Art Gallery of New South Wales
Among the ongoing routine work of the gallery Celine de Courlon has been working on a major treatment of Dick Watkins “October” in preparation for the Field Show exhibition at NGV next year funded by conservation benefactors. She is also leading a studio project cleaning and consolidating Brett Whiteley’s “Woman in bath IV” with Celia Cramer. As part of the project Ellie Gifford, a Masters student from Melbourne University, is interning at the AGNSW for 3 months from August-October, completing her thesis research on the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry hills. She will be compiling an inventory of all the artist’s materials in Whiteley’s studio and conducting analysis of the broad selection of paint products, specifically the commercial household paints. Paula Dredge has recently returned from documenting and archiving the Sidney Nolan studio at The Rodd on the Welsh / English border. Simon Ives & Mel Harvey have been engaged in the preparation of the AGNSW Old Courts European master paintings for an upcoming exhibition at the Hazelhurst regional gallery.
The Objects conservation team have been installing several different exhibitions across the gallery all at once, primarily with the always-challenging contemporary art. Melanie Barrett has been assisting artist Mikala Dwyer to create an incredible, complex installation show, complete with a glorious fabric-filled room and hundreds of different sculptural elements. Contemporary art challenges have also been presenting themselves to Kasi Albert for the Out of the Ordinary exhibition, which features a fantastic light work by Jonathan Jones and an incredibly fragile wood/aluminium ladder sculpture by Nicholas Mangan. Kerry Head is carrying out much-need treatment on the Papua New Guinea collection, including the repair of a number of textiles selected for display in the Asian galleries. The treatment of the impressive outdoor bronze sculptures at the front of the gallery The Offerings of War and The Offerings of Peace by English sculptor Gilbert Bayes has now been completed. Cleaning and recoating has restored the sculptures to their former glory and it has been satisfying to receive positive feedback for the outcomes. The project team included Heritage Asset Advisory DFSI, Heritage Stoneworks DFSI, DRP Stonemasonry, International Conservation Services and Art Gallery of New South Wales.
New media section
Asti Sherring has completed various digitisation projects, including the digitisation of analog carriers relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archive held in the National Art Archive. As a part of the Institute of Specialised Skills grant Asti received, in September she will be travelling to various institution in the United Kingdom and Europe to continue her research surrounding the conservation and collection management of Time-based art.
Exhibition conservation section
Frances Cumming has been working across a large number of inward loans and exhibitions. Most recently Frances has been part of the Archibald Prize team, this much-loved show requiring constant monitoring and maintenance over the course of its display.
Asian art section
Lily Yang has been working on a number of beautiful Chinese ink on paper album pages from the 17th Century (Ming & Qing dynasties). These pages requiring significant treatment for display having been removed in the past from their albums and framed.
The preparation of collection works for the Out of the Ordinary exhibition has just been completed, with one particular work Torpedo by artist Sara Hughes, requiring extensive conservation treatment to repair over eight-hundred painted and hand-printed cardboard clothing tags which make up the work. With Carolyn Murphy at the helm, a new mounting system has been devised that will allow the work be more easily installed and de-installed limiting risk to the many small and fragile parts. Analiese Treacy has recently completed work on a number of photographs by contemporary artist Pat Brassington for an exhibition entitled the body electric. Sarah Bunn is continuing her conservation assessment of Yang Zhichao’s work Chinese Bible, an installation comprising 3000 Chinese diaries and note books, with the valued help of interns whenever possible. The books were bought from second hand markets with the contents spanning the first five decades of communist China. The work will be displayed at AGNSW for the first time in early 2018. Sarah has also been awarded one of four staff scholarships to further pursue her passion and interest in art and artists from Arnhem Land. She plans to participate in a cultural exchange program at Mapuru and spend time in Milingimbi in 2018.
The Victorian Watercolours exhibition which opened in June further to an extensive conservation project carried out over two years by a team of conservators including: Analiese Treacy, Margaret Sawicki, Basia Dabrowa, Emma Rouse and mountcutter/reproduction frame maker Tom Langlands. A number of conservation floor talks, focusing on the materials and techniques of the Victorian Watercolourists have been presented in conjunction with the show in addition to a televised piece by the ABC for its popular weekly arts show ‘The Mix’. The ABC News Facebook post on the exhibition and conservation project has so far received over 35,000 views, and visitors numbers have been satisfyingly high.
Tom Langlands has begun mounting and framing a suite of oversize prints by Torres Strait artist Glen Mackie and Aboriginal artist Daniel O’Shane. The prints are up to two and a half meters in length and are amazingly detailed depictions of stories of family and environment. Tom has also finished working on a large gilded frame with David Butler for the work Prospector by Julian Ashton, based on archival photographs of it hanging in the gallery in the 20’s. Jonathan Dennis has been assisting paper and paintings conservation as required with a number of new acquisitions and Loans including a large project preparing works from the Brett Whiteley Studio for the touring exhibition Other Places which includes his works from the late 1980s in Paris and other experiences outside of Australia!
Under the supervision of Margaret Sawicki, Emma Rouse has just begun a complex and complicated treatment on the frame for Ville Bretonneaux, 1918 by Arthur Streeton which is required for loan to the National Gallery of Australia at the end of the year. Margaret and Emma are also preparing their paper on the formation of the copper soaps on brass-coated frames at the upcoming ICOM-CC Triennial Meeting in Copenhagen, 4-8 September, 2017.
