New Storeroom opened at Axel Stenross Maritime Museum

A new storeroom was officially opened at Axel Stenross Maritime Museum in Port Lincoln on Wednesday 19 March. A small evening reception was held to celebrate the occasion on the museum’s verandah with a pleasant sea view.  Guests included those attending the History SA/Artlab Caring for Collections workshop held over two-days in the Port Lincoln Civic Centre.  Museum Committee President Max Sims and Secretary Andrew Chappell both gave small speeches paying tribute to the support of History SA, prior to Pauline Cockrill, History SA’s Community History Officer, officially opening the storeroom.

The museum received $7,500 through History SA’s 2012-3 Community Museum Program grant round to construct and equip the new storeroom, in what was described as ‘almost the last available space on the site’ in an awkward corner between two existing buildings. The area was constructed solely by museum members, showing considerable resourcefulness in their use of many recycled building materials and equipment. Particularly impressive was the picture rack created from surplus metal framework donated by a local business.  By carefully stacking their paintings and other 2D works of art in this manner, individually wrapped in Tyvek, they demonstrated an understanding of best museum practice.  

Axel Stenross Museum is one of 61 registered and accredited museums in History SA’s standards program and is thus eligible to apply for funding through their Community Museums Program.

Founded in 1983, the museum was established around the simple residence and buildings belonging to Finnish boat builder Axel Stenross. Since then the museum has developed substantially and not only tells Axel’s story but also the maritime history of Port Lincoln and Eyre Peninsula generally, with a large collection of historic boats and associated artefacts.  In more recent years the museum has added an upstairs meeting room and archives area, a small auditorium downstairs and a series of interpretive touch screen stations throughout the galleries.  The museum is a great example of community initiative, pride and hard work.

More photos of the opening can be seen here

Flying Visit across the Spencer Gulf

Last week Artlab’s Principal Textile Conservator Kristin Phillips and I headed for the airport.  We were on our way to Port Lincoln to run a two-day ‘Caring for Collections’ workshop for community museums and history groups. This skills development program is one that we run every two years or so in different regions but this was the first time we had offered such a workshop on the Eyre Peninsula. We were also able to offer it free courtesy of a National Library Community Heritage Grant.

It proved to be quite a logistical challenge.  Clutching rolls of Mylar and a laptop as well as a cutting mat secreted amongst our luggage, Kristin and I eventually arrived at the other end.  The next morning we were glad to find the other equipment we had sent on ahead by bus, safely stored at the Civic Centre where the workshop was to take place.

Almost 20 people attended each day representing nine organisations, not only from Port Lincoln but further afield from Koppio, Cummins, Mount Dutton Bay and even Whyalla.  Both mornings were spent learning the theory behind managing a museum environment, identifying risks and pests that might affect our collections as well as the right way to store or display archival material, photographs, costume and textiles.  Afterwards, participants could ‘have a go’ at what they had learnt.  Armed with magnifying glasses, torches and electronic environmental monitors, we gathered on the first afternoon at nearby Mill Cottage Museum, the mid 19th century Bishop family’s home to check for harmful insects and other pests, and to measure light, relative humidity and temperature.  The second afternoon saw us equipped with vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, Mylar, cutting mats and scalpels as the group learnt how to carefully surface clean items in their collection, make supports for costume and accessories and the art of encapsulation and making four flap folders.

It was terrific to see so much enthusiasm and practical skills amongst the group as well as many interesting and significant items that people brought along for advice.  These included a First World War signature supper cloth and an 1836 sampler. Particularly memorable was a poignant family heirloom in the form of a 1916 diary written by a soldier who had fought and died at Pozieres.  There was also a 500 page autograph book c1925-1955 belonging to the late Louise Brougham, a local philanthropist known for her work at the Port Lincoln Mission to Seafarers.  The book had been previously digitised through funding from a History SA South Australian History Fund grant.

There was also a surprise visit from a local journalist who wrote about the event in the Port Lincoln Times while I also had the great honour of officially opening Axel Stenross Maritime Museum’s new storeroom.

I hope that it won’t be too long when I can visit Port Lincoln again and see how people have put their new skills to good use.

More photos of the workshop can be seen here

Digitisation for Preservation & Access workshop

35 eager participants attended our free one-day Digitisation for Preservation and Access workshop at the Hetzel Lecture Theatre in The Institute Building on North Terrace on Wednesday 12 March.

Participants were largely from community museums, historical societies, school and university archives, but there were also representatives from a writers’ festival and a car club.  Mainly Adelaide-based, others came from further afield including Gawler and the mid North, Clare and Barossa Valleys, Riverland,  Fleurieu and Eyre Peninsulas. Some needed advice for beginners while others required validation that they are going in the right direction.

Funded by a National Library Community Heritage Grant, the workshop was led by Lindy Bohrnsen, the State Library of South Australia’s Senior Reformatting Coordinator assisted by Stuart Fuller, Preventive Conservator from Artlab Australia.

Lindy’s presentation and accompanying notes covered a lot of ground discussing why digitise, photographic formats and scanner types.  She demonstrated the difference between commercial home scanners, semi-professional and professional scanners comparing images produced from each example.

File formats and sizes were explained as well as interpolation and mode/bit depth comparison.  Lindy also considered the challenges faced by photograph albums, maps, books, delicate material and the bane of all digitisers and conservators – sticky tape. Currently there are no national digitisation standards but participants were advised to use the SLSA’s guidelines.

Over the lunch period participants were able to take a guided tour of the State Library’s digitisation studios in the Mortlock wing basement.  Specialised equipment such as large format scanners and printers, and a two camera set up for digitising books were viewed while SLSA photographers Toby and Stephen were also on hand to demonstrate some aspects of their work and answer questions.

In the afternoon, Stuart presented a session on the care of items undergoing digitisation, discussing the environment, handling, removing paperclips and rubber bands, how to deal with books, oversized items and different sorts of materials and storage.  Lindy finished off the day with access and delivery, storage and management, copyright and permissions and budgeting.

Examples of different types of photographic formats and documents from the State Library were available to view while some people brought their own examples for advice.

It was clear from the overwhelming response to this workshop that digitisation is obviously a field that many groups are considering or dabbling in or have begun in earnest.

Another workshop has been planned for Wednesday 25 June but this is now fully booked. We hope to hold a third workshop later in the year in Adelaide to cater for the long waiting list, as well as another in a regional location.  If you would like to be included on the waiting list, please contact us.

More photos from the workshop can be seen here 

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