The Birdwood Flag Conservation Project

Birdwood Flag After Restoration 2017

The Birdwood Flag After Conservation-2017

The Birdwood Flag Conservation Project
Amir Moghadam, UON

This blog, and the ones that will follow, look back over three and a half years to detail the preservation and conservation measures that returned the restored Birdwood flag to Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral in July 2017.

The posts will be presented as a narrative, relying on my own notes, images and memories and interspersing this narrative with comments from other members of the Birdwood Heritage Committee. The aim is to make an account that includes a variety of perspectives so that community members gain knowledge they can use in their own preservation projects.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”

The Birdwood Flag’s preservation story is well described by applying Lao Tzu’s quotation above. The first definite steps in restoring the flag were made in November 2013 following a number of comments on the flag in previous years. The reality we faced was thousands of fragments of mostly reddish looking textile stored in a plastic back within a large cardboard box in a damp vault of the Cathedral.

Birdwood Flag Before Conservation-02

The Birdwood Flag Before Conservation-2013

The other reality was the complete absence of any substantial funding and support that would be required for a major restoration. No group of people who might have the expertise to manage such a project could be identified and the one conservator at the University of Newcastle, myself, was so occupied with other projects, there was no time available, even for discussion or planning. Everything had to be established and negotiated from scratch. As a conservator, I knew this would involve the creation of a strategy for preservation of the flag to gauge the feasibility and practicality of the process. Only then could there be some negotiation between interested groups (including the University and the Cathedral) and then applications for resources, grants or other help through public and private benefactors.

As a principle of conservation, the level of material disintegration of an object is also considered. The Birdwood Flag’s utterly fragmented and delicate state would usually rule it out of consideration for restoration. The time for conservation would be judged as having expired so that any effort to restore it would be seen as pointless or worse still, as endangering the authenticity of the item. Indeed, such conservation would be perceived as blurring the lines between conservation and total re-construction of the item.

However a different principle of conservation argued against dismissing the idea of conservation and labelling the Birdwood Flag as a hopeless case. The significance of an item, be it art-work or monument, argues for or against the dedication of scarce resources to preserve it. Even so, the integrity of the item’s fabric is very important in deciding its significance. An item can only be considered as significant if enough of it remains to show what it is.

There was a Catch 22 involved with arguing the significance of the Birdwood Flag in its disintegrated state. To do this, some assurance was needed that it could be put together and made recognisable as a flag of a particular design, dimension and colour. A bag of confetti does not easily lend itself to such an assurance. Many people engaged in cultural heritage work experience such dilemmas. This is the moment when a project is often abandoned. However the Birdwood Flag was too important to be forgotten. It narrates the sacrifices of soldiers of a nation established only 15 years earlier during one of the most cruel and catastrophic wars in human history. Moreover the flag tells a story above and beyond a tale of WWI. Produced by a community yet official, flown on the battlefield yet returned to the community who built its own War Memorial and ‘laid up’ the flag there, this object provides important evidence for larger historical and social enquiries.

Birdwood Group

From left: Major Roland Millbank, Birdwood Committee; Dr.Rosemary Barnard, Birdwood Comittee; Dr. Amir Mogadam, Conservator, UON; Mr. Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, UON; Dr. Patricia Gillard, Birdwood Committee; Mr.Julian Bickersteth, Managing Director, ICS.

The Birdwood Flag has been restored and this blog is being published 31 July 2017; the day after the Birdwood Flag was re-hallowed in a special service to mark its return to Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. The brochure, Two Lives, tells the story of the one hundred years between the first making of the flag and its successful restoration and return. Further blogs will show the steps during three and a half years that brought us to this day.

MEDIA

“Re-Hallowing of the Birdwood Flag Service” Newcastle Anglican (1 August 2017)
http://newcastleanglican.org.au/re-hallowing-of-the-birdwood-flag-service/

“WW1 Flag Returned to Newcastle After Painstaking Restoration” NBN News (20 July 2017)
http://www.nbnnews.com.au/2017/07/20/wwi-flag-returned-to-newcastle-after-painstaking-restoration/

“Australia’s first flag forgotten, found and restored all in 100 years” ABC News (30 June 2017)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-29/australian-first-flag-found-and-restored-in-nsw/8663158

“Precious WW1 Flag on the Mend” by Mike Scanlon. Newcastle Herald (2 June 2017)
http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4700307/precious-relic-on-the-mend/

GLAM PEAK AUSTRALIA MEETING – HOBART – 24 JULY 2017

Sidney Nolan’s SNAKE on display at MONA, Hobart

 

