Marking time on conservation
A lantern slide of the Old Museum Building
I have recently acquired five nineteenth-century lantern slides of Queensland subjects published by the Scottish firm of George Washington Wilson and Co Ltd.
My favourite is this one, of the Exhibition Buildings in Brisbane. It is the earliest good-quality photograph of the building I know of. I have just started work on updating the conservation management plan for this building, so getting this photo is a treat.
Lady Lamington, usefully employed
At the moment I am working—amiably and (I hope) usefully—on a conservation management plan for the former Lady Lamington Nurses’ Home, part of the Brisbane General Hospital Precinct. Whenever I pass the front entrance I get to enjoy the memorial stone placed there in 1896 by Lady Lamington, wife of the then Governor of Queensland.
Specifying colours exactly
The postman delivered a new book today, The anatomy of colour: the story of heritage paints and pigments by Patrick Baty. I have just had time for a quick flip through—enough to see that it is full of wonderful detail, as I have come to expect from reading the author’s blog.
Baty opens a chapter on colour systems and standards with this quote from a 1907 book by A S Jennings:
If half-a-dozen practical painters, experienced in colour mixing, were asked seperately to mix a given colour; say a sea green, it is almost certain that when the six colours were compared there would be no two alike.
Baty goes on to discuss the colour system developed by Albert Munsell and set out in his important book A color notation, published in 1905:
Munsell began his book with a lengthy quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson that perfectly summed up the kind of dilemma that anyone working with colour might still encounter. Writing from Samoa on 8 October 1892 to Sidney Colvin in London, Stevenson proposed:
“Perhaps in the same way it might amuse you to send us any pattern of wall paper that might strike you as cheap, pretty and suitable for a room in a hot and extremely bright climate. It should be borne in mind that our climate can be extremely dark, too. Our sitting room is to be varnished in wood. The room I have particularly in mind is a sort of bed and sitting room, pretty large, lit on three sides, and the colour in favour of its proprietor at present is a topazy yellow. But then with what colour to relieve it? For a little workroom of my own at the back, I should rather like to see some patterns of unglossy—well, I’ll be hanged if I can describe this red—it’s not Turkish and it’s not Roman and it’s not Indian, but it seems to partake of the two last, and yet it can’t be either of them because it ought to be able to go with vermilion. Ah what a tangled web we weave—anyway, with what brains you have left, choose me and send me some—many—patterns of this exact shade.”
Funeral for a house
Each year in the city of Philadelphia almost 600 houses are demolished—houses imbued with meaning for the people who lived in them or were otherwise connected to them. Here are two documentary videos about an attempt to properly mark the demolition of one of those houses.
Old Museum Stories
Today the Old Museum Stories website went live. It is designed as a forum for people to share stories about one of Brisbane’s favourite historic places—a place that, since 1863, has been the site of horticulture, recreation, education, performance, and conviviality. Go on, add your story now.
The Bellevue demolition
Lest we forget. On this day in 1979 the Queensland government demolished the Bellevue Hotel in Brisbane—an act that has become a symbol of callous disregard for the community’s interest in its cultural heritage.
J S Kerr memorial address 2015
Australia ICOMOS has released a video of highlights from the first J S Kerr memorial address. It shows snippets of the address by Joan Domicelj, with contributions by Peter Philips, Tamsin Kerr, Meredith Walker, Marilyn Truscot, Sheri Burke, and other people who have been affected by Jim Kerr’s work.
A good facsimile
People who look after historic places and collections are most attracted to the authentic, the real, the genuine. Facsimiles and reproductions, not so much.
But there are times when a facsimile can be a good thing—such as at the Old Museum in Brisbane, where visitors are now enjoying a new copy of an old picture.
Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
Yesterday, at the annual general meeting of the Australian Garden History Society, Queensland, the guest speaker was Dale Arvidsson. Since March of this year he’s been the curator of both the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha (opened in 1976) and the City Botanic Gardens (established as a botanic reserve in 1855).
This appointment, as curator of both gardens is a good thing. It hints at the possibility that the city gardens might recover some of their former botanical attributes. Since the new gardens were established at Mount Coot-tha the city gardens have became a general-purpose civic park—over-trampled and under-maintained.
Significant places and related objects
The Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane has a wonderful gallery of lighthouse equipment that displays the development of lighthouse technology since the nineteenth century.
