Rebecca Barnott-Clement has sadly left the team to take up opportunities in other Conservation departments. Rebecca’s contribution to the Australian Museum Conservation department will be missed, and we wish her all the best!
Rehan Scharenguivel has recently completed his Masters internship with us and now started working with the team as a Conservation Assistant one day a week.
Emily Franks completed a three-week internship with the Department in June. Emily is a Conservation student at the Cardiff course in Wales.
Bronwyn Tulloh joined the department as a Projects Conservator for a 6-week project helping us rehouse hundreds of dry Herpetological specimens (Reptiles and Amphibians). Bronwyn was a pleasure to work with and we all appreciated her hard work on the project.
Our summer blockbuster, Mammoths was taken down by Michael Kelly and Heather Bleechmore with expert help from the Field Museum staff.
Sheldon Teare began working on material for the upcoming Whales exhibition, from Te Papa. Several whale related collection items from the Australian Museum will form a Whale Trail around the Museum. Several whale skulls, Scrimshaw, whale products, and baleen will be worked on.
Rehan has started working on some of this material.
Michael Kelly is also preparing material from the Cultural & Archive collections that will be included in the Whale Trail.
Intern, Emily, undertook a stabilization treatment of a Pygmy right whale skull (Caperea marginata). The bone plates making up the skull were loose and a number of Japanese tissue paper strips were adhered to hold them in place.
Most of the specimens containing Iron Sulphides have been rehoused by Brook Randall – over 1000 specimens so far. Low oxygen enclosures are made for specimens suspected of containing Iron Sulphides. Once the specimen is in a low oxygen, low humidity environment, the reaction is greatly reduced.
Sheldon is working through the massive amount of data collected during the Condition Assessment of our Natural Sciences collections. Rebecca Barnott having done amazing work to gather and interpret the data! This data will be used to prioritize projects on our vast Natural Sciences Collections into the future. Our recent audit has projected a collection size of just under 20 million – the vast bulk of that being Natural Science specimens.
Sheldon continues the very slow task to repair a fully opalised skeleton of a Pliosaur (Umoonasaurus demoscyllus) – think aquatic dinosaur – nicknamed Eric by the public. The specimen has been mounted in three sections, and each third will be treated separately.
Megan Dean-Jones has taken on several high priority rehousing projects within the Natural Sciences – including coordinating the remaining Pyrite damaged specimens and Holotypes within the Paleontology collection.
Rehan undertook a major treatment during his Internship (and now on staff) of a huge Sun fish (Mola mola). This specimen is over 160 years old and had numerous breaks, cracks, and missing sections. The specimen has been stabilized and treated to a standard fit for display.
Brooke Randall has been undertaking a rolled storage project in the pacific collection. This has included humidifying several Tapa (bark cloth) from Oro Province, PNG.
Brooke Randall recently took over our acquisitions program. She has processed several small acquisitions including three dolls from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection and a stone mortar from PNG. She also documented and prepared a feather ‘ahu’ula cape for display. The cape, made by Rick San Nicolas, is now on display in our 200 Treasures exhibition in lieu of one collected by Captain Cook in 1778.
Brooke Randall has also been liaising with collection management regarding a large acquisition from PNG arriving at the Museum in October. The acquisition includes over 50 objects from 3 cultural groups.
Sheldon will be attending the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) in Dunedin New Zealand at the end of August. Sheldon is presenting two talks on recent Natural Science projects at the Australian Museum – Composting specimens as preparation methods and the Pyrite project.
This is the first time SPNHC has held a Conference in the Southern Hemisphere.
Rehan will also attend the SPNHC conference.
Australian National Maritime Museum
At almost five meters long, the SS Orontes Builder’s Model is the biggest ship model in the National Maritime Collection. In July, Agata Rostek-Robak, Jeff Fox and Nick Flood began investigating this new acquisition with the help of Simon Stephens (Curator of Ship Model and Boat Collections at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich). Simon gave us crucial advice on the materials and construction methods used during its manufacture. We have found some fascinating results using UV-induced visible fluorescence and a hand held microscope. Over the coming year a major conservation project will be undertaken on the model.
Lucilla Ronai and Agata Rostek-Robak prepared and sent five artworks to the Ian Potter Museum of Art (University of Melbourne). They are part of the current exhibition State of the Union.
Jeff Fox and Kevin Bray prepped and crated 13 objects for the National Library of Australia to be part of their upcoming exhibition Cook and the Pacific. Work included the exhaustive treatment of one of the kentledge (pig iron ballast) jettisoned by Cook on the 11th of June 1770 while the HMB Endeavour was stranded on the Great Barrier Reef (in an area that is now called Endeavour Reef).
