicki, Melanie Sorenson, and Erika Mordek attended the AICCM Book and Paper Symposium in October 2016. Both Lisa Jeong-Reuss and Freya Merrellattended and presented at the Symposium.


In May last year, we undertook book conservation training with the wonderful Joy Tonkin, creating book models and learning conservation techniques. We are all very excited and looking forward to the bookbinding conference to be held in Canberra in March this year!

The Preservation team is also taking part in an internal book skills workshop kindly run by the amazing Rachel to increase our knowledge and skills on current book conservation, highlighting international understandings, standards, and practices.

As part of the 9th AICCM Book, Paper, and Photographic Materials Symposium in October, the NLA Preservation team hosted two fantastic workshops, the first concentrated on preparing books for storage and display led by Sarah Bunn, a paper conservator at the Art Gallery of NSW; and the second workshop focused on new methods of reattaching detached boards on leather bindings with Anthony Zammit, a book conservator in private practice.

Denyl Cloughley, Rachel Sawickiand Freya Merrell were recently interviewed by the ABC 666 radio for a piece featuring the Preservation lab and a brief and playful insight to conservation. Freyawas also interviewed in June last year by ABC 666 radio, for quick look at one of our beautiful medieval manuscripts and its unique history and minor conservation treatment.

Social News

Comings and goings of staff 

The National Library of Australia has had a busy year with lots of comings and goings of staff!

Our Preservation Branch Manager, Cornel Platzer, has been on leave since October, returning later this month. We have had the lovely opportunity to have Martin Woods, our Maps curator, join our team during this time and keep things running smoothly!

Karen Holloway has recently moved into her new role as combined Preventive Conservation and Digitisation officer. She has been diligently working on environmental monitoring of the Library’s collection areas together with disaster preparedness and pest management throughout the Library. The Library has had a number of changes to the Digitisation program workflows, and Karen has been doing a great job keeping the team on track.

Early last year, we welcomed our wonderful exhibitions conservator, Suzi Knedlhans, who did a fantastic job over the course of the year working with Chinese conservators and staff from the National Library of China for our Celestial Empire: Life in China 1644- 1911 exhibition, and organizing the many exhibitions we had through the year including our upcoming Japanese exhibition, Melodrama in Meiji Japan, where she was able to draw on her skills and experience from her background and training in Japanese conservation. We sadly said farewell to Suzi in December and she is now working in a highly competitive role at DFAT.

We are all excited to have our book conservator, Rachel Sawicki, step into her new role as our Exhibitions Conservator, and she has hit the ground running, doing a superb job we must say!

Congratulations to Sara Freeman who has been doing a magnificent job as our collection maintenance conservator for the past twelve months or so, revamping the workflows of the program and organizing and prioritizing a large volume of backlogged treatments, coordinating with collection managers and staff all over the library! We have also welcomed back Melanie Sorenson from maternity leave, and who is currently in charge of the collection maintenance program. She is also doing an incredible job prioritising material for treatment and continuing to restructure the program to suit the needs of the Preservation team and the Library. We are all looking forward to March when we will welcome back Susanne Wullen who has been on leave for 12 months, and cannot wait to hear of her stories of her life of luxury.

We have also gladly welcomed back the wonderful Erika Mordek to the Preservation team, who is doing a fine job assisting both Rachel and Karen in their respective programs.

We are also very pleased to welcome Anna Kalloudis, a current student at the University of Canberra studying a Bachelor of Heritage Museums and Conservation, who is working with us on a rehousing/boxing project using our latest addition – the GUNNAR AiOX mat and box cutting machine!

Anna Kalloudis and her buddy, the Gunnar. Image: Freya Merrell

The Gunnar gets its close up. Image Freya Merrell

Sally Kilby, a Master of Cultural Materials Conservation student from the University of Melbourne, was our intern in October 2016 for three weeks following the 9th AICCM Book, Paper, and Photographic Materials Symposium.

