New South Wales
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW)
The Conservation team is delighted to welcome our newly engaged Exhibitions & Loans Conservators, Lisa Mansfield & Madeleine Ewing, who have further expanded the specialised skills within the team, enabling us to cover a broader range of treatments and tasks and free up lab hours. Frances Cumming and the team are currently focusing on assisting with the changeover of the Old Courts, the deinstall of the National, as well as preparing for the deinstall and extended tours for both the Archibald Prize 2021 and the Archie 100. Additionally, we are in the thick of planning for a diverse suite of exhibitions that are running in concert with the summer exhibition, Matisse: Life & Spirit.
Time-based Art (TBA)
The Time-based Art conservation department has been using lockdown to focus on a range of collection maintenance tasks, review internal workflows and procedures with cross-departmental colleagues, and further develop and progress a number of significant collection care projects; notably including an Obsolete Technology Survey of the TBA Collection and a dedicated Software Preservation Project focused on developing best-practice standards for the acquisition and ongoing care of software-based artworks in the Gallery’s collection.
While working from home, the TBA Conservation team has been focusing on acquisitions, commissions and exhibitions associated with both the existing Gallery building and the Sydney Modern Project, as well as reviewing ongoing access, storage, and digital preservation requirements for the TBA Collection.
Rebecca Barnott-Clement, Jonathan Dennis and Lisa Mansfield were recently joined by a student from the University of Sydney Master of Interactive Design course, Mei Wilkinson, who is currently undertaking a research internship with the TBA Conservation department in conjunction with the Software Preservation Project. She is warmly welcomed to the team along with our numerous colleagues from other conservation specialisations who have volunteered to assist the TBA Conservation department with research tasks during the lockdown period.
The Paper team is delighted to announce the appointment of Lois Waters (she/her) to the team in a permanent role. Lois commenced working at the Gallery on a contract in late 2019 and has made a significant contribution to the team over that time. The team also welcomes Bernadette Jones (she/her) who has commenced working 1.5 days per week as a technical assistant. Bernadette comes to us with a wealth of hands-on experience and we are delighted to have her on board.
Over the course of the last two months the team has been adapting to this latest lockdown, which has involved several new challenges. Sarah Bunn (she/her) has been working on the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial: Real Worlds tour, which concluded at the Museum of Art and Culture at Lake Macquarie in mid-July. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gallery staff couldn’t travel to condition check and deinstall the exhibition, so we revised the tour manual, held several online meetings with both institutions to plan the deinstall process for the more complex, unframed works on paper, and were on call for the deinstall if required – we weren’t!
Equally, Analiese Treacy (she/her) has been working virtually with the team at Bendigo Art Gallery and Peter Michelson (Conservator from the University of Melbourne – acting as a wonderful stand in), to oversee (via Facetime) the installation of the Brett Whiteley Drawing is Everything touring exhibition. In this instance the AGNSW team could not travel to install the show due to closed state borders, but the combined efforts of all involved resulted in the show opening successfully as planned.
The Paper team has also been attending early planning meetings for our impending Sydney Modern Building, due to open in late 2022. It has been exciting to be part of the planning for such wonderfully innovative and creative exhibition spaces. The team has also been taking this opportunity to avail of online training courses, with Lois Waters and Sarah Bunn each attending one of the nanocellulose courses offered by Remy Dreyfuss-Deseigne, and Analiese and Sarah participating in the upcoming ICON BPG21 conference taking place in October via a talk, poster and a behind-the-scenes tour of the AGNSW paper lab. This period of closure has offered a rare opportunity to write up interesting projects, catch up on the ever-important task of data entry, and take on a backlog of other administrative tasks.
The mount cutting team, not being able to continue with its work onsite due to lockdown, has been busy with doing digital gardening across the conservation department and beyond, with some cross-pollination activities at its heart. Julia Bavyka (they/them), who joined the team in February as a technical assistant in mount cutting, has been sharing this job with Jonathan Dennis (he/him) since then. In the past weeks Julia has been working across teams to ensure the completion of a tools, materials and equipment list required for our new conservation lab space, currently in construction as part of the Sydney Modern project. Our wonderful Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Sherryl Reddy, organised a LGBTQIA+ Awareness Session with Nicki Elkin from Pride in Diversity in late-July, which was highly attended by Gallery staff. Julia was one of the facilitators of a Q&A session afterwards and will continue their voluntary work in establishing a LGBTQIA+ and Allies network at the Gallery. They are currently working in multiple groups, supporting research activities in time-based art, and drafting a text about mounting of recently acquired works by Ana Maria Pacheco (Brazil, b.1943).
Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Art and Culture staff installing some of the more complex works on paper included in the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial: Real Worlds at Lake Macquarie, May 2021.
The Objects section welcomes a new staff member, Bronwyn Tulloh. Bronwyn brings a wealth of experience from her previous roles, so the entire team is absolutely thrilled to have her on board. Sofia Lo Bianco has been consulting on several interesting commissions, which the Gallery will reveal along with the opening of our Sydney Modern Project. These commissions require in-depth research and planning – yet provide a wonderful platform for creative and collaborative thinking. Kerry Head has been diligently working on the preparation of a number of works for both the Grand Courts re-hang due to open in November and the Matisse Alive exhibition, also due around the same time. The objects team has also moved studio and is finally part of the larger team. Having the team together now allows us to work more particularly as art becomes increasingly cross-disciplinary.
The Paintings section has mainly been working on the Gallery’s Old Courts project for the past few months. Paula Dredge, Andrea Nottage, Madeleine Ewing, and Simon Ives have respectively been undertaking major conservation treatments on portraits by Joseph Backler, a Hilda Rix Nicholas’ new acquisition, Hermione, by Thomas Francis Dicksee, and The lady in blue by Hugh Ramsay, while Celine de Courlon, Melissa Harvey, and Sophie P d’Abrigeon have been focusing on minor treatments, structural work on the backs of frames, and hanging systems. Unfortunately, all treatments had to be put on hold in early July due to the lockdown. Since then, the team has been collaborating with the rest of the Conservation department on training materials, administrative work and the planning of future exhibitions and projects.
Congratulations to Madeleine Ewing who just joined the Exhibitions conservation team! Madeleine has been working on the Old Courts project as well as the outward loans program within the Paintings team since March. She has been a very valuable and appreciated member of our team; we wish her all the best in her new role and we look forward to working with her on future exhibitions.
The Frames conservation team is happy to have recently returned to onsite work at the Gallery as of Monday 16 August. Geneveive Tobin and Basia Dabrowa have been continuing minor treatments to stabilise, clean and retouch gilded frames for the Grand Courts rehang, working closely with Paintings and tech teams to regularly revise and reprioritise what is achievable, in addition to assessing and completing what is possible for the loans program.
Unfortunately, we have had to temporarily halt our benefactor supported projects until next year due to current circumstances. Margaret Sawicki has been working on the major treatment of the classical frame for Thomas Francis Dicksee’s Hermione (c. 1874) and we are hopeful this major treatment may be continued next year along with the major treatment of the frame for Gordon Coutts (aptly named) Waiting (c. 1895), also included in the rehang.
We have also had to temporarily suspend completion of the two identical 19th-century frames for portraits by Joseph Backler, the results of many months of practical research. Basia worked to treat these frames, which require more time to finalise, while the third Backler portrait required a reproduction frame identical to the others complete with its own fabrication challenges. The reproduction frame was achieved through close collaboration with the Frames team and executed with fantastic results by Tom Langlands. It is remarkable how well the frame complements and spotlights the details in the recently restored portrait of Elizabeth Collins (c. 1861). Tom has been very hard at work making 40 standard frames for watercolours included in the rehang in addition to reproduction frames for paintings. He is currently finishing a frame for a marble relief by William MacIntosh and working on a repro frame for an Emily Carr painting.
Portrait of Elizabeth Collins 1861
oil on canvas, 77.9 x 63.8 cm, 89 x 77 x 7 cm frame
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Gift of Mrs J C Williams and Mr O C Tunks 1990
Photo: Genevieve Tobin, AGNSW
Left: Detail of reproduction frame, highlighting complementing gold ornament detail in both frame and painting.
Right: Reproduction frame for Joseph Backler Portrait of a Woman (Elizabeth Collins) c. 1861
Collection Care and Conservation
It’s official! Heather Bleechmore has been appointed to the role of Manager of Collection Care and Conservation at the Australian Museum. Whilst acting in the role over the past year, Heather has had more than a few operational challenges to contend with, such as bringing the new Conservation lab to fruition and navigating the team through the COVID-19 pandemic. This appointment is welcome news indeed.
