In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows

How can contemporary art lead to new discoveries about collections and ways of engaging with history?  Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry will discuss this idea drawing from the experience of creating Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved.

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows
Thursday 27 April, 6pm
State Library Theatre.

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Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is the culmination of the State Library’s inaugural J.S. Battye Creative Fellowship.  The Creative Fellowship aims to enhance engagement with the Library’s heritage collections and provide new experiences for the public.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved
visually questions how history is made, commemorated and forgotten. Through digital art installation, Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry expose the unobserved and manipulate our perception of the past.  Their work juxtaposes archival and contemporary imagery to create an interactive experience for the visitor where unobserved lives from the archive collide with the contemporary world. The installation is showing at the State Library until 12 May 2017.

For more information visit: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved

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Still scene: Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved, 2016, Nicola Kaye, Stephen Terry.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved visually questions how history is made, commemorated and forgotten. Through digital art installation, Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry expose the unobserved and manipulate our perception of the past.  Their work juxtaposes archival and contemporary imagery to create an experience for the visitor where unobserved lives from the archive collide with the contemporary world.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is the culmination of the State Library’s inaugural J.S. Battye Creative Fellowship.  The Creative Fellowship aims to enhance engagement with the Library’s heritage collections and provide new experiences for the public.

Artists floor talk
Thursday 6 April, 6pm
Ground Floor Gallery, State Library of Western Australia.

Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry walk you through Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows
Thursday 27 April, 6pm
State Library Theatre.

How can contemporary art lead to new discoveries about collections and ways of engaging with history?  Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry will discuss this idea drawing from the experience of creating Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is showing at the State Library from 4 April – 12 May 2017.
For more information visit: www.slwa.wa.gov.au

Through the mirror-glass: Capture of artwork framed in glass.

 

State Library’s collection material that is selected for digitisation comes to the Digitisation team in a variety of forms. This blog describes capture of artwork that is framed and encased within glass.

So let’s see how the item is digitized.

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Two large framed original artworks from the picture book Teacup written by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Matt Ottley posed some significant digitisation challenges.

When artwork from the Heritage collection is framed in glass, the glass acts like a mirror and without great care during the capture process, the glass can reflect whatever is in front of it, meaning that the photographer’s reflection (and the reflection of capture equipment) can obscure the artwork.

This post shows how we avoided this issue during the digitisation of two large framed paintings, Cover illustration for Teacup and also page 4-5 [PWC/255/01 ] and The way the whales called out to each other [PWC/255/09].

Though it is sometimes possible to remove the artwork from its housing, there are occasions when this is not suitable. In this example, the decision was made to not remove the artworks from behind glass as the Conservation staff assessed that it would be best if the works were not disturbed from their original housing.

PWC/255/01                                                         PWC/255/09

The most critical issue was to be in control of the light. Rearranging equipment in the workroom allowed for the artwork to face a black wall, a method used by photographers to eliminate reflections.

 

We used black plastic across the entrance of the workroom to eliminate all unwanted light.

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The next challenge was to set up the camera. For this shoot we used our Hasselblad H3D11 (a 39 mega pixel with excellent colour fidelity).

 

Prior to capture, we gave the glass a good clean with an anti-static cloth. In the images below, you can clearly see the reflection caused by the mirror effect of the glass.

 

Since we don’t have a dedicated photographic studio we needed to be creative when introducing extra light to allow for the capture. Bouncing the light off a large white card prevented direct light from falling on the artwork and reduced a significant number of reflections. We also used a polarizing filter on the camera lens to reduce reflections even further.

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Once every reflection was eliminated and the camera set square to the artwork, we could test colour balance and exposure.

In the image below, you can see that we made the camera look like ‘Ned Kelly’ to ensure any shiny metal from the camera body didn’t reflect in the glass. We used the camera’s computer controlled remote shutter function to further minimise any reflections in front of the glass.

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The preservation file includes technically accurate colour and greyscale patches to allow for colour fidelity and a ruler for accurate scaling in future reproductions.

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The preservation file and a cropped version for access were then ingested into the State Library’s digital repository. The repository allows for current access and future reproductions to be made.

From this post you can see the care and attention that goes into preservation digitisation, ‘Do it right, do it once’ is our motto.

Simpson and his Donkey – an exhibition

Illustrations by Frané Lessac and words by Mark Greenwood share the heroic story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in the picture book Simpson and his Donkey.  The exhibition is on display at the State Library until  27 April. 