The 2018 NAIDOC theme Because of her, we can! celebrated the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women make to their communities and culture. The Museum drew together 26 collection and loan objects from prominent female, indigenous artists. Sue Frost, Jeff Fox, Kevin Bray and Nick Flood all played their part in the lab, the preparator’s workshop and on the Museum floor to help make this special exhibition happen.
Workshops, symposia and media
Agata Rostek-Robak travelled to Warsaw, Poland to present at the Renovated, rebuilt, saved – how they survived WWII conference. Her paper (co-authored with George Bailey from the AWM) was titled Conserving the MV Krait at the Australian National Maritime Museum. MV Krait is the Japanese fishing vessel famously used by Australian Commandos in a daring raid on Singapore Harbour in the Second World War. The vessel is part of the AWM’s collection, but is currently being restored at the ANMM.
Agata was not the only Australian to travel to Warsaw; Eileen Proctor, Caroline Fry and Alexis Arrowsmith also gave papers. Details of the conference (including videos of the presentations) are available here: http://www.konferencjakonserwatorska.pl/en/.
Museum conservators attended Sydney Analytical’s (Sydney University) symposium and launch in July. From our perspective the drawcard of the event was Dr Odile Madden Senior Scientist from the Getty Conservation Institute. Unfortunately, she was unwell on the day, but gave her presentation the following week. We were captivated by such an impressive researcher and articulate communicator.
In July, Lucilla Ronai delivered a cellulose nitrate/acetate training session for conservators, registrars and photographers.
Jeff Fox and Agata Rostek-Robak have improved and renamed the Collection Safety Bins (formerly Disaster Bins) around the Museum building and stores.
In August, Elevated Work Platform (Yellow Card) training was held at the Museum. This was a day of fun and for some overcoming long held fears. Ten staff from conservation and registration received their Yellow Card qualifications. This training will come in handy with a major installation to be hung in the museum’s foyer over the coming months.
Rebecca Dallwitz has taken a year’s leave to pursue an exciting opportunity with Lithgow City Council. Rebecca is now running the Eskbank House Museum. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new employer. Good luck with your new adventure Rebecca! Nick Flood will be acting in her position while she’s away. In the coming weeks we are looking forward to welcoming someone new to the team to backfill Nick’s position.
The Museum held its annual RSPCA Cupcake Day. Not only did we have large selection of cakes and slices to enjoy, but volunteers from World League for Protection of Animals (WLPA) brought in adoption kittens (and a rabbit) in case we felt like giving one of these dear creatures a new home. We raised over $270 for the RSCPA and WLPA.
David Stein & Co
David Stein & Co has recently opened a small studio and consultation space in Woollahra. It is a convenient location for many of our clients to bring smaller artworks, to consult with David by appointment and discuss conservation. We have affectionately dubbed it ‘David’s man-cave’ for when he wants to escape from our Alexandria studio!
In June, we were excited to have a visit from Dr Elizabeth Carter and her team from Sydney Analytical at The University of Sydney. They spoke about the launch of their analytical services and equipment for analysis of a range cultural materials. During their visit, we also shared our studio practice, discussed the development of a reference database and future potential collaborative projects.
The studio has been working closely with The State Library of NSW on preparation of a number of paintings for their soon to be opened new exhibition spaces. State Library paper conservator, Felicity Corkhill, visited our studio to see the progress of the treatments in early August. Our conservators who worked on the project presented their treatments and Felicity was very pleased to see results.
David Stein has donned gloves and spectacles to contribute to a collaborative BBC and ABC documentary project on Sidney Nolan ‘The Man and the Myth’. The film crew visited our Alexandria studio to record David’s treatment of a painting from Nolan’s Adelaide Ladies series. We are looking forward to seeing his cameo appearance in the upcoming film!
Conservation Manager Julia Sharp has completed a treatment of a painting attributed to Tom Roberts, which involved a lining reversal, varnish and overpaint removal, and returning the painting to its original dimensions. She has undertaken a varnish removal on a 17th Century painting and is currently in the process of carrying out paint analysis to determine the history and dating of the painting.
Our senior conservator Sian Griffiths has survived and returned from her 200 miles Coast to Coast walk in England. She has since been busy treating a painting by Isaac Whitehead, which involved a major structural treatment, lining reversal, relining, varnish and overpaint removal.
Selina Halim has been busy with experimenting with various gel cleaning techniques for varnish and overpaint removal. She has successfully removed an aged, natural varnish resin with extensive layers of oiling out layers with a complex Xanthan Gum, pH adjusted with chelating agents and solvents gel mixture. Selina has also been finished her major treatment on the State Library portrait of William Govett (the land surveyor who found Govett’s Leap in the Blue Mountain), which has had an extensive restoration. The treatment involved complex removal of aged varnish and extensive overpaint and old fills, as well as major and delicate aesthetic treatment on the face and hand of the sitter. Selina is currently using a silicone KSG 350Z gel with a solvent mixture to remove a stubborn aged copal varnish.