The Collection Care and Conservation team had only just settled into their new lab when COVID-19 reared its ugly head again and most of the team found themselves working from home for the foreseeable future. An aspect of the new lab is the ‘on view’ windows into the Education corridor, which meant that the team was getting used to seeing students, staff and the public looking in over the lab. To those who had not visited the AM Conservation lab prior to the refurbishment, it was a bit of a bunker with no windows. Now we have views to the outside world and are welcoming the new sense of connection. In May the lab became fully operational and in July the IPM room housing the nitrogen chamber and walk-in freezer was brought online.
Rehan Scharenguivel recently presented at the ‘AICCM Agents of Change Series: Pests’ on a heat treatment completed recently. The talk covered the use of moist heat chambers to successfully pest-treat cultural materials and the considerations involved when undertaking the treatment. Being from Sydney, hot humid air is something that we are all used to, so utilising a controlled humidity heat treatment is a pathway the Museum will definitely be using again.
Also, Rehan will be presenting a paper with Jessica Gray (Preventive Conservator, MAAS) at the upcoming ‘Pest Odyssey: The Next Generation’ conference. The paper will cover regional-specific digital collaboration in tackling pest issues. If you’re not yet tired of Rehan’s voice, you can find more details on the conference here
Michael Kelly is currently carrying out a treatment project on a collection of early correspondence (1880s) from the Archives collections. The treatments include cleaning, stabilisation, and re-housing.
Rehousing Types Project
The Palaeontology Rehousing Project finished at the end of June with over 3,000 fossil specimens rehoused. Sophie Phillips, under the guidance of Sheldon Teare, has been developing and implementing updated housing systems for the collection using new archival-grade boxes and supports, offering greater protection to specimens while housed in drawers, as well as during handling. The methods developed in this project will be used to continue re-housing the remaining Type collection specimens over the coming months.
Fossil type specimens in upgraded archival housing, before and after.
Collection Enhancement Project
Whilst continuing to investigate white substances forming on Entomology collections, Clare Kim has been exploring possible methods to minimise the appearance of these substances from the affected specimens. Solubility tests have been conducted using carefully selected solvents, followed by treatment undertaken under a microscope on specimens from the teaching collections. The experiment at this stage aims to develop treatment methods to lessen the visual impact of the substance for when specimens may be required for taxonomy research or exhibition purposes.
Specimen with possible fatty acid, before and after treatment.
Kyra Kim will be undertaking a repair of the wooden shields from the Unsettled exhibition. Due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown, this repair will be led by the First Nations artists via a virtual conference. This is an exciting opportunity to initiate community-led treatments and virtual consultations.
Megan Dean-Jones has begun but has had to put on hold the condition assessment and processing of the approximately 1600 spectacular mineral specimens selected for the new permanent Minerals Gallery. Work on this gallery, which is due to open in late 2022, will continue once the team can resume working on site.
The IPM program has been kept busy during lockdown with regular gallery and trap inspections still taking place. This has helped the team stay on top of any outbreaks that may be occurring while everyone is away from the Museum. This has certainly meant that the usual slowdown of the IPM program over the cooler months has failed to occur this year but if the bugs aren’t hibernating, then we can’t either.
Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM)
We welcomed Amy Walsh to the conservation team in mid-June. Amy joins us from International Conservation Services and has a background in objects conservation, specialising in ceramics and archaeological materials. She brings a diverse treatment skill set and project management experience, all of which she is excited to apply in an institutional setting.
Sadly the Sydney lockdown has meant that our interns or volunteers have been unable to visit the lab since late-June. We look forward to welcoming everyone back when it is safe to do so.
A fish from Guykuda’s Aquarium undergoing anoxic treatment. Image by J Fox.
During June, Jeff Fox and Amy worked with Alex Roach from Modified Atmospheres to undertake anoxic pest treatments on a contemporary artwork entitled Guykuda’s Aquarium, which consists of 17 wooden sculptures of various fish species by Yolngu artist Guykuda Mununggurr. In order to reduce our environmental impact, supports for the delicate sculptures were fashioned out of recycled cardboard and the barrier film will be reused for future pest treatments.
Paper treatment in progress. Image by E Hayles.
