Author Archives: Lydia Egunnike
As summer rapidly approaches, the risk of damaging storms and bush fires greatly increase. So now is the time to ensure your organisation is disaster ready.
Check your buildings for any potential problems externally such as blocked gutters, damaged drains and roofing. Also check for possible risks internally such sources of moisture including damaged air conditioning and water pipes, areas of poor air circulation, crowded, poorly packed shelves etc. A large mould outbreak or insect infestation are also disasters !
Do you have a disaster preparedness plan?
If you don’t, now is the time to develop one. If you are unsure how to proceed, you can receive assistance from your local Museum Development Officer or contact the Australian Institute of Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) https://aiccm.org.au/disaster
The following websites may also be helpful:
- Be Prepared: Guidelines for Small Museums for writing a disaster preparedness plan (an oldie but a goody): https://aiccm.org.au/sites/default/files/docs/CAN_resources2014/beprepared.pdf
- Museums & Galleries of NSW: How to develop a disaster plan: http://mgnsw.org.au/media/uploads/files/How_to_develop_a_disaster_plan.pdf
- State Library of Queensland: Salvaging damaged collections (includes a disaster plan template): http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/resources/preserving-collections/salvage_damaged_collections
- Q-Dis: The Queensland Disaster Information Network (Q-DIS) is a group for sharing information on disaster preparedness and planning for heritage and cultural collections in Queensland: http://manexus.ning.com/group/qdis
- Queensland State Archives – Disaster planning and recovery: http://www.archives.qld.gov.au/Recordkeeping/Disaster/Pages/Default.aspx
If you already have a disaster preparedness plan make sure it is current.
It is important to review your plan on an annual basis and update it as needed. Listed below are some areas that require regular review:
- Significant items:
- Check the list of high priority collection items. These are the objects that will be retrieved first in a disaster situation. These normally include unique and/or historically significant items.
- Have there been any new acquisitions or donations that need to be added? Have you deaccessioned any items currently on the list ?
- Are collection items still in the same locations or have they been moved? Update location details and floor plans. It is very important to be able to quickly locate significant collections for quick retrieval. Many organisations mark the shelving where high priority objects are located to assist in the location process.
- The disaster team:
- Check phone numbers for the disaster team are current.
- Are people still willing and able to participate? If not, it is time to recruit new volunteers.
- Who will lead the team?
- Ensure all team members are familiar with the Disaster Plan and the salvage procedures for the collections.
- Extra assistance:
- If you require external assistance and have made arrangements in the past (e.g. priority access to the local cold storage facility to freeze water damaged collections), check that these arrangements are still possible. A written agreement may be helpful.
- Organise new arrangements if needed.
- Disaster kits:
- Carry out an inventory on your disaster kits and restock if necessary. Ensure the kits are stocked with materials and equipment appropriate to your greatest disaster risks (e.g. flooding or water leaks).
- Disaster training
- Organise training on use of the disaster plan and salvage procedures for members of the disaster team. Ideally this should be done annually.
- If you require assistance with training, please contact your local Museum Development Officer or AICCM.
So as the old saying goes “forewarned is forearmed”. Fingers crossed this summer will be disaster free and your disaster plans remain untested!
This blog will outline the conservation treatment I carried out on a print that was damaged in the fire last June at the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton. The print was on loan to the Winton and District Historical Society for their ANZAC exhibition “More than a name” when the fire struck. The print suffered water damage, weakening of the paper support and isolated areas of charring.
The print is a duplicate of the iconic oil painting “Menin Gate at Midnight” painted in 1927 by Australian artist William Longstaff. The painting depicts the shadowy ghosts of fallen soldiers marching past the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium. The image gained iconic status in Australia as the nation mourned the thousands lost in World War One.
The treatment process took approximately 4 days to complete and involved the following steps:
Step 1: Surface cleaned front of the print
- The surface of the print was cleaned using a soft brush and air compression avoiding the charred areas.
Step 2: Consolidating the charred areas – part 1:
- The weak charred areas on the front of the print (see right) were consolidated with a thin Japanese Tissue (Bib Tengujo) and wheat starch paste to prevent any loss of the damaged paper. The tissue was then carefully toned using pastel pencils to reduce the visible impact of the charred areas.
Step 3: Removal of the window mats:
- The window mat was mechanically removed.
- Under the mat board was a thick layer of adhesive tape residue which had to be removed from the surface of the print (see image below right). As the paper support was very porous, it was necessary to use methyl cellulose poultices to soften the adhesive as direct applications of water would have caused staining of the paper.
