National Gallery of Victoria
The Frames & Furniture conservation studio farewelled Emma Rouse who contributed greatly to the smooth and cheerful organisation of the lab given existing staffing and workload. In July we welcomed back MaryJo Lelyveld from maternity leave to her position as Coordinating Conservator. We are extremely grateful to Sarah Brown who backfilled the position so competently over this period.
In May the paper conservation studio welcomed Yvonne (Bonnie) Hearn, joining the team as the Ian Potter Foundation Paper Conservation Fellow. Bronwyn Tulloh has also commenced as the new Ian Potter Foundation Fellow joining the team in Objects Conservation for the next two years; a warm welcome to both.
The Paintings studio is pleased to welcome two volunteer interns, Lisa-Maria Schaaf and Eliza O’Donnell. Lisa is a student from the Cologne Institute for Conservation Sciences (Germany) and joins the studio for 11 weeks. Eliza, a paintings conservation graduate from the University of Melbourne, has joined us part-time for a project.
In the paper conservation studio Ruth Shervington has recently completed a successful treatment of washing, repair and retouching of a Thomas Gainsborough mezzotint depicting Queen Charlotte, currently on display in the 19th Century Gallery at NGV International. Louise Wilson and Yvonne Hearn have undertaken treatment on works currently on display in the Asian galleries including consolidation and repair of three Chinese thangkas and a Chinese hanging scroll not previously displayed, and Deccani paintings. Pip Morrison has been surveying a large number of historic photographs for two forthcoming exhibitions in March 2017. Over the last few months the paper team have been working alongside the prints and drawings curators to assess a recent and large-scale acquisition of prints by American printmaker Jim Dine.
In the Frames & Furniture conservation studio, Emma Rouse treated a number of picture frames and undertook research on reframing options for an early James Gleeson painting. Suzi Shaw has been working through a significant number of new acquisitions of contemporary chairs, many made with computers including 3D printing and CNC routering, and enjoying having direct contact with the artists to discuss shipment and handling. Holly McGowan-Jackson has had her head down assisting Louise Bradley (and GOCSIG president) preparing for the GOCSIG frames symposium at NGV in late August.
Di Whittle has been installing and undertaking maintenance of two new works, Semicircular Space by Jeppe Hein (a mirrored pathway) and Beetle sphere by Ichwan Noor (how does one look after a spherically compressed VW Beetle?!). Trude Ellingsen has been working on improvements to the storage of weeping glass and silver in the NGV collection.
It’s been busy times for Bronwyn Cosgrove, Kate Douglas, Kate Mclaren and Ellen Doyle in Textiles Conservation. The last few months have seen the installation and de-installation of a travelling exhibition to Ararat: Adorned: Textiles and Jewelry from Central Asia. This exhibition contained around 50 textiles and some required major stitched treatments to make them displayable. July saw the three-week installation of Making the Australian Quilt 1800-1950, a largely inward loan exhibition containing about 80 quilts which will be showing up to the 6th November at Federation Square. With August came the massive de-installation of History of Australian Fashion which contained over 100 works dressed on mannequins. Currently the lab is working on Permanent Collection Changeovers for both NGV International and Australia as well as busily unpacking the Sirop Collection (a newly acquired collection of historical fashion) and preparing it for storage.
Senior Paintings Conservator John Payne has recently completed the major treatment of Alessandro Turchi’s Charity (1615-1620) and is now undertaking extensive aesthetic reintegration on Antonio Vivarini’s The Garden of Love (c.1465-1470). Carl Villis continues the epic treatment of Paolo Veronese’s Nobleman between Active and Contemplative life, and has now reached the final stages of inpainting. Raye Collins has been busy preparing a variety of large-scale paintings for the NGV’s upcoming John Olsen exhibition, and is also in the final stages of treating of Josef Albers’ Homage to the square: Autumn echo. Lisa-Maria Schaaf is currently undertaking a complex structural and aesthetic treatment on Roland Wakelin’s Girl in a purple dress. Eliza O’Donnell,is working on a special project focussing on the research and documentation of recent contemporary painting acquisitions.
State Library of Victoria
Work in Conservation continues to focus on the exhibitions, loans and digitisation programs. Book and paper conservators have been preparing 200+ items for the October changeover of Dome exhibition Mirror of the World, under the supervision of Book Conservator Katrina Ben. This will include items such as: 17th century fine English books from the recently Emmerson collection; a 1852 French volume of salted paper prints of Egypt attributed as the first travel photography book; contemporary artist books; and pulp fiction.
Two touring exhibitions developed in partnership with the National Library of Australia have been a major focus of Registration and Conservation over the last few months. In collaboration with the National Library of Australia, Senior Registrar Sarah Haseltoncoordinated the installation of Heroes and Villains: Strutt’s Australia, which is currently on display at the Library, and managed the dispatch of Australian Sketchbook, Colonial life & the Art of S.T.Gill, now on display at the National Library of Australia.