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Unpublished spread 14 for pages 32 – 33
Collection of draft materials for Simpson and his Donkey, PWC/254/18 

The original illustrations, preliminary sketches and draft materials displayed in this exhibition form part of the State Library’s Peter Williams’ collection: a collection of original Australian picture book art.

Known as ‘the man with the donkey’, Simpson was a medic who rescued wounded soldiers at Gallipoli during World War I.

The bravery and sacrifice attributed to Simpson is now considered part of the ‘Anzac legend’. It is the myth and legend of John Simpson that Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood tell in their book.

Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood also travelled to Anzac Cove to explore where Simpson and Duffy had worked.  This experience and their research enabled them to layer creative interpretation over historical information and Anzac legend.

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On a moonless April morning, PWC254/6 

Frané Lessac is a Western Australian author-illustrator who has published over forty books for children. Frané speaks at festivals in Australia and overseas, sharing the process of writing and illustrating books. She often illustrates books by , Mark Greenwood, of which Simpson and his Donkey is just one example.

Simpson and his Donkey is published by Walker Books, 2008. The original illustrations are  display in the Story Place Gallery until 27 April 2017.

  • This exhibition is supported by a self-guided trail and educators guide. For school group bookings visit our website.
  • Copies of the book are available for sale from the Discovery Store at the State Library.

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Teacup – One Boy’s Story of Leaving His Homeland

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“Once there was a boy who had to leave home …and find another. In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket. In his teacup he held some earth from where he used to play”

A musical performance adapted from the picture book Teacup written by Rebecca Young and illustrated Matt Ottley, will premiere at the State Library of Western Australia as part of Fringe Festival. 

Accompanied by musicians from Perth chamber music group Chimera Ensemble, Music Book’s Narrator Danielle Joynt and Lark Chamber Opera’s soprano composer Emma Jayakumar, the presentation of Teacup will be a truly ‘multi-modal’ performance, where the music of Matt Ottley will ‘paint’ the colours, scenery and words into life.

Performance Times:

Fri 27 January 2:30pm
Sat 28 January 10:30am, 1pm and 2:30pm
Sun 29 January 10:30am, 1pm and 2:30pm

  • Suitable for all ages.
  • Bookings not required

Matt Ottley’s original paintings from the picture book Teacup from part of the State Library’s Peter Williams collection of original picture book art. The artworks will be displayed in  Teacup – an exhibition in the ground floor gallery between 20 January – 24 March 2017.

Image credit: Cover illustration for Teacup, Matt Ottley, 2015. State Library of Western Australia, PWC/255/01  Reproduced in the book Teacup written by Rebecca Young with illustrations by Matt Ottley. Published by Scholastic, 2015.

This event is supported by the City of Perth 

Housing the Fairbairn Collection

The Fairbairn collection includes over 100 artefacts of various types; clothing, a sword,  hair ornaments made out of human hair, items used for sewing , just to name a few. All of these objects need to be stored in the best possible way.

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Housing is the process of making protective enclosures for objects to be stored in. By housing an object or group of objects we are creating a micro environment; temperature and humidity become more stable, direct light is deflected, materials are not damaged when handled or when placed on a shelf. Housing can be a box, folder or tray that has been custom made and fitted out to the exact requirements of the object. Inert materials and/or  acid free board are used.

Some of the objects in the Fairbairn collection required conservation treatment before they were housed. For example, the leather had detached from the front of this object but was reattached during treatment.

Some objects required individual housing (for example clothing items, sword and shoes) but the majority of the objects could be housed in groups. These groups were determined by object type and the material it was made of (for example all the coin purses made from similar materials are in a group).

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This was done not only for ease of locating a particular object but because different material types can need different storage conditions and some materials can affect other materials if stored together (for example the vapours released from wood can cause metals to corrode).

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Each object was arranged to fit into a box in such a way so that its weight would be evenly supported and so that it can be retrieved without being damaged or damaging neighbouring objects. Then layers of board and/or foam were built up to support the items.

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Labels were placed to give direction on safely removing the objects from there housing. Labels were also placed on the outside of the boxes to identify what each box holds  as well as the correct way to place each object inside the box.

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Custom supports were made for some objects. For example the internal support for this hat.

 

Each item in the Fairbairn collection has now been housed and placed carefully into long term storage with the rest of the State Library of Western Australia’s collection.