Step 4: Backing board removal:
- Once the window mat was removed the acidic and charred backing boards, which the print had been directly adhered to, were removed.
- The first layer of mat board was very thick strawboard which had swollen significantly on exposure to water (see image above right). Most mat boards are a composite of a number of layers of paper glued together which can be carefully removed layer by layer. Straw board is made by compressing straw pulp in one thick layer. If the board gets wet, the pulp forms dense clumps of fibres which make removal very difficult and time consuming. The removal of the board had to be carried out without water and took more than two days.
- Under the strawboard was another thinner mat board layer that was also removed. The bulk of the mat board layers were removed dry. Fortunately the second backing board was layered in structure making removal much easier than the strawboard layer.
Step 5: Consolidation of charred areas – part 2:
- The charred areas of the print were consolidated on the back of the print using Lens Tissue and wheat starch paste.
- Areas where the paper was weak but not charred were also consolidated.
Step 6: Reduction of water staining:
- The water solubility of the printing inks was tested and found to be stable so the print was blotter washed in deionised water to reduce the heavy staining. Blotter washing uses capillary action to gently remove any soluble staining and discolouration without the need to apply water directly to the paper surface. The treatment was successful and reduced the staining making it much less visibly intrusive to the image.
Step 7: Cleaning the brass plaque:
- The brass plaque was cleaned by firstly brushing off any loose dirt and then very gently cleaned with a jewellers’cleaning cloth. This did not change the appearance of the plaque but further treatment was not carried out to prevent damaging the surface.
Step 6: Rematting and reframing:
- A new window mat package was created matching the original mat configuration including the brass plaque. Canson 100% cotton cellulose mat board was used for the mat and backing board.
- The print was then placed in its original cleaned frame. New glazing and an archival quality backing board were used to seal the frame package.
Early on Wednesday 1st December, a fire broke out at the Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum. The fire started in the rear building adjacent to the Workshop. The fire has caused major damage to a number of historic vehicles, stationary engines and machinery. The Museum’s tools were also destroyed in the blaze.
Thankfully the fire was contained to the Workshop area and the rest of the village was left unscathed and the Museum will be open as normal.
Since the fire, the Museum has been overwhelmed by offers of help and donations of tools. They are confident that the future is bright and the fire has made them more determined than ever to keep improving the Museum for their visitors.
For more information and to see images of the damage, please go to the Museum’s website: http://herveybaymuseum.com.au/stop-press/
If you are interested in donating to the Museum’s recovery fund, please contact the Museum’s Secretary:
Phone: 07 4128 4804 (Opening hours)
Post: 13 Zephyr St, Scarness, QLD
You can also show your support by visiting the Museum!
2015 Cultural Heritage Network- Toowoomba Region Seminar – Preserving our Heritage: Metals, Textiles, Photographs
On the 24 and 25 October, the Cultural Heritage Network – Toowoomba Region (CHN-TR) held their annual seminar at the Pittsworth Function Centre. The seminar was supported by a successful application by the CHN-TR to the Regional Arts Development Fund. The Regional Arts Development Fund is a Queensland Government initiative through an Arts Queensland and Toowoomba Regional Council partnership to support local arts and culture.
Over 25 people attended the seminar with participants coming from not only the Toowoomba region but as far afield as Brisbane, Canungra and even the UK. The seminar began with a thought provoking opening address by Councillor Ros Scotney (Toowoomba Regional Council). Then three workshops on the care of metals, textile and photographic collections were run simultaneously. Topics covered over the two days included object identification, safe cleaning and handling methods, and suitable display and storage techniques and materials.
Dr. Michael Marendy (Textile Conservator) was the textile workshop instructor, I ran the photographic session and Christine Ianna (Heritage collections and conservation consultant) presented the metals workshop.
After the workshops, participants were given a tour of the Pittsworth Pioneer Historical Village.
I would like to thank the CHN-TR particularly Karen Barrett and Rhonda Brosnan for all their hard work. I would also like to thank Belinda McKinlay, Pittsworth Function Centre Manager for running around after us and lending me her microplane grater so that the participants of my workshop could surface clean the backs of their photos. Finally a big thank you to the participants of the photo workshop for their good humour and enthusiasm.
The curse of the clothes moth!
A recent job has reminded me of how devastating clothes moth infestations can be in textile collections. There are two types of moth species that cause damage, the casemaking clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) and the webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). More information on each clothes moth species can be found at: https://www.aepma.com.au/PestDetail/98/Clothes%20Moth
Carpet beetles can also cause major textile damage.