Last but by no means least, the department bids a very sad farewell to master craftsman David Butler. David has worked at the AGNSW for 3 decades making the highest quality reproduction frames, the likes of which one rarely sees today. Based at his studio in the Blue Mountains, David has been making frames from scratch, assembling wooden mouldings, carving exceptionally sharp and detailed composition ornaments and gilding the frames using traditional water and oil gilding techniques. For 30 years, David has worked on frames of various styles including simple frames for works by Giorgio Morandi to the more complex and elaborate frames such as that for Vive L’Empereur, by Edouard Detaille (dimensions of the frame: 4.45x 5.13m) which took over a year to complete. Other examples of exemplary frames made by David over the years include:
- Briton Riviere – Requiscat
- Jean Portaels – Esther
- Rupert Bunny – Descent from the Cross
- William Strutt – David’s first victory
- Frederick McCubbin – On the wallaby track
- W. C. Piguenit – Mt Kosciuszko
- Hugh Ramsay – The Sisters
- Hugh Ramsay – The Lady in Blue
- George Lambert – Holiday in Essex
- Arthur Streeton – “Still glides the stream and shall for ever glide”
- Arthur Streeton – Cremorne pastoral
- James Tissot – The widower
- Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski – Nymphex
David has been a valued member of the conservation team and indeed the Art Gallery of NSW, and will be greatly missed!
Installation has started on level one of our new Gallery space. Fifteen showcases will be dedicated to each distinct collection area of the Museum. Italian showcases are furiously being installed on the ground level for the second, and more complicated phase of install.
Work continues to prepare collection material for the Westpac Long Gallery. Eoin O Suilleabhain has, at times, managed to fit himself inside the Irish Elk to work on infilling and in-painting. Sheldon Teare has started working on a Victorian era bird display case containing 32 taxidermy specimens from Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. Brooke Randall and Rebecca Barnott recently lined a 3-meter-long ship cloth from Lampung Province, Sumatra and will soon be starting work on a 2 meter by 1 meter long painting from Klungkung District, Bali. Brooke has also been stabalising a number of objects from West Papua including a Sago container and peg. Rebecca, on the other hand, has been documenting specimens from the arachnology collection and a series of Shabti figures from 30th Dynasty Egypt. Heather Bleechmore continues research into an Egyptian boat model, from the Middle Kingdom, gathering samples for radiocarbon dating, pigment analysis, and wood species identification. Michael Kelly has been preparing material from the museum’s Archive collection for display. This included a mid-19th century ‘collectors box’ containing four cedar trays filled with an eclectic mix of ‘curios’ such as a dried seahorse, a bracelet woven from the hair of a prisoner and a petrified frozen icicle from Portland, (from the ‘collectors’ handwritten labels in the trays). Megan Dean-Jones has been busy utilizing her Japanese tissue repair techniques on a variety of natural science specimens, including a collection of historic turtles, a selection of birds and some skeletons including an historic black-necked stork and a cassowary. Vanessa Pitt has worked on a number of very old skeleton and exoskeleton specimens, carrying out some major stabilization treatments and even crafting missing elements.
Sheldon Teare and Megan Dean-Jones attended “Out of the Box”: Natural History Symposium run through University of Canberra in June. Sheldon Teare was asked to speak on Natural Sciences Conservation and deliver a conservation workshop.
The Conservation department and the Australian Museum said goodbye to Boyd Sanday, Preparator and Conservation Technician, who died suddenly in late May this year. Boyd was an asset for the Conservation department, allowing us to complete ambitious rehousing projects thanks to his skills. Boyd was much loved by everyone in the department and will be sorely missed.
Eoin O Suilleabhain has joined our team on a contract basis, fitting in some time between his busy private practice clients. Eoin brings a wealth of different conservation skills to the department.
In late August we will farewell Vanessa Pitt who must return to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Power House Museum). Vanessa was brought in on secondment to assist with preparations for the Long Gallery project. Vanessa says she has thoroughly enjoyed her time with the Conservation department at the Australian Museum, and is very appreciative of the challenges and experience gained while working with the team and some tricky natural science specimens.
International Conservation Services
Our Objects and Outdoor Heritage Team recently completed maintenance works on the two large bronze sculptures at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Offerings of War and Offerings of Peace. Karina Acton and James Kleppen enjoyed working with our newer team members Amy Jackson and Frances Paterson on this project.
Alongside this, James Kleppen has also been busy condition assessing and conserving a number of war memorials across the state, including the Rumanian 1904 Krupp Gun.
Meanwhile, Arek Werstak has recently commenced restoration of the Newcastle Station Honour Board, which will be installed in the new transport interchange currently being constructed.
Annick Vuissoz and Frances Paterson also recently completed some in-house conservation work on a few fascinating contemporary artworks from White Rabbit Gallery.
Matteo Volonté, Claire Heasman, Jennifer O’Connell and Adam Godijn in our Paintings Team have almost finished conserving a collection of artworks for New England Regional Art Gallery (NERAM). Throughout the process they’ve also been contributing to a blog on the project, Operation Preservation (link: http://nerammuseum.wixsite.com/conservation), which has been published in partnership with NERAM.
The Paintings Team have also been working with Meredith Lynch and two interns from the University of Melbourne, Lucy Moore and Raymonda Rajkowski,on an exciting project to conserve a painting by Sydney Ball. Measuring a sizable 3 x 5 metres, the piece has been taking pride of place in our conservation labs over the last few weeks.