School Magazines

avon_northam_june_1939_cover_2016-10-26_0936School magazines provide a fascinating glimpse into the past.

What was high school like from 1915 through to the 1950s? What issues interested teenagers? How did they react to current events including two world wars? In what ways did they express themselves differently from today’s teens? What sort of jokes did they find amusing? (Hint: there are many of what we would call “dad jokes”.)

The State Library holds an extensive collection of school magazines from both public and private schools. Most don’t start until after 1954 which, as with newspapers, is our cut-off date for digitising, but we have digitised some early issues from public schools.

 

In the first part of the 19th Century they were generally produced by the students, with minimal input from school staff – and it shows. The quality of individual issues varies widely, depending, most probably, on the level of talent, interest and time invested by the responsible students.

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Cricket cartoon Northam High School (The Avon) Sept. 1930

These magazines may include named photographs of prefects and staff, sporting teams and academic prize winners. Photographs from early editions tend to be of much higher quality, possibly because they were taken using glass negatives.

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Essay competition. The subject: “A letter from Mr Collins congratulating Elizabeth on her engagement to Mr Darcy”  Phyllis Hand and Jean McIntyre were the prize winners.      Perth Girls’ School Magazine Nov. 1922

You will find poetry and essays, sketches by and of students, amateur cartooning, and many puns, jokes and limericks.

Some issues include ex-student notes with news about the careers, marriages and movements of past students. There is an occasional obituary.

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Northam High School (The Avon) June 1943

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Does anyone know these twins from Meckering?  Northam High School (The Avon) May 1925

Issues from the war years are particularly interesting and touching. You may also find rolls of honour naming ex-students serving in the forces.

There is also often advertising for local businesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Girls’ A Hockey Team Albany High School (Boronia) Dec. 1925

These magazines reflect the attitudes of their tight-knit local community of the time.  Expect to hear the same exhortations to strive for academic, moral and sporting excellence that we hear in schools today – while observing the (in retrospect) somewhat naïve patriotism and call to Empire and the occasional casual racism.

 

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The following high school magazines for various dates are either available now online or will appear in the coming weeks: Perth Boys’ School MagazinePerth Girls’ School Magazine (later The Magpie); Fremantle Boys’ School; Northam High School (The Avon); Girdlestone High School (Coolibah); Eastern Goldfields Senior High School (The Golden Mile – later Pegasus); Bunbury High School (Kingia); Albany High School (Boronia) and Perth Modern (The Sphinx). None are complete and we would welcome donations of missing volumes to add to our Western Australian collections.

If you would like to browse our digitised high school magazines search the State Library catalogue using the term: SCHOOL MAGAZINES

*Some issues of The Magpie are too tightly bound for digitising so they are currently being disbound. They will then be digitised and rebound. Issues should appear in the catalogue in the near future.

A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day

Can cats fly? 
Can a goat be a superhero?
Can a sausage go for a walk? 

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Peter Kendall, Out of the gate marched breakfast,  reproduced in A Sausage Went for a Walk by Ellisha Majid and Peter Kendall, 1991. Published by Fremantle Press. 

In picture books anything is possible, just as anything is possible in the imagination of a child.  The power of picture books to ignite imagination is highlighted in our current exhibition,  A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day – celebrating Western Australian picture books and 40 fabulous years of Fremantle Press

Beginning with the award winning,  A Sausage Went for a Walk  (1991) by Ellisha Majid and Peter Kendall, the exhibition includes artwork drawn from the State Library Williams collection of illustrations, as well as artwork loaned from illustrators.

Readers of picture books usually only see the finished product in the form of the published book. The process of book making is revealed in this exhibition through sketches, storyboards, colour experiments, text revisions, and published artwork.  The artworks in the exhibition reveal surprising insights into how picture books are brought to life. This post will explore five of these ideas.

1. A work in progress
Illustrations from Palo Morgan’s book Cat Balloon highlight how stories often change during the process of illustration.  A closer look at sketches show cat balloon depicted with arms outstretched, and  wings attached to his back.  In the published illustration below Cat Balloon is shown pursuing his dream to fly by other means.

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Palo Morgan, To sea in a large silver spoon, reproduced in Cat Balloon by Palo Morgan, 1992. Published by Fremantle Press. State Library of Western Australia collection, PWC/253 

2. From big to small 
Picture books are portable art. They are small enough to be held in little hands. To capture detail of shape and form,  many illustrators choose to work with a larger scale. Moira Court’s, Leaping in single bound for the story My Superhero (written by Chris Owen) is more than four times the size of the published book!