Book conservators and Imaging staff undertook the image capture of a small 13th Century Vulgate Bible, consisting of 599 extremely fine vellum leaves. Katrina Ben will present a paper on the treatment of the bible at the AICCM Book, Paper and Photograph Symposium in October. The digitising of the manuscript marks the completion of the digitisation project Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Australia: researching and relating Australia’s manuscript holdings to new technologies and new readers. This Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project commenced in 2010 and involved research, treatment and digitising of 28 illuminated manuscripts.
Another interesting conservation treatment recently completed was the Shenandoah diary. The warship CSS Shenandoah reached Melbourne in January 1865, marking Australia’s only direct contact with the American Civil War. The shipboard diary of Lieutenant Dabney M. Scales describes first-hand observations, sketches and candid accounts of officers and crew interacting with the people of Victoria in 1865. Conservation treatment of this very fragile document was undertaken by Senior Paper Conservator Marika Kocsis and Paper Conservator Albertine Hamilton. The diary can be seen online at http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/css-shenandoah-ship-board-diary
Paper and Photographs Conservator Katy Glen reattached the lid of a cased ambrotype portrait of Dabney M. Scales with toned Japanese paper.
Senior Book Conservator Jean Holland has been invited to contribute to the publication Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage, which is a collaboration between various institutions locally and in USA.
The last few months have also seen some changes and appointments in staff. Conservation is pleased to have Jarno Coone commence as Senior Conservation Technician. Katy Glen has joined the team on a part-time basis as Paper and Photographs Conservator, assisting with conservation priorities and undertaking a range of complex photographic treatments. Lois Waters and recent conservation graduate Emily Keppel are volunteering in Conservation, focusing on a wide range of paper treatments to extend their experience. Jessica McElhinney left for Canada in June to take up an internship with the CCI, and has been busy working on a balance of photographic and paper-based materials, with a focus on the use of gellan gums for cleaning, deacidifying and bleaching.
Over the last few months, the preservation studio and conservation laboratory conducted multiple tours, including the Library’s Foundation members, new internal staff, participants from the Library’s staff conference, exhibition couriers, and even the Governor of Victoria. Other visits of note include Lisa Jeong-Reuss from the National Library of Australia, and Joan Luxemburg who is undertaking a PhD thesis on James McKain Meek. Joan spent time with Albertine Hamilton looking at our Meek Atlas, which iscurrently undergoing extensive conservation treatment. The book team also ran a number of workshops for work experience students and Library Graduate Industry Placements, which included hands on training in sewing of books and phase box construction. In late July, Jane Hinwood and Shelley Jamieson conducted 10 conservation tours for over 150 members of the public as part of Open House Melbourne weekend.
Opening in 2010, the Quarantine Room recently received its 1000th collection. It has been particularly busy recently with the checking, assessment and treatment of a wide range of collections and formats, including a large collection of quarter plate glass negatives belonging to Vincent Kelly, a commercial photographer in Bendigo. This collection consists of approximately 200 dirt- and pest-affected boxes of negatives that require cleaning before work can begin on re-housing the plates.
Kate Holloway, Coordinator of Preservation & Processing, has rehoused over 4000 individual items from the Dromkeen Children’s Illustration Collection. This project was started in 2013 and is very near completion. A milestone was reached with the completion of rehousing the Suncorp Insurance Archive, started in 2013 by Preservation Technicians Noni Zachri and Emily Keppel and finished this week by Preservation & Processing Technician Leah Williams. Nearly 800 boxes of papers, photographs, objects, textiles and ephemera can now be safely relocated to our Ballarat offsite store.
Other projects underway include organisation and rehousing of Mark Strizic negatives and prints by Senior Preservation Technician Michelle Lim, Aborigines Advancement League Archives by Emily Keppel and the Joan Kirner Archive by Leah Williams. Leah is also working on the Australian Jewish Historical Society Archive, developing lists and completing re-housing.
Planning is well underway in advance of a major Library redevelopment commencing in 2017, which involves large-scale collection moves from both storage and public galleries. Kate Holloway is undertaking wide-ranging assessments of Manuscripts, Pictures, Maps and Arts collections in preparation for the collection moves. One of the interesting collections that Preservation has treated as part of this project is a number of bookworm-affected bound volumes from the Tongan Parliament that have been frozen and cleaned. Preservation and Conservation Manager Shelley Jamieson and Senior Exhibitions and Loans Conservator Amanda Wild are planning the relocation of paintings and heritage furniture currently on display in a number of galleries and reading rooms in preparation.
The Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation GCCMC
News from academic staff
Robyn Sloggett and Marcelle Scott recently led Ngarranggarni, Gija Art and Country, an on-country learning subject offered for Masters Conservation students who spend a week on country based around the township of Warmun, in the North-East Kimberley. See the GCCMC website for more information about this teaching and learning initiative offered by GCCMC. Marcelle Scott has now commenced her post-doctorate fellowship with GCCMC and we expect to have a productive year working together (nice to have her back in the fold).
Nicole Tse and the editorial team are hard on The Bulletin issues 37.1 & 37.2 for 2016. Nicole presented at a SEAMO-SPAFA seminar and workshop about Church Art in South East Asia that was held in the Philippines earlier in 2016. At the time of writing, Nicole was in Xi’an, China undertaking research on binders and pigments of Tang dynasty tomb wall-paintings with GCCMC associate Dr Tonia Eckfeld and Dr Caroline Kyi, this being a collaborative project involving the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology and The University of Melbourne.
Caroline Kyi was invited to contribute to a Gordon Research Conference (Sunday River, Newry, Massachusetts) on Scientific Methods in Cultural Heritage Research. She presented a paper on biodeterioration treatments and conservation considerations as part of a series of presentations on new and emerging techniques for the imaging, analysis and assessment of cultural heritage materials.
Petronella Nel and 5 Industry partners were successful in obtaining Australian Research Council Linkage Funding to investigate aging plastics in our major collecting institutions. See the ARC website for more details about the project, and congratulations all on a successful application. Project title: A national framework for managing malignant plastics in museum collections
Sophie Lewincamp and a team of Masters students and graduates installed satellite displays of military heritage in RSL LifeCare villages throughout NSW. Sophie also recently managed the installation of key items from The University of Melbourne’s Middle Eastern manuscript collection that had not been displayed before, into the brand new Faculty of Arts building on the Parkville campus of the University and she continues to be involved in the GCCMC research group for Middle Eastern Manuscripts.
Susanna Collis presented a paper on her research about an Australian archaeological waterlogged wood case study at the ICOM-CC WOAM (Waterlogged Organic Archaeological Materials SIG) Triennial meeting, which was held in Florence, Italy in May. This enabled her to connect with the most up-to-date research and up and coming researchers in this field.
One of the highlights of our academic year, once again GCCMC hosted a group from ANKAAA, the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists, for their annual Art-Worker Program, in Melbourne for the last week of June. This brought together conservators and art-workers from many art centres from across Northern Australia to talk about the practice of art-making, art-conservation and preservation with knowledge sharing on the subject of producing and looking after culture. As a follow-on from this, Sophie Lewincamp and recent graduate Jasper Coleman attended the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair in the first week of August to run some workshops around the practical care of artwork in art centres.
This month we reluctantly said goodbye to Eliana Urrutia and Erina McCann who have been working in the department for the last six weeks helping to prepare a large number of objects for a loan to the University of Melbourne. It has been a pleasure having Ellie and Erina in the department and we would like to thank them for their amazing and incredibly helpful work. It has been very much appreciated!
Sarah Babister has been undertaking treatment on the Spencer Street Clock for display in the new Children’s Gallery Redevelopment. Before Sarah’s treatment the clock was worked on by Vivian Kenney, an antiquarian horologist, who put in an electronic motor. The electronic motor will allow the clock to be activated for display without requiring weekly winding.
Belinda Gourley has been treating a number of rare books for digitisation. Focused on natural science prints (shells, coral, birds), the collection has included some beautiful Japanese concertina books.
Helen Privett has been working with an e-learning company to development an online training module for our “Working Safely with Hazardous Substances in the Collection” procedure. She has continued work with an external industrial hygienist to finalise our suite of specific safe handling procedures on hazardous substances such as human-based pathogens, radiation, cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate and pigments and dyes.
Rosemary Goodall has been continuing the hazards survey of the collection. In History and Technology she has been focusing on hats, and finding more mercury in this collection than initially expected. In Sciences she has been finding asbestos in plaster repairs used on taxidermy specimens. Hazards surveys – never boring!
Installation is underway for the “Biomedical Breakthroughs” exhibition developed by Museum Victoria which will be on display at Melbourne Museum for six months from September 2016. Charlotte Walker has been the conservation representative for this exhibition and her favourite object is the analytical balance (c. 1920) used by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Come for the collection items and stay for the machine that scans your veins and projects images of them onto your skin.
Dani Measday has just returned from a three day trip to Mildura to collect a donation of three historical egg cabinets. The cabinets contain approximately 3000 clutches of eggs collected between 1900 and 1930. Needless to say, this particular pack and transport was approached with much cotton wool, many Dacron pads, and some very careful driving.