Skye Firth and Gail Hamilton in our Textiles Team have also been working on some sizable artworks recently, including two large tapestries by John Coburn. Katie Wood and Rob Williams were also involved in this project, which took almost a week to complete. Skye and Gail were present for the re-hallowing of the Birdwood Flag in Newcastle Cathedral, an event which drew national media attention, both due to the story of its conservation and the uniqueness of the flag itself.
And in keeping with the sizeable artworks theme – Katie Wood, Eliza Penrose and Wendi Powell in our Paper Team have been preparing 6 very large paper artworks for display in the White Rabbit Gallery’s upcoming exhibition ‘Ritual Spirit’, which opens on the 30th August. They’ve also been busy making a series of time-lapse videos featuring repairs and backing removals, and Wendi has been doing a survey of a collection of parchment documents.
Eliza Penrose and Adam Godijn both gave presentations recently at the Art and Frame Trade Show in Sydney’s Randwick. Presenting from the AICCM Stand, Eliza spoke about identifying conservation issues in works on paper, while Adam discussed art conservation more generally.
Shortly after his presentation, Adam Godijn then travelled to Cairns with Oliver Hull to work on an important Chinese temple. In addition to this, Oliver has been working on numerous jobs at our Sydney labs, including an exquisite pair of aventurine and gilt cabinets, and various antique furniture pieces.
Adam Godijn is also excited to be presenting a talk on Tuesday 5th September at Artbank as part of Sydney Contemporary. For more details and to RSVP, please feel free to visit the Sydney Contemporary website (link: https://sydneycontemporary.com.au/program-2017/ics-conservation-at-artbank/).
Australian National Maritime Museum
For Agata Rostek-Robak, Rebecca Dallwitz, Nick Flood and Jeff Fox work on the Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse project has intensified in recent months. Funded by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the project aims to increase public access, improve the object’s functionality and address conservation and maintenance issues. A surveillance camera has been installed and door locks modified to allow the public access to the ground floor of the lighthouse during museum opening hours without needing volunteers to be present. When volunteers are around to supervise, visitors are able to climb the lighthouse stairs to the platform and lookout over Darling Harbour and the Sydney skyline.
In August, a number of contractors have carried out onsite work. Patrick Evans and John Van Oene (Evans Maintenance Solutions) erected temporary fencing around the Lighthouse and with an 80-foot boom lift removed components from the underside of the platform to allow its inspection. Engineer Sumeer Gohil (Shreeji Consulting) examined the structure and made recommendations to prevent water ingress and reduce maintenance costs.
With the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (19-20 August) approaching, additional works were undertaken including a cosmetic patch painting of the Lighthouse’s exterior (by Patrick Evans and John Van Oene) and the laborious task of cleaning all interior surfaces (by Jeff Fox and Nick Flood).
Our conservation volunteer Jan Russell treated a hygrometer case that showed signs of pest activity. After the object undergone freezer treatment, Jan cleaned woolly bear skins and frass from the object.
Sue Frost spent a week at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum in late June installing the ANMM’s First World War commemorative exhibition War at Sea. This is the exhibition’s 8th regional venue, so it was heartening to see how well collection objects were standing up to this travel.
Sue has also been busy with small exhibition changeovers including a five panelled painting by artist Helen Tiernan entitled Colonial Wallpapers Pacific Encounters.
Jeff Fox and GCCMC intern Fiona Hurel were involved in the installation of objects for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Treatment included minor cleaning and pest management treatment of four contemporary ‘Bagu’ sculptures.
The deinstallation of the Lustre: Pearling and Australia exhibition was a smooth operation with a team of six coming from the Western Australian Museum, including conservators Carmela Corvaia and Tash Trenear. It was a great opportunity to rub shoulders with our West coast cousins.
Replacing the Lustre exhibition is The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804. With over 340 original paintings and drawings from the Museum of Natural History in Le Havre, preparing this show has been a real team effort. Special thanks go to Marie-José Fras (Archives Nationales, Paris) who has couriered these works to and around Australia and to Jochen Letsch and Amanda Edds (ASA Conservation Framing) who have worked tirelessly to mounting over sixty of these works for ANMM.
Agata Rostek-Robak and Rebecca Dallwitz, ANMM Registration and Photography continue preparation of bark painting artworks for Saltwater ~ Gapu-Monuk: Journey to Sea Country a major exhibition of Australian Indigenous cultural materials due to launch in November this year. The size of some of the bark paintings has kept everyone on their toes, the largest being over 3.7m in length.
Workshops, symposia and media
Sue Frost and Kevin Bray recently spent a day at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) learning how to make Fosshape mannequins under the guidance of textile conservator Suzanne Chee. They had a wonderful hands on day shaping, sewing, steaming and cutting. Coming back to ANMM enthused and ready to explore faster and safer ways of supporting the swimming costume collection.
To promote Conservation’s activities within the Museum we ran a series of behind the scenes tours for staff and volunteers.
Sue Frost, Rebecca Dallwitz and Jeff Fox attended a Disaster Preparedness Train the Trainer workshop, organized by the Disaster NSW Group and facilitated by Kay Söderlund. There was a good mix of theory and hands on training that was taken back to our institutions.
Luci Ronai was awarded Nicholas Hadgraft Scholarship by Conservation By Design to attend the Montefiascone Book Conservation Summer School held each year in the Medieval Hill Town of Montefiascone.
