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Subject: A death

A death

From: Marianne Long <artlab>
Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999
    William (Bill) Morris Boustead

    Artist, innovator, researcher, pioneer, conservator and teacher
    - for many the 'father' of the conservation profession in
    Australia, died in Sydney on Friday, October 15, 1999.

    As Chris Payne, former student and now principal of the Art
    Conservation Studios, South Australia, commented:

       "He was the first in Australia to talk in terms of
        conservation and conservators.  He worked timelessly and
        robustly to lift conservators from artisan status to a
        profession.  We are all of us indebted to this man who laid
        the foundations of conservation in Australia."

    Boustead was educated at Fort Street High School, before going
    to work in a metallurgical and chemical laboratory and studying
    at technical college. The painting bug hit him, a skill he
    developed when he took off after his studies to Tahiti to work
    on a copra plantation.

    He travelled to the US, Hawaii and Fiji and was heading back to
    Tahiti when World War II broke out.  After discharge from the
    AIF he began studying at the National Art School in Sydney.

    His short time at the Art School, where he studied sculpture
    with Lyndon Dadswell, lead to his appointment to the staff of
    the Art Gallery of New South Wales in June 1946.

    Bill Boustead immediately embraced the broad range of issues
    facing the emerging conservation profession in Australia, and
    embarked on a career over the next thirty years which laid many
    of the foundations of the conservation discipline as we know it
    today.  He was appointed Conservator to the Gallery in 1954.

    His experiences in the AIF and his knowledge of moulding
    techniques used for the construction of aircraft fuselages found
    use in his work in the development of the vacuum hot table for
    the treatment of damaged paintings. The first vacuum table built
    in Australia to treat paintings was commissioned by the Art
    Gallery of New South Wales.  This was one of the first tables
    built in the world and replaced the gas heated lining table,
    constructed from a large slab of marble obtained from the Sydney

    Boustead was made a Fellow of the International Institute for
    Conservation in 1960 and attended the inaugural Institute
    Conference in Rome in 1961. He was the first Australian to
    publish in the international journal "Studies in Conservation".

    His writings cover a diverse area of work from the flattening
    and consolidation of Aboriginal bark paintings to the use of
    portable dehumidifiers to reduce humidity in art storage areas.

    Allan Byrne, Chief Paintings Conservator at the National Gallery
    of Australia, remembers how Boustead often took a creative
    approach to problems and resorted to unusual forms of persuasion
    to get better facilities.  The development of the current
    conservation department at the Art Gallery of NSW in the late
    60s from the workshop studio facility in the car park at the
    rear of the old Gallery building was one of his major
    achievements.  As part of the lobbying efforts to insure a high
    standard of air conditioning in the renovated building, Boustead
    would surreptitiously sprinkle a few drops of unpleasant
    smelling solvent in the then director's office. When Hal
    Missingham complained of the odour Boustead would respond that
    this sort of problem would be alleviated by an efficient air
    conditioning system. The renovated Art Gallery of New South
    Wales opened in the early 70s with international standard air
    conditioning for the first time in its history.

    His work in preventive conservation, especially the use of
    portable dehumidification systems in sub-tropical climates was
    at the cutting edge of international practice and the
    conservation clinics set up to provide advice to people with
    damaged artefacts are now commonly available throughout
    Australia. Boustead's introduction of science and technology to
    the conservation field in Australia is a development that should
    not be under valued.

    In 1967 Bill Boustead was seconded by the Federal Government to
    set up an Australian Conservation Laboratory in Florence at the
    Biblioteca Nazionale as a response to the disastrous flooding
    when the Arno burst its banks in late 1966.  He played an
    important role in rescuing the fabulous collections of old
    manuscripts, documents, prints, drawings and maps belonging to
    one of the great libraries of the world.

    William Boustead's most important contribution to conservation
    in Australia was the establishment of a cadetship training
    program for restorers and his engagement with the Federal
    Government in Canberra.

    Interestingly, of the handful of people who completed the
    Gallery conservation cadetship program, three went on to develop
    laboratories in Canberra--at the National Library of Australia
    (Ian Cook), the National Gallery (Chris Payne) and the
    Australian War Memorial (Allan Byrne).  Alan Lloyd, the first
    person to complete the program, continues to head the
    Conservation Laboratory at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
    Boustead's students increasingly acknowledge the value of his
    hands on training approach to the conservation of works of art.

    The establishment of a Federal commitment to the conservation of
    the national collections in Canberra later set the scene for the
    establishment of Australia's first tertiary based training
    program at what has become the University of Canberra.

    Boustead had a wonderful belief in the importance of bringing
    together the arts and sciences.

    He was proud of his contribution to the conservation of the
    artistic patrimony of Australia.  The three to four hundred
    conservators now working in museums, galleries and libraries, as
    well as in private practice across Australia--a massive
    explosion from the handful working at the commencement of
    Boustead's career--have all had their professional lives touched
    in some way by this interesting man.

    Ian Cook
    Artlab Australia

Marianne Long
Artlab Australia
70 Kintore Avenue
Adelaide 5000
+618 8207 7520
Fax: +618 8207 7529

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:31
                Distributed: Tuesday, November 23, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-13-31-001
Received on Thursday, 18 November, 1999

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