Dani, Alice Cannon and Rob Waller have finalised a paper entitled “Risk under the microscope: risk management for Museum Victoria’s scientific slide collection”, to be published in the SPNHC journal Collection Forum.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Bronwyn Dunn and Megan Hall have joined the Conservation Laboratory on temporary contracts. Bronwyn is assisting with the installation of objects into the Museum Discovery Centre (MDC) at Castle Hill, while Megan is working at the Ultimo site on objects and their supports for the Annette Kellerman exhibition, in particular a set of human hair wigs and swim caps.
Kim Alice Jacqueline Goldsmith, a student from the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne will soon be undertaking an internship in the Conservation Unit to identify modern and contemporary polymeric materials used for the shoe construction and establish their mechanisms of deterioration.
Ralph Bosel and Chris Eagle have recently finished the conservation work of the Museum’s Aveling and Porter steam truck. It was demonstrated under steam in the courtyard at the museum during the Open Week in early July.
A Fine Possession: Jewellery Identity and Wartime Innovations exhibitions have been dismantled.
Teresa Werstak and Tim Morris are preparing the objects for Gravity and wonder, a collaboration between MAAS and Penrith Regional Gallery and the Lewer Bequest, which includes artworks, ephemera, historic drawings, photographs and technical instruments.
A large number of exhibitions are open now or opening soon including:
- Out of Hand which is a collaboration with the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York. It explores the place and impact of digital technology in the conception and material production of objects in art and design.
- Million Dollar Mermaid: Annette Kellerman
- MAAS Icons will exhibit the ‘icons’ of the collection as well as those less known but significant objects. A number of MAAS objects will be 3D scanned as part of the exhibition.
- Isabella Blow–a fashionable life which showcases the private collection of late fashion iconoclast Isabella Blow finishes on 26 August.
Our Conservation exhibition team of Teresa Werstak, Tim Morris, Skye Mitchell, Suzanne Chee, Frances Fitzpatrick, Rebecca Main and Megan Hall are preparing objects for display, assessing in coming loans and organising supports and framing for these exhibitions.
Conservators Carey Ward, Rebecca Ellis, Vanessa Pitt, Bronwen Dunn and Kate Chidlow have been collecting, documenting, and cleaning, packing and transporting approximately 4500 objects into the new Display Store at the Museums Discovery Centre (MDC) Castle Hill (formerly known as the PDC). The MDC is due to be opened in September with objects, ranging from planes, trains, light globes, fossils, scientific instruments , architectural elements and decorative arts showcasing the diversity of the collections from the three partners in the project: MAAS, the Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums.
Following the completion of the MDC we will commence work on the move of collection objects into our floor of the shared I-Store at Castle Hill. Again this is a jointly occupied by Sydney Living Museum and the Australian Museum.
Conservation Manager Jonathan London has been involved in the MDC project, and coordinating with our partners at Transport Heritage (THNSW) regarding work on Locomotive 3265. In addition, Jonathan has been involved in preliminary planning and preparation for the Parramatta move.
MAAS has recently lent five collection objects to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London for their exhibition, Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, which is on show until November 2016. The loan follows recent collaborations with the V&A for the Undressed and Disobedient Objects exhibitions and has further strengthened the relationship between institutions. The exhibition focusses on Ove Arup’s philosophy of total design and features unseen archival materials for projects such as the Sydney Opera House alongside recent prototypes and digital animations by Arup, the global engineering consultancy. The MAAS objects relate to the Sydney Opera House.
Loan negotiations were managed collaboratively by Matthew Connell (curator), Katrina Hogan (registrar) and Vanessa Pitt (conservator). Vanessa had the responsibility of coordinating the conservation work in association with conservator Rebecca Main and accompanying the objects during transport to London, as well as condition checking and overseeing the installation with the V&A registrars, conservators and installation team. For more about the exhibition visit the websites:
Sue Gatenby worked with Dr Filomena Salvemini from ANSTO, Bragg Institute on the analysis of the museum collection of Japanese katana swords. Using a non-destructive neutron diffraction technique the detailed strain mapping of each sword was carried out. The signature patterns of the blades can determine which swordsmith manufactured the sword. A sword of unknown origin was found to be made by swordsmith Sadatsugu in 1346-1370.
Sydney Artefacts Conservation
Anne Cummins recently had her 15 minutes of fame with a double page article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s weekend Spectrum Arts pull out on 23-24 July 2016 about her experiences of working on public and private three-dimensional objects over the last two decades.
The journalist was amazed at the breadth of knowledge required for an objects conservator, so in the online version of the story she included a discussion about the conservation of modern materials such as plastics:
Jeff Fox did a two-month contract with us, assisting with the treatment of a soot-damaged collection. At last count we cleaned over 700 objects; we are now well acquainted with chem sponges! He also assisted with a recent treatment of the Sacrifice sculpture at the ANZAC Memorial ahead of their upcoming renovations and with the treatment of some cast iron pillars for Sydney Living Museums which will be on display at the new shared storage facility The Museums Discovery Centre, at Castle Hill.