Anne Perrin has finished two paintings from St. Mary’s Cathedral which required extensive consolidation, complex varnish removal, lining without impregnation, and retouching to the gilded background. She has also undertaken a 19th C. painting by Rogelio de Egusquizo which required varnish removal and aesthetic treatment. She has completed treatment for the State Library by F. W. Beechy where she had to undertake varnish removal and aesthetic treatment. In the process of varnish removal Anne has uncovered the artist’s signature which was previously covered by the darkened varnish.
Sandi Mitchell has treated several large artworks for Warmun Art Centre and treated a large triptych by William Robinson. The treatment included consolidation, mould removal using Lysing enzyme solution and aesthetic treatments.
We would like to congratulate Lucy Tedder for her recent promotion as Paintings Conservator. Lucy has been treating the State Library’s painting of Commander Robert Johnson RN by Richard Noble, which involved a very satisfying varnish removal and aesthetic treatment. The cleaning has enabled viewers to see the finer details in the painting which was previously covered by the heavily discoloured varnish.
In July,the studio welcomed back Kim Vernon, who is currently completing his Master of Cultural Materials Conservation studies at the University of Melbourne. Kim has been undertaking several short-term projects with us, including a tricky retouching on a painted 3-dimensional contemporary artwork. We look forward to seeing Kim again later this year, when he and his family will move to Sydney and he will join us in the position of Assistant Paintings Conservator.
International Conservation Services (ICS)
Funding of conservation projects is always a challenge when they fall outside the normal rounds of regular budgets. ICS has recently been involved in a number of projects where innovative funding methodologies have been used. The stunning collection at NERAM (New England Regional Art Museum) has had its conservation funded by NERAM’s Adopt and Artwork program, which has been enormously successful in gaining local buy-in for the conservation works required. Adam Godijn, Matteo Volonte and Claire Heasman have all travelled to Armidale along with students from the Grimwade Centre, run workshops and Adam and Julian Bickersteth have talked to the donors. The State Library of NSW have also been successful in signing up benefactors to fund conservation works for the rich collection of colonial portraits to be exhibited in their new gallery project, which opens in October 2018. Matteo Volonte, Eden Christian and Suarty Rojas have all been working on these interesting paintings. An alternative method of fund raising was suggested by ICS to the Macquarie University Art Gallery for their recent exhibition of the art of colourist Tony McGillick. In this instance funding was drawn from the University and the McGillick family with ICS providing in kind support, resulting in a highly successful collaboration. Matteo Volonte, Suarty Rojas and volunteer Alexandra Taylor all undertook the treatment on site at the University.
The centenary of World War 1 is nearing its completion in November of this year, but the demand for the conservation of war memorials and honour boards continues unabated. Oliver Hull currently has 16 wooden honour boards awaiting treatment, whilst the outdoor heritage team are working on memorials from Lake Macquarie to Maroubra. One particularly interesting one is the Rozelle Tramsheds memorial, both because of its depiction of a digger (the first in Sydney) the early date of its erection (November 1916) and its funding by the tramworkers themselves to honour their fallen comrades. It was the subject of an ABC News story on August 26th featuring James Kleppen and Annick Vuissoz viewable athttp://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-26/wwi-statue-restored-for-rozelle-tramsheds/10164188?WT.ac=localnews_sydney
What with major mould remediation projects in-house led by Katie Wood, cleaning of brick turntable projects off site led by Fran Paterson, and in situ archaeological works at Windsor, led by Karina Acton, it has been a busy quarter.
In Melbourne, Lauren Keating continues to ensure the Metro project’s archaeological conservation needs are met in an increasingly frenetic work atmosphere, supported by Kristine Allinson. With a range of other archaeological projects now also running, Lauren is having to split her time between the Metro site in Latrobe Street and the lab in Abbottsford. Karina Acton continues to provide invaluable support by being in Melbourne most weeks.
We are pleased to welcome Robyn Ho in the role of projects manager and Martin Tokarczyk as our new client services manager.
We are delighted to announce the safe arrival of Andrew John Lynch Underwood, Meredith Lynch’s second child.
State Library of New South Wales
Comings and goings of staff
Cecilia Harvey has returned to the branch from maternity leave and Bronwen Glover has joined the Digital Excellence Team – welcome back Cecilia and welcome to Bronwen to the DEP team.
The Collection Care Digital Excellence team have been working on a major moving image preservation project since the beginning of this year. Following a comprehensive survey by Library staff of the Library’s motion picture film collection, the DEP team have been working with moving image specialist Annie Breslin in rehousing, rewinding, and repair of at risk and significant film. Annie has been training the team on the intricacies of motion picture film and film winding techniques. This work will then facilitate the eventual digitisation of this collection.
