Newsletter Issue Number:
AICCM National Newsletter No 133 March 2016

National Gallery of Victoria

Treatment Projects
In the Frames and Furniture Department Suzi Shaw undertook treatment to a large wooden sculpture Evidence of Origin made in the 1970s by Australian artist C. Elwyn Dennis, unusually coated in Asian red-pigmented lacquer. Affectionately known as ‘Big Red’, it required fills to losses in the wood and lacquered surfaces as it was apparently a favourite for children to climb on when first displayed 30 years ago. Logistically it was a great challenge to find a truck able to take its height, strap it in a way that it didn’t topple during transport, and move its 200kg plus onto the display plinth at NGV:Australia. Merit Kahl completed a very successful treatment on a newly acquired Thonet Side chair, removing an old glossy restoration coating from the wood surfaces to reveal the original shellac surface, and replacing a missing part of the foot and areas of lost cane work. Emma Rouse has completed several frame treatments, focusing on replacing missing areas of composition ornament, as well as varied treatments to furniture and getting our documentation into better order. Holly McGowan-Jackson continues her over-paint removal treatment on the Josef Frank designed Armchair (manufactured by Gebrüder Thonet in c. 1930) revealing an original bright orange nitrocellulose surface beneath the 1970’s restoration brown paint and white undercoat paint layers.

Ruth Shervington and Louise Wilson from Paper Conservation have recently completed an intensive new storage project for the collection of scrolls held at the NGV. Each scroll has been photographed and repackaged using techniques Louise was shown during her participation at the 3 week Japanese Paper conservation course last year run in partnership with the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, Japan. The new storage system provides a much more streamlined method of accessing the scrolls for art handlers, curators and conservation.

Exhibitions and Loans
It’s been a busy period for textile conservators Bronwyn Cosgrove, Kate Mclaren and Kate Douglas and Textile Display Specialist Ellen Doyle.  Conservation and production of underpinnings has been dominating the lab for the 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition which opens March 5th and includes over 120 costumes and accessories.  This exhibition has been a good opportunity to trial new mannequin handling equipment which should allow costumes to be safely handled with less stress to the costume or the carrier.

Conservation preparation has begun for the exhibition Town and Steppe: Textiles and Jewellery from Central Asia, an NGV travelling exhibition which will be installed in Ararat in May. February has seen the arrival and press preview of the Dominque Sirup collection. This $1.4 million acquisition has been recently acquired by the NGV and it is said to be the most significant French haute couture ever to be acquired by an Australian museum, with works by Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Vionnet and Jeanne Lanvin.

The Objects Department has been busy preparing works for the upcoming Art of the Pacific exhibition which will feature a wide range of materials including shields, barkcloths, body ornaments, works on paper, photography and new media. Trude Ellingsen finished a large scale treatment on a collection of 18th century porcelain, which you can read more about here:

Ruth Shervington and Louise Wilson have been busy preparing many Tapa cloths for exhibition as part of the upcoming Art of the Pacific exhibition, which has involved applying temporary hanging systems to each cloth using Japanese tissue and starch paste.

Workshops and Conferences
Two papers about NGV textile conservation activities have been accepted for presentation at the TSIG symposium in Sydney in May.

Social News

We are sorry to be bidding Frames & Furniture section student intern Merit Kahl ‘Auf Wiedersehen!’ after completing her six-month placement with us. Her sunny smile and enthusiasm to soak in information (and enjoy the sunshine with a morning cup of coffee) will be missed but we wish her all the best with the remainder of her time travelling around Australia and studies back in Germany. We currently have Emma Rouse joining the team for a few months to assist with the workload, and are grateful she was able to slot us in between her contracts at the AGNSW.

In April the Objects department will say goodbye to their lovely intern Alexandra Voll.  Over the past 6 months Alex has proven herself to be hardworking and dedicated to the field and we wish her all the best for her future endeavours. 