Sue Frost, Rebecca Dallwitz and Nick Flood all attended the Australasian Registrars Council Courier training at the MAAS.
Rebecca Dallwitz was the ANMM delegate at the Out of the Box: Sharing Strategies for Accessing Natural History Collections symposium hosted by the University of Canberra and the CSIRO.
Fiona Hurel (GCCMC) interned with ANMM for three weeks over May and June. She was involved in a wide range of activities including exhibition installation, maritime archaeological treatment, preventive conservation and WHS duties. Thanks for your help Fiona and good luck with your studies.
Kevin Bray, long time ANMM preparatory, has joined the conservation lab for the next six months. As Conservation Preparator, his expertise will be invaluable during this busy time at the Museum.
In June, Luci Ronai competed in the NSW West Coast Swing Dance Championships. There she won the Pro-am event and finished fifth in the Jack’n’Jill. Congratulations Luci! We can’t wait to see you on the dance floor at this year’s AICCM National Conference.
Jeff Fox and Nick Flood, as new comers to Sydney, couldn’t refuse the challenge of the City2Surf. The 14km from Sydney CBD to Bondi was more of a celebration than a race. 80,000 entrants, sunny weather, costumes, bands and views of the harbour all provided distraction from the hilly course that led us down to Bondi’s iconic beach.
Heights Heritage Conservation
Treatment Projects and Exhibitions
The Museum of Brisbane has recently been gifted the Easton Pearson Archive, comprising more than 3,000 clothing and accessory items together with catalogues, designs and swatch books. Tess has been assisting in the cataloguing, condition assessing and storage requirements of this exciting acquisition.
There has been a steady stream of exhibition preparation starting with some of Kate’s costumes from Titanic, including the famous ‘Sinking Dress’ on display in Titanic the Exhibition at Moore Park Sydney until 22nd Sept.
Tess Evans also mounted the textiles and costumes including mannequin production, for the Marion Hall Best: Interiors exhibition for Sydney Living Museums. It will be at Museum of Sydney until November and then is due to travel to 5 further locations.
The City of Sydney has also been preparing for an exhibition opening in October. This has meant a change of scene from all textiles, with designing and producing mounts for a number of complex 3D objects as well as a few more mannequins…
Then its been back to ‘Hollywood’ with preparation of 10 of the costumes travelling to Bendigo for the Costume Designer: Edith Head exhibition opening 29th September, and some late night/early morning Skype consultancy sessions with UK colleague Alison Lister ACR who is currently in Rio de Janeiro working on the Carmen Miranda collection.
Tess and Alison hope to continue the collaboration when they return to Rio later in the project to install a permanent exhibition in the newly completed Museum of Image and Sound.
And finally the completion of the beautiful period costume from The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex 1939, worn by Olivia de Haviland.
Mixing business with pleasure; Tess Evans had a quick trip back to the old country in July, mainly to visit the relatives, now in their nineties, giving her the opportunity to catch a couple of fabulous costume exhibitions: Balenciaga at the V&A, with some wonderful full size x-rays, garments displayed inside out to show construction, and photography encouraged, plus Diana, Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace. Can you believe it is 20 years since her death?
Well worth a visit if you are over that way.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
This is a Voice has just opened after a mammoth install, replacing Out of Hand. This is a Voice is a Wellcome Collection exhibition produced in collaboration with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS). Blending performance, video, visuals and sound, This is a Voice presents works by artists and vocalists, punctuated by paintings, manuscripts, medical illustrations and ethnographic objects.
Michelle Whitford a PhD student from Macquarie University is analysing the Faience collection at MAAS as part of her sample collection using the Olympus DELTA XRF analyser.
Yan Wen, an Italian fashion student from the Polimoda Fashion College in Florence spent time in the conservation laboratory as part of his scholarship from Polimoda to visit MAAS.
As a participant of the ARC linkage grant: A national framework for managing malignant plastics in museum collections, Sue Gatenby is continuing with the collection survey and FTIR analysis on a group of early plastic buttons.
Our collaborative research project with ANSTO, which analysed a group of Japanese swords, a set of Harbour bridge rivets and an ancient Bronze Chinese vessel form the Shang dynasty 1600-1046 BCE has been completed. A series of papers have been published through ANSTO. The results will be reviewed and published and promoted in collection research, exhibitions and also conservation and MAAS articles.
Sue Gatenby is trialing the Olympic Delta pro XRF analyser as a replacement instrument for the deceased Bruker Tracer.
We have also trialled the UE system Ultraprobe 100K to test for showcase air-tightness. The ultrasonic machine actually tests for leaks from the showcase to the surrounding air. Consideration of its usefulness continues.
Suzanne Chee will be holding a Conservation workshop at the Museum Discovery Centre (MDC) for small museums titled Invisible mannequins workshop: demonstration and conservation tips for garment display. Suzanne will demonstrate how to make a popular style of mannequin known as the ‘invisible mannequin’, favoured for displaying historic garments and swimwear. During the course of this workshop a number of helpful conservation tips for displaying garments will also be discussed. Two different techniques for making mannequins will demonstrated:
- Using strips of linen/canvas – similar to papier-mache
- Using Fosshape, a synthetic fabric that heat shrinks into any shape you desire.
Suzanne Chee was successful in her application to attend IIC and Palace Museum Beijing 9-day Textile conservation workshop from 14-22 November 2017. This workshop follows the IIC and Palace Museum 2017 Hong Kong symposium, ‘Unroll and Unfold: Preserving Textiles and Thangkas to Last’ 24-26 November 2017.
