These are paper conservators.
This is a textiles conservator.
And this is me.
I’m the only objects conservator at the Australian National Maritime Museum at the moment. I’m responsible for the care of the huge HMS Sirius anchor, which is currently on display in the upper level of the museum. Unfortunately, the coatings which protect vulnerable iron maritime archaeological materials like this don’t last forever. Its now time to renew the anchor’s coating, and we’ll be doing this while its on display in the museum. I can’t clean and recoat such a big anchor by myself. So, I’ve enlisted the help of my conservation colleagues.
While the principles behind the work done by conservation professionals are shared, the practicalities are quite different.
You can catch me most days of the week with my wellington boots and lab coat on pouring hundreds of litres of solution into maritime archaeology treatment baths. Or removing old grease and corrosion from technology objects. Or putting metal objects covered in microcrystalline wax into the oven. And often making a terrible mess in the process, while not too far away my friends in paper and textiles conservation are working with beautifully clean hands on delicate dresses and watercolours.
The treatment of the anchor is going to be a bit mucky. We need to strip off the old coating, as well as any underlying corrosion to create a surface that will accept the fresh coating. If you’ve ever done any furniture restoration at home, or stripped and recoated an old wall, you’ll know just how messy it can get.
If you’re visiting the museum from Monday 17 to Friday 28 June on a weekday, you might just catch us working on the anchor and see conservation get dirty.