The Objects and the Paper & Photography department will soon be taking on a new Fellowship position for two years duration thanks to the generous contribution from the Ian Potter Foundation.

State Library of Victoria

Exhibitions and Loans

The Conservation Department are working to a full exhibition and digitisation program, alongside the treatment of general collections, with assistance from volunteers Jessica McElhinney and Yvonne Hearn

A changeover of State Library Victoria’s Dome Gallery exhibition Changing Face of Victoria was installed during the first week of December under the supervision of Senior Exhibitions and Loans Conservator Amanda Wild. 109 items were prepared and installed by the Book and Paper Conservation teams. A highlight was framing a contemporary scroll by the artist Guan Wei. Work is well underway toward the next changeover in May. 

Registrar Sarah Haselton is managing the tour preparation for Australian Sketchbook: Colonial Life and the Art of ST Gill travelling to the NLA in early June, and the Fire and Gold: William Strutt opening at the SLV in July. Both exhibitions have been developed in partnership with the NLA, and Fire and Gold will include two of our most well-known paintings Burial of Burke and Black Thursday.

Marika Kocsis recently travelled to Sydney to condition report and supervise the installation and deinstallation of eight works loaned to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for their exhibition Murruwaygu: Following in the Footsteps of Our Ancestors. As part of the loan preparation Paper Conservators Marika Kocsis and Albertine Hamilton undertook extensive consolidation treatment of two William Barak works of pigment on board using JunFunori.

Helen McPherson and Albertine Hamilton condition reported and installed 154 works from the Library’s Howard Arkley Archive at the TarraWarra Museum of Art for their show Howard Arkley (and friends…). This is the Library’s largest loan to a single institution and was coordinated by Assistant Registrar Fiona Wilson. The loan required extensive preparation work from both the Book and Paper Conservators, including custom housings to safely transport fragile items.

Upgrades to the Library’s fire service and sprinklers required the construction of major scaffolding in a public area of the library in January. This necessitated temporary removal of commissioned tapestry works woven by the Australian Tapestry Workshop, one by Juan Davila, the other by Ben McKeown. Each tapestry measures approximately 3.5 x 4.5m. A reconfiguration of the Conservation Lab was required to accommodate the rolled tapestries. Their removal allowed conservation staff to closely examine the works and to undertake surface cleaning. Both works were found to be in very good condition and were rehung at the conclusion of the building works.

The SLV recently acquired Metcards On Board, a large triptych collage consisting of 3000-3500 Metcards (an old Melbourne ticketing system) collected by the artist Kyle Handreck. The work represents Flinders Street Station, a W-Class tram and a newer model tram. This large work was recently installed by Conservation staff in Cowen Galley where it will be on display until later in the year.

Workshops and Conferences

Katrina Ben has had her abstract on the conservation of a 13th century Vulgate Bible accepted for the next AICCM Book, Paper and Photograph Symposium in October. Marika Kocsis and Albertine Hamilton will also present their paper on the conservation of an over-sized 1861 illustrated chart from the Maps collection.


Digitisation and Rehousing

The Preservation team continue to work extensively on digitisation and re-housing projects.

Kate Holloway has identified and assessed three serials for digitisation, which will be of particular interest to many: The Australian Cyclist (1893-1901), Australian Cycling News (1883-1886) and The Journal of Horticulture of Australasia (1906-1911).

Fifty collections, comprising approximately 300 items or boxes, have been assessed in Quarantine for dirt, pests and mould. A large collection of bound registers from the Uniting Church show significant evidence of red rot and require cleaning. Also requiring cleaning and housing are a number of bound volumes of Victorian Land Plans acquired in poor condition.

Kate Holloway and Savina Hopkins continue work on the Dromkeen collection of children’s book illustrations, artworks and manuscripts. So far, 3000 images have been rehoused and over 50 manuscript boxes filled with archival material from this collection.