MEETING NOTES FOR THE 9TH GLAM PEAK GATHERING
OF THE GALLERIES, LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES, MUSEUMS & HISTORICAL SOCIETIES
(GLAM SECTOR PEAK BODIES)

Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, Tasmania – 24 July 2017
By Gionni Di Gravio

AGENDA – GLAM PEAK (HOBART) – 24 July 2017 (97Kb PDF)

GLAM Peak Meeting, MONA, Hobart 24 July 2017
(Official Meeting Notes by Kate Irvine)

GLAM Peak Meeting, MONA, Hobart 24 July 2017 – Attachments


Visit the sites on Google Earth

Present: Robin Hirst, Museums Galleries Australia (MGA) Convenor

Robin Hirst at the Museum of Everything, MONA

Don Garden, OAM, Federation of Australian Historical Societies.
Margie Jantti, CAUL
Laurence Paine, TMAG/CAMD/CAAMD
Kylie Brass, Academy of the Humanities
Tina Parolin, Academy of the Humanities
Suzanne Davies, RMIT Gallery
Karmen Pemberton, UTAS
Ross Latham, State Archives
Mary Lijnzaad, MONA
Richard Mulvaney, Launceston Museum/Gallery
Liz Jack, LINC Tasmania
Lyndall Osborne, AIATSIS
Nancy Ladas, Museum Victoria
Meg Labrum, NSFA
Louise Doyle, National Archives
Jacqui Ulhmann, NFSA
Kevin Bradley, National Library of Australia
Gionni Di Gravio, Australian Society of Archivists
Simon Checksfield, CSIRO
Frank Howarth, Retired, Museums Galleries Australia
Sue McKerracher, ALIA
Kate Irvine, NSLA
Alex Marsden, Museums Galleries Australia
Malcolm Bywaters, University Art Museums of Australia
Hilary Goodson, AARNet
Stephen Forbes, CAMD
Lucinda Davison, GLAM Peak


Mary Lijnzaad, as our host, welcomed us to MONA. Robin Hirst acknowledged country and welcomed us all to the 9th meeting of GLAM Peak.


Session One:

Implementing the Catalyst – funded Stage II Project by Alex Marsden & Kate Irvine

Alex Marsden provided an overview of the original Catalyst grant application; what GLAM Peak asked for, what we actually received ($111K Catalyst/$39.9K in kind), and what we achieved, outlining the outputs from Stage 1, which included: a draft national framework for digital access to collections; principles to assist institutions of all shapes and sizes to achieve digital access for their holdings; a case study based toolkit; and a research report on international comparators.

She then provided an overview of our Stage II Catalyst application which was also successful in securing funding ($294.5K catalyst/ $66.2K GLAM Peak in kind/$150K Technology partners) Objectives included:

1) extending the reach of smaller cultural institutions, particularly those outside the metropolitan centres, based upon the principles of the Draft Digital Access to Collections National Framework
in the Digital Access to Collections Toolkit.

2) providing a blueprint and proposed process for the development of State and Territory Digital Access Plans to underpin the long term strategic support for Australia’s cultural collections.

Planned objectives include: dissemination, promotion and engagement of draft framework & toolkit across all Australian institutions large and small; delivery of training sessions to 10 regional centres; access to technology & software providers through regional hubs; promotion of educational & training materials; enabling development of Digital Access plans.

Workshops

Focusing on the regional workshops, the plan discussed was to deliver 2 day workshops across 10 regional centres, with allocation of small grants to support participation; workshops to include training sessions on the toolkit, understanding the principles underpinning the  Digital Access framework, demonstrations by tech and software companies and aggregator services to help build regional GLAM hubs of digital expertise and cross sector relationships.

To tackle the path towards creating Digital Access Plans at State and Territory Government levels, it was proposed to establish an Expert Working Group to:

  • review the current activities occurring in each State, and work with each to determine a ‘road map’, designed to provide a shared alignment of all existing activities in each state/territory, and looking where national alignments may happen

A timeframe, listing of technology and aggregator supporters and ideas from the last GLAM Peak meeting (Melbourne) as to how it could all happen (see powerpoint slides below), with potential locations for regional workshops.

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION: GLAM-Peak-Session-One-24-July-2017 – ALEX MARSDEN & KATE IRVINE

State Digital Access Plans

Sue McKerracher presented the key findings from Dr Katherine Howard’s Report:

International Comparators: How does Australia compare internationally? A research report contributing to the Digital Access to Collections initiative. By Dr Katherine Howard (2017)

which stated:

“Strategies analysed came from Europe (28 in total), Canada and New Zealand. Surprisingly, there was little variation identified in the strategies from Europe. The Canadian and New Zealand strategies, although being of a later date than the European ones, also did not provide much variation.