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Moira Court, Leaping in a single bound, reproduced in My Superhero by Chris Owen and Moira Court. Published by Fremantle Press, 2012. State Library of Western Australia collection, PWC/218. 

3. Hints of home 
A picture book can be found and read anywhere in the world, and translated into a variety of different languages and formats.  The picture books featured in A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day have all been published in Western Australia, and embedded within them, are connections to place and the daily lives of their creators.

Street scenes of Fremantle in Sonia Martinez illustrations for The World According to Warren (written by Craig Silvey) might be recognisable to visitors.

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Sonia Martinez, And he was never again distracted whilst on duty, reproduced in The World According to Warren by Craig Silvey and Sonia Martinez. Published by Fremantle Press, 2007. State Library of Western Australia collection, PWC/115

The colours and patterns found in Sally Morgan’s illustration, Beneath the stars we all sleep. are inspired by her close observation of the Western Australian landscape, and the inter-connectedness of humans and the natural environment.

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Sally Morgan, Beneath the stars we all sleep, reproduced in We All Sleep by Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan. Published by Fremantle Press, 2016.

4. Universal themes 
Picture books succinctly deal with complex themes and messages with global relevance. These range from cultural diversity, social inclusion, environmental concern, and  the impacts of historical events, particularly war and its aftermath. They communicate about human emotions as varied as joy, to loneliness and grief, and themes of family, friends, belonging, and home. They affirm the importance of the imagination , which has the power to unlock dreams and human potential.

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Michael Thompson, But we love their food, reproduced in The Other Bears by Michael Thompson. Published by Fremantle Press, 2010.

 

5. Medium and the message
Illustrators carefully select a style and technique which compliments the words. Some styles are detailed, while other styles are more spontaneous and free flowing. Each technique has a different effect on the viewer.  The repetition of shapes and the geometric style of Kyle Hughes-Odgers, as seen in On a Small Island and Ten Tiny Things, draws attention to details in line, pattern, and shape. In contrast, Brian Simmonds’s realism in Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy provokes an emotional response.

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Kyle Hughes-Odgers, So many strange buildings, reproduced in On a Small Island by Kyle Hughes-Odgers. Published by Fremantle Press, 2014.  

A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day is presented by Fremantle Press, the State Library of Western Australia and AWESOME Arts. It was launched as part of the 2016 AWESOME Festival and Fremantle Press 40 Year Anniversary celebrations.  It runs until 31 December 2016. For opening hours go to www.slwa.wa.gov.au

  • Curatorial tours on the art of picture books will be conducted on the following days and times: Monday 17 October 12:00pm – 12:45pm, Friday 11 November 1:00pm – 1:45pm, Wednesday 23 November 12:00pm – 12:45pm. For bookings go to slwa.eventbrite.com.au 
  • Books featured in the exhibition are available to purchase from The Discovery Store at the State Library.

Equipment used in the Conservation Lab

There are many valued and interesting pieces of equipment necessary for us to properly treat objects in the lab. Let me introduce you to some of them!

Board cutting machine

Valiani

As the name suggests we use a board cutting machine to cut board. This machine is used daily to cut and crease boxes which are then folded and glued by hand.

We also use the board cutting machine to cut out mats when framing objects, inserts to fit out boxes and backing boards. In fact anything that fits the dimensions of the table and is made of board may be cut using this machine.

In the past boxes, folders and cutting mats were done by hand. It took approximately 40 hours to make 30 boxes. We are now able to cut up to 65 tailor made boxes per day, i.e. each book is measured and a perfect match is produced.  Conservation is currently running a boxing program to house all our Rare Heritage materials. We box as a preventative measure to protect materials. By boxing we are creating a micro environment; temperature and humidity become more stable, direct light is deflected, materials are not damaged when handled or when placed on a shelf.

Boxes                                   Folders                                  Mats

A microscope is a handy piece of equipment to have around when your job is to see what is wrong with an object and to try to stop it from deteriorating further. Using a microscope to examine an object can allow us to see problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye and closely investigate problems in greater detail. Currently this microscope is been used on our photographic panoramas.

Microscope

full shot microscope

A microscope is a handy piece of equipment to have around when your job is to see what is wrong with an object and to try to stop it from deteriorating further. Using a microscope to examine an object can allow us to see problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye and closely investigate problems in greater detail. Currently this microscope is been used on our photographic panoramas.