Kate Hughes treated a new acquisition of watercolour of an Eastern Rosella attributed to Elizabeth Gould. This included the use of rigid gels to remove mount residues and XRF analysis to identify degrading watercolour media.
An announcement was made recently about a significant sponsorship arrangement to enable the development of new Collection Care labs. Watch this space as we bring you more details over the coming months.
The Collection Care Branch is carrying out a considerable amount of preparation work for the new Mitchell Galleries and the re-opening of the galleries in October. As the Library progresses towards opening, the work on item preparation will shift to item installation as the various teams fan out across the new spaces to install the displays. In addition to the new galleries, a new learning centre is part of the redevelopment to increase the reach of the education programmes.
Arts Centre Melbourne (ACM)
The Arts Centre Melbourne has for the first time employed a conservator as part of their Collections, Preservation and Access team. Carmela Lonetti, who commenced in the role in November 2017 and has worked on the Australian Music Vault: a permanent exhibition created in partnership with the Australian music industry and dedicated to showcasing the cultural material of contemporary Australian music; Kylie on Show regional touring exhibition: currently on display in Ararat’s newly renovated art gallery, and the Objects of Fame exhibition, opening in late September: co-curated in partnership with the Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne, showcasing Dame Nellie Melba material from the Australian Performing Arts Collection alongside Percy Grainger material.
Carmela Lonetti along with Samantha Hamilton, Head of Collections, Preservation and Access have set up a small conservation lab to undertake treatments and created a dedicated quarantine processing area. A large part of Carmela’s time in the coming months will be taken up with condition surveys and audits of the extensive Public Art Collection, permanently displayed throughout Arts Centre Melbourne’s 3 campuses, and the Australian Performing Arts Collection in preparation for Reimagining. Arts Centre Melbourne is a part of the proposed Southbank Arts Precinct redevelopment recently announced by the Victorian State Government, which will see the redevelopment of the Theatres building site and the construction of a fourth campus which will house a new Australian Performing Arts Gallery by 2022
Comings and goings of staff
We have thoroughly enjoyed having Penny Byrne and Jess McElhinney working in the department on the Kodak project over the last few months. Thank you for all your work, it has been very much appreciated!
Sarah Babister and Dani Measday have finished a project to reassemble the Karnak fulgarite, the longest recorded specimen of fulgarite in Victoria. Fulgarite is formed by a discharge of lightning penetrating and fusing the quartz sand along its path. Discovered in 1959, the specimen was accidentally fractured in to 56 pieces when it was removed from display at MV in the 1990s. Following a request from the mineralogy department, Sarah and Dani have painstakingly re-assembled all 56 pieces of the object and mounted it on a handling board that will allow it to be both stored and displayed safely.
Dani also recently joined the paleo team on a fieldwork trip to the Victorian Surf Coast. This fieldwork trip aimed to prospect the Upper Oligocene-middle Miocene marine strata for fossil vertebrates, collect brachiopod fossils found in proximity to vertebrate fossils for the purposes of Strontium dating, collect representative samples of invertebrate fossils with rigorous stratigraphic and geospacial control from horizons that have produced vertebrate fossils, and work with ABC journalists to record audio interviews for a podcast about this work. The ABC interviewed Dani about paleo conservation, and her highlight was consolidating 25 million year old whale ribs and other pieces of fossil bone in the field. Just another day at the office.
Belinda Gourley is working on a group of 38 Coloramas from the Kodak Heritage Collection. Coloramas, which are colour positives on plastic, were used to advertise the company and come from a longer Kodak tradition in the US where huge versions were displayed in Grand Central Station in New York. These Coloramas are not quite as large – although the largest ones measure around 1010mm x 3140mm – but are particularly interesting for the fact that they feature Australian images. Belinda is documenting them and carrying out surface cleaning and tape removal before digitisation and then rehousing them for long-term storage. Team sewing bees to follow.
The ‘PolyMuse’ ARC project to investigate is in full swing, and continues to unearth fascinating insights into the collection. On Wednesday 22nd August, Alice Cannon and Karina Palmer along with Petronella Nel and Julianne Bell gave a public lecture ‘The Problem with Plastics’ as part of Museums Victoria’s Museum Lecture series, where they discussed the project and the wider implications of this research. No one who attended will look at their sneakers in the same way again.
MV is also pleased to have a number of Grimwade Centre students – Kat Watson, Marie-Claire Petrowski and Karen Thompson – undertaking research on our collections as part of their Masters theses and we look forward to their results and conclusions.
As always, exhibitions work has been extremely busy. On 1st September Charlotte Walker is giving a public talk ‘Costume Conversations’ in support of the exhibition ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ at the Immigration Museum. Speaking with award winning designer Hugh Colman and Musette Molyneaux, Head of Costume Workshop at The Australian Ballet, they will reveal how ballet costumes come to life and how they are cared for in Museum Collections.