We are also excited to have our previous University of Melbourne intern, Celeste Kuypers, working with our digital preservation team on a project to remove data from physical carriers.

National Archives of Australia – Canberra office

New building

The preservation team at the National Archives in Canberra is very excited indeed about our imminent move into a brand new lab and office in a brand new building! The National Archives Preservation Facility (NAPF) is just a mile up the road from the repository where our lab currently sits. We were lucky enough to get a sneaky peek at our new digs a few weeks ago, and can report that the lab is huge, with a lovely big south-facing window, lots of electrical sockets, and the biggest sink we have ever seen. We move in on 20 March, and hopefully within a few months we will be able to invite our colleagues to come and have a look!

Since our last report, the National Archives collection in Canberra has gone into lockdown so that it can be moved into the NAPF. Caroline Milne is currently on secondment to the team managing Preservation issues to do with the move, and she has really had her work cut out for her, keeping on top of what is moving when, and to where, and making sure it stays safe throughout the process. In the midst of this, Caroline gave an interview to ABC radio about her work on the conservation of a Robur Tea poster designed by William Blamire Young – she presented a paper about this project at the 2015 AICCM National Conference. An article based on the interview is featured on the ABC website.

The move of our collection means that the usual stream of on-demand work has ceased, as well as all our ongoing projects – a great opportunity for us to do some professional development in all the time that has been freed up! Many of the conservators have been practising their book repair skills, from replacing spines to complete pull-downs and rebinds.  Sally Kneebone gave us a refresher workshop in tape and stain removal, which kept some of us busy for days as we tested different mechanical and solvent treatments.

Treatment projects

Apart from the poster treatment mentioned above, some collection-based work has trickled in to the lab,. This has included many boxes of incoming passenger cards from the 1950s and 60s which are in line for digitisation – unfortunately, many pairs of cards were stuck together with deteriorated rubber bands. Everyone pitched in to separate the cards carefully, ensuring that none of the information written on the cards was lost; earlier attempts to separate the cards by pulling them apart (perhaps by the agency where they came from) had resulted in major skinning of the information on the card at the back of the pair. We were able to refine a mechanical method to separate the cards and remove as much hardened rubber band as possible while retaining almost all the inscriptions. This involved breaking up the rubber residue by hitting or crushing it and reducing it to fine loose particles, before scraping off the remainder. 360 pairs of cards were successfully separated this way.

Due to changed venue circumstances the Lab team had to work together at short notice and under tight time constraints to prepare a large number of facsimiles for exhibition. Travis Taylor led the charge to get all the facsimiles printed, trimmed and mounted in just a couple of days, to ensure they get to the venue before the official opening of the exhibition.


Prue McKay gave a short floor talk at Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) on 2 March, where some Archives collection items are on display in the Memory of the World in Canberra exhibition. This exhibition showcases objects from Canberra-based collections that are inscribed on the UNESCO Memory Of The World Register. The Archives is proud to be the guardian of four sets of records on the Register: The Griffin plans for Canberra; Records of the High Court of Australia; Records of displaced persons – Europeans who migrated to Australia after World War II; Landmark constitutional documents of the Commonwealth of Australia; and the F.E. Williams Papuan photographic collection, of which examples from the latter four are on loan to CMAG for the exhibition.


State Library of Victoria

Conservation projects

In Conservation, treatment priorities continue to focus on preparation for exhibitions, loans and digitisation programs. The top priority in paper conservation has been in the treatment of Alistair Knox architectural drawings on transparent papers for digitisation. Considering the large volume of plans in this collection (c.1969-1980), requiring varying levels of cleaning and tear repair, we have been trialling a different approach to repairing transparent papers. The paper team are using a treatment proposed by Jessica McElhinney in her Master’s thesis ‘Repairing tears in post-1950 impregnated translucent papers’ (2016), which uses a heat-set repair of Lascaux® 498HV and Paper Nao RK-0 tissue applied with the tacking iron at 80ºC, with good results. The repair is unobtrusive and secure, withstanding handling required during digitisation.