David Stein & Co
David Stein and Co are now well established at our spacious purpose-built premises in Alexandria. At the beginning of this year we extended the space in Alexandria that we have occupied for several years to encompass another conservation studio, offices and reception as well as additional storage. We are situated around the corner from the Grounds of Alexandria, and while we rarely have the time to actually go there, sometimes we see the pig ‘Kevin Bacon’ going for a stroll!
Our team has also expanded and we were thrilled to welcome our new Registrar, Soleste Ponticello, who joined us earlier this year. Thanks to Soleste we are now on Facebook and Instagram and have our own therapy dog, Soda the Chihuahua, who we all adore (even those people who say they don’t like small dogs). Our conservation team has also been strengthened with the expertise of Painting Conservator Anne Perrin. Anne who has been with us since late last year, is covering Selina Halim’s position whilst she is on maternity leave. We are also joined by recent graduate Lucy Tedder as Assistant Paintings Conservator, who adds great energy to our team.
The team at David Stein and Co has been very busy this year with a multitude of wonderful and fascinating projects.
David and the team are currently focussed on a major conservation project to conserve three monumental Frank Stella artworks ‘Cones and Pillars’ in the foyer of Grosvenor Place in Sydney’s CBD. Painting Conservators Sandi Mitchell, Anne Perrin, Ellie Gifford, assisted by Stewart Laidler and Julia Sharp, are working on the Stella Project. The paintings are well known in Australian conservation circles, due to the well documented and impressive treatment carried out by Andrew Durham in 1986, when the paintings were damaged by salt water whilst being shipped from New York to Sydney to be displayed in the newly completed Harry Seidler designed building. The team are working high on scaffolding in the foyer, carrying out cleaning and consolidation, as well as monitoring the areas previously affected by the salt water and eavesdropping on people who have real jobs and wear suits.
In June, David Stein and paintings conservation intern Ellie Gifford visited Bundanon for several days as part of an ongoing on site project to preserve and stabilise the Bundanon Trust permanent collection. They teased us by sending pictures of cute wombats, kangaroos and the beautiful countryside around the property.
Conservation Manager, Julia Sharp, has been working on the 1841 Portrait of Sophia O’Brien by Maurice Felton from the State Library of NSW. Complex conservation treatment to this historically significant painting has involved extensive remediation of old damages and restorations. The conservation process is being filmed by the State Library in preparation for an exhibition around the painting in early 2018.
Senior Paintings Conservator, Sian Griffiths, together with Julia, have been carrying out conservation treatment to two large landscape paintings by William Lister Lister from Newcastle City Hall. The ‘Last Gleam’, which was cleaned and re-stretched by Sian, was an early recipient of the Wynne Prize in 1898. The painting ‘The Crossing, Hunter River, near Singleton’ underwent a major conservation treatment, including removal of the canvas from the hardboard panel to which it has been adhered with wax resin during an earlier restoration, removal of the wax resin adhesive from the verso and relining the painting with Beva adhesive onto a linen canvas.
Sian has also been engaged in the consolidation of a William Robinson painting from the ‘Farmyard Series’ with extensive paint and ground cleavage.
Sandi Mitchell has been treating two significant mid 19th Century historical portraits of the Moses Family from Hobart, attributed to Conway Hart. Sandi also recently attended a two-day scaffolding safety course as part of the preparation for working at Grosvenor Place.
She was the only woman and non-tradie there, and we are all grateful to Sandi for doing this for the team.
Assistant Paintings Conservator, Lucy Tedder, with Ellie Gifford and Julia Sharp have been involved in a long-term conservation treatment to landmark 1883 painting, ‘Ariadne’ by John Peter Russell. The conservation treatment has included the painstaking and delicate removal of an aged alkyd resin varnish using solvent gels. Alysha Redston and Kim Vernon, visiting us from Melbourne as student interns, were ably assisting us with this project during July this year.
Julia Sharp, Lucy Tedder and Ellie Gifford have been conserving several artworks by Margo Lewers in preparation for an exhibition at the Lewers Bequest, Penrith Regional Gallery.
Our General Manager, Katherine Rosenthal, continues to keep things running smoothly, juggling staff, clients, artworks and IT with admirable efficiency and professionalism. In addition, Katherine presented a talk and poster for AICCM in August on the conservation of paintings at the Art and Frame Trade Fair in Randwick.
In July, Katherine, Sian and Kim carried out onsite treatments to a number of paintings at the Sydney International Convention Centre, as a part of our ongoing maintenance of the collection.
Ellie Gifford is currently undertaking a research project for her Masters thesis, investigating the art materials of Brett Whiteley. Under the guidance of Paula Dredge, Ellie is assisting two days per week with the Art Gallery of NSW, conducting FTIR analysis on a selection of paint samples from the Whiteley studio to determine the binders and any organic pigments present, as well as compiling an inventory of all the art materials in the studio.
Lucy Tedder is about to depart for Copenhagen to attend the ICOM-CC Triennial Conference, ‘Linking Past and Future’. We look forward to her report on the proceedings when she returns.
As our new Registrar, Soleste Ponticello is brushing up on her art handling and materials knowledge with an online course ‘Storage for Museum Collections’, to understand the best conditions for storage and preservation of a variety of cultural materials.
This submission has a special focus on Artlab’s Objects Department.
