25 August 2009

art in hospitals

Over the past 15 months, we've been providing art management services to a group of hospitals to help them improve the experience of their patients. There is substantial literature describing the benefits of having art in hospitals, particularly with regard to facilitating a positive state of mind and accelerating the healing process.

Initially, our role was to audit and catalogue their art collection, and to improve the rotation and hanging of these works across the group of hospitals. We also developed a labelling protocol to provide more opportunities for patients, staff and visitors to interact with the artworks.

Lately, we've been working with artists in the communities around these hospitals to arrange temporary exhibitions of artworks. These exhibitions provide an ever-changing array of artworks to improve the experience of longer-term patients and staff, and also provide an alternative venue for artists to display their works (and hopefully sell some of them).

However, this post was actually triggered by the discovery of an article in the 20 October 1877 edition of the very important medical journal "The Lancet" entitled 'Art in Hospitals'. This article outlined the development (by a doctor) of a frame for artwork specifically designed to address the hygiene and safety issues particular to hospitals.

from "The Lancet", 20 October 1877
Interestingly (and not surprisingly), this concern for hygiene and safety remains valid for our work today. Whilst much of the artwork is hung in public spaces such as foyers and corridors, there are situations such as operating theatres and intensive care units where we need to take into consideration very particular requirements for the framing and cleaning of any artwork.
David West

16 August 2009

memories of the trams

We frequently find ourselves working on unusual items. Recently, our textiles conservator was asked to treat this tram roll by a private collector. It had developed black mould staining and orange-brown iron staining whilst in storage.

Because the tram roll was fabric, and the ink used to colour it was water-soluble (and thus we could not use water-based solutions for cleaning), the treatment was quite difficult. Whilst we were able to remove a substantial amount of general soiling, and reduce the visibility of both the mould and the iron stains, in this instance it was not possible to totally remove the stains.

It was interesting timing for us, because one of our other clients, the Historic Houses Trust of NSW is currently staging an exhibition called Shooting Through: Sydney by Tram at the Museum of Sydney. Associated with this exhibition are a variety of events, including an interesting seminar on 25 September, "Nostalgia vs Reality: are trams the answer?", exploring the potential for trams to solve Sydney's transport woes.

David West

09 August 2009

a new memorial

Although the focus of our business is conservation, we believe that we also have a contribution to make during the design and creation of new artworks, memorials and other structures. As conservators, we have a very good understanding of the way in which materials deteriorate over time. With this insight, we are able to provide artists and designers with advice on how their scheme might behave after it has been made or constructed, and installed. When there are sufficient resources for us to contribute in this way, we are able to guide the artist or designer with their selection of materials and detailing of the memorial or artwork so as to minimise the risk of undesired deterioration, and to extend the likely service life of the item in use.

Which means of course that we won't be called in after just a few years to advise on how to fix up the problems which might otherwise occur! But we'd much rather not be trying to conserve items that are only a few years old, because it is always a very difficult exercise. Not only do we have to convince the owner to spend more money on the item, but we have to work with the artist or designer to develop alternative detailing solutions that often, from their point of view, compromise the item which looked so good when it was completed.

The most recent example of us providing this type of advice is the recently opened Australian Korean War Memorial at the northern end of Moore Park.

We worked with the artist, Jane Cavanough, and the landscape designers, POD, throughout the detailed design process to optimise the long-term durability of the memorial through careful material choices and design detailing. Recently opened, the memorial is an inspiring place despite its location between two major arterial roads into the city.

David West
International Conservation Services