The centrepiece of the gallery is a third-order rotating lens made by Chance Brothers & Co Limited of Birmingham in 1915, complete with its mercury-float pedestal, hand-wound clockwork, and kerosene pressure-lamp. The lens was built for the lighthouse at Cape Don on the Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory.
I recently inspected the buildings collected in the Pioneer Village at Pittsworth on the Darling Downs, with my historian colleague Dr Thom Blake. One of the buildings is a one-teacher school from Broxburn near Pittsworth.
The school was built by the local community and opened as a provisional school in 1898. Provisional schools were set up in places where there were few pupils, and were usually temporary structures. This building was a cut above the norm. It became a State School in 1909, and closed in 1959.
As Thom pointed out, provisional schools were ephemeral, and this is a rare and highly significant survivor. I’d be interested to hear of any others.
Bad business at Mowbray Park
This morning I spoke at a rally at the East Brisbane Croquet Club lawns in Mowbray Park, opposing the appalling plan by the Brisbane City Council to build two apartment towers in the park.
It looks like the citizens of East Brisbane will have to mobilize again, and stand up for the things they value.
I met him just once, and heard him speak several times, and feel the expected sadness at his passing. Many of his accomplishments made a direct difference to me, to say nothing of their effect on so many other people.
James Semple Kerr 1932-2014
Dr James Semple Kerr died on Wednesday. Today I have spent a little time with the biography he wrote of Joan, his wife and partner. It was a pleasure to read it again—sad, but still a pleasure because it is so imbued with Jim’s wry observation and clarity of thought. I can hear his voice as I read it.
I’m just back from spending a few days in Sydney, staying in one of my favourite houses. A friend has been the owner, resident and custodian for a long time, and I have enjoyed many visits there.
When it was built around 1905 Ruskinian was a typical middle-class Sydney suburban house. A hundred and ten years later you can still see many houses like it around the older Sydney suburbs, but hardly any with such a collection of intact original features as this one—turned verandah posts, tuck-pointed brickwork, richly ornamented plasterwork finished in distemper, coloured and patterned glass, wood-grained joinery, linoleum floor coverings… .
But this will be my last visit. My friend is moving and the house is to be sold. I took some photographs to remember it by.
Dent Island plan adopted
The latest Reef in Brief newsletter from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority announces that the heritage management plan for Dent Island lightstation has been added to the Commonwealth Register of Legislative Instruments.
I admire the polite care sometimes taken in Europe, when historic buildings are being repaired, to maintain the quality of public spaces nearby. It’s not always done, but I have seen fine examples where scaffolding has been shrouded in screens printed with images of the facade behind. People in the streets are protected from the dirt and distraction of the building work, and they can still see (at least a simulation of) the architecture.
Developing heritage places
I was delighted to hear that the recently published guideline Developing heritage places: using the development criteria has received a commendation from the Planning Institute of Australia. This is what the award judges wrote about the document:
The ‘Developing Heritages Places’ document is a clear and rigorous checklist of assessment criteria and considerations for stakeholders involved in site-specific development proposals relating to a Queensland heritage place.»more»
The checklist is supported by more detailed case studies and recommended (as opposed to required) actions to inform the development of proposals, preparation of better development applications and prelodgement meetings with assessment authorities.
The document is well presented, and as a result, will be accessible to multiple stakeholders. The judges were particularly impressed by the inclusion of photographs of example cases studies, the comprehensiveness of the checklist from scoping through to construction and the ‘road-testing’ of the checklist undertaken by the Department with local government.
‘Developing Heritage Places’ has been endorsed by the Queensland Heritage Council and the judges believe represent a model to be implemented in other jurisdictions moving forward
The Illustrated Burra Charter: how to buy it online
It is hard to find a copy for sale in a bookshop or on the web. I have had quite a few enquiries from people who wanted to buy one, but who couldn’t find a convenient source. In the past I have sent those people to the Australia ICOMOS website, where the online ordering process is a reminder of life before amazon.com.
An atlas of photographic processes
The Getty Conservation Institute has released a terrific resource for collectors and custodians of historic photographs.
The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes is intended for practicing photograph conservators, curators, art historians, archivists, library professionals, and anyone responsible for the care of photograph collections. Its purpose is to aid in the formulation of analytical questions related to a particular photograph and to assist scientists unfamiliar with analysis of photographs when interpreting analytical data. The Atlas contains interpretation guides with identification of overlaps of spectral peaks and warnings of potential misidentification or misinterpretation of analytical results.