Sadly this week is Lord and Lady Carnarvon’s (aka Kristin Phillips and Justin Gare) final hoorah after many years of utterly fabulous presentations to school children around South Australia, including Kangaroo Island and Central Australian Communities. They bring history and science alive with their humorous and fact packed Egyptian talk, featuring x-rays and ‘cat’ scans of mummified cats and lots of other juicy stuff to thrill young imaginations. A great pity they don’t have a regular spot on “Horrible Histories” TV show!
Meanwhile, the objects lab has been bursting at the seams with a huge variety of objects that are waiting to go into our custom-made, light-weight storage crates. There are also beautiful little objects like this significant collection of tsuba, looking even more impressive in their lovely trays that Renita Ryan has been fitting out with Plastazote foam
In aesthetic contrast she has been condition checking a loan of Andy Thomas space flight material. Including packaged foodstuffs—perhaps the less palatable left overs: mashed potato, fish stew, and prune bar!
Amongst other things Megan Sypek had the challenge of making good some existing repairs made by the artist Margaret Dodd on this ceramic car, before it went on exhibition
Filipa Quintela had a lovely vintage piece of South Australian advertising for which she was able to draw upon her gilding experience. Two new tin letters were provided which created a challenge to replicate the gilding over the warm copper colour tones of the original letters
What seemed a lovely puzzle for Sophie Parker to solve on this carved ivory tusk has turned into a brain bamboozler! It had been broken and adhered before, and unlike the new white coloured breaks, the older breaks have yellowed making it hard to discern from the rough edges of the carving. To complicate things more, there are numerous missing fragments.
Other fiddly jobs include replicating enamel and numbers on a fob watch face, and more shattered silk fans from an enthusiastic client.
Before and after treatment photographs detailing conservation undertaken on a Japanese Satsuma ware ceramic vase with work undertaken by Jo Dawe. Treatment involved softening and removing an old discoloured adhesive repair and reattaching the shard. A sizeable area of ceramic loss along the rim required a shaped fill and then colour-matching to blend with the surrounding glaze. Gilding was then undertaken along the side of the painted fill to blend
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Gaynor Tollard (Conservation Officer) has been re-housing the framed miniature watercolours on ivory by Mary Morton Allport to improve their storage and provide additional insulation by making custom boxes. Julie Kaja (Library Technician) has been honing her box-making skills as well making 20pt four flap boxes for fragile Tasmaniana volumes to protect them in the stacks.
Exhibitions and loans
We are about to change over the exhibitions in the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. Gaynor and Julie have been mounting and framing a beautiful series of the hand-coloured lithographs from John Gould’s Birds of Australia. The exhibition is called Birdwoman and focuses on the work Elizabeth Gould carried out for the publications. Case material being prepared for the exhibition includes Morton Allport’s gun and a collection on loan from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery of his bird’s eggs.
Stephanie McDonald has been busy juggling loans to the NGV; to the TMAG for a Thomas Bock drawing exhibition and an exhibition on the Tasmanian Devil as well as preparing for the return of Crowther items from the QVMAG.
Stephanie has also been assisting St. David’s Cathedral with examination and handling of the Letters Patent for the Cathedral’s 175th anniversary – establishing it as a Cathedral and Hobart as a city.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
The Enigmatic Mr Strange – Creating a Past: the life and art of Frederick Strange c.1807-1873 opened at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in June 2017. Amy Bartlett prepared many artworks for the exhibition including intensive treatments of an oil painting on paper and an oversized watercolour. This exhibition has gained coverage in the local press which has highlighted the treatments and the QVMAG Conservation Department.
Most recently, Amy has been mounting and framing lithographs, watercolours, and paintings on leaves for the upcoming Bessant Bequest exhibition, which opens this month at the art gallery. David Thurrowgood has been coordinating the majority of treatments for this exhibition, which are largely decorative arts based. Contract Conservators David Hallam, Robin Tait and Eleanor Vallier have all worked on Bessant collection items including treating colonial furniture, textiles, and painted screens.
Amy Bartlett was awarded a Bursary from Museums Australia (Tasmania) to attend the Museums Galleries Australia National Conference in Brisbane, May 2017.
David Coxsedge and Karina Palmer have been working on management strategies for the mammal stores, where there has been an increase in clothes moth activity. David is undertaking major freezing works for items on open shelves. Karina has been talking with Facilities as to whether the temperature set-points for these stores can be reduced as for our Entomology store, which is kept at 18C.
Belinda Gourley has been preparing some lovely Rare Books for an external digitising request—for a company that provides prints and images to interior designers (the Museum would receive a portion of each sale). The books include Maria Sybilla Merian’s Insects of Europe & Insects of Suriname and an 18th century thesaurus by Albertus Seba. She’s also been experimenting with making remoistenable repair tissues for use on papers written on with iron gall ink. She also prepared a number of books for a Rare Book Week display, and gave a presentation on rare book preservation.
Karina Palmer, Alice Cannon and Rosemary Goodall have begun surveying the collections in earnest for ‘malignant’ plastics such as cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate, polyurethane and PVC. This is part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) project, run by the University of Melbourne and involving a number of other universities and collecting organisations around Australia. We’ve begun with toys and clothing accessories (part of the History and Technology collection), and have found (amongst other things) a shrinking Gumnut Baby (cellulose nitrate) and a poor doll with a Cheezel-like complexion. We’ve been able to carry out condition reporting and FTIR analysis at the same time, using our portable FTIR-ATR equipment, and entering the results directly into our EMu database, which has been a great way to work. Rosemary continues to build our FTIR library, also taking reflectance spectra of Resin Kit samples purchased from The Plastics Group of America.