Preservation Australia and Conservation Resources
Kay Söderlund spent most of July travelling with her family. She visited Rome, New York and DC and was lucky enough to visit Fabriano Paper shop in Rome for some lovely paper goodies (including some cool ear-rings).
Tegan Anthes took some time out to do some volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity. This project was to assist in building a house for a family in need in Fiji. She was part of a team that raised funding through sponsorship and then built a cyclone proof house under the direction of a carpenter.
Conservation Resources is gearing up to distribute Hiromi Japanese papers in Australia. We are extending our current range to have a selection of the most commonly used papers in stock like the beautiful Tengucho and Sekishu Mare – and we are happy to supply any other papers from their range on request.
Both Kay Söderlund and Tegan Anthes have continued to deliver a variety of workshops throughout Australia. Tegan ran a two-day session for the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies on general preventive conservation and caring for the photographic collection. Kay is delivering a two-day training for the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart – working through their disaster preparedness plan including recovery scenarios. Kay also presented a short session at the Keeping it Real symposium in Albury.
Tegan Anthes is in the process of a Preservation Needs Assessment for the Outback Archives. This involved a visit to Broken Hill to inspect the collection and provide some quick handling training to assist newly appointed staff in caring for their significant collection. A beautiful silk scarf that was worn by a woman on the Picnic Train Attack was in urgent need of re-housing to prevent the silk from further shattering.
Beate Yule continued to hone her skills in tape removal, developing better techniques using a combination approach. She completed many hours of tape removal on a number of volumes for Land and Property Management, NSW.
Workshops and Conferences
Kay Söderlund attended the AIC and CAC joint conference in Montreal in May. It was a fabulous conference with great discussions on disaster preparedness. The conference was well attended internationally and Kay was able to reconnect with some old friends.
The Australian Museum Conservation department has welcomed Brooke Randall and Kit Nelson into the department to work on rehousing our Africa, Asia and Americas store in preparation for relocation to a new offsite store. Boyd Sanday has also joined the team, on a temporary contract, working as a carpenter building amazing stillages in preparation for our upcoming Collection move. Boyd’s skills have been put to use across the Cultural and Natural Sciences collections, safely housing specimens and objects. Rebecca Barnott has been working as a Conservation Assistant, while juggling her Conservation Uni training in Melbourne, to help rehouse cultural collections for the move as well.
Megan Dean-Jones has just returned from a well-deserved holiday in Spain and Sardinia. She wore out a pair of shoes on a trek in Catalonia and had to buy several new pairs in Barcelona. Her concerns that the team would do all the upcoming work in her absence were unfounded. Read on!
Colin Macgregor and Michael Kelly have completed the takedown of the museum’s major temporary exhibition “Trailblazers”. The behind the scenes work of processing the collection material through pest control treatment before return to storage has now begun.
Our Museum discovery centre, Search and Discover, has been closed for some renovations. All specimens and furniture were removed to make way for the builders. A new mix of touch and exhibition cases will go back into this well-loved space.
Preparation for the Castle Hill Visitor Display centre is progressing well. More than 200 ethnographic objects have been prepared, packed and were transported last week to the centre to await layout. Congrats to the A Team members Brooke Randall and Rebecca Barnott for powering through this project. Sheldon Teare, Megan and Rebecca have worked on Natural Science specimens as part of this display as well.
There has been a large donation of paleontology specimens from a private owner. Megan will be processing this material through IPM and assessing storage solutions. Megan has also been busy organizing the safe transportation of several large newly created Asaro mud-masks and associated material from Goroka, Papua New Guinea. A Museum team will travel to the region to collect them in September.
Sheldon attended the course ‘Care and Conservation of Geological Collections’ held at Museum Victoria in early April. The course was an excellent blending of collection management and conservation staff knowledge.
The entire lab is working hard to pack up several collections to be moved offsite to a new storage facility at Castle Hill.
Sheldon and Megan are coordinating the move of our current offsite facility holding mostly Natural Sciences Collections, numbering well over 200,000 specimens. Many of the larger taxidermy mounts are being rehoused into custom stillages, while the smaller ones are being expertly rehoused in Megan’s premium boxes. Hundreds of custom boxes and stillages are being produced. Sheldon is providing storage and handling solutions for other collections held at the offsite facility, ranging from giant stuffed sharks to tiny marine worms.
Sheldon is shadowing the relocation Project Manager to provide assistance and ensure Conservation issues are at the forefront of this project and addressed to best practice where possible. Just last week Sheldon and the Project Manager went shopping for elevated working platforms, and of course test driving them.
Megan has been overseeing the workflow of 100s of storage solutions, coordinating with Boyd in carpentry.
The entire International collection and part of the Aboriginal and Pacific collections are also being relocated to Castle Hill. Heather Bleechmore is coordinating the move of the International collection, the museum’s 2d works as well as canoes, pukumani poles, and hundreds of spears from the Aboriginal collection.