In the quieter weeks before full lockdown, Emma Hayles and Amy undertook a number of treatments on paper-based objects, including prints, blueprints and maps. Works included removing acidic supports, humidification and flattening, tear repairs and remounting into new conservation-grade window mounts. The quiet nature of the lab meant it was possible to work on these large objects – many greater than A2 in size – without concerns for taking up too much space.
Putting the Museum to sleep. Image by A Alvis.
Like at other museums and cultural institutions during lockdowns, Alayne Alvis, Nick Flood, Emma and Amy were able to take advantage of the shutdown to undertake valuable maintenance cleaning on a number of open display objects, many of which are difficult to access. Armed with vacuums, brushes, microfibre cloths, masks (for the dual purposes of COVID and dust prevention!) and a scissor lift, the team cleaned several large vessels and sculptures dotted around the main Museum building and the Wharf 7 foyer. This period also gave us the chance to put the Museum ‘to sleep’. Lighting was turned off, outward-facing showcases were covered, displayed books were closed and garments were taken off display to rest.
Assembly of Tu Do’s platform by crane. Image by E Hayles.
Nick fabricating stanchions. Image by E Hayles.
With Conservation Manager Agata Rostek-Robak at the helm, the whole team has been hard at work in preparation for the major treatment of Tu Do, a Vietnamese refugee vessel. The 18.25-metre boat will be lifted from the harbour, cleaned and slowly dried under controlled conditions, allowing it to eventually be displayed inside the Museum. The first stage of the project was undertaken in late-June, with the crane installation of a large platform structure in the Museum’s bus park – this is where the treatment will take place over the course of several years. Additionally, Emma and Nick had the opportunity to hone their welding skills in order to fabricate stanchions, which will surround the deck of the vessel for safety purposes. Tu Do was scheduled to be lifted from the harbour in mid-August – while the Sydney lockdown has meant that this exciting moment has been postponed, there is still plenty of preparation work underway to ensure the whole project runs smoothly.
Masterpieces! – making the most of Zoom filters. Image by E Hayles.
Due to lockdown, the conservation team has been working from home for much of July and August. This has provided the perfect opportunity to catch up on administrative tasks and undertake research that will help to develop the Museum’s Hazards in Collections Management Plan, update IPM systems, improve PPE usage and fine-tune safety protocols for collections and staff. The team has been keeping in touch (and entertained) via Zoom, with regular cameos from beloved pets!
Emma preparing for treatment of the Sentinels. Image by E Hayles.
Alayne, Amy and Emma have mostly completed treatment of objects for the upcoming One Ocean Our Future exhibition. The final objects, Gumbaynggirr artist YOMA’s Sentinels has arrived on loan. These large-scale figures, some reaching 280 cm tall, are 3D printed and were previously displayed in Circular Quay for Vivid. Having weathered the elements, they required a thorough clean before they can take pride of place within the exhibition.
Alayne inspecting one of the river maps, highlighting an inscription. Image by A Walsh.
Alayne has also had the chance to work on three beautiful river maps, which have been drawn on long rolled textiles. These interesting pieces are being assessed and documented for an upcoming exhibition scheduled for 2022.
Amy had the pleasure of receiving and condition checking a collection of maritime archaeological objects from the wreck of the Japanese pearling boat Sanyo Maru. This collection, which is on loan from the Northern Territory Government, included ceramics, lacquerware, chopsticks and even a small surgical kit. The objects will be digitised by ANMM and exhibited in the near future.
Despite the lockdown keeping everyone stuck in Sydney, Nick ‘travelled’ all the way to Lucknow, India, to virtually attend the Archaeometallurgy and Scientific Analysis of Ancient Metal Objects course run through the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property.
Jeff and Emma also attended a forum on Pests, as part of the 10 Agents Over 10 Months series presented by the AICCM Preventive Conservation Special Interest Group. They enjoyed hearing from Australian and international colleagues, keeping up to date with what’s happening in the field of IPM.
International Conservation Services (ICS)
Over the last few months, ICS Melbourne carried out maintenance and repairs on Ola Cohn’s Fairies Tree at Fitzroy Gardens. The team also applied preventive measures to preserve the Aboriginal Scarred Tree for the City of Melbourne.
Kristine Allinson works on the Fairies Tree. Image by International Conservation Services.