The Museum is awash with exhibitions, which have seen objects as diverse as footballs and football-shaped fish in the lab. Conservation staff have been working on many ‘pop-up’ exhibitions designed to last only a few weeks, as well as longer-term exhibitions.
Charlotte Walker (Conservation) and Jane Manallack (Exhibition Collection Management) deinstalled items on display in the Body gallery, a much-loved exhibition that was installed when Melbourne Museum first opened in 2001. Items coming off display included human body parts from people who had donated their bodies to the cause of science and education, which were on loan from the University of Melbourne. These items were carefully deinstalled and returned to the University in the company of a funeral director.
Sarah Babister, Karen Fisher and Dani Measday have all been involved with pop-up exhibitions highlighting the work of the recent scientific expeditions. Karen worked on a display for ‘The Slender Rat’, an Indonesian rodent first described in western science by MV scientist Dr Kevin Rowe. Another MV scientist, Dr Tim O’Hara, recently led an expedition to (or rather above) ‘The Abyss’, the ocean zone 4km below sea level. On their return we have assisted with a special exhibit to show off ‘the faceless fish’ and a larger exhibit for National Science Week, showcasing other Abyssal critters (our favourite: the Shortarse Feelerfish) as well as rubbish brought up from 4km below the surface (paint cans, beer cans, assorted fabrics and fibres…☹). This work has involved looking into the Australian Standards for the display of dangerous goods (i.e. ethanol) as well as nifty treatments like using glass pins to reattach the limbs of crustaceans to their bodies.
Work has continued on other longer-term exhibitions and loans such as LightTime (light and optical works from a collective of 11 Melbourne artists), Game Changers (football, and by that we mean AFL), the gorgeous Kanalaritja (shell necklaces, on loan from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery), From Robe to Chinese Fortunes (on loan from Ballarat’s Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka), British Migrants (opening in late November) and a special ‘Museums Inside Out’ exhibition to open after Christmas.
Programs involving collection objects are also on the increase. For example, Dani Measday and Elizabeth McCartney have both assisted collection staff presenting items in the gallery spaces as part of the Museum’s new ‘Nocturnal’ program—drinks, eats, bands and museum chats at Melbourne Museum, open late on the first Friday of the month.
Comings and goings
We are very pleased to announce that Charlotte Walker has been appointed to an ongoing role as conservator of objects. Hurrah!
Alice Cannon has stepped into the Manager of Conservation role until March, attempting to fill Helen Privett’s shoes while she is working in the Exhibitions team.
Volunteers Robyn McPherson and Tim Linden have continued their work with Dani Measday to rehouse our iron meteorites into anoxic enclosures. Many thanks to them both!
National Gallery of Victoria
Amidst a hectic schedule of exhibitions, changeovers, outgoing loans and new acquisitions, treatment work in the paintings conservation studio continues apace, with John Payne completing his conservation treatment on the 1628 Rembrandt panel, Two Old Men Disputing. John has also pressed ahead with several other projects at the same time, particularly assembling images and documentation for radiography and frames for works in the collection, and the Gallery’s artists’ colourmen database. This information will all eventually make its way to the Gallery’s Collection Online resource. Raye Collins has continued varnish removal on Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of Manuel Humbert (1916), and has begun treatment on a series of paintings by Robert Hunter. Carl Villis has completed treatment of Rubens’ 1622 portrait Louis XIII of France and is midway through treatment of Arent de Gelder’s painting on canvas, King Ahasuerus Condemning Haman (c.1680).
The Textiles and Exhibitions studios have been working around the clock preparing the House of Dior: 70 years of haute couture exhibition in close collaboration with four staff from the Dior Heritage in Paris. Bronwyn Cosgrove, Kate Mclaren and Ellen Doyle are currently installing 140 stunning Dior pieces with the help of four contractors including textile conservators; Skye Firth and Louise McCullough. The Dior Heritage couriers are demonstrating their mannequinage techniques and sharing their wealth of knowledge and underpinning skills. Kate Douglas has been finishing some treatments on Dior dresses from the NGV collection and preparing the upcoming permanent collection changeovers.
In between House of Dior preparation Janelle Borig and Catherine Earley from the exhibitions team are also assessing Gareth Sansom loans from lenders across the country ready for the next show on their schedule.
The Objects and Frames and Furniture studio are starting to manage the influx of installation pieces for the upcoming Triennial, with many of the artworks being large and composed of massed objects. Marika Strohschnieder is currently overseeing a complex install of Akio Makigawa: Spirit and memory sculpture show at NGVA, with a number of large heavy objects. Meanwhile Trude Ellingsen, Bronwyn Tulloh and Di Whittle are managing regular changeover projects, including a reworking of the Asian gallery spaces.
Throughout June and July this year the Paper and Photographs Conservation studio had transformed into a mounting and framing workshop, busily preparing two large paper-based exhibitions; Jim Dine: A life in print and Hokusai. Both exhibitions involved hinging, mounting and framing of over 200 works on paper combined, including some particularly challenging large-scale Dine prints.