Brooke, Rebecca and Kit, have worked at a phenomenal pace to rehouse a range of objects from the International collection. This included over 700 items from the jewellery collection and 600-plus edged weapons, as well as building stillages for fragile and complex objects. They will have the cultural collection ready to move during August and September this year. Brooke and Kit also completed the preparation of 21,000 spears from the Pacific collection using a boxing and tray system designed by Kate Jones.
Heights Heritage Conservation
This last quarter has been quite exhibition driven and seen some varied projects.
Bendigo went all things ‘Marilyn’, with the opening of the exhibition in March, for which Tess Evans spent two weeks making the invisible forms and dressing with Monroe’s personal and screen costumes.
Omie Artists have kept Tess very busy with four exhibitions, both here and overseas, to prepare some 80 barks for display.
In May Tess was down in Victoria again, refashioning the nine mannequins she had made for the Orry Kelly exhibition (Natalie Wood, Bette Davis and Betty Grable) into bodies to fit the likes of Leonardo di Caprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sasha Baron-Cohen, for ACMI’s Scorsese Exhibition – no mean feat.
A change from the norm: July saw the culmination of an interesting, challenging and very dirty project for Sydney Trains, working on three Bathgate Indicators housed at Homebush Station. The brief was to treat each in a different way: basic Preservation, Conservation and full Restoration, including reconstruction of a missing roof and legend.
In May Tess held a Costume Mounting Workshop in Sydney for the AICCM Textile Symposium, and in June she attended the ICON 16 Conference ‘Turn and Face the Change: Conservation in the 21st Century’ in Birmingham, UK, where she presented her paper “Blurred Lines; Conservation of Costume, Restoration of Aesthetic”, showcasing the conservation for the ‘Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood’ exhibition, Museum of Brisbane.
International Conservation Services
We recently welcomed Jennifer O’Connell and Kristina Taylor to ICS. Jennifer had previously completed an internship at ICS, and we are now excited to have her as a full time member of our Paintings Conservation Team. Kristina also recently completed an internship, and is now working on a casual basis in our Furniture Conservation Team while she completes her Masters at the University of Melbourne.
It’s been a busy few months for all our teams here at ICS, especially in the lead up to the end of financial year, with various jobs carried out both in Sydney and further afield.
Katy Ross and Nick Flood compiled an archival recording of the ‘Parramatta Road Mural’ by Tom Thompson prior to its removal from the Parramatta City Council’s old council chambers by Arek Werstak, Matteo Volonté and Adam Godijn.
Katy also travelled to Darwin to treat a historic concrete cairn and assess a Bedford truck. She then went on to Perth to make an assessment of a tiled mural. Meanwhile, James Kleppen made a trip to Bombo Cemetery to undertake an assessment of a gravestone.
Nick completed a condition assessment and provided treatment recommendations for two field guns at the Rocky Hill War Memorial in Goulburn. He also attended the Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) workshop held at the University of Melbourne.
Arek Werstak and Rob Williams have been working on the conservation of a large collection of Tang Dynasty ceramics. They’ve also spent many nights in Central and Museum Train Stations, along with Oskar Slifierz,conserving heritage ceramic tiles and capitals.
Skye Firth recently had the honour of meeting US Vice President Joe Biden at the MCG during rededication of a unique WWII Guadalcanal flag, which she treated earlier this year. She and Gail Hamilton are currently working on another flag from WWI, the ‘Birdwood Flag’, which arrived at our labs in thousands of pieces, but is now definitely starting to take shape.
Katie Wood and Wendi Powell in our Paper Conservation Team have been busy carrying out various treatments, including two artworks by Kevin Gilbert and a comprehensive treatment of a large collection of town plans. They’ve also been putting together an action plan to address a mould affected collection for a local library. Katie recently attended a workshop on the Conservation of Japanese Artworks on Paper and Silk run by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, and held at the Asian Art Museum, Berlin.
Fiona Tennant, Meredith Lynch-Underwood, Claire Heasman,Wendi Powell,Katie WoodandJennifer O’Connell completed a large conservation project for the National Trust of NSW, which involved assessment and cleaning of their collection at the National Trust Centre.
Our paintings conservation team (Matteo Volonté, Claire Heasman and Jennifer O’Connell) have been treating a large number of paintings in the lab lately, including several by Martine Emdur and Fred Williams.
Oliver Hull has been working on numerous jobs, including a life-size sculpture of a butler and mould remediation of several specimen cabinets. He is also managing the treatment of a large lacquer commode with the assistance of Kristina Taylor, who is also assisting with the stabilisation of fine marquetry on a beautiful 18th century side table.