Kate Holloway, Savina Hopkins and Leah Williams have undertaken rehousing work for the Stephen Murray-Smith, Joan Kirner and Fay Plamka archives. The Plamka archive of court drawings are primarily pastels and pencil drawings and feature many recognisable faces.  Kate Holloway and Savina Hopkins are rehousing the John Etkins collection of postcards, which features some of the earliest cards printed in New South Wales. 

Kate Holloway has surveyed the Le Soeuf family collection of glass plate negatives and lantern slides taken at the Melbourne Zoo in the late 19th century. Many of the plates are irretrievably damaged, however, in consultation with Conservation staff, tests will be carried out to trial different cleaning techniques and to see if some of the presently fused emulsions can be separated.

Museum Victoria

Treatment Projects

Karina Palmer has been treating a variety of objects and textiles from the Kodak factory in Coburg, prior to them being digitised for collections online.

Helen Privett has recently enjoyed opportunities to undertake treatment on a group of working steam engine models.

Belinda Gourley has been working on a large group of WWI maps of trenches and battlefields predominantly in France, Belgium and Germany.  The maps are being prepared for digitisation.

Exhibitions and Loans

Sarah Babister has begun treatment of the selected objects for the Children’s Gallery redevelopment at Melbourne Museum. This includes treatment of a third size scale model of a C1 locomotive, designed and built by the Victorian Railways at the Newport Workshops in 1917. The train is over 6 m long and 1.5 m high and will feature as the ‘hero’ object in the new gallery’s entrance experience.

Karen Fisher worked with Anthony Abell on a pop up display at Immigration Museum, celebrating and showcasing contemporary modest women’s fashion from our collection which included working directly with the designers.

Charlotte Walker has recently completed a loan of objects from Museum Victoria’s John Twycross Melbourne International Exhibitions Collection. A selection of 36 objects, originally purchased by wealthy wool merchant John Twycross at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and 1888 Melbourne International Centennial Exhibition, have been on display at the Benalla Art Gallery for the past 3 months. She is now focussed on assessing objects from the CSL (Commonwealth Serum Laboratories) Collection for an upcoming exhibition on medical breakthroughs, which will highlight the work of Melbourne’s CSL and WEHI (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) researchers.

Elizabeth McCartney recently worked on the loan of ‘Polly’, a Steam Railway Locomotive (0-6-0ST Type, Z-Class No.526).  Polly was the first steam locomotive to be built at Newport Workshops in 1893 and is returning home for Steamrail Victoria’s 30th Anniversary Open Day Weekend (12th-14th March).


Dani Measday spent a week camping and working with Museum Victoria Paleontologists and volunteers at the annual ‘Dinosaur Dreaming’ dig.  The ‘Eric the Red West’ site just east of Cape Otway is dug regularly by Museum Victoria and has been steadily developing since late 2005 to become a major excavation site in the ongoing project to piece together the Victorian Cretaceous story.

Policies and Procedures

Alice Cannon and Helen Privett have been working on review of procedures and policies in anticipation of the Museum’s application for recognised status in the Protection of Collection Objects on Loan Act.

Collection Surveys

Helen Privett and Karina Palmer have also been assessing textiles in the Indigenous Cultures collection for a future rehousing project.

New equipment

Karina Palmer has been working with Facilities Management to install new Testo environmental loggers to allow ongoing, real-time logging of conditions in galleries.

Rosemary Goodall has been working with Bruce Ford to commission our new microfadometer and to be trained in operating the instrument.  The microfadometer is a very exciting addition to our analytical arsenal and we look forward to putting it to very good use in our exhibition and loans work, in particular as we review our current display duration recommendations and changeover scheduling.

Social News

Last month we reluctantly said goodbye to Briony Pemberton and Noni Zachri who had both been working in the department for the past six months.  We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated having Briony and Noni in the department and would like to thank them for all their fantastic work—we shall miss them!