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Vivienne T in the conservation lab

The Commerce gallery, one of our oldest galleries at the museum, is currently being dismantled to make way for a new temporary exhibition space. Installed before the museum opened to the public in 1991, all of the objects that were on display are being lovingly taken out of their showcases and moved to collection stores. As part of the process, conservation staff will now check and photograph each object over the coming months. Even museum objects change as they age and we expect that some objects will look a little different from when they were originally put on display.

One of Vivienne T’s tyres dripping yellow fluid. The fluid is probably stabilisers which have migrated out of the rubber tyre.

Vivienne T was among the first objects to be removed from the gallery. Vivienne T is a remote controlled scale model of the 1940s Tasmanian lobster fishing craft of the same name. The model has changed a little since collection. The tiny tyres strung along her side as fenders have begun to deteriorate and have sticky surfaces. This is a characteristic way in which plastics and similar materials change over time. Now that the deterioration process has begun, it can’t be reversed. Unfortunately, the change to the tyres has stained the side of model and is damaging the paint.

After some thought, and discussion with the curator of this object, we’ve decided to cast one of the original tyres and replace them all. There are some problems with this idea. The tyres are original to the model, and we prefer to keep and repair original material where we can. But, the tyres have started to change. We expect that the tyres will only get worse from now on and may continue to damage Vivienne T. In the end, we felt that this was the right approach. The tyres will be cast from a stable material like plaster to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future. In a couple of weeks, with a little help from our conservators and preparators, Vivienne T will look just like she did when she came to us in 1991.

Vivienne T at acquisition


Rebecca Dallwitz

ANMM Senior objects conservator