Women's Art Register Slide Rehousing Project
Wednesday 30 May 2018
The Women’s Art Register (WAR) is Australia’s living archive of women’s art practice (non-binary and trans inclusive) and a National, Artist-Run and Not-for-Profit community and resource. In 2018 the Women’s Art Register have partnered with volunteers from Melbourne University’s Grimwade Centre (in the Faculty of Arts), to embark on rehousing 8000 photographic slides which form part of the WAR archives. The slides contain images of artist's work from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with many from the 1970s until the 90s.
The project provides a fantastic opportunity for student conservators to hone their decision-making and practical skills on a living collection. Lisa Mansfield, a member of the WAR committee and a current student in the Masters of Conservation program, is one of the people working on the slide re-housing project. Lisa describes why the slide re-housing project is important:
‘From a conservation point of view, WAR is an important repository of the work of female-identifying artists. Being the only one of its kind in Australia, it’s capturing and preserving a historically significant part of Australia’s Cultural Record’ she says.
‘As an active register, the slides get handled often for research, so it’s important to keep them safe from dust and the acids from peoples’ hands. The polypropylene sleeves we use are conservation-grade (acid-free and PVC-free), which will protect the slides for at least 100 years. There are approximately 8000 slides in total being rehoused, along with catalogues, books, loose advertising, event invitation, artist reviews and correspondence’ says Lisa.
‘A key part of conservation is preserving collections and providing access so communities can connect with their heritage. This project will provide longevity to the archive and ensure it is available for people today and for future generations to enjoy’.
The students have also been reviewing WAR’s storage conditions including the temperature, relative humidity, lighting levels, and other agents of deterioration such as pests, moisture from leaks, and theft. Lisa says that ‘the best part has been seeing many incredible works by artists I wasn’t aware of. Discovering a work that makes you go ‘wow', especially when you’re looking at it in miniature through a magnifying loupe, is a great reminder of the importance of the WAR collection and the value of conserving it so it’s available for people to enjoy.’
The project is estimated to take 12 months, and is supported by a Yarra City Council small grant.