Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cannon Ball Conservation

Following on from last week’s call for locals to let us know about the historic objects they may have in their personal care that may require conservation treatment – here is the story of the conservation of some HMS Sirius cannon balls. Janelle Blucher carries out our conservation work – and as you’ll read, it’s been a careful, scientific and long term endeavour.

In December 2002, approximately 20 cannon balls from the HMS Sirius collection were in very poor condition: they were broken, fragmentary, friable and soft.  Some were held together with large areas of wax fill and contained in nylon mesh bags.  They were immersed in a tub of 2% caustic soda solution to desalinate and regular chloride readings were necessary to determine when this was complete.  Well over 8 years later with a few difficulties along the way, we are now happy to report that this treatment is now complete.

Chloride readings are well known to be problematic unless you are fortunate to have access to a chloridometer valued at approximately $6,000, which of course we do not. The original method of obtaining chloride readings was achieved by adding chloride to a solution sample, then adding Merouric Nitrate via a digital titrator until there was a noticeable change in colour of the solution, called the end point.  This method was used for some years however the ‘end point’ was continuously becoming unclear.

The Western Australian Museum suggested using the Quantab© Chloride Strip Method.  A strip is placed into the sample, the fluid rises up the strip forming silver chloride visually seen by a white column.  Once the strip is completely saturated, a moisture sensitive string across the top will turn blue, the reading can then be taken from the peak of the white column, which represents the Quantab© unit value, the value is referred to a table which converts units into salt concentration.  This method offered some success for a couple of years, however these strips are expensive and have a limited range. Unexplained large increases in chloride concentrations began in June 2009 - a battery of tests were carried out to trouble shoot the cause, however none could definitely be established. Contamination of the sodium hydroxide or the water were probable scenarios.

 An alternative chloride measurement technique was recommended by Don Brian, our Science Teacher at N.I.C.S., introduced in 2010 this titration method uses Silver nitrate that reacts with Chromate indicator ions, turning them from yellow to red. This provided an obvious ‘end point’ allowing accurate readings which have now led to deeming the desalination of our cannon balls complete. They are now receiving a number of washes in water to remove any chemical residue. Once this is complete the next step is to look at each one and determine whether wax consolidation or re gluing is required. This is all part of the long term, patient and well thought through work that occurs ‘behind the scenes’ in the museum every day as we care for these highly important collections.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Museum wins Gold Tourism Award

The Norfolk Island Museum won gold last night at the 2010 Norfolk Island Tourism Awards! We were thrilled to recieve the award in the Environment, History and Heritage Category.

The awards are the major tourism industry event for all those businesses involved in tourism on the island. Other categories are Tours and Activities (won by Baunti Escapes), Cafe (won by The Olive), Fine Dining (won by Dino's) and Accommodation (various winners from a range of 'star' ratings). Agnes Haines from The Travel Centre was awarded the Norfolk Island Toursim Champion Award for her 30 plus years contribution to the industry. A range of other awards were presented including Customer Service, Innovation of the Year and induction into the Toursim Hall of Fame.

The Museum worked hard during the award period (2009/10) to improve our displays, tours, advertising and customer service. During these difficult times as tourist numbers to the island have fallen, the museum has managed to maintain ticket sales and even increase sales in some areas. All museum staff should take credit for this award.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Caring for our Heritage

We are in the midst of National Heritage Week and KAVHA has been presenting a fabulous programme of talks and tours which run through till this coming Wednesday. To start the programme Robyn Ashcroft presented a talk on KAVHA’s significance as a World Heritage Site. She laid out the range of meanings of heritage, from small ‘h’ to capital ‘H’ heritage,  where small ‘h’ is that which is of value to ourselves and our families, working through to those things valued by a local community, a State or Territory, the Nation and then finally the World. Official recognition is given to those places that are of collective value through various Heritage Listings. Of course the KAVHA site has both National and World Heritage Listing.