While exhibitions are up on the walls the Paper and Photographs studio has turned to focus on some storage projects. Pip Morrison has been rehousing the Robert Wilson Collection, a collection of over 1300 stereo views, lantern slides, paper based photographs, and associated ephemera pertaining to the international Great Exhibitions movement. Louise Wilson is currently investigating suitable materials and methods to store over 300 of Fred Williams printing plates. The plates comprise of a variety of materials such as lino, copper, zinc, some are coated in bitumen others appear to have some degree of corrosion- Louise will be asking the Objects Conservation teams for some advice!
While many Jim Dine works are on display, many more are currently in temporary storage and awaiting a more permanent storage solution. Together Ruth Shervington, Bonnie Hearn and Louise have been assessing the collection of 249 prints that were gifted to the NGV by the artist in 2016.
In early June, MaryJo Lelyveld attended the Getty developed ‘Managing Collection Environments: Preserving Collections in the Age of Sustainability’ course in the historic city of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. The course provided a comprehensive overview of the physical, environmental, technical and cultural considerations that must be evaluated when developing local parameters for temperature and RH. This information was shared with colleagues on her return during a ‘brown bag’ lunch session and will used to help review, in collaboration with colleagues from Conservation and Assets and Facilities, the NGV’s current in-house setting and loan requirements for temperature and RH.
State Library of Victoria
On the weekend of 29th-30th July the Conservation lab opened its doors to the public for Open House Melbourne. Shelley Jamieson, Conservation Manager, and Marika Kocsis, Senior Paper Conservator, ran a total of ten 45-minute tours showcasing such treasures as: a vest made of paper printed with the Jabberwocky poem by the late Dorothy Herel known as Text Vest – Jabberwocky, 1991; the Indian paisley-printed dressing gown of John Pascoe Fawkner, ca. 1882; and an anonymous English adaptation of Guillaume de Deguileville’s The pilgrimage of the lyfe of the manhode, ca. 1430.
Social media highlights
With both Albertine Hamilton (Conservation) and Leah Williams (Preservation) recently away on holiday, the #presconslibraryvic (@library_vic) Instagram feed has been opened up to other staff members across the department. Highlights include such posts as: Emily Keppel discussing her recent attendance at an Islamic Bookbinding Workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Kate Holloway showcasing some special 17th and 18th century books from to the recently donated Wallace Kirsop collection; and Savina Hopkins dealing with cigarette beetle damage in a booklet of botanical specimens.
In Conservation, Katy Glen has recently repaired a number of broken glass plate negatives using HXTAL NYL-1 epoxy adhesive, which has proven highly effective, producing a strong transparent bond. Katy is now considering its use for the repair of a hand-coloured opalotype of Violet Varley (Mrs. Joseph Tapley) Actress in Costume, ca. 1890. Albertine Hamilton and Marika Kocsis are both currently working with gellan gum to separate artworks from 19th-century scrapbook albums. Jessica McElhinney is busy treating a number of public notices relating to the Williamstown Town Council, which are in severely deteriorated condition and require facing, lining, and numerous large toned fills.
Preservation continues to work through the collections that have been identified to move prior to the SLV’s Redevelopment, which involves sorting, listing and rehousing large quantities of paper-based material. Some interesting discoveries include the extensive Meat Market Craft Centre archive, Bryan Wardle’s book plates and labels that go back to the 1890s, and a large collection of Victorian architecture conservation studies carried out by Jacobs Lewis Vines Architects in the 1970s. Other points of interest have included reference to a Bourke Street building in which, in 1852, Eugene Von Guerard occupied a room, and many fascinating histories of Chinese restaurants in Little Bourke Street that were once home to joss houses and lodging rooms for Chinese immigrants in the 1860s.
In Conservation, the paper conservators are busy working on the treatment of the Alfred William Howitt papers for digitisation, which include letters to family and friends, maps, articles, circulars, memoirs and notes on Aboriginal customs spanning 1837-1930. Volunteers Lois Waters and Josh Cassidy have completed the vast majority of treatments, which have included flattening, tear repairs and paper fills.
The Preservation team, particularly Kate Holloway, Savina Hopkins, Emily Keppel and Leah Williams, recently finished preparing the fragile Ballarat Evening Echo newspapers for digitisation, which has since been completed with no further detrimental effect on the papers. Otherwise, the assessment and basic paper repair of serials titles continues. Having completed the work on the Victorian Nurses’ Journal from 1903 to 1976, Preservation have now started on the Victorian Teachers’ Gazette (68 volumes). However, staff particularly look forward to the next title: the Brewers’ Journal.
Conservation staff, particularly the Book Conservation team, have been busy preparing materials for the Self-made: zines and artist books exhibition, which will open from August 11-November 12 before touring to a number of other Australian institutions. Highlights include the development of a book cradle for Ed Ruscha’s well-known artist book ‘Every building on the Sunset Strip,’ 1966, which opens out in an accordion-fold to 7.5 metres.
Preservation Technician Emily Keppel and Book Conservator Katrina Ben recently attended an Islamic Bookbinding Workshop at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, led by Dr Karin Scheper from the University of Leiden, Netherlands. The five-day workshop used a combination of theoretical and practical training to explore how Islamic manuscripts were traditionally bound, including review of region-specific styles. This new knowledge will be used to help inform display and conservation strategies for the Michael Abbot collection of Southeast Asian Islamic manuscripts in the SLV collection.
Comings and goings of staff
Lois Waters has re-joined the Paper Conservation team as a volunteer, assisting with the digitisation and exhibition treatment streams.