WAACNewsletter
Volume 7, Number 3, Sept. 1985, pp.13-14

Conservation in New Zealand

by Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson, our WAAC Regional Reporter in the northwest attended a meeting in recent months at which Mervyn Hutchinson spoke about the history of conservation in New Zealand. Jack thought our readers would like to hear what Mr. Hutchinson had to say. Mervyn is a paintings conservator who practiced for several years in New Zealand and is now working at the B.C. Art Gallery in Vancouver.

The first conservation lab in New Zealand was established in 1953 at the Auckland Art Gallery by the Gallery's exhibit preparator. The lab implemented an informal training program through which ten people were trained. Since 1982 the Auckland lab has had two professional conservators on staff.

Subsequent to the founding of this lab, the National Art Gallery and the National Museum labs set up a shared work space in the spacious World War II army barracks at Wellington. Next was the Dun Edin Lab which featured a training component.

During the 1970's Mary Lee of the Pacific Regional Center, set up a paper conservation laboratory in Christ Church.

In 1975 the national government established an advisory committee for cultural preservation. The committee, which meets quarterly, was given a mandate to propose a national conservation plan and funds were made available to support surveys and formal training programs. Additionally two half-time positions were created for national conservators. The balance of their time was to be spent working at the Auckland Art Gallery.

In 1980, Dr. Nathan Stolow was employed by the committee to assist the government in creating conservation legislation. As a result of Dr. Stolow's report an interim committee was formed to draft legislation. It was suggested in 1981 that the existing labs be enlarged to serve as regional centers and that conservators train abroad at Canberra, Australia, CCI in Ottawa and so on.

Conservators in New Zealand and Australia generally belong to three professional groups: the Art Galleries and Museums Association (AGMA), which has a sub-committee on conservation; the Organization of Professional Museum Conservators (OPMC), which meets annually and has somewhat superseded the AGMA committee; and the Australian Conservation Group (ICCM), which is a regional group under ICOM. ICCM is located in Canberra; it meets annually and publishes a journal.

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