The key findings also form the basis of the recommendations. The key findings are:
– National strategies for digitisation and preservation are created in response to cultural
policies set by Ministers of Culture
– Use of a Secretariat
– Competence Centres
– Preservation of digital materials as a high priority
– The existence (or development) of a national register of digitisation projects
– Developing Public-private partnerships (PPPs) for funding”

and Key Recommendations:

“Based on the research that has been undertaken, the following recommendations are made for how these findings might inform the development of digital access strategies at the state, territory and federal level in Australia.

Recommendation 1:
That Australian digital access to cultural collection state and territory strategies include consideration of appropriate agencies to oversee the delivery of the plans and to work together to co-ordinate a national approach.

Recommendation 2:
That state, territory and national strategies include high level guidance regarding the topics and type of material to be digitised.

Recommendation 3:
That consideration be given to creating a register of digitisation projects Australia-wide – refer Section 3.2 Canada.

Recommendation 4:
That state, territory and national strategies include consideration of the potential for PPPs in order to assist in the costs associated with extensive digitisation projects.

Recommendation 5:
That state, territory and national strategies include consideration of the establishment of Competence Centres (or Centres of Excellence) in various aspects of the digitisation and preservation processes and procedures.”

Discussion was then had over who could create and implement the State and Territory Digital Access Plans? Who would be able to champion beginning discussions in their respective States and Territory? This was seen as crucial, as according to the Key Findings, internationally, it was the Ministries of Culture that set the policies, with a competent Secretariat to make it happen.

It was agreed that Tasmania would lead the National charge in pulling together a State Digital Access Plan.

 

GLAM Peak meeting underway

Session Two: Strategic Landscape
By Robin Hirst, Facilitated by Frank Howarth

Untitled, 1991–2011, Jannis Kounellis

Frank Howarth then led a workshop discussion dealing with GLAM Peak’s future objectives, operations, ethos and priorities for 2017-2019 identifying Issues (i.e., what we wish to achieve) and Organisation (i.e., how are we going to do it).

He recapped on the history of the GLAM gatherings from the initial “tension in the room” meeting in Brisbane in June 2015, where everyone eventually realised that, “although we all had our differences, we all had much more in common”.

In the ensuing gatherings in Sydney we were able to come together to collectively advocate for Copyright Reform, TROVE funding support, and the 7 Point Plan to Digital Access at the last election proves that we can all work together at being a formidable force for the greater good of furthering open access to Australia’s cultural heritage for all peoples.

All groups came up with their particular issues. Our group’s issue was:

” How do we get everyone in GLAM in the same room?

It was felt that everyone in the sector has their own conferences to attend, and so having a joint conference in 2020 would be a fantastic way to get everyone under the same tent. This idea was already proposed by me back in March 2016 following the Melbourne GLAM Digital Access meeting 25 February 2016.

Other issues raised included emphasising the role of culture in creating a civil society, significance of data literacy, implications of creative industries, making digital access relevant at the local level, advocacy for the value of culture, and advocacy in general, essentials for the survival of human beings, clarification to the wider community as to what GLAM is and does.

With regards to Organisation, there was identified, the need to engage with the States as well as Peak groups; the sustainability of relying on volunteers such as Sue, Alex and Kate to keep the GLAM show on the road; the importance of being able to employ administrative assistance through Wendy and Lucinda; the need of Champions for  the State Digital Access Plans; identifying evidence for the role of culture in creating civil societies;  investment and its impacts through advocacy.

Session 3: Progressing the draft National Framework – possible National Expert Reference Group.

Alex Marsden then provided a proposal for an Expert Working Group – designed to undertake three tasks:

–Review the Draft National Framework (and report by the end of 2017)

–Develop a Roadmap for State and Territory Digital Plans (review the activities and support a way of preparing it)

–Provide suggested Next Steps

Timeframe: August 2017 – June 2018

It was agreed by the gathering that this would be a good way to proceed.