Serious infestations can develop undetected in collection storage and display areas causing significant damage particularly to animal fibres such as wool, silk and fur. Moths prefer dirty fabric when laying their eggs and are attracted to textiles containing human sweat or other liquids that have been spilled onto them. It is the fabric-eating larvae that causes damage not the adult moths.
If you find infested objects, it is important to deal with the problem as quickly as possible.
If the objects have been badly damaged, are very fragile, or have significant heritage value, it is strongly recommended that you seek advice from a qualified textile conservator before undertaking any treatment.
If the textiles do not contain wood or glass components, they may be suitable to freeze. When packing collections for freezing, make sure objects that are badly damaged and/or fragile are properly supported during the packing process. See the State Library of Queensland info guide on safe freezing methods: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/resources/preserving-collections/preservation_guides/freezing-water-damaged-and-insect-infected-collections
Once the objects have been frozen and safely defrosted, careful brush vacuuming can effectively remove larvae as well as surface dirt, hair and lint which could sustain future infestations. Be sure to also thoroughly vacuum storage and/or display areas including edges of carpets, along baseboards, underneath furniture, inside closets and other undisturbed areas where clothes moth larvae feed. Refer to the following websites for instructions on how to safely vacuum textiles: http://www.museumtextiles.com/uploads/7/8/9/0/7890082/vacuuming_textiles.pdf
Remember that freezing will not prevent future infestations.
You can minimise the risk of infestations by implementing a collection-wide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan:
- Ensure collection objects are kept clean.
- Keep storage and display areas uncluttered and dust-free.
- Inspect collections regularly to ensure early detection of insect activity.
- As well as visual inspection of objects, use insect traps. Check fortnightly during hot humid weather and monthly during cooler drier months. More regular checking will be needed if a problem is suspected.
- Deal with infestations promptly using non-toxic treatments such as freezing and anoxia.
- For more information on implementing an IPM program refer to: http://museumpests.net/resources-2/resources-web-resources/resources-ip-programs/
- More tips available at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/learn/conservation/2543455/2543024/Top_Ten_Tips_for_Preventing_Clothes_Moth_Infestations.pdf
Given the recent fire at the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, it is timely to share a few tips and useful websites on salvaging fire damaged objects.
Below I have outlined the basic salvage procedure. For more information please refer to the provided websites or contact your local MDO or a qualified conservator for specific advice.
- Safety first: Do not enter the fire damaged area until you have been given the all clear by the fire brigade and/or the authority responsible for the site.
- Wear nitrile gloves and a P2 respirator mask when retrieving objects. Minimise handling and carefully support objects at all times. Material may have become weak and brittle.
- Once it is safe to access the affected area, sort the collections into three main categories: wet; charred/burnt; and soot affected but not burnt.
- Treat wet material first. Advice on treating water damaged collections can be found at the following websites:
- Objects that have been burnt require extreme care and should be handled as little as possible. Seek assistance from a qualified conservator for guidance on whether treatment is possible:
- For objects affected by soot, it is important to remove soot as quickly as possible. Soot is chemically active and the longer it remains on the surface of an object the greater the risk of permanent damage.
- Refer to the following websites for advice on cleaning methods. Always remove loose surface soot first without rubbing or introducing water to prevent soot becoming embedded or causing staining:
Gentle reminder: Make sure your disaster preparedness plan is up to date and those involved in the disaster team are familiar with its contents and have received recent hands on salvage training.
Does your museum have a preservation plan? Many do not. Most, if not all small organisations responsible for heritage, art and other cultural collections have to work within the constraints of very limited resources. Funding is often through small highly competitive grants and the day-to day management of the organisation and collections is dependent on a hard working but often decreasing number of volunteers. It is not uncommon for the long term care of collections to be unconsciously neglected or approached in an ad-hoc manner.
A long-range practical, preservation plan clearly defines an institution’s preservation needs and charts a course of action. It can be a powerful organisational tool. It ensures limited resources are effectively used, assists with funding applications and most importantly provides focused collection care actions.
Ideally preservation planning should occur after an organisation has had a formal significance assessment of their collections. A Preservation Needs Assessment is then carried out by a qualified conservator (see AICCM website below). A Preservation plan is developed using recommendations from the Preservation Needs Assessment. Once you have your plan, make sure you review and update it regularly.
If you would like to know more, below are some useful websites. You may also contact your local MDO.