It’s published as a set of free pdf documents—an Introduction, plus separate chapters on the Albumen, Carbon, Collodion on paper, Collotype, Cyanotype, Halftone, Photogravure, Platinotype, Salt print, Silver gelatin, and Woodburytype processes—with the promise of more to come. Each of these chapters has an historical account of the development and use of the process, and a guide to identifying photographs made by that process. The identification methods include looking at the print with the naked eye (which I can do), low-magnification microscopy (which I can manage, sort of, with hand lens and scanning), and using XRF and ATR-FTIR spectometry (not possible for me, but interesting to read about).
Richard Rogers on heritage and architecture
Here’s a little video in which the noted European architect talks about designing new buildings while taking account of their historical settings.
Heritage impact assessment lah
Here’s a sequel to my post about heritage impact reports. Dr Lee Lik Meng, Associate Professor of planning at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, took part in Donald Ellsmore’s workshop and wrote about the experience on his blog.
I have scanned a pair of timber price lists from my collection. See the PDFs here. They were produced in the 1930s by timber merchants in Queensland and New South Wales. They allow some interesting comparisons.
Heritage impact reports
My colleague Donald Ellsmore asked me if I had ever seen a half decent heritage impact assessment in 10 pages or less.
I replied: I favour reports that are as short as possible (but as long as necessary…). The length needs to vary with the complexity of the issues and the nature of the other consultants’ reports in the development application. I am used to writing impact reports that go alongside stuff prepared by design architects and by town planners (who never learned brevity, or have since forgotten about it).
A visit to Auckland
My interview on Radio New Zealand stirred the Auckland Council to ask me to come and talk about the experience of protecting the character of residential areas in Brisbane. Through the whole of Monday and half of Tuesday I had a queue of meetings and presentations. My visit made some ripples in the press—here is a selection:»more»
Learning from Brisbane
All the various local government areas of Auckland in New Zealand have been mashed together to make one super-council. (Something similar was done here in Brisbane in the 1920s). A new town plan is being prepared for Auckland, and there is hot debate about protecting the character of older residential areas. We had a similar debate in Brisbane back in the 1990s.»more»
After the flood
When I was a child in primary school an old man gave me a stack of photographs—a couple of dozen whole-plate contact prints with scenes of the 1893 Brisbane River flood and its aftermath. At the time, I thought those pictures were wonderful, and I still do. They started my interest in the history of photography, and they were the beginning of my own little collection.»more»
Queensland Heritage Council website
I’m pleased to report that the Queensland Heritage Council has a new domain name and website—www.qldheritage.org.au.
Update 7 September 2017: That URL is giving a bad host error. Some of the material from the website has migrated to the Queensland Government website at www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/heritage/council.
Peter Garrett comes good»more»
Peter Garrett and Nobby’s Head
The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, is inviting comment on his proposed decision not to approve a new building wrapped around the 1858 lighthouse at Newcastle. For the record, I have written to him supporting his decision to refuse this inappropriate and damaging proposal.»more»
This is a reminder to myself, to discover more about the New York cottage in which the Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi lived between 1850 and 1854. It was the house of Antonio Meucci, belatedly acknowledged as the inventor of the telephone.»more»
More awards for the Illustrated Burra Charter
Today Margie and I attended the National Trust of Queensland’s 2005 heritage award presentation. On behalf of Australia ICOMOS I carried away these two awards for The Illustrated Burra Charter: Good Practice for Heritage Places:
The Bendigo Bank Gold Award for excellence in heritage conservation works of action (top award for works by community organisations).
The John Herbert Memorial Award (the top award overall).»more»
Celebrating the Illustrated Burra Charter
In this, my three-hundredth posting to Marking time, I want to record that The Illustrated Burra Charter: Good Practice for Heritage Places has been launched.
Writing this book has been a long project for Meredith Walker and me. I have already mentioned it here a few times - at first draft, final draft, proofing, and printing stages. This is a project that seemed like it would never end. But now it has.»more»
Another milestone passed. Tonight I saw the first sheets of the book cover come off the press. I went out to the printing works and watched the press operators run a series of test sheets through the press, measure the density of the colour control patches and tune the ink flow to different parts of the plates.