In Canberra, Doug Rogan has just completed the development of a Collections Management Policy and Procedures for Geoscience Australia (link: http://www.ga.gov.au/) covering their Minerals, Rocks, Fossils and a number of other collections. Joel Bayley joined ICS Canberra for a short while to work on cataloguing and organising a number of the GA collections.
Doug has also recently been involved with installing a number of wireless Temp and rH monitoring devices as a part of the Fortecho Art Protection system at the NMA, as a part of their upcoming ‘History of the World in 100 objects exhibition’
National Archives of Australia
Hola mi amigos e mi amigas! Prue McKay and Cheryl Jackson recently returned from a fantastic week in Havana, Cuba. The Office of the City Historian, Havana received a grant from the Council on Australian–Latin American Relations (COALAR) for experts in Iron Gall Ink conservation to come to Havana and teach their Conservators. Lucky for us, Ian Batterham, Caroline Whitely and Alana Treasure no longer work at the Archives, so Prue and Cheryl went instead. WOOHOO!
We spent six days teaching in the Paper Workshop run by the Office of the City Historian, bringing their four paper conservators up to date on the latest research and treatment approaches relevant to IGI. The Archive of the City Historian has a collection of City Council Minutes dating from 1550 to now! The Conservators are about to embark on a project to stabilize 13 of the oldest volumes of Minutes prior to digitisation. All the documents are written in iron gall ink on beautiful rag paper, stamped with the official grade and value of the paper, certifying the paper for Official Use.
Our fellow conservators in Havana, Anyxa Quesada Portal, Judith Machado Yanes, Ingrid Lavandero Galan and Hilda Pérez de Peñamil Rodríguez made us very welcome with daily espresso coffees and farewelled us with Cuban cake, flan and an indigenous sweet made from sugar cane juice and sesame seeds.
Whilst Cheryl and Prue were trotting around the Caribbean, Caroline Milne, Caterina Agostinetto, Steve Willett and Ruth Bergman have been making huge progress on improving the packaging of the non-standard items in the collection prior to the move to our new building (starting in November this year). To date over 5000 items have either been rehoused completely, or had their current housing improved and strengthened. This is an amazing effort from a very dedicated team.
Renita Ryan has been preparing items for loan from the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. She has also prepared a small number of items belonging to the David Roche Foundation to travel with The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804 currently on exhibition at the South Australian Maritime Museum. Filipa Quintela treated a watercolour paint box, a prop object dating from the same era as Baudin, to be included in the same exhibition. In addition she has been preparing display/storage mounts for an Asmat dance costume from the collection of the South Australian Museum, as well as one for a private owner.
Filipa and Justin Gare have prepared nine Persian tiles from the 19th century, which belong to the Art Gallery of South Australia, for display in the current exhibition ‘Ilm: Art and knowledge in Islam. Two of the tiles had large losses in the corners that were interfering with the aesthetics of the tiles. Photographic ‘repairs’ were used to fill those losses. This enabled the works to be read without interruption and without the need for a major and time consuming intervention.
Justin has also been very busy preparing items for storage and for travel, including artworks from the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art and a whale skeleton from the South Australian Museum. Justin was also the latest star on the AICCM ‘Meet a Conservator’ (July).
The South Australian Museum has developed two exhibitions for the WWI centenary. First on show is Aboriginal ANZACS: from South Australia to the Great War displaying very personal wartime items and stories, particularly relating to the Light Horse. The second exhibition titled Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor showcases objects collected by five soldiers in German PNG during the War. Sophie Parker thoroughly enjoyed getting back to her Textile Conservation roots when mounting a beautiful beaded skirt and a few headdresses. However, when the remaining 90% of the objects arrived at Artlab with one week until installation it was expected that the opening date would be moved – but it wasn’t!! So thank goodness the Objects and Textile teams joined forces and got it across the finish line (and still enjoyed celebratory mulled wine by a fire with the Museum team who were very grateful and apologetic!)
Megan Sypek has worked on a privately owned bark painting. The item had been in a house fire and was heavily soiled with soot. In addition, it was split into two pieces. Megan successfully joined the two parts together, cleaned the surfaces and custom-made an aluminium cradle mount to support the still fragile painting.
The Objects Lab is currently hosting a second year Conservation student, Lexi Maller, from the Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation course at the University of Melbourne for a three week placement. Our ongoing volunteer is Angelica Harris-Faull and we have also had Portuguese conservator Cristina Guerra volunteering for a short period.
Abby Maxwell Bowen and Ian Miles have been undertaking a review of a selected number of public artworks for Adelaide City Council. Abby has been catching up on some overdue maintenance for several outdoor sculptures in the city belonging to the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Ian Miles has completed conservation treatment of the Dardanelles Memorial in Lundie Gardens, South Terrace, Adelaide. This is purportedly the first WWI Memorial erected in Australia to honour WWI soldiers.