Alice Cannon and Belinda Gourley attended the Preserving the Near Future Symposium hosted by ACMI and AICCM on 28 July 2018.
National Gallery of Victoria
The NGV Conservation Department have welcomed a number of new members to the team. In May we welcomed Jason King to in the role of Frame maker. Jason is a trained cabinet maker who previously worked at the NGV in the artwork packing and installation areas. Sky Firth was appointed Senior Conservator of Textiles in May and comes to the textiles lab with over a decade of textiles conservation experience.
In August we welcomed Raymonda Rajkowski as Conservator of Paintings and Melbourne University student Grace Barrand. Raymonda, who is in the final stages of her doctorate investigating acrylic emulsion paints used by Australian colourfield painters, will focus on modern and contemporary paintings in the NGV collection, including works by indigenous artists. Grace will be undertaking 2 month part-time internship placement focussing on frame conservation and reframing projects.
We are also currently in the process of recruiting another specialist paintings conservator for the team, an appointment is expected to be made in the next month or so.
Over the three months of May to July, the NGV Conservation Department has been involved with the installation of the NGV’s Melbourne Winter Masterpiece exhibition MoMA at NGV and various collection displays including: Japonisme: Japan and the Birth of Modern Art, Guerrilla Girls: Portfolio Compleat; NGV-International 50th Anniversary andRirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (lunch box). The period also included the refurbishment of its colonial and modern art permanent collection galleries on Level 2 at NGV-A L2 and Contemporary Art galleries on Level 3 NGV-I and saw the acquisition of 505 works into the collection.
Textiles conservators Kate Douglas, Kate McLaren and Skye Firth continue to work on the preparation for the Krystyna Campbell-Pretty fashion show which will open March 2019. Preparation includes photography of each new acquisition as well as purpose underpinnings for display by Specialist Display Technician, Ellen Doyle.
Following her recent high-profile treatments on paintings by Amedeo Modigliani and Salvador Dalí, Raye Collins has continued treatment work on John Russell’s Farmyard at Elçhe (Removal of a surface coating and inpainting of losses), Bertrand Lavier’s Avenue Bosquet (thread-by-thread tear repair) and the restretching of two large paintings by Virginia Cuppaidge. Carl Villis has cleaned and revarnished Anthony van Dyck’s Phillip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke, and is in the lengthy process of inpainting the widespread abrasion across the surface of the painting.
The busy program of the Frames and Furniture section has seen Suzi Shaw researching, treating project managing the reupholstering of Featherston furniture for the 50th Anniversary exhibition whilst Holly McGowan-Jackson, Rob Murdoch and Jason King have been researching and making reproduction frames for John Russell’s Farmyard at Elçhe (1889) and Brueghel’s River landscape with a village and Village landscape with boats and figures. Ex-NGV staffer Noel Turner carried out a contract treatment in June which provided a perfect opportunity for a Frames and Furniture family photo.
Exhibitions and Loans conservators Catherine Earley and Janelle Borig were focused on condition reporting incoming MoMA loans and out-going loans from the Colony: Australia 1770-1861 and TopArts exhibitions as well as viewing loan items prior to travel for the Design Storytellers: the work of Broached Commissions exhibition opening in August; Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions, Ken Unsworth: Truly, Madly and Polly Borland: Polyverse exhibitions opening in September; and Rigg Design Prize opening in October.
In the Paper and Photography studio, it has been all hands on deck with preparation of works for Visions of Paradise: Indian Court Paintings opening in December. Ruth Shervington, Louise Wilson and Pip Morrison have been carrying out extensive consolidation, stain reduction and repair treatment to over 100 of the 270 17th to 19th century Indian miniature paintings to be included in the exhibition, whilst mount-cutters Enrique Anderson and Peter Block have been mounting and framing them for display.
The objects conservators Marika Strohschnieder, Trude Ellingsen and Di Whittle and mount-makers Eamon O’Toole and Ben Raynor have been busy preparing and making mounts for collection items as part of the permanent collection display changeovers and assessing new acquisitions. This included cleaning 85 silver and 30 gold decorative arts items for display in the NGV-A changeover and examining 160 imari ware for acquisition. Contractor Jude Schahinger undertook the treatment and assisted with the installation of the recently acquired Cliveden House mantelpiece and welcome window as part of the NGV-I refurbishment.
State Library Victoria
Comings and goings of staff
Conservation is looking forward to having Ruth Drayson start as a volunteer in paper conservation. Ruth recently graduated from the Master of Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne. While Preservation welcomes second-year conservation student Tristan Congreve, who will be volunteering one day a week working on manuscript collections.
Social media highlights
This quarter saw many interesting posts in the @libraryvic #presconslibraryvic Instagram feed including a visualisation of the work involved in despatching the miniature celestial globe (1770-1773, H5088) reputed to have been used by Captain Cook which is going on loan to the National Library of Australia. The globe will be displayed in the exhibition Cook and the Pacific from 19 September 2018 to 10 February 2019.