The book cover includes nine photographs. Except for one digital camera file, they are all reproduced from scans that I made of prints, transparencies and negatives. I had to learn some new tricks, and I was apprehensive about the result. It was a relief to see accurate colour reproductions coming off the press, and a pleasure to sign the approved stamp on the sample sheet.»more»
Checking the proofs
At last. The book should be on the press this week.»more»
This morning Margie and I took a walk around Highgate Hill. Just checking on things that have changed, and things that have not, while we were away. We sadly counted the old houses being demolished in Dornoch Terrace, and glumly inspected where The Gully used to be.»more»
Fiona Gardiner: it’s your birthday!
Which prompts me to scan and share this newspaper clipping from The Australian of 15 November 1974. On the left is a story about a campaign by Fiona Gardiner and Helen Wilson to conserve the works of the South Brisbane Gas Co. On the right is a piece about the area that would later become Cooloola National Park.
Back then Jo Bjelke-Petersen was the staunchly pro-development Premier of Queensland. Gough Whitlam was the Prime Minister and the National Estate Inquiry had recently reported. The Australian Heritage Commission Act was still in the future. To suggest conserving a gas works was the business of ratbags.
Now it’s become — like us perhaps — respectable, sort of.»more»
Telling tales: the poster
I have made a poster for the telling tales conference, to illustrate the points I raised yesterday. Its a bunch of pages from this site displayed as if in open browser windows, lined up to speak for themselves.»more»
Telling tales on the web
I’m going to the Australia ICOMOS Telling tales: interpretation in the conservation and design process conference in Sydney.
Conference-goers are invited to bring posters on the theme of innovative concepts and media to communicate heritage meanings. This got me thinking about the ways I use this website to tell stories about people and places, and what makes it a good medium.»more»
Guitar and banjo museum
As vintage instruments come into his workshop for repair, Frank Ford photographs them for his museum. He explains his motivations like this:»more»
In the Calcutta Telegraph the other day, Pentagon knew of museum risk:
In the months leading up to the Iraq war, US scholars repeatedly urged the defence department to protect Iraq’s priceless archaeological heritage from looters, and warned specifically that the National Museum of Antiquities was the single most important site in the country. [via antipixel]»more»
Saving black rhinos
I read about the work of the Save the Black Rhino Trust through the aus.photo newsgroup. I followed up, and received some more information:»more»
Rock art under threat
Robert Bednarik has published this web page about the threatened destruction of a rich collection of Indigenous rock art in north-western Australia:»more»
I’m grateful to Richard for pointing out this item about using alien possums as an economic resource. I’ll quote from the New Zealand Nature Co website:»more»
I spent today at a photographic preservation workshop, looking closely at daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other early photographs, and learning how to care for them. Thanks to Lydia Egunnike, conservator at the State Library of Queensland, for an excellent session. My little collection is in for some tender loving care.»more»
Waste management in Nevada
Steel cargo containers of solid transuranic waste are being stacked for above ground storage at the Nevada Test Site Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site. Each container holds up to 50 drums of transuranic waste.
This is a photograph made available by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Operations Office, Office of Public Affairs and Information.»more»
Tourists destroy stave church
The Oslo newspaper Aftenposten carries this disturbing story:
Tourists are destroying Norway’s stave church in Eidsborg with a craving for souvenirs. So much of the church has been pocketed that holes are beginning to appear in the structure.
A Neutra house destroyed
I wrote to Elsa Dorfman, asking if she minded my using her photo on this site. She kindly agreed, and added …but have to tell you that you must read the article in today’s nytimes magazine about the destruction of a wonderful richard neutra house in california. it is a heartbreaking story… I found the article here (free registration required). Don’t miss the linked slide show which has colour photos by Julius Schulman. Thanks Elsa.»more»
Musee Mechanique reprieved
Musee Mechanique to close
Read about community upset over closure of San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique. The National Park Service plans to refurbish the historic building where the collection is housed.»more»
Preservation briefs available again
I am pleased to find the the US National Parks Service website is back on the net. See US judge pulls the plug on the internet for background.»more»
My three year appointment to the Queensland Heritage Council has just finished. The Minister for Environment has written to acknowledge my splendid contribution. I’m pleased he thinks so.
From The New York Times a sad report: A wing of the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine erupted in flames yesterday morning…»more»
News to put you off your pudding
Last night’s closing dinner for the 20th century heritage conference was held at the newly opened National Wine Centre of Australia. This bold new building seemed a fitting venue.»more»
20th century heritage conference
For the next few days I’ll be in Adelaide for the Australia ICOMOS annual meeting and 20th century heritage: our recent cultural legacy conference.