AICCM – http://aiccm.org.au/
Museums Australia Victoria: http://www.mavic.asn.au/assets/MA_Conservation_Plan.pdf
Conservation Centre for Art and Historic Artefacts: http://www.ccaha.org/uploads/media_items/ccaha-preservation-planning.original.pdf
Northeast Document Conservation Centre: https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/1.-planning-and-prioritizing/1.1-what-is-preservation-planning
MDO Lydia Egunnike began her NAIDOC week by attending the launch of a new exhibition celebrating the extraordinary sporting history of Cherbourg, a small town in the South Burnett region. Cherbourg, or Barambah as it was originally called, was established by Salvation Army member William Thompson in 1899. It became a Government Settlement in 1904. Under the “Aboriginal Protection Act” Aboriginal people from across Queensland and New South Wales were relocated to Cherbourg. From its beginnings, the community produced an exceptional number of local, state and national champions across a wide range of sports. Many of the surrounding communities recruited team members from Cherbourg. The Ration Shed museum celebrates this history in their new exhibition “Play the ball”.
The day began at the Cherbourg cemetery with the poignant unveiling of a new headstone for Frank “Big Shot” Fisher, a Cherbourg legend, and rugby league great.
After a hearty morning tea, the “Play the ball” exhibition was launched with the cutting of the ribbon by former local ruby league player Uncle Cecil Brown. Chris Sarra (on behalf of the Australian Rugby League Commission) presented a presentation plaque celebrating the Cherbourg rugby league “Team of the Century”.
“Play the ball” shares the triumphant and moving stories of Cherbourg’s sporting champions and unsung heroes. The exhibition uses a vibrant mix of photographic, oral history and audio-visual content. A number of original objects such as trophies are also on display.
The audience is encouraged to reflect upon the social, political, and cultural context in which these sporting achievements occurred. They are also reminded of the potential power of sports to instil pride and bring communities together. The exhibition has been developed as “a reconciliation process for Cherbourg and surrounding communities, a display of local pride in achievement, an affirmation of prowess and ability, and a demonstration of what is possible to the community youth.” (http://rationshed.com.au/play-the-ball-the-story-of-sport-in-cherbourg/).
If you would like more information on the exhibition and the Ration Shed Museum, please go to http://rationshed.com.au/
In February 2013 communities in the Bundaberg, Burnett and Frazer Coast region were inundated by flood waters in the wake of ex tropical cyclone Oswald. In an initial disaster response, Queensland Museum’s MDO team worked with museums at Gayndah, Bundaberg and Maryborough to salvage collection material, and provided assistance to museums faced with the massive clean up task.
Eight months later, five MDOs, and Queensland Museum’s Director of Regional Services, Deborah Bailey, returned to Gayndah to help volunteers deal with the next phase of disaster recovery. The three day trip was also a chance for the MDOs and volunteers to get some invaluable applied onsite training.
Earlier posts on the blog outline the process for freezing paper-based materials. Frozen material can be dealt with later, at a more convenient time for people whose lives have been disrupted by a disaster.
To prepare for the unfreezing process, Gayndah and District Historical Society volunteers removed the wrapped packages from the freezer two days before the MDOs arrived. They wrapped them in towels and placed them in an undercover, shaded area to slowly defrost.
Lydia Egunnike, MDO for the southern inland region, organised all materials needed for the workshop, including vast quantities of paper towels, plastic spatulas and clean water. John Wein, the Secretary of the Historical Society, ensured there were plenty of fly screens on hand that could be used for drying racks, bricks to make tables higher and prevent sore backs, and food for a hungry work crew!
Activities on the first morning involved setting up works stations and drying stations both inside and on the museum verandah.
Lydia then provided preliminary training on how to carefully separate documents, what to do if they were stuck together, how to clean away residual dirt and mud, and how to start drying them properly.
Each MDO and the six volunteers (John Wein, Mary McIntyre, Brian and Sue Hutchinson, Jamie Wilson and Judith Woodman-Heuth) then set about working through the bundle of frozen documents. With John providing advice about which documents or materials they could discard, much time was saved. John also started the process of scanning dried documents that contained important information but which were not going to be kept due to damage, mould and/or general condition.
Drying booklets, folders and archives was a primary goal. Items were interleaved with paper toweling, often two or three times over the course of the site visit. Some material was stuck together so tightly it needed to be re-submerged in clean water or re-wet and gently prised apart using finer, more professional conservation tools.
At the end of the three days, all frozen items had been assessed with the drying process underway. This was possible because of the large number of volunteers and MDOs available, but also due to the organisation and planning that had gone into preparing for the activity.
Many thanks again to the Historical Society at Gayndah volunteers for making the MDO team feel welcome and keeping us well fed.