Objects conservators Bruno Bell and Kristine Allinson continued their work on two archaeological assemblages excavated on King Street. The team has been trialling the use of electrolysis to reduce corrosion product on silver coins with good results.
Eden Christian, of ICS Sydney, joined Katie Smith in Melbourne to treat a collection of paintings and frames from Beleura House and Gardens in Mornington.
Two members of the ICS Melbourne team were recognised with promotions in July. Bruno Bell was promoted to Senior Objects Conservator and Kristine Allinson moved into the role of Conservation Projects Manager.
In Sydney, the Paintings Team has been working on the National Trust’s largest conservation project ever, the ‘Rescue Revive Reveal’ Program. Our team really enjoyed meeting with the Trust’s donors (pre lockdown), and helping to raise awareness about the process and value of conserving the collection. Work includes extensive conservation of the collection, plus research and authentication.
Claire Heasman and Matteo Volonté have been involved with the paint investigation and identification of original paint colours for the internal finishes at Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga.
The whole Paintings Team has been treating four large paintings from the collection of St John’s College over the last few months. A beautiful transformation occurred after consolidation and varnish removal.
Virgin and Child, After Murillo, before and after treatment. Image by International Conservation Services.
The Paper Team is breathing a sigh of relief having just finished a large mould remediation project. In addition, Katie Wood has been working on consolidation and tear repairs for four antique Japanese paper panels for a private client. Caroline Whitley disassembled, cleaned and repaired the components of three ambrotypes for the National Trust. Caroline and Katie recently undertook an assessment of Captain Cook’s Tapa cloth sample book for Te Papa, Wellington, NZ.
Ambrotype during treatment. Image by International Conservation Services.
Objects and Outdoor Heritage
The Objects and Outdoor Heritage Team has been delighted to welcome Alis Jitarescu into the role of Objects Conservator in July. Alis has a wealth of experience with a wide variety of materials and techniques, both on site and in the lab, including religious items, icons, oil paintings, furniture, frames, sculpture, murals and interiors.
Wendy Reade has been working diligently on an anchor from a French navy ship that explored our coastline in 1788. This 230-year-old relic, from the last voyage of navigator Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse, is being returned to public display at the La Perouse Museum after the conservation work is complete. The conservation project has been several years in the planning.
Keir Bayley brings the La Perouse Anchor into the ICS loading dock. Image by International Conservation Services.
The Team recently undertook assessment and treatment of the Bruce Lee sculpture in Kogarah Square. The bronze sculpture was exhibiting pitting as a result of the casting process. The corrosion was removed, and the surface protected by microcrystalline wax coating.
Wendy Reade applies a wax coating to the Bruce Lee sculpture. Image by International Conservation Services.
Claire Rowson and Keir Bayley also worked on the conservation of the shield elements at Wireless House in Glebe. The Team also completed conservation works on a Venetian glass mirror, including cleaning, reattaching elements, and installation on site.
In the Textiles Department, Principal Textile Conservator Christina Ritschel has completed stabilising and mounting a small collection of maritime flags and burgees. With the assistance of Conservator Alis Jitarescu, a 1930s leopard skin floor cover has been cleaned, relaxed and pieced back together, and has received a new felt backing. Alis also stabilised and built an improved support for a Native American headdress.
Alis Jitarescu stabilising the leopard skin floor cover. Image by International Conservation Services.
Alis and Conservation Assistant Yolanda El Khouri carried out surface cleaning, crease reduction and mounting of a WWI flag with embroidered inscriptions. They also conserved a large 18th–19th century tapestry, which required removal of the previous backing, stabilisation of weak areas, application of backing straps to evenly spread the weight while hanging, and then application of a full backing and Velcro hanging system. Yolanda also mounted a Chinese embroidery in preparation for framing, and carried out surface cleaning of a Japanese kimono in preparation for storage.
The Furniture Team has been completing extensive work on a fine collection of mid-18th century English furniture, including a delicate rosewood desk with tambour top. Oliver Hull also worked on a sculpture for White Rabbit Gallery of a leather jacket hanging on a chair, skilfully carved out of wood by artist Yang Pei-Chen.
Work in progress on Leather Coat, Yang Pei-Chen. The leather jacket is carved out of wood. Image by International Conservation Services.
