Conservation on exhibition: AICCM Exhibitions SIG symposium
19 March 2014
By Cash Brown
I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Exhibitions SIG symposium (National Gallery of Victoria, 17–18 March 2014). As many AICCM members were unable to attend, I would like to share a brief review.
The symposium was attended by delegates from all over Australia including: a team from MONA, registrars, archivists and conservators from both private and institutional practice. Papers were presented from national and International speakers, sharing knowledge and insights valuable to the museum and gallery community. While I cannot go into detail of all the wonderful presentations, a few highlights to my mind are included here.
The keynote address by Dr Patrick Greene, the charismatic Director of Museum Victoria (MV) provided some perspectives on exhibitions, their benefits and drawbacks in terms of audience numbers/ engagement/ cost/ longevity and relevance. He was also brave enough to enter the ‘bad’ territory, where things do not work and can have a negative impact on the very purpose of a museum. Greene highlighted the collaboration between indigenous groups and exhibition developers, which started as consultation process, and ended with a co-production of the First People’s exhibition in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which opened in 2013 at MV. This permanent exhibition, with an expected lifespan of ten years, is a showcase of innovation and excellence in cross-cultural and interdisciplinary museum practice.
While matters of insurance and policy are an essential component of preventive conservation, they are often viewed as dry and rather dull. The wonderful Vilim Kompar, Relationship Manager, People and Services, Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA) changed that for life! Thank you Vilim for explaining the value of Kylie’s shorts, and the surprisingly low number of claims for damaged artworks caused in transit. Vilim’s presentation demonstrated that as an insurance professional, he is in fact also a conservation professional, expert in risk mitigation and memorable presentation.
Diana Tay, a University of Melbourne Masters Conservation Cultural Materials second-year student presented a terrific tale of ‘How the West Was Won’. The conservation of a Donald Rodney 1982 collage painting presented some interesting challenges to prepare it for exhibition, including finding a replacement circa 1982 red plastic gun for the missing collage element. The ethical and logistical concerns were presented with a lively account of making a very damaged work, which had been rolled up under a bed and slept on by a cat for over 20 years, presentable for an exhibition at the TATE Britain in London.
Many more aspects of conservation in relation to exhibitions were presented over the two days, and a break out session discussing changing environmental parameters, LED lighting, microclimates and off gassing. The irrepressible Catherine Earley led this lively discussion, with contributions from some of the industry’s leading professionals. Catherine is Head of Exhibitions Conservation National Gallery of Vitoria, who also did a sterling job as the MC and timekeeper. We look forward to the second instalment of the AICCM Exhibitions SIG symposium and benefiting from the sharing of knowledge.