The paper conservation team have also been using a number of new conservation materials and techniques in the lab, including Klucel G, Aquazol 200, and gellan gum. Staffhave been regularly employing Klucel G, typically in ethanol or acetone, for the reduction of tape stains with excellent results. Katy Glen has used Aquazol 200 in the consolidation of lifting emulsion on a glass plate negative. Gellan gum has been used for localised humidification purposes during backing removals; however, we look forward to exploring its stain reduction qualities.

Preservation projects

In Preservation, collection project work continues for the Library’s redevelopment, Vision 2020. Since May of last year, Preservation staff have re-housed over 400 boxes of collection material, primarily Manuscript and Picture Collections, and relocated nearly 80 collections both onsite and to our Ballarat offsite store. Custom enclosures have been made for bound volumes of Australian maps and parish plans, Victorian Cricket Association minute books and 1960s account books from a co-operative store in Maldon.

The digitising program has brought to light some interesting collections including the wonderful serial Madame Weigel’s Journal of Fashion, containing patterns and images of early 20th century fashion. Preservation surveys include the assessment of the large and beautiful 19th century playbills from the George Coppin theatre collection; many will require Conservation treatment prior to image capture. Another challenge for Preservation is the preparation for digitisation of  The Ballarat Evening Echo from 1914-1918, which was edited at the time by James Scullin who later became the Prime Minister of Australia. These twelve volumes spanning WWI are extremely fragile, brittle and damaged, with variations in the sizes of the editions. They will be difficult to treat and problematic to handle and digitise, even after treatment.


In book conservation, Ian Cox and Katrina Ben have been preparing a number of artist books and zines for an exhibition that will be touring after it opens at the Library. Of particular interest, Ian and Katrina aredeveloping a display solution for an artist book with concertina binding. The design must adequately support the complex structure (7.5m in length), be inconspicuous and withstand the rigors of touring.

Conference attendance

Albertine Hamilton and Marika Kocsis are currently preparing a presentation regarding the conservation treatment of Meek’s Atlas for the ANZ Maps Conference, taking place from 22–23 May 2017 in Melbourne. This will coincide with a tour of the Library’s conservation lab for registered conference attendees, interested in the care of maps, books and atlases.

National Gallery of Victoria

Treatment Projects

In the paintings conservation studio work has continued steadily over the summer period, during which a number of major treatments have been brought to completion.  John Payne has completed his additional work on the fifteenth-century Venetian panel, The Garden of Love, and has furthermore designed, constructed, gilded and patinated a new cassetta-style frame which better accommodates the painting than its previous nineteenth-century Tabernacle frame.

Raye Collins completed her treatment of Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square, and has overseen the exhibition preparation for the large NGV survey of the paintings of John Olsen.  Carl Villis finished his long restoration of Paolo Veronese’s large allegory, Nobleman between and Active and Contemplative Life and is now working on a brace of smaller-scale treatments with a particular focus on trying out new resins and different approaches to varnishing, particularly with the spray gun.

The paper studio has been preparing work for upcoming exhibitions and permanent collection change overs. Ruth Shervington has recently stabilised a Japanese scroll from the Edo period, Three Samurai by Nanrei Suzuki in preparation for hanging inside the tea ceremony cabinet within the Japanese gallery. Louise Wilson has also been working toward the Japanese gallery permanent collection changeover, and recently devised a support system for the angled display of a long hand scroll, Annual Festivities by Oishi Matora, also from the Edo period. Pip Morrison has been devising and now constructing a display system for a large contemporary photographic artwork printed on five sheets of acrylic measuring 3.5m high and spanning 5.8m in width. This artwork, by Brazilian artist Lucia Koch, is to be part of the Festival of Photography exhibition, and will go on display in early March. In preparation for Love: Art of Emotion 1400-1800, Yvonne Hearn has recently undertaken the treatment of ‘The Seven Planets’ by German printmaker Sebald Beham. The series consist of seven miniature engravings, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury, and Luna, dated mid 16th Century. Treatment involved the backing removal and washing of all seven engravings, repair of losses and retouching. Venus will be on display for the first time at the NGV, showing from late March.