Item been worked on                         Through the Microscope

Using a microscope in this example has allowed for tears to be correctly aligned; to consolidate flaking gelatine; to accurately repair small losses and assist with the application of a surface gelatine cote over both scratches and tears where necessary.

Suction/Humidification Table

Suction Table                                            Humidification Chamber

The suction table is used for any porous 2-dimensional collection items, usually paper or textile. The perforated surface of the table is equipped with an adjustable suction level to suit  various treatments, for example; localised washing of dirt and/or stains, controlled drying, lining and treatments where it is necessary to monitor humidity or use a liquid solution safely.

The humidification chamber sits on top of the suction table and can be used for mass humidification, humidifying large objects or applying steam as the best option. We often humidify an item preparing  it for flattening.

Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to hear more about the conservation lab or our equipment? Please comment below with any questions, suggestions or feedback below.

Prisoner of war toilet roll diary now online

One of the more unusual items in the State Library’s collection is this diary written by Raymond Stewart on a toilet roll while he was a prisoner of war during World War II. Raymond kindly donated this unique diary to the Library in 1999. It is written in pencil on poor quality paper and is housed in our rare materials security stack at a controlled temperature of 20 degrees +/- 2 degrees with a humidity level of 50% +/- 5%. These stable conditions  help to preserve this fragile item.

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Raymond Stewart’s toilet roll diary housed in its special conservation box, ACC 5062A/5

Lieutenant Raymond Stanley Stewart (2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion) enlisted in Northam in 1940 and was captured on 27 July 1942 at Ruin Ridge, El Alamein, Egypt. He was held as a prisoner of war in Europe, firstly by the Italians and later by the Germans, until 1 May 1945. He recorded his experiences in this most unusual diary between 27 July and 12 September 1942, later continuing in two notebooks.

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Raymond’s prisoner of war card with photograph, ACC 5062A/11

Keeping such a record was a tremendous risk so Raymond kept the diaries hidden in an Australian Red Cross Society gift box.

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The Australian Red Cross Society gift box where Raymond kept his diaries hidden, ACC 5062A/15

The toilet roll diary provides a fascinating insight into the daily life of a prisoner of war. Raymond describes his feelings on being captured:
“I feel miserable, angry, disillusioned and relieved in turn. I think everyone feels the same way. The boys crack jokes to hide their feelings.”

There is confusion about the fate of his comrades:
“Did Jack come through? Where is Smithie? Is it true that Snooks was killed?”

On 5th August 1942, just over a week after his capture, he describes his hunger:
“Already we are all feeling continuously and desperately hungry. Our ration is eaten as follows:- 1/2 tin bully and 1/3 bread for lunch, ditto tea, and coffee and remainder of bread for breakfast. I myself am feeling very weak and have a temporary blackout once during the day on getting up from my bed. This may have been due to bad ventilation as much as anything else. It is an effort to walk around very much as I simply haven’t the energy.

Just through the fence they are dumping hundreds of cases of lemons. We are so hungry we beg for them from the guards, and eat them raw peel and all. However they don’t give much away and even then I think it is only for the amusement they get from seeing us scramble for them.”

This diary formed part of the National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries exhibition which toured capital cities around the country from 2005 to 2007. Now the Raymond Stanley Stewart diaries have been made available for anyone to read online. In some places they are difficult to decipher but a transcript has also been placed online.

As you can imagine, digitising a toilet roll presented some challenges. The diary is extremely delicate and fragile; of course the paper is biodegradable and was never intended to last. Our reformatting staff  say that this is the most challenging item they have ever digitised; the toilet roll diary alone took over twenty hours to complete. It was photographed using a Hasselblad camera which has extremely accurate colour fidelity and the ability to retain exceptional quality of detail. The images shown here illustrate some of the processes involved in bringing this item to you.

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The toilet roll diary held in place with glass weights

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Our Senior Conservator unwinding the toilet roll during filming

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Carefully rewinding the diary after filming

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Returning the diary to its box

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Checking the quality of the digitised image

It is wonderful that Raymond Stewart realised the historical significance of his diary and had the forethought to donate it to the State Library so it could be preserved for the future. What other treasures could be hidden in wardrobes or attics in private homes around the state?

If you are interested in finding out more about donating to the Library please visit our Donations page.