Conserving Mareeba’s “Portraits of the North”

Helen Kindt and David Foster with the first box of rehoused glass negatives from the Portraits of the North project.

Helen Kindt and David Foster with the first box of rehoused glass negatives from the “Portraits of the North” project.

Last week, volunteers at Mareeba Historical Society worked with Queensland Museum Conservator, Sue Valis, and FNQ MDO, Jo Wills, to conserve their First World War related collections in a project called “Portraits of the North”. Funded through the Queensland Anzac Centenary grants program administered by the Anzac Centenary Coordination Unit, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, the project was designed by the MDO program and the Historical Society to preserve, protect, present and promote the legacy and stories surrounding their significant collection of glass plate soldier portraits and associated First World War artefacts.

And, what a collection it is. The glass negative portraits illustrate the youth and vigour of enlistees before they left to serve their county overseas. Postcards and letters home reveal the personal impact of service, and the ways in which soldiers and nurses communicated with loved ones at home. Other glass negatives document scenes from front, enlistment posters, musical scores and stories from war correspondents. Additional items include a dressing bandage, a soldier’s belt, a Dead Man’s Penny, war medals, silk cigarette cards with military insignia, and photographic albums.

 

Boxes of glass negatives that needed to be rehoused.

Boxes of glass negatives that needed to be rehoused.

Rehousing the glass negatives - acid free card pockets and foam-lined archival boxes.

Rehousing the glass negatives – acid free card pockets and foam-lined archival boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an initial assessment of the conservation needs and priorities, Sue and Jo worked with Helen and David to protect and rehouse the glass negatives. A project that the Society has wanted to tackle for over 15 years, the process of making individual pockets for different sized glass negatives and lining storage boxes with protective foam was time consuming and repetitive. However, now that the work is finished, the collection will be better protected into the future.

Sue also undertook specialist conservation and rehousing of some of the Society’s First World War artefacts. Some of the items, including the silk cigarette cards, the soldier’s belt and the medals have had been conserved in such as way as to make them easy to display in the Society’s four up coming exhibitions in 2015.

Rehoused silk cigarette cards - protected storage and display solutions.

Rehoused silk cigarette cards – protected storage and display solutions.

Conserved artefacts stored in archival box.

Conserved artefacts stored in archival box.

Sue shows Helen an archival album for cards and photographs.

Sue shows Helen an archival album for cards and photographs.

Having two Queensland Museum staff work intensively onsite on specific projects has a lot of benefits for communities and volunteers. It provides them with access and exposure to a range of conservation skills and training, and to discuss future projects with the MDO. But communities are not the only beneficiaries. Through these types of project QM staff can extend their skills and understanding of materials, objects and historical research, thanks to the expertise and generosity of volunteers. Whilst working on the conservation project, Jo also worked with Helen, David and Carol to identify appropriate collections for use in another Anzac project being undertaken on the Atherton Tablelands, as well as discuss a range of other projects and issues that the Society aspires to achieve.

“Portraits of the North” was made possible thanks to a grant by Queensland Anzac Centenary Grants Program, through the Anzac Centenary Coordination Unity, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

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Posted on 2 December 2014, in Jo's Diary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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