The Paper Lab team have just finished working on and installing an exhibition for the SA Maritime Museum entitled The Art of Science, Baudin’s Voyagers 1800-1804, which also had to be prepared for travel onto five further venues. This contains an amazing selection of beautiful books and original artworks, including one of Baudin’s original journals, and was a pleasure to prepare for exhibition.
Liz Mayfield has also just completed a grant-funded treatment on an early signed edition of J.M. Stuart’s Explorations of Australia, which was significantly mould damaged and contained a fragmented map. Aquila Evill is working on a group of privately-owned Dorrit Black artworks. On the back of one of the watercolours a hidden sketch was discovered during the backing removal -much to the delight of the owner. Anna Austin has just embarked on a trip to Japan where she will be attending a kozo paper-making workshop at the Awagami factory in Tokushima.
Jodie Scott has been wrestling with an extra-large poster for the film Shine, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It was quite cockled and has a cloth backing, so was a challenge to get flattened and reframed with a week’s turn-around time! Never fear, she made it happen, but there was some swearing involved.
The Textiles Lab has enjoyed the company of Rosie Nuttall, a Masters of Textile Conservation Student from the University of Glasgow who has just completed a two month internship with us. We have had a variety of exciting projects to be working on lately – Kristin Phillips has been busily researching and replicating costume for History SA. Mary-Anne Gooden has been assisting Art Gallery of South Australia Decorative Arts Curator, Rebecca Evans, to document and rehouse the costume collection.
Kristin & Mary-Anne were also fortunate to attend the TSIG Symposium in Sydney and the associated Costume Mounting and Adhesives for Textile Conservation workshops as well.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Amy Bartlett recently prepared a small number of artworks on paper which are now displayed in an exhibition titled John Brack’s Portrait of Sir Lindesay Clark. She is currently mounting and framing works by printmaker Udo Sellbach that will be exhibited from late August in Udo Sellbach: And still I see it.
The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery has loaned artworks to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for the Tempest exhibition which opened in June 2016 for Dark Mofo. Amy Bartlett treated and condition reported a number of works for this exhibition including colonial period artworks on paper, books and paintings. Most recently Amy has prepared a John Olsen painting for upcoming loan to the National Gallery of Victoria.
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Conservation Officer, Gaynor Tollard has been busy with the removal of damaging hinges and re-mounting 11 watercolours and drawings by Eliza Errington. These are naive domestic scenes of interiors from Port Arthur and landscapes in the 1840s. Gaynor has also been making custom boxes for a number of Lower Court registers from the 1840s – 60s and de-framing recent transfers to the archive collection.
Lisa Charleston has been working on a project for the Pretyman glass plate collection (over 2,000 plates) which have been digitised. She has been re-packing the plates and repairing cracked plates with simple breaks by sandwiching them between thin optical glass and binding the edges. Lisa has also assisted the Valuer with handling all collection items during a 5 week valuation of the Allport and Crowther collection.
Another project completed by Alex Holmes was the stock-take and replacement of supplies for the disaster response packs on each storage floor and the main disaster store.
Margaret Smith completed the project to store cellulose acetate negatives in two commercial freezers. There are now over 18,000 negatives packed according to the CMI method in the freezer with procedures completed.
Stephanie McDonald has prepared the loan of a very unique panoramic plan of Mill’s Plains drawn by John Glover of his property in 1835 for the Planting Dreams exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. Stephanie also presented a talk on Looking after your family photographs for the National Family History Month.
The conservation section worked on the challenging preparation of the exhibition in Allport: Unhoused, working with five contemporary artists responding to the collection: “Between nightmare, memory and imagination, Unhoused alters the visitor experience. The lights are low. The usually carefully ordered displays have been unsettled. Surprising objects have been unearthed. There is a sense of disturbance in the darkened rooms.”
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.
Conservators Nikki King Smith, Erica Burgess and Cobus van Breda are currently in the eye of a storm. ‘Tempest’, an exhibition curated by guest curator Juliana Engberg and TMAG’s curators opened to coincide with Hobart’s Dark Mofo winter festival on June 10th. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’, the exhibition covers nine galleries and contains over 200 objects. Our large central gallery has been turned into an activity space reminiscent of the magical Prospero’s Library in the play, complete with flying books and puppets. The exhibition proper includes the large contemporary work ‘When I first raised the tempest’ by Tacita Dean. This piece, chalk (unfixed) on eight thin blackboards, measuring in total 244 x 976cm arrived in two 700 kilo crates from the United States and provided an interesting challenge to hang. A work from Germany by Mariele Neudecker comprising of two large glass vessels which have been filled with a ‘special solution’ also provided stimulation. In addition there are numerous fascinating mounts from our natural history collection, ships in bottles, works of art on paper, paintings and film and video pieces. The storm resumes when the exhibition closes on November 20th.