The objects lab is pleased to have completed treatment of Les Kossatz’s Hard Slide, with the fragile skin of the sheep being patched together and re-supported on their stands. Di Whittle and Bronwyn Tulloh recently attended the combined AICCM Objects and Electron SIG Symposium at Museum Victoria, with Di giving a paper on the surprises that come with complex and multifaceted artworks involving robots, moving parts, bespoke software, and food. This symposium was well timed, coming immediately after the conservation department started testing their 3D scanner, with quite a few of the papers looking at 3D scanning, printing, and the place they are likely to have in new artworks.

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture was announced on December 9th, 2016. The exhibition curated by NGV Senior Curator of Fashion & Textiles, Katie Somerville is due to open in August of this year. The Textile Conservation section has been examining, treating and creating underpinnings for Dior works form the NGV collection in readiness for catalogue photography. We have also been undertaking some wet-cleaning treatments including an 18th c. Indian mordant painted cloth, an embroidered Persian textile and a rather lovely recent acquisition, a 1944 bustle-backed dress in two shades of gingham check by Adrian, the designer responsible for the most famous gingham frock of all time – Dorothy’s dress the Wizard of Oz.

Dress by Adrian, Photography by John Rawlings, Vogue US, May 1944

Museum Victoria

Treatment projects

David Coxsedge has been busy freezing cetacean material held out at Moreland to arrest a clothes moth infestation and has also been dealing with a silverfish outbreak in the Museum Victoria archives. Karina Palmer has been removing concrete dust that has settled on objects in a number of stores as a result of lighting upgrade works in these areas.

Research projects

Rosemary Goodall has been assisting Museum Victoria’s Education and Community Programs team to assess their education kits for potential hazardous substances. So far lead, mercury and asbestos have been discovered. Dani Measday and Rosemary have been surveying the egg collections for condition and identification of hazardous substances. XRF testing has identified mercury contamination on some eggs, used as a treatment for mould. Belinda has been finalising work on the in-house Housing and Storage Guidelines for paper, images and AV materials. This is an enormous piece of work and Belinda has done a great job of pulling the information together. Karina has started using her amazing environmental metrics spreadsheet to analyse store conditions and identify poor performing environments for targeted work in the future.


Dani has recently attended the Dino Dreaming dig in the Cape Otway National Park. The dig is run by Monash University and the Museum Victoria Palaeontology Department and they are currently digging at Eric the Red West, a site located west of the Eric the Red anchor, which is concreted into the rocks on the beach. Dani broke rocks in half, found fossils, shovelled a lot of sand and fell into a rock pool. Her phone did not survive the trip.

Exhibitions and Loans

Karen Fisher, Sarah Babister, Charlotte Walker and Lizzie McCartney have been busy on loans and exhibitions including the de-installation of ‘Biomedical Breakthroughs’, ‘Lustre’ and ‘Freewheeling’, the installation of a ‘Future of Transport’ display at Scienceworks, the installation of a number of textile pieces for ‘Madame Serini Haute Couture’, a display at the  Immigration Museum for Melbourne Fashion Festival, the loan of the State Landau to Government House for Australia Day celebrations, the loan of a large number of geology specimens to Monash University Museum of Art for the exhibition ‘Open Spatial Workshop: converging in time’, and the upcoming loan of the Bush Mechanics car for the touring exhibition ‘Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition’ starting at the National Motor Museum in South Australia in March. And in December 2016 Sarah was able to celebrate the opening of the new Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum. A massive piece of work – congratulations!