Shane Orion Wiechnik completed work on a number of small objects including replicating lost fine marquetry on a small Sorrento music table, as well as beginning tests and surface work on a six-panel decorative East-Asian lacquer screen. Luke Mitchell has been guided through the process of marquetry and surface conservation on a large Boulle glass door cabinet.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS)
Meredith Freeman PhD is the new Conservation Manager at MAAS and started in the role in June 2021. Meredith has a strong background in project management and policy development within government, private and not-for-profit organisations. On completing her Master of Arts (Cultural Material Conservation) at the University of Melbourne, Meredith was awarded the inaugural Headley Trust / Crick Smith scholarship at the University of Lincoln, UK. Her doctoral research explores the science and agency of decorative schemes associated with built heritage and their contribution to the interpretation of the social and historical context of interiors. She has worked extensively as a conservator and conservation manager in private practice in the UK and more recently as Senior Conservation Projects Manager at ICS, Australia.
A big thanks to Kate Chidlow for steering the Conservation Unit over the past year.
Jessie Gray has been appointed as Preventive Conservator. Jessie will continue developing policy and procedure for integrated pest management and environmental monitoring and implement the Museum’s Preventive Conservation Program.
Elizabeth Reed has been appointed to work on the packing phase of the Collection Relocation and Digitisation (CRD) Project.
We farewell Gosia Dudek, Senior Objects Conservator, who has retired from MAAS after a career spanning 35 years. Both longer-serving and newer staff consider themselves fortunate to have worked alongside Gosia. She is a remarkable conservator, and her skill in objects conservation is unparalleled. Having trained in Poland, her education was intense and thorough, encompassing not only techniques relevant to the treatment of objects but artistic pursuits such as life drawing, sculpture, technical drawing, painting and model making. Gosia is a perfectionist; everything she has worked on is always completed to the highest calibre. Over the years we have learned so much from her; she will be missed both as a colleague and as a friend. We wish her all the very best for the next chapter.
We bid a fond farewell earlier this year to Carey Ward. After more than 40 years of service working with MAAS, Carey and his wife Anne have moved to Bathurst for their next adventure. Carey will be missed, not only for his significant skills and knowledge but more importantly for his friendship and sense of humour.
We farewell Margot Murray who is taking up the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Conservation Fellowship in Objects Conservation with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Margot brought a wealth of experience and skill in the treatment of ceramics from training and experience in Australia and the UK and quickly became a valued member of staff. We wish her well in this next adventure.
The CRD Project continues with assessment in the Special Collections team, welcoming Assistant Conservators Amy Heffernan, Bindiya Kumar, Caitlin Knight and Emilia Zambri. Freya Gabbutt resumes the role of Conservation Deputy Team Leader and Anurati Krishnamurthy will act in the position of Conservation Team Leader for Special Collections.
In August, as part of the Powerhouse Museum’s 2021 Regional Public Program, Brooke Randall and Jessica Gray presented a webinar discussing preventive conservation and the identification of hazardous materials in museum collections. The webinar had 99 participants joining from small museums in regional and western Sydney to larger institutions from NSW and interstate.
Project and treatment update
The restoration of Sydney Observatory’s Messenger’s Cottage built in the 1890s is now complete and will be a centre for visiting fellows participating in the MAAS Residency Program. Residents have been selected from across a diverse field of practices including astrophysics, science, philosophy and the environment, to visual art and theatre.
Dave Rockell has been updating our records for the very large objects in our collection including our locomotives and aircraft. At the Museum Discovery Centre at Castle Hill, Dave is reviewing and implementing improved storage solutions for the cars in the collection.
The General Assessment Team of the CRD Project celebrated the end of the assessment phase on 30 June 2021.Our Paper, Books & Photographs conservators have now completed a combined total of 1,245 conservation treatments for the CRD Project. This work has largely been undertaken by paper conservators Beate Yule and Karina Lavings but has been a team effort with treatments also undertaken by conservator Bronwyn Dunn and the previous CRD paper conservator, Rebecca Main. Beate and Karina are currently working from home and have a minimum of 567 treatments to complete when restrictions ease and they’re able to return to the Museum.
Jessica Gray (Preventive Conservator, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) and Rehan Scharenguivel (Collection Care Conservator, Australian Museum) will present their paper ‘Warrang/Sydney IPM group: A Regional-Specific Digital Collaborative Forum’ at the Pest Odyssey: The Next Generation conference in late September. This is an international IPM conference exploring best practice IPM in 2021, to be held virtually. Explore the program and buy tickets here
Jessie and Rehan also participated in the AICCM Preventive Conservation SIG online forum series Agents of Change: ‘10 Agents over 10 months – Pests’.
