The National Maritime Museum is Australia’s hub for maritime collections, exhibitions and research. Situated in Sydney’s vibrant Darling Harbour, the site is home to over 140,000 exhibition items accrued over decades – priceless mementos of Australia’s seafaring past. Items usually need to be preserved in controlled atmospheric conditions due to their extreme sensitivity to light and humidity levels.
”Preserving the proper environmental conditions of our collections is vital. These objects are crucial to our cultural heritage, so we need all the resources possible to preserve their history for future generations,” says Objects Conservator Jeffrey Fox.
After completing his degree in archaeology, Jeff decided on a career in the conservation field. After completing a Master’s Degree through the University of Melbourne, Jeff eventually made the move to the Maritime Museum around two years ago. It was here that he really learned the challenges that conservation teams face in preserving historical collections.
The National Maritime Museum is a vital institution for preserving Australia’s seafaring past.
What are the challenges of preserving museum exhibitions?
”Numerous ambient factors can affect different materials – light and UV exposure deteriorates paper and ink, while humidity has a much greater effect on metal, wood and cloth. The real challenge in preserving these significant objects comes in finding a balance that suits an item made out of a combination of these materials,” Jeff says.
Other issues include pests such as mold and insects, which can thrive in the conditions required to store these collections. Controlling surroundings here is vital in order to reduce the chances of pests spreading – but maintaining appropriate conditions in the exhibition rooms is another problem. The conservation team are in regular contact with building services about the indoor environment, trying to find a balance between appropriate storage conditions and creating a comfortable environment for museum visitors.
”The building management system can only go so far in maintaining the temperature needed to suit both our collections and our guests. An element of environmental testing is essential too,” says Jeff.
The testo 160 has proven vital in monitoring environmental conditions.
How does Testo help the preservation process?
The Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials code of ethics offers environmental condition guidelines for best practice on maintaining valuable cultural collections – but for the most part the Maritime Museum has looked at building temperature set points and altered them to be closer aligned with external climate.
”Rolling out the testo 160 was done to test how effective wireless temperature data logging could be. We’ve been able to access daily environmental data, giving us more in-depth information to work with. This has made it easier to plan for long-term conservation projects too,” Jeff says.
”The whole team can pull environmental reports easily and all data is stored centrally and securely on the cloud. It’s so much simpler to ensure all conditions are appropriate.”
More than 40 Testo devices have been used in storage and display locations around the Maritime Museum, giving the conservation team the data to make better decisions in
preserving Australia’s maritime treasures. For more information about the potential of Testo’s climate monitoring equipment, contact the team today.