Other highlights include a number of posts on the Walter and Helena Cass Collection, which was the focus of the Library’s successful fundraising appeal to preserve the collection. Spanning more than 100 years and 1000 items, the Cass Collection tells the story of decorated war hero Walter Cass’ military service during the Boer War (1899-1902) and the First World War (1914-18) at Gallipoli, Krythia and in Fromelles, and of Helena Cass who was a nurse in WWI, who between the wars went on a public speaking tour of America promoting Australia, and who later in WWII went on to become a journalist.
The paper conservation team are undertaking a range of treatments, with a particular focus on digitisation programs. Marika Kocsis recently brushed the cobwebs off our slant washing table for the treatment of the very rare and fragile National Referendum of 1916 (LTP 355.22363). After removing three magnetic barcodes and one security tag, the pages were gently washed for 2 hours over the slant table resulting in the even removal of brown discolouration and enhanced overall flexibility. Albertine Hamilton continues working on the scrapbook of 19th century lithographer Richard Shepherd (H2006.135/1-252) which contains over 200 original drawings and watercolour paintings, as well as a number of engravings collected by Shepherd. As many of the items feature artwork on the verso, Albertine has been removing the items from the album to reveal the verso and allow access for digitisation.
The paper conservation department have also been trialling new materials and techniques. Jess McElhinney has been trialling the use of gellan gum for the reduction of discolouration associated with acidic migration on watercolour artworks. Using a non-collection item, Jess has had success using gellan gum placed in direct contact with the pre-humidified watercolour artwork, with no apparent solubilisation of media or pigment transfer. Experiments are ongoing. Katy Glen is in the early stages of a complex varnish removal treatment on the painted photograph Williamstown from Hobson’s Bay by Andrew Rider, c. mid-1860s (H2014.1082). After the advice of Richard Wolbers, Katy is trialling the use of silicon solvent “D4” (cyclomethicone) to create a barrier layer to protect the object’s many layers before applying a xanthan gum/benzyl alcohol emulsion to suspend and extract the soluble elements of the oxidised varnish layer. Initial results are encouraging.
Over the last few weeks, Preservation staff have been focused on protecting collection material in storage areas undergoing building works. Preservation staff have had to cover countless shelving systems to ensure the collection remains dust free during construction.
Work continues unabated on the Marion Page Archive from the Manuscripts Collection. Leah Williams is sorting and rehousing the large and disorderly photographic component, while Kate Holloway has concentrated on the seemingly never-ending business and financial archive. Kate and Leah are currently preparing a paper regarding their work on this Archive for the AICCM Book, Paper & Photographic Materials Symposium in November.
Jessye Wdowin McGregor and Josh Cassidy have been able to assist with the preparation of Victorian newspaper titles for digitisation. Savina Hopkins, with help from Kate Holloway, carried out a mammoth task in our Quarantine rooms sorting through an enormous quantity of architectural plans and drawings from the Best Overend Collection (Overend designed the Cairo apartments in Nicholson Street, Fitzroy). This material has been cleaned and bagged and is now with our Pictures Collection staff for cataloguing and listing.
Katrina Ben and Emily Keppel continue to survey the Michael Abbott Collection of South East Asian Islamic manuscripts, which will help to inform future use of the Library’s Islamic materials including handling, storage and display.
Exhibitions and loans
Registrars Sarah Haselton and Fiona Wilson have been working on a number of loans, with collection items recently despatched to the Ian Potter Museum of Art for the State of the Union exhibition and the McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery for the Atlas of Memory of Ford’s Natural Australian Garden exhibition. Work has also begun on securing inward loans for the Library’s new gallery opening in 2019, Victoria Gallery.
Exhibitions and loans conservator Amanda Wild and Jane Hinwood were recently involved in the deinstallation of all paintings and marble busts on permanent display in Cowen Gallery and the adjacent Rotundas as part of the Library’s Vision 2020 redevelopment project. This has given Conservation the opportunity to condition report the paintings, improve the standard of backing boards where required and standardise hanging and security fixtures throughout.
Conservation has also been busy preparing collection items for the October changeover of the Dome Gallery exhibition World of the Book. This has involved a range of conservation treatments and the construction of custom cradles and supports. For example, the book conservation team are currently working on the design of an angled support using EchoPanel® (100% PET) for the display of three tightly-rolled Ethiopian healing scrolls (RARESEF 091 ET3). The strong memory of the parchment scrolls makes the task of fixing them securely to the support a complex endeavour. Helen McPherson has also been undertaking minor treatment on a number of books from the John Emmerson Collection for display. This includes the use of gellan gum to separate and reattach the skinned paper fragments of a haphazardly tipped-in plate from the adjacent page in William Bedloe’s A True Narrative of the Horrid Plot and Conspiracy of the Popish Party Against the Life of His Sacred Majesty, the Government, and the Protestant Religion (RAREEMM 516/1).