With lockdown restrictions in NSW, the exhibition program has been delayed; however, exhibition staff continue preparatory work for when the Museum re-opens.
Eucalyptusdom reckons with our cultural history and ever-changing relationship with the gum tree, presenting over 400 objects from the Museum’s collection alongside 17 newly commissioned works.
Robert Rosen: Glitterati is an exhibition of one of Australia’s foremost social photographers. Clay Dynasty celebrates 50 years of studio ceramics in Australia, featuring hundreds of ceramics from the Museum’s collection alongside loaned and commissioned works.
Electric Keys brings together an important recent acquisition of electronic keyboards from the middle of the 20th century to complement the existing collection of mechanical instruments, such as pianos and organs from the early 1900s, and a small collection of significant synthesisers.
Graphic Identities highlights eight ground-breaking Australian design archives from the Powerhouse Collection. The exhibition explores the role of visual communication in shaping contemporary Australian culture.
Microcars will feature a selection of these small, economical cars, popular in the years directly after WWII, drawn from the Powerhouse Collection, and loans from notable Australian collectors.
Loans to the Hurstville Museum and Art Gallery, NSW State Treasury and to the Museum of Australian Democracy, are on hold waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted. It is likely that dates will change further.
While our borders are shut, international borders are opening. A loan of textiles and a canvas will depart for the Fowler Museum at UCLA in the next couple of months. These will be included in the exhibition Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia’s Top End, a collaboration with five Aboriginal art centres and associated artists: Tiwi Design, Jilamara Arts and Crafts, Injalak Arts, Babbarra Women’s Centre, and Merrepen Arts.
Sadly, Mitchell has made the decision to move on from O’Sullivan Conservation and the Conservation Technician role has not been backfilled yet as we hunt for the right candidate.
Following a busy June quarter, and with the current COVID restrictions and lockdown in place, O’Sullivan Conservation has taken the opportunity to install two additional floor levels in the workshop. Comprising of a storage area on the second floor, a dedicated clean space for small objects conservation on the first floor, and an enclosed dining/meeting area on the ground level. This sees the workshop space nearly double, futureproofing our ability to service our clients’ needs into the future, in a modern and up-to-date facility.
New small object workshop ready for furniture.
The works at Material World (Railway Square) continued during June, with the team undertaking dust mitigation works. At the same time O’Sullivan Conservation’s contractor undertook a full lighting upgrade, in which the original fluorescent fixtures and wiring was removed and replaced with an energy-efficient LED lighting system matched to the installations original colour and luminosity. The replacement of the fluorescent tubes with LED modules not only results in an increased time between replacement by 8 years, but also should see a saving of approximately $88,452 recognised by the City of Sydney over a ten-year period.
Material World during lighting upgrade.
Material World after conservation treatment and lighting upgrade.
During June the team completed a major conservation treatment of the Freestanding Sculpture by Margel Hinder on the forecourt of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Martin Place, as well as a maintenance clean of the Bim Hilder wall enrichment in the foyer. Both projects were undertaken outside of normal business hours.
Freestanding Sculpture by Margel Hinder – Eoin removing the depleted wax with heat.
The conservation treatment of Bill’s Horse Trough, Zetland, prompted our team to think outside-the-box for site access and treatment solutions, and the end result is testament to their problem-solving skills.
Bills Horse Trough – Eoin undertaking patch repairs with product matched to original colour and type.
State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW)
Collection Care Branch news
Sadly, the State Library of NSW went into a second lockdown on 28 June 2021. The Library is building a new auditorium in what is currently collection storage beneath the Mitchell Library Reading Room. This project, now more than two months behind schedule, necessitates the relocation of many thousands of metres of collections onto new shelving in the Macquarie building. Our indomitable Collection Storage Manager, Mark Stevenson, is working closely with colleagues – in Collection Care, the Facilities Branch, relocation contractors, and shelving installers – to reassess and reprioritise this work for when we can access the building again.
In the Digitisation team, we are pleased that Assistant Conservator Paula Thorby’s temporary employment has been extended to the end of the year. This will greatly assist the team for the remainder of the DEP program.
