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Antarctic conservation

3 Posts tagged with the herbert_ponting tag
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Matchstick Men

Posted by Conservators Feb 19, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 13 February 2013

Temperature: -15.6

Wind Speed: 16 knots

Temp with wind chill: -34C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Although from Manchester (no, I’m not homesick yet or about to wax lyrical about the paintings of LS Lowry as the title might suggest), my focus is upon the amazing photography of Herbert Ponting (Terra Nova Expedition), and in addition the amazing brain of my fellow conservator Jaime. Back in Christchurch (before we came to the Ice) we had the chance to visit Scott’s Last Expedition http://www.canterburymuseum.com/ an exhibition featuring some fascinating artefacts; it even includes a fantastic recreation of the the Cape Evans hut. As we were strolling around Jaime drew my attention to a brilliant, but seemingly innocuous, Ponting image of the hut’s southern aspect.

 

Moonlight Winterquarters.jpg

Monnlight photograph of the Winterquaters Hut and camp with Mount Erebus in the background.  June 13th 1911.

 

© Herbert Ponting

 

Jamie explained that in using this particular image, in a previous season on the Ice, to accurately restore elements of the hut’s exterior, he had noticed certain elements of the photograph appeared ghostly and translucent. In realising Ponting had used an incredibly long exposure (lit by the moonlight), Jamie began to pick through the image and see many happenings that both arrive and disappear in the frame. The spookiest of these transitions is a dark figure who can be tracked lighting a cigarette/pipe in the doorway, walking to the left of the shot, dropping the match, and then inhaling (illuminating an intense white line, as the figure walks to the sea ice).

 

matches.jpg

Matches ready for conservation. © AHT/Marie-Amande

 

This project has a funny way of marrying everything up, and with Marie-Amande currently conserving a small tin of matches, you get a very clear perception of how deeply woven in history some objects can be.

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Author: Jane
Date: 22nd September 2011
Temperature: -41°C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -41°C
Sunrise: 06.42am
Sunset 06.54pm


I have just finished treating two boxes of ‘Tabloid Potassium Metabisulphite’. It was used in the developing of photographs, probably by Herbert Ponting, the photographer on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition.


The staples holding the boxes together were completely corroded away with just corrosion staining remaining. One of the boxes had leaflets describing the types of chemicals available and what they were used for. There was even a ‘Special Caution’ note on the risks of buying inferior products.

 

Photo 1.jpg
One of the boxes before conservation.  © Jane/AHT

The brown glass bottle inside contained tablets of the chemical. It was sealed with wax over the cork.

 

 

Photo 2.jpg

A leaflet from one of the boxes.  © Jane/AHT

The surface of the cardboard and paper was blistering due to the presence of salts so I decided to wash them. I did this in a bath of water, with the paper and card supported on a piece of spun-bonded polyester. I then allowed them to dry before humidifying them and reassembling the box.


I consolidated the wax on the cork stopper as it was flaking. I also consolidated the surface of the cardboard as it was quite friable, probably as a result of the salt damage.

 

Photo 3.jpg

A box after conservation.  ©  Jane/AHT

 

With the individual elements stabilized, I was then able to put the bottles and leaflets back into the boxes.

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Our current exhibition from the Natural History Museum, Scott’s Last Expedition, has given me the opportunity to check out our own Antarctic collection to see what we have. And we have a surprising amount of material relating to Antarctic exploration, covering some four centuries. We have maps and charts, including a wonderful map of Captain James Cook’s three Antarctic voyages which dates to 1784. We have documentation of the first French contributions to Antarctic exploration – that of the Dumont D’Urville’s 1837-1840 expedition, which included an attempt to discover the south magnetic pole and claim it for France. And something quite different is the artwork for a costume designed by Frances Rouse for the play Counting Icebergs, about the life of Captain James Cook’s wife, Elizabeth. It has a map of Antarctica and Cook’s voyages on the skirt (see image).

 

Dress_design.jpg

Painting. Costume design for Elizabeth Cook, 'Cross Antarctic Circle' 1985. Maker: Frances Rouse

 

Robert Falcon Scott is of course one of the names synonymous with Antarctic exploration and we have two published volumes from his first British Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904, which included an attempt to reach the South Pole. We have also acquired a fine selection of Herbert Ponting’s more famous photographs from the Terra Nova expedition. Ponting was the first professional photographer to be taken on any Antarctic expedition. He took black and white and colour photographic stills, and recorded short clips, becoming one of the first to use a movie camera and to take colour photographs in Antarctica. But he couldn’t be everywhere, so others were given lessons in how to use the photographic equipment.

 

The museum has a collection of 35 stereoscopic cards which we are gradually identifying and adding to our eMuseum collection. Here's one taken by the Australian geologist Frank Debenham – see the string he’s using to operate the camera? This happy bunch were celebrating Christmas Day 1911 out at Granite Harbour.

 

Stereoscopic_card.jpg

Stereoscope card. Second Western Party at the Cape Geology Christmas Party, 1911. Photographer: Frank Debenham

 

Read more about our Antarctic collection.

Explore our eMuseum.

 

Lindsey Shaw, Curator
Australian National Maritime Museum

 

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http://www.anmm.gov.au/scott

 

To commemorate the centenary of the Terra Nova expedition and celebrate its achievements the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, New Zealand, have collaborated to create this international exhibition, which will be touring between 2011-2013.