On this very small island we have more than our fair share of objects that are of value and significance to Australia as a whole. Artefacts held at the Norfolk Island Museum and by many individuals in the local community form part of our common big ‘H’ Heritage – they ‘belong’ to us all as they help tell our stories and are the things that we want to pass on to future generations. There are various pieces of Legislation, both local and Commonwealth that protect the objects and sites that we value such as Moveable Cultural Heritage Acts, Historic Shipwrecks Act and Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. However personal responsibility is also necessary for the care and protection of these objects.

On Norfolk many locals have had the opportunity to find important historical objects over the years – they may have come from the KAVHA area, their own backyard or off the reef. Because there is such importance in making sure that these objects survive over time, we are asking locals to let us know what they have and, where we can, to let us help with looking after them. We have already been able to offer conservation treatment to one local who contacted us to let us know that he has several Sirius objects. We were able to go and see them, provide treatments and will now maintain a regular check on them.

There can be serious consequences if these objects are not properly looked after. We recently received a call from the Australian National Maritime Museum informing us of a cannon ball that had been handed to them by the Australian Federal Police. Museum staff recently brought it back to Norfolk Island. The ball had been given to the Police by a person who said they had previously lived on Norfolk and had then taken it to the mainland when they moved (removing it to the mainland in this manner is illegal). They told the police it was a cannon ball from the Sirius. When the ball began to deteriorate they had no idea what to do with it. Luckily they handed it in – we can now save it from breaking up completely. The photograph shows the deteriorated state of the cannon ball alongside one from our collection that has been properly looked after and conserved.

While it can be exciting to hold these objects in our own possession, their wider value and significance should not be forgotten. They form part of all our common Heritage. Robyn said in her presentation, ‘Heritage is about the future’ – and these important historical objects need to be around for all our future generations. Please give us a call on 23788 if you have a Sirius, KAVHA or other historical object – we would welcome the opportunity to offer conservation treatment and advice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Farewell to Deena Hattersley

Deena Hattersley shared her final sherry with the cast of The Trial of the Fifteen last Wednesday night before leaving the island to relocate to New Zealand. She has been the Director of ‘The Trial’ for all but about six months since it opened in mid 1999. Since then it has been performed twice weekly to over 35,000 visitors, travelled to Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney and been one of the top ‘must see’ attractions on Norfolk. A good measure of that success has been due to Deena’s steady influence and guidance as Director.

Deena has been responsible for training all the actors who have joined the cast over the years, as well as supporting long standing performers to keep their performances fresh and energised. Amazingly there are three actors in the current casts who have been with the show just a few months longer than Deena - that is from the very first performance – they are Peter Davidson, Teddy Evans and Ken Christian. We are extraordinarily lucky to have had the dedication and skill of these actors over all those years. Together with other long standing and newer cast members Louci Reynolds, Rachael McConnell, Rebecca Hayes, Darren Anderson and Geoff Griffiths the play has earned its reputation as a well acted show. 

Deena (centre) and the cast from The Trial of the Fifteen
 All the cast and staff at the Norfolk Island Museum say a huge ‘thankyou’ and wish Deena all the best back in New Zealand. We are also very pleased to announce and welcome Rose Stephens as the new Director and wish her every success.

For those who may not have seen the show, Peter Clarke’s script cleverly offers the opportunity to neatly capture the layers of Norfolk’s history through the trial of fifteen characters. From the Polynesian rat to the infamous John Price to our own Fletcher Christian – it’s an entertaining way to soak up our island’s story and is performed every Monday and Wednesday night at 4.45pm. The Museum Theatre is a wonderfully atmospheric building. It was the Protestant Chapel for convicts in the Second Settlement and the ‘trial’ setting uses original court room furniture made in 1896. The setting includes panelling, witness box, judge's bench and stairs, jury box and the accused box and is listed by the Australian Heritage Commission as a significant part of the National Estate. It was made by Dwight Allen, an American whaler who tendered 175 pounds for construction of a dock, jury box, panelling and judge's bench.

Bookings for The Trial of the Fifteen can be made at the REO Café and Bookshop, Baunti Escapes, the Tourist Bureau or by calling 23088.