Helen Privett has started work on commissioning externally provided training on safe handling of asbestos, radiation and zoonotic hazards.


In other exciting news Belinda Gourley has recently begun her Masters at the University of Melbourne. The proposed working title for Belinda’s thesis is ‘Examination and investigation of the George Wilson Bridges collection at Museum Victoria’ and the thesis aims to investigate the materials and techniques used to create the items in the collection (3 photographic positives on paper, 14 photographic negatives on paper, 21 drawings on paper, 1 engraving on paper, and 1 labelled card folder) and its provenance prior to acquisition. These investigations will inform the future documentation, care of and access to this collection. We congratulate Belinda on beginning this great piece of work and look forward to finding out more about this significant collection.


Comings and goings of staff

It is with sadness that we report that Samantha Hamilton is leaving Museum Victoria to take up the very exciting position of Head of Collections and Exhibition Management at the Arts Centre. We thank Sam for her amazing contribution to conservation at Museum Victoria during her time here and wish her the very best in her new job. Sam will absolutely be missed, but we also think that she will be brilliant in this new position and look forward to continuing to work closely with her in the future.


Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery


The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery is one of the two Tasmanian institutions to host the national touring exhibition ‘The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804’. This exhibition features original drawings and paintings by artists Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit from the French voyage under the command of Nicolas Baudin, and funded by Napoleon Bonaparte, to discover and document parts of the great southern continent. Senior Conservator Amy Bartlett has been heavily involved in the coordination, preparation and installation of the exhibition including travelling to Adelaide to sight and measure the original works on paper while they were stored at the South Australian Maritime Museum, and to visit Artlab. The artworks required matting and framing for display upon arrival in Tasmania. Amy worked over the Christmas and New Year period with the QVMAG Exhibitions and Conservation team to carry out this work, condition report loans and install the exhibition.

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office


Conservation Officer, Gaynor Tollard has been packing ten items from the W.L. Crowther collection in preparation for loan to the QVMAG and Art Gallery of Ballarat for Lauren Black’s travelling exhibition ‘Memento Mori’.  Stephanie McDonald is co-ordinating and preparing condition reports for the items.


The conservation team are also involved in the planning, co-ordination and logistics of the next Allport exhibition an externally curated show called ‘In Revference (sic)’.  Twelve Hobart artists are producing work in response to items in the Allport collection and ‘interrupting’ the permanent museum displays with their work.  Many discussions have ensued over the introduction of eggs or nests or fox traps into the museum environment.

Western Australia

Heritage Conservation Solutions

(Ian McLeod reports)

Having joined the list of private practice conservators after 38 years service to the Crown it is immediately apparent what a difference prompt settlement of accounts makes to the feeling of comfort of the bank balance, for bills seem to roll in with monotonous regularity. Problems solved in the last nine months have included artefact relocations for the Swan Bells Foundation as 14 pallets of clappers, miscellaneous bells, handbells, a celeste and crates of books were moved from the WA Museum collection store to rental premises in an adjacent suburb. It takes on semi-trailer to take over 14 pallets of materials. Having solved some serious corrosion problems for a local yacht club, whose new jetty piles had lost 10 mm of steel in less than eight years, I felt ready to tackle some complex problems for contractors to the Department of Defence, the nature of which remains confidential for ten years. However, work for the Maritime Heritage Unit of Heritage Victoria demonstrated that the corrosion products on part of an object were significantly different to those on the bulk of the object and that this was consistent with an underwater relocation that helped solved a conservation management problem.

One of the main challenges has been working with the Harvey Shire in Western Australia who have the care of the former Yarloop Railway Workshops which were destroyed by fire on 7 Jan 2016. Working with colleagues from the State Heritage Branch, the material evidence of fire damage was mapped across the massive site where temperatures in excess of 1150°C had utterly devastated the area. However all is not lost, for the vault and strongroom has proved its worth. The camera examination of the interior indicates that the priceless records have survived intact – the challenge is now how to open the door which is ‘frozen’ owing to heat damage to its mechanism. My principal role is to develop sustainable conservation solutions for objects ranging from a late 19th century steam locomotive to a fire damaged historic National cash register.

