What happens in our Conservation Lab?
The physical treatment of objects is a major part of our work in the Conservation Lab at Sydney University Museums. Our Lab provides comprehensive conservation services across all of our collections. Much of our time and energy is dedicated to the examination and documentation of material through condition reporting, pest control as a part of our program of preventative measures and the assessment of objects for proposed loans or acquisitions. Specialised storage and travel boxes are made in the lab and we do undertake a certain amount of testing of materials. When we do undertake treatments of our objects we aim to ensure that the methods and materials used are largely reversible and that interventions are apparent.
News from the Lab
Late last year we were fortunate to have an XRF analyser from Bruker Elemental on loan. Bruker’s Chief Scientist, Bruce Kaiser travelled to Australia to conduct workshops in its use and analysis of results. XRF are widely used in conservation labs as a quick, non-destructive method of determining the elemental make-up of materials.
While on loan the XRF was primarily used to identify chemicals used to preserve our natural history specimens. Although we have now had to return the equipment, it has whet our appetite to have the capability to undertake more non-destructive testing as part of standard technical examination methods.
Recently we have had two conservators working with us on a temporary basis in the Conservation Laboratory.
Ana Barros Soares has been taking elemental spectra of natural history specimen in support of the Macleay Museum’s Victorian Taxidermy Project. This Testing has examined what remains of the chemicals used in the original preparation of skins. While collecting spectra is relatively quick process (approximately 30 seconds for each run), identifying peaks and undertaking the analysis is slow and painstaking. Once Ana completes the analysis, she will work on improving storage and housing of some of our natural history specimens in light of the information provided.
Sasha Stollman looked at mounted natural history specimens, including birds, fish and mammals, assessing condition and prioritising the areas where conservation work the would be most effective. She went on to work on treating and stabilising selected specimens.
Both Ana and Sasha’s contracts were possible by a generous gift to the Macleay Museum.