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Expert staff bringing new life to old art

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Vanessa Christi restoring a frame at Bundaberg Regional Gallery.

When the doors at Bundaberg Regional Galleries couldn't open due to Coronavirus restrictions, staff set to work to restore artwork.

It's not quite like the movies where the exhibits come to life. In fact, it's more about bringing new life to the exhibits.

Since closing due to COVID restrictions, the team at Bundaberg Regional Galleries have been undertaking important preservation and restoration work on the galleries’ four art collections.

Bundaberg Regional Galleries Technical Officer Rachel Weldon said many of the works in the collection were fragile and decades old.  

“While the doors have been closed, we’ve really had a chance to review where our collection sits and identify any problems that we need to address,” Rachel said.

“A lot of our collection is from the early twentieth century, so you can imagine the paints of that time were not of the same quality as today and it’s really important to control the conditions in our collection storage areas as light, temperature, and humidity can all affect the longevity of paintings.  

“Painting is subject to fading, mould and cracking, and obviously nothing lasts forever but what we can do is mitigate those external effects on the work,” Rachel said. 

Galleries team member a trained archaeologist

During the shutdown gallery team member Vanessa Christi, who is a trained archaeologist, has been working with Rachel to restore artwork and improve the life span of the galleries’ important historical pieces and has also been skillfully restoring old picture frames.

“The process that we’ve been following involves the careful removal of old wires and tape before the surface is thoroughly cleaned with a brush vacuum,” Rachel said.

“It requires particular materials like archival grade cardboard and archival standard tape which doesn’t produce any acid leakage.”

“The glue we use is PH neutral and long-lasting and by the end we have an airtight seal around the frame which stops any dust from entering.

“At times we also have to replace the glass, with special UV filtering glass.”

While it can be tedious, delicate and time-consuming work, Rachel said it was crucial to safeguard the region’s history and restore the artwork.

“It can be quite difficult, but the more we can do the longer this art will be around for people to enjoy and research in the future.

“A lot of the artwork in Council’s collection is significant to our Bundaberg Region and it acts a visual archive of our history, so it’s important they are maintained and taken care of.” 

Bundaberg Regional Galleries are planning to reopen on Friday, 28 August.

Upon their reopening Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery will feature FOUND! The Studio Dog in BRAG’s Gallery One. The Vault curated by local artist Adrienne Williams and BRIDGES – a collaborative exhibition with Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads and based on the story of the Burnett Traffic Bridge- will feature in Gallery Two.

Childers Art Space will feature a new exhibition ‘Art as an Act of Optimism’ as a retrospective of the #artsbundyathome initiative which has run during COVID-19 shut-downs.

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