Assistant Conservator Aileen Dean-Raschilla has been seconded to the Collection Care Storage team for eight months. Aileen will assist the team in preparing and relocating collections ahead of capital works.
We are excited to announce that Jochen Letsch will join the Collection Care Branch as an ongoing Assistant Conservator, Exhibitions and Loans. Jochen brings a wealth of experience to the Library, having worked as a conservation framer at ASA Conservation Framing, and recently as Conservation Technician and Framing Specialist at ICS.
Even in the Sydney lockdown the digitisation stream continues. The DEP team prepared, packed and sent out another batch of 800 town plans for digitisation. Experienced from lockdown in 2020, the team has adjusted well to working from home, using this time to catch up on admin and filing tasks, attend online training, write condition treatment reports and undertake conservation research. Kiki Lawler-Dormer attended the course ‘Nanocellulose Films in Art Conservation’, hosted by IAP and delivered online by Remy Dreyfuss-Deseigne in July.
A professional perk of Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown for Kiki and Hoa Huynh, is research time for their submissions to ICON Book and Paper Group Conference: ‘Mod Cons 2021: Modern Conservation. Modern Constraints. Modern Conveniences’. They will present research on the (de)colonial links around William Dugald Campbell’s Aboriginal Carvings volumes, in the form of a poster, presentation and post-print. This is a rare and exciting opportunity, normally difficult to achieve onsite alongside their busy DEP schedule!
Exhibition and Loans
The Exhibitions and Loans team completed the install of our new exhibition, How’s Tricks? Magic in the Golden Age, which looks at the influx of many of the world’s greatest conjurers and illusionists into Sydney between 1880 and 1920. The exhibition was due to open in the first weekend of lockdown, so it is now currently sitting in darkness and waiting for the Library’s reopening. We were also a week away from installing a major exhibition, Mapping the Pacific. This will be our first job when we return onsite. Mapping the Pacific will recreate whole maps and flattened globes (gores) in the space with large adjoining floor-to-ceiling mounted works on paper. We also have planned a Globe room to display pocket globes, large floor globes and over 90 maps.
During lockdown we prepared a large outward loan for Cairns Art Gallery and met the dispatch deadline for their exhibition William T Cooper Botanical Art of the Tropical Rainforest. A skeleton staff of two, Steve Bell and Wendy Richards, completed the bulk of the work onsite. Cath Bartley completed the final mounting and framing of 41 watercolours for the loan.
While future exhibition planning continues during lockdown, Helen Casey is using the time to review our lighting guidelines and practice. Helen is looking at policies across a range of institutions and delving into David Saunders’ new book on museum lighting. The AICCM 10 Agents Over 10 Months webinar on lighting was very timely!
The Preservation team is making the most of WFH to carry out a range of digital housekeeping tasks—the things we normally don’t get to when working onsite. Aileen Dean-Raschilla, Nicholas Beckett, Silvana Volpato and Nicole Ellis are busy cross-checking collection item lists (used for a range of purposes and projects) against information in the Library’s two catalogue systems—Adlib and Alma. By documenting inconsistencies, we can then organise the clean-up of location and other data. Nicole is also leading a review of our procedures, and the team is updating and adding missing procedures to fill the gaps.
Catherine Thomson and Nicole are reviewing environmental monitoring across the Library and standardising reporting and alarm settings. Wireless monitoring is now set up throughout all key storage and display areas. This is a real boon in the current circumstances! Catherine is planning the layout of a new collection material quarantine space and moving Collection Care supplies, scattered across temporary spaces in the stack, back into the renovated storerooms. With Felicity Corkill, Catherine is also planning the relocation of the Realia (objects) collection in advance of the auditorium build.
Book, Objects, Paintings
Steve Bell has been working onsite to complete the binding of the Corner journal, while the rest of the Book, Objects and Paintings team is working from home, catching up on records filing, online webinars and training, and other administration. Guy Caron is working with another Library colleague to translate the Freycinet archive of papers, written in French.
Conservation at home
Inspired by her attendance at ICCROM’s Conservation of Japanese Paper workshop in 2019, Paper Conservator Kate Hughes has picked scroll mounting, using supplies from the workshop. To prepare a sample scroll mount at home, Kate is blotter washing with creative materials substitutes such as a flannel for pressing.