A lot of learning opportunities have presented themselves at the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre over the past few months. In February, to coincide with the fourth anniversary of our city rocking, the Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team held a symposium on extreme disaster. A number of Recovery Centre participants received free passes to this gig, providing opportunities to meet colleagues from outside Canterbury as well as reflect on the lessons learnt from the earthquakes.
With Kaiapoi Museum’s opening date beckoning, we had a visit from South Island Museum Development Officer, Judith Taylor, and two private conservators, Lynn Campbell and Sasha Stollman. Like any museum, Kaiapoi has assessed the condition of their objects to ensure they are stable enough to go on display, but what we needed to know was, is there any other work required before these objects are placed on display? In short, after talking with the conservators and being walked through some practical tasks, the answer was: not a lot. For objects, the main things we could do were remove dust, dirt and sometimes grease from the surface of the items using brushes, vacuums and very soft cotton materials. The idea is to stabilise objects with minimal intervention, keeping the signs of previous use intact and letting the magic of exhibition, though mounts, cases and lighting, set the stage; presenting artefacts in their pure state of splendour.
Sasha working with Kaiapoi Museum’s trophy collection
Another recent event was a hands-on labelling workshop brought to the Recovery Centre in partnership with National Services Te Paerangi. Conservators Emily Fryer, Becky Helliwell and Lynn Campbell put the group through their paces, asking participants to label a variety of objects made up of glass, ceramic, textiles, paper, metal and wood. I really enjoyed Emily’s object handling expression, “support your artefacts like a baby.”
Lynn Campbell and workshop participants discussing how to label the composite object in front of them
Throughout the rest of the Recovery Centre we continue to see collections from various groups move in and out of the space. Christchurch Art Gallery, Ngai Tāhu, Don Peebles, Kate Dewes Archives, Christchurch RSA, Kaiapoi Museum, NZ Army Medical Army Corp Collection, Ministry of Justice – Māori Land Court, the University of Canterbury and the United Forces Lodge are just a few organisations who continue to play Rubik’s cube with the storage of their collection items.
Special congratulations to the Christchurch RSA who had their official building opening on March 27, with a few exhibition cases dotted around their new space. Another group who continue working on their public role is Lyttelton Museum, who co-curated a small exhibition “Through the Glass ceiling”, focusing on Kate Sheppard and the women’s suffrage movement, at the Tin Place in Lyttelton.