Workshops, conferences and events
21 July – Conservation Coordinator Jane Hinwood presented at the Discovering Robin Boyd: Exploring his legacy through his architecture, correspondence, and archive, hosted by the Melbourne School of Design and the State Library User Organisations’ Council. Jane discussed the conservation treatment of the Library’s Grounds, Romberg and Boyd collection of architectural plans on tracing paper.
28-29 July – Marika Kocsis and Shelley Jamieson opened the Conservation Lab over the weekend for Melbourne Open House tours. This is the fourth year of conservation tours with approximately 200 people gaining access behind-the-scenes to view our facilities and the work we do in Conservation.
16 August – The Conservation, Learning Services and Collection staff are preparing for a day of talks, tours and workshops for year 10 to 12 school students, for Science week. The focus on all things science in the collection and on conservation science. Nicole Tse from Melbourne University has kindly agreed to be guest speaker. As part of the day’s events Marika Kocsis and Albertine Hamilton are developing a series of practical workshops for the students, focused on water and cellulose science, and including practical exercises washing paper.
Comings & Goings of Staff
This has been a quarter of greetings and farewells in the Paper and Books Lab. Artlab warmly welcomes Roberto Padoan as the new Principal Conservator, responsible for managing the Paper and Books team. Roberto comes to us from Italy and most recently The Hague where he has worked on a range of book, manuscript and paper conservation projects at the National Archives of the Netherlands, as well as the Vatican Secret Archives. Roberto has a keen research interest in the field of Imaging Spectroscopy, studying applications for the non-destructive quantitative monitoring of ageing process in historical documents during exhibitions. He has conducted his research project at the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, and the TU-Delft University. We look forward to Roberto sharing and applying his technical knowledge and skills in this area.
We say goodbye to Laura Daenke who has done a fantastic job for the past six months assisting in the Paper & Books Lab with a range of institutional and commercial jobs. Laura is very excited to have been accepted into an internship at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam next year. She will be juggling this around her studies for the University of Melbourne conservation course. We miss her already and wish her all the very best!
Lauren Acland, a second-year student from the University of Melbourne has just completing her three-week internship in the Paper & Books Lab. We managed to serve Lauren up a range of items to hone her practical skills. We have enjoyed her company, though it was a short stay, and wish her well in the completion of her studies.
The Objects lab welcomed intern, Racquel Austin-Abdullah, a student of the Graduate Programme in Archaeology and Heritage Management at Flinders University, who spent three weeks with us in August for her Archaeology and Heritage Practicum. Raquel has an interest in ethnographic material. She observed and assisted us with many of our day-to-day commitments including with the documentation, cleaning and preparation for future display of two bark cloth dance masks from the Baining people of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
It has been an especially busy time attending to the many varying needs of our state and private clients, and a snapshot of what Objects conservators have been working on includes (but by no means is limited to) condition checking Lustre: Pearling and Australia, a travelling exhibition developed and designed by the Western Australian Museum and Nyamba Buru Yawuru which will be displayed at the South Australian Maritime Museum.
Renita Ryan treated an historic libation cup, a finely carved rhinoceros horn ceremonial drinking vessel. The cup had suffered breaks and losses and Renita reattached broken shards and undertook shaped fills using pigmented wax.
Megan Sypek has been solving problems of display and stabilisation of a Pram (circa 1890s). The pram was used by the aviators Sir Ross and Keith Smith as babies. Since then the pram has had been badly burnt and has endured some particularly unsympathetic restorations. Removing layers of paint and canvas upholstery has revealed the original surfaces of the pram, and some large burnt areas. Megan is investigating using photographic prints to fill and visually blend in areas of fabric loss. Each step of this treatment has presented a new and exciting challenge.
Filipa Quintela has been completing outstanding jobs, including a pair of large wooden silver gilded angels – most likely from Pondicherry, India, circa 1780 – belonging to a private client. Treatment was time-consuming and aimed to stabilize the sculptures, particularly the gilded surface that was in very fragile condition, with numerous losses. One of the angels also required a structural repair to its arm (see attached images of before and after treatment).
Amongst catching up with her backlog of work from private clients, Sophie Parker treated an exquisite automaton of three singing birds in a gilded cage. Her treatment addressed carpet beetle damage, building dust removal and, more interestingly, the use of Wolbers’ gels to reduce grandchildren art/graffiti black ink stain. Sophie also created a replacement bird beak using shaped parchment and acrylic paint, so the bird can now sing!
