Robert C. (Bob) Morrison sadly passed away early on April 25th, 2015 aged 71.
Bob was awarded his Masters of Science in organic chemistry from the Lowell Technical Institute, Lowell, Massachusetts. He worked in research and development at the Denison Paper Company and then as a chemist at the Carter’s Ink Company, both in Massachusetts.
His career then took him to the New England Document Conservation Centre (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts, where he was Director of Education and where he met his life partner Patricia. At NEDCC Bob was responsible for writing technical material pertaining to the preservation and conservation of books and works of art on paper and delivering this to NEDCC staff.
While at NEDCC, Bob heard about the new conservation course being started at the then College of Advanced Education. Always fascinated with Australia, he saw this as a great opportunity to experience it first-hand and applied for the position of lecturer in paper conservation. In early 1978 Bob and Patricia moved to Australia to take up an initial three-year contract. Bob stayed at CCAE/UC until 2003 where he taught, mentored and inspired two generations of Australian paper conservators.
To his students and later at the National Film and Sound Archive, Bob was without fail seen as a teacher, a leader and a wise voice He was an inspiring and challenging teacher who demanded a high standard of his students but gave back as much as he was given. His lectures were very colourful, laced with generously shared interesting sidelights and histories of words, anecdotes from his time as an ink chemist, at the NEDC and of course his experience at Woodstock. His prac classes were punctuated by his experiences that generally started with ‘when I was at Carter’s Ink Company…’ and dire warnings such as ‘if you (insert some wrong doing) you’re out of the program!’ With Bob there was no such thing as a ‘stoopid’ question. He helped his students to open up and to learn.
Memories of him setting his students the task of conserving a record sleeve from his collection and rehousing the vinyl in acid-free library board are still very clear, along with the satisfaction felt when the vinyl slid in and out of the cover perfectly at the end of the ordeal. His essay and report feedback was often almost as detailed as the reports themselves. His gleefully distributed mock artefacts challenged students but developed treasured hand skills. The knowledge and skill he fostered is regularly passed on today as his students teach new emerging conservators.
Bob loved his music, and he accumulated an expansive vinyl and cd collection covering everything from soul, rock, modern jazz, hip-hop and world music. He was particularly fond of rhythm and blues and hosted the Blues Show and Bagariddim, weekly music programs on Community Radio 2XX.
This love of music led him to work in a job he referred to as ‘a labour of love’ at the NFSA. He created a record label database that is still in daily use and has grown to 5,494 records referencing over 193,000 items. Cataloguing discs was Bob’s main day-to-day task at NFSA and he created over 20,000 records in his time here. At the NFSA he inspired many colleagues and entertained them through the rich conversations he specialised in. He did a lot to introduce the NFSA to the Internet sending around the ‘Internet Tour Bus’ on email to all staff.
Bob is remembered for his great sense of humour and laugh. He was always amused at some snippet of news evidencing extraordinary human error or lack of judgement responding ‘Yeah! I know it!’ and ‘That’s just stoopid!’. Long after graduation we would know Bob was nearby when the scent of patchouli oil would waft past. And there he would be, in his paisley shirt, a little shy but still larger than life. Nearing Christmas, his white beard and booming laugh ensured he was all but mugged in shopping malls by small children mistaking him for Santa. He was always up for the challenge of who could wear the most colourful socks on any given day.
Shortly after his retirement, Bob was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a debilitating and incurable neurodegenerative disorder that eventually took his life. His brain has been donated to the University of Sydney for medical research in the hope of shedding greater insight into the causes of MSA.
Bob is sadly missed by Patricia, his CCAE/UC colleagues and students, and his colleagues at NFSA.