Kylie Brass provided an update on The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS)

Session 4: Updates

Kevin Bradley (NLA) provided an update on:

  • the TROVE roadshows that had well over 1000+ participants across the metropolitan and regional cities and towns of Australia.
  •  $16.4M received in funding to create a new digital business model, with the proviso that there would be no more funding, and were looking into a membership model as a way to fund it, with help from the States, whilst still keeping access to TROVE completely OPEN and FREE.
  • National Digital Deposit Network. With changes to Copyright legislation, more digital publications are now being collected under legal deposit provisions and planning is underway for a national collaborative approach led by the National Digital Deposit Network (NDDN) steering group. The National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) is a leading library sector collaboration that is supporting it. TROVE is the delivery mechanism.
  • They are currently mapping TROVE, but it is becoming more like an atlas. Everyone outside thinks TROVE is the National Library of Australia (NLA), while everyone in the NLA think TROVE is everyone else. He ended by wishing to invite GLAM Perk to Canberra for the next gathering to focus on TROVE to discuss:  It’s Your TROVE; How can TROVE be more useful?; Different views of TROVE; Next Steps.

Sue McKerracher (ALIA) provided an update on the new changes to copyright law:

  • The Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was passed by the Senate on 15 June. The new Act will improve access to copyright materials for people with disability, while simplifying and streamlining the copyright framework for the library, archive and education sectors, and the community.
  • The legislation has:
    • amended preservation copying exceptions, allowing libraries and archives to implement best practice preservation policies for protecting works, such as creating digital copies
    • changed copyright term provisions, ending perpetual copyright for unpublished works and providing a fixed term for works whose authors are unknown, including anonymous works and orphan works. From 1 January 2019 copyright will be 70 years from the death of author. Pre-1939 will be free of copyright provisions.
    • streamlined educational statutory licences and allow material to be included in online examinations
    • implement Australia’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty so that whenever copyrighted content that is not available in an accessible format can be converted into the required format by a person with a disability or someone acting on their behalf.
  • Sue also encouraged everyone to cook again to celebrate these important copyright reforms on 31 July – to mark the two-year anniversary since librarians around the country took part in this act of civil disobedience.

Robin Hirst then provided a summary of the day, an agreement on next steps and thanked our hosts and attendees.

END OF GLAM MEETING

At the conclusion there was a tour of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) by Mary Lijnzaad.

Later that evening we also toured the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Murray Street, Hobart with a reception hosted by LINC Tasmania. On the following day (Tuesday 25th July) we toured the Morris Miller Library’s Special and Rare Collections at the University of Tasmania.

 

And Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG).

Gionni Di Gravio
31 July 2017

Adding captions to AV on LH@UON

We have hundreds of audio and video files on our Living Histories @ UON site. It can be very helpful to have these files captioned so that listeners can jump to the parts of the recordings that interest them the most.

There is an example of a captioned file at http://livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au/nodes/view/55623

If you would care to help us in our endeavours, we have provided some instructions. If you find errors in the the documentation, feel something needs changing or if something isn’t clear, please contact us.

 

Engaging with Living Histories @ UON

Would you like to help us to bring the history of our local area to the world?

If so, our great new digital platform, Living Histories @ UON, powered by RECOLLECT™ by New Zealand Micrographic Services, gives you the opportunity to do so.

You can sign up for free as a member and transcribe text as you can in Trove, add geotags, tag people you know in the photos, suggest keywords,  add comments and recollections and more.

Here are some tips to get you started. More will be added as time permits.

If something isn’t clear in a document, needs changing, or if you would like some information on how to do something else in the system, please contact us.

RAAF memories – WW2

[Noel Thomas Osland, RAAF, c. 1944]

We have just uploaded 16 photos from the Ron Osland Collection to our Living Histories @ UON site.  This collection from Mr Ron Osland, was made available to us by our colleague, Barry Howard, together with permission to publish, granted by Mr Osland.

These photos feature the Royal Australian Air Force in which Noel Thomas Osland (1923-1985) served. See Noel Osland’s war record at the National Archives of Australia.

There are more photos of the Cessnock area which will be uploaded to this collection in due course. In the meantime, enjoy this glimpse of World War 2.

Penny Dunstan – Shadowlands II

Penny Dunstan SHADOWLANDS

PENNY DUNSTAN
SHADOWLANDS II

In the Upper Hunter Valley, open-cut coal mining is transforming what was once agricultural land into unfamiliar landscapes. The trace of history has been severed by industry, to be replaced by shadowlands of our consumerism.

This PhD research exhibition is based upon walking through these hidden places and interacting in this newly manufactured world. It is a record of wayfinding through terraformed land, using drawing, photography, soils and collected artefacts.

Through these works, creative practice co-constitutes post-mining places by transmuting tracks into images and giving interactions form, thereby articulating a way of knowing our shadowlands and making our minescapes matter.

– Penny Dunstan, May 2017

PLEASE JOIN THE ARTIST FOR THE EXHIBITION OPENING
AT THE UNIVERSITY GALLERY ON FRIDAY 21 JULY AT 6PM