Film producers in London have sought my advice on shipwreck stories and so it is likely that I will be filmed topside in Chuuk Lagoon in May – National Geographic are making a movie about how bacteria control the world.


Australian National Maritime Museum

Treatment Projects

Agata Rostek-Robak, Rebecca Dallwitz, Jeff Fox and Nick Flood continue their workon the Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse with help from a grant from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. So far, the lighthouse ground floor door has been replaced with a replica and its fuel system has been made stable and safe for open display.

Jeff undertook routine treatment of the HMS Sirius anchor in the gallery space during opening hours as a conservation-in-action display.

Exhibition preparation

Lucilla Ronai and Sue Frost have sent the travelling exhibition Guardians of Sunda Strait: the Wartime Loss of HMAS Perth and USS Houston on its way to the US of A.

Lucilla, Jeff and Nickand Iva Cirkovic from the WAM have installed Lustre: Pearling and Australia. The exhibition opened in Sydney mid-February.

Agata has been involved in the planning and scheduling of the Escape from Pompeii: The Untold Roman Rescue exhibition, due to open at the end of March 2017.

Conservation continues to survey the Museum’s collection, with approximately 12% of the survey completed to date.

Workshops, symposia and media

Rebeccapresented a conservation information session at the Australian Maritime Museums Regional Workshop in Hobart. She spoke about conservation issues relevant to small collecting institutions. Many thanks to conservation volunteer Jan Russell for helping to prepare conservation “show bags” for workshop attendees.

Nick attended The Shock of the New, the joint Objects and Electron SIG Symposium in Melbourne. He presented research on the usefulness of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to the conservation profession, a paper co-authored by Matteo Volonté and Oliver Hull of ICS and Agata, Jeff and Lucilla of the ANMM.

Lucilla’s enthusiasm for the task has meant that conservation has kept an active presence on social media. #ANMMconservation posts are regularly the most liked from the Museum.

Social News

In December, the ANMM held its annual fancy dress Christmas Party. The theme was “What did you want to be when you grew up?”, in celebration of the Museum’s 25th birthday. Attending from Conservation was an Artist (Lucilla Ronai), a Vet (Jeff Fox) and an Aussie Rules Footballer (Nick Flood). Shots from the photo booth capture these three revellers on the night.

Image: Nick Flood

Before the end of 2016, Conservation had its Christmas clean up. The lab was stripped, cleaned and reorganised. Non-collection photographs from the 2013 exhibition Elysium: Antarctic Visual Epic now grace the lab’s once-drab walls.

International Conservation Services

Treatment Projects

Wendi Powell worked hard at the end of last year to complete treatment of a historic, panoramic photograph for the Sydney Cricket Ground in time for the Australia vs Pakistan Test in January 2017. The piece had to be painstakingly removed from a Masonite backing before it could be cleaned, repaired and reframed.

Wendihas also been working closely with Oliver Hull in our Furniture Team to finish work on a terrestrial globe. Once illegible, the globe has undergone a fabulous transformation. Meanwhile, Oliver has been busy completing work on a beautiful Georgian table, and continues treatment of a black lacquer commode. He also attended the 13th International Symposium on Wood and Furniture Conservation in Amsterdam at the end of last year.

Oliver and Arek Werstak recently completed work on the historic chapel at the Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School in Darlinghurst.

Arek also joined our paintings team (Matteo Volonté, Claire Heasman, Adam Godijn and Jennifer O’Connell) on a large project to unveil a beautiful decorative ceiling in one of Sydney’s historic houses. The project has been carried out in stages over several months, so far with excellent results.

The paintings team have been excited to discover a still life image painted beneath a portrait by well-known Australian artist, Florence Fuller. The team used infra-red photography to confirm their suspicions that a separate artwork lay hidden in the underpaint.