Jo Dawe prepared a large aluminium sculpture, Performer and Bouquet by George Baldessin for loan to the NGV for their upcoming exhibition Baldessin and Whiteley. and completed treatment of a pair of privately- owned Moorcroft vases, which had both been broken and previously repaired and required extensive stain removal from old adhesive residues, before the shards could be re-attached.
Lastly, we send a fond bon voyage to Justin Gare who is using his seven weeks long service leave to travel around Scandinavia with Kristin – we are all immensely jealous! We look forward to his return in October and will be sure to save up some particularly tricky treatments for him.
Taking it to the streets, (well Chinatown to be precise), the Projects and Objects labs combined efforts and have been busy conserving numerous and varied public art works in and around Gouger St for City of Adelaide Council. Originally installed in 1997, many of the pieces had significantly deteriorated. A kinetic piece by Antonio Colangelo no longer moved and other works had elements missing. With little documentation from the time available, identifying and contacting some of the more elusive artists necessitated some considerable detective work to confidently return the works closer to their original appearance. From a red herring to lions and a giant coffee cup, the variety of objects and materials provided an interesting challenge for the teams.
Conservators across the Paper, Textiles, Objects and Preventive Labs have been involved with preparing, supporting, installing and documenting new installation works by Japanese Artist Chiharu Shiota at the Art Gallery of SA. Recognised internationally for her string installations, Chiharu Shiota is the subject of three major projects at AGSA. This trilogy of includes a major site-specific commission that embodies the space within the Melrose Wing with red (acrylic) wool. There is also a selection of sculptures, drawings and largescale watercolour paintings. The latter requiring New Principal Conservator Roberto Padoan to devise specialised display mechanisms. A new sculptural textile work was also made by the artist for the front external facade of the Gallery consisting of 3 super-sized red dresses with (very!) long swags. The installation of these necessitated the superb problem-solving skills of Kristin Phillips and several cold mornings for her and Mary-Anne Gooden up a scissor lift undertaking installation at altitude!
Conference & Workshop Attendances
Senior Paintings Conservator Chris Payne is back at Artlab after attending the Attingham Summer School in England generously supported by the Copland Foundation. The course is three weeks of non-stop visits to country houses travelling from South to North. Specialists in their field were on hand to lecture on the houses or their collection each day and in the evenings after dinner. There were nearly 50 participants mostly from the US, England and Europe filling the bus with good natured camaraderie.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
The last few months at MAGNT have been super busy. We have installed 5 new exhibitions that include Out of the Dark: From the MAGNT Collection, Unruly Days: Territory Life 1911-1921, Midawarr I Harvest: The Art of Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley (touring NMA exhibition), Feeling For Pattern: 50 years of Tiwi pottery and 35th Telstra National Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Art Award (NATSIAA). The NATSIAA opening awards night was very well attended with over 3000 guests, our Director Marcus Schutenko donned a linen screen-printed Injalak designed suit and there was an amazing Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander entertainment line-up. Not to mention the free buses, picnic rug and the pop-up food stands as we picnicked while the sun set over the Arafura Sea. See all the winners here: https://www.magnt.net.au/natsiaa and a short judges commentary here: https://www.magnt.net.au/copy-of-natsiaa-winners?wix-vod-video-id=b1ee5e8d0b8b4e08ba9264aa14f58fe4&wix-vod-covideomp-id=comp-jkopqkl4#
Detlev Lueth, Assistant Director Preservation and Digitisation from National Archives Australia presented current best practices for Disaster Preparedness at the National Archives Australia at the DisNT meeting held at the National Archives Australia – Northern Territory Archives Centre in July. MAGNT Conservators attended and also where taken on a tour of the Conservation laboratory.
Assistant conservator Eliana Urrutia-Bernard continues to work on the Ian Potter digitisation project until April 2019. Currently the digitisation project has been focusing on the museums maritime collection working with curator Paul Clark and photographer Merinda Campbell on selecting material based on significance and storytelling value for upcoming exhibitions. We look forward to having increased accessibility to this striking Maritime collection.
Lisa Nolan has been meeting with Conservators who have previously worked at MAGNT and in the Northern Territory while researching the extensive history of bark supports at MAGNT for a peer review paper. The people contacted so far include Karen Coote, Catherine Millikan, Nick Burningham and Carolyn McLennon. There have been some really interesting oral histories discussed during these catch ups based on working in the Northern Territory.
Sandra Yee is on long service leave mixed with study leave until January 2019. Sandra continues her Masters of Cultural Materials Conservation part-time at the University of Melbourne. Nadine Lee who was also studying part-time has postponed her Masters of Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne for this year and finished her Conservation Aboriginal Traineeship with the Materials Conservation Section at the end of June. We wish Nadine all the best when she moves to Melbourne next year to complete her Masters Degree full-time on a full scholarship. Ellie and Lisa also carried out professional development relating training for the KE EMu database and Cross Cultural Awareness.