Our objects and outdoor heritage team have been busy working on a diverse range of projects over the last few months. Annick Vuissoz has been conserving different types of objects in the lab and has been working on several contemporary artworks from the White Rabbit Gallery along with Karina Acton. Karina also attended the Victorian Archaeology Colloquium held at La Trobe University in early February.

Katy Ross has been busy with the re-installation of the Anzac Parade obelisk. Whilst James Kleppen has been particularly happy to undertake the removal of a statue at Parramatta Stadium.

The team have been working together on the installation of bronze memorial pieces at Regimental Square and continue to do maintenance works on the Martin Place Cenotaph and UNSW’s outdoor art collection.


We recently welcomed Eliza Penrose back from maternity leave. Eliza re-joins Wendi Powell and Katie Wood in our Paper Conservation Team.

Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

The big question on everybody’s lips is when are we moving to Parramatta?

The Powerhouse Museum continues to operate at the Ultimo site, and will continue to for many years yet. Exhibitions and programming are planned right through until early 2020.  The new museum is projected to open in 2022 and we are aiming to minimise any ‘gap’ between when the new Museum opens and when the Ultimo site will close. In the meantime, it is ‘business as usual’.

The New MAAS Museum at Parramatta will have the at least the same amount of public display space as the current site at Ultimo. It will also provide for collection storage, learning facilities and studios. With a site now selected, exciting work has begun to shape what the Museum will look and feel like in its new home on the Parramatta river bank.

Conference attendance

Sue Gatenby attended The shock of the new: modern materials, media and methods, the Joint Objects and Electron SIG Symposium February 8-10 2017, Melbourne and presented a paper “ An investigation into 3D printed objects and their potential conservation stability issues”. Sue also attended a meeting held with several participants of the ARC grant A National Framework for Malignant Plastics a in Museum Collections to discuss how the team will commence the project: research, collection surveys and student support.

Collection move

After completing conservation work on objects for the Museums Discovery Centre (MDC), Rebecca Ellis and Vanessa Pitt have moved on to preparing objects for transport from the MAAS Ultimo site to the new I-Store facilities out at Castle Hill. Approximately 10,000 objects are scheduled to move as part of the project. This will help reduce congestion in the MAAS basement storage area and provide breathing room for the chosen objects in their new I-Store home.


Also at the MDC (Museum Discovery Centre) Bronwyn Dunn and Kate Chidlow have been undertaking the photography of 1600 rolled textiles. They are undertaking overall and detailed photos of each textile, checking dimensions and cataloguing details. They have a team of 5 volunteers helping with the project and are unearthing some amazing textiles.

Pest management

With the summer months bringing out the insects, they have been kept busy ensuring moths are kept at bay at the MDC and have a very detailed IPM system in place.

Technical assistance

In the latter part of 2016 The Technology Museum (MOTAT) in Auckland requested technical assistance from our steam team of Ralph Boesel and Chris Eagle. MOTAT was looking for the return to operation of the ‘Western Springs’ Pumping Engine which supplied water to the city around Auckland for sixty years. The engine was built by John Key and Son in Scotland in 1870 and is the only operational ‘Woolf’ Double Compound in the world. It is also the largest operational steam engine in the southern hemisphere. The engine was restored to operational condition between 2002 and 2007 but had not run since 2011.

Their task was to give the engine a full inspection and make any repairs necessary. They were then responsible for the training of  ’MOTAT’ staff in the operation of the engine and the development of  operational and maintenance procedures. ‘MOTAT’ hopes to have the engine in regular operation this year.

For more information please click on the following links:

MOTAT Collection projects
MOTAT Facebook page

Exhibitions and loans

Exhibitions team of Suzanne Chee, Megan Hall and Teresa Werstak are working on the upcoming exhibition Love Is…. on Australian wedding fashion.

The Loans team of Frances Fitzpatrick is currently working on a large loan of South Pacific objects to Artspace Mackay. This is a great opportunity to exhibit objects we have rarely  had the opportunity to display. Staff have also worked on a number of small loans to cultural institutions in Parramatta – a Mark Newson chair to Old Government House and a display of Circus Posters to the Riverside Theatre in association with the Sydney Festival.

South Australia

Artlab Australia

Treatment projects

It’s been another few hectic months in the objects lab, and like egg beaters on amphetamines. Megan Sypek has been busy packing furniture for the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) which is going into storage. She is also working on a frosted pink glass bowl, which requires substantial pigmented fills.

Sophie Parker has undertaken the treatment of a painted silk fan using an adhesive lining to support and reintegrate the shattered fragments. Justin Gare, has been assisting The History Trust of South Australia and South Australian Museum staff to relocate several large collection items to a newer storage facility. In his spare time, Justin has also been preparing the storage of a large awkward marble figure for AGSA.

Jodie Scott and Anna Austin with Mary-Anne Gooden have been working on rehousing of 140 glass lantern slides for a private owner. Initially housed in chocolate and open wooden boxes, the tape on the slides were failing and the works were dusty and mouldy on all surfaces. The conservators have been removing failed tape, surface cleaning inside and outside of the slides and resealing with hand coloured Filmoplast-P. Custom made boxes with PAT materials, including foam with hand cut slots to vertically sit the slides, have been made for rehousing. The slides will now be scanned and printed to provide visual access and reduce handling of the glass originals.Elizabeth Mayfield working on Governor Buxton’s Family Album. Image: Artlab

Elizabeth Mayfield is working on a privately owned photograph album depicting the time spent by Governor General Buxton and his family including travels from the UK to the residency at Government House, Adelaide. The album depicts a lovely insight into early South Australian photography through the eyes of the new residents and includes special family occasions such as the wedding of a daughter to a local Reverend. The album is in the guard book style with forty bound boards holding photographs, prints and watercolours. The conservation treatment includes surface cleaning, infilling losses, consolidating brittle edges of the pages and providing new hinges and stubs in preparation for rebinding.

Exhibitions & Loans

Jo Dawe with assistance from Sophie Parker, packed the Alexander Seton marble sculpture “Someone died trying to have a life like mine”, owned by AGSA, for transport to and exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery. The artwork is comprised of over 20 life-sized carved marble life-jackets in various formations, displayed on the gallery floor.  Manual handling was a foremost issue, with the large weight of each sculpture, coupled with fragile carved marble edges. Seven original storage crates were re-fitted out for transport to Newcastle.

The paper lab has been working on exhibition items for the Art Gallery of South Australia’s show versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time, opening in March 2017.  Conservation work has included the preparation of 50 Mike Parr drypoint etchings with reinforcements on the corners for artist requested pinned display. Many works on paper, including drawings by Rodin himself, have been mounted and framed. A beautiful photogravure photograph by Edward Stiechen also required exhibition preparation with removal of masking tape from the verso and new display mount.


Congratulations to Andrew Durham, Director of Artlab Australia, who was named a Fellow of IIC (International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works) last year – a prestigious recognition of Andrew’s achievements in the conservation profession.

Comings and goings of staff

Karen Vidler. Image: Artlab

We are delighted to welcome Karen Vidler as Principal of the Paper and Booksconservation team at Artlab Australia. A graduate of Melbourne University, where she qualified in Librarianship, Karen furthered her training overseas in Fine Bookbinding and Conservation at Guildford College near London and in the Conservation and Restoration of Book and Library Material at the Edward James Foundation, West Dean College, part of Sussex University where she later became a tutor in Book Conservation, a post she will retain as an occasional visiting lecturer. She has decided to return to Australia for family reasons and so we are fortunate to avail ourselves of her rare skills in looking after South Australia’s rich heritage of books and prints and in training the future generation of experts in the field.