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Subject: Conservation of outdoor public art

Conservation of outdoor public art

From: Anne Cummins <conservation>
Date: Wednesday, December 1, 1999
Sandra Lougheed <slougheed [at] city__toronto__on__ca> writes

>The City of Toronto (Ontario, Canada) is in the process of
>developing a conservation plan for its outdoor public art
>collection, and wishes to exchange ideas with others who have plans
>in place. The objective is to learn from others, how the care and
>maintenance of outdoor public art collections are managed.

The City of Sydney in Australia is responsible for the
commissioning, conservation and maintenance of its collection of
outdoor public artworks referred to as the Sydney Open Museum.  The
collection is administered by the curator of the collection, who
contracts the services of conservators and other professionals as

In 1993, the first major reports commissioned on the collection were
a History Survey and Conservation Survey. These included an
inventory of each item, with important dates, titles, artist,
foundries etc. The History Survey included a bibliography of
references to the work and artist, a brief assessment of the
cultural significance of each item based on the statutory Heritage
Act and The Burra Charter criteria and whether the item appears on
any local, state, regional or national heritage registers.  The
Conservation Survey assessed the condition of each work, confirmed
the materials of construction, gave recommendations for maintenance
work and prioritised the need for conservation treatment with a 1-5
rating system. Prior to these reports, maintenance and conservation
treatments were done on an ad hoc needs basis.

In 1995, Sydney Artefacts Conservation worked in collaboration with
the curator to produce the Conservation Management Plan and
Maintenance Plan, which were prepared concurrently.  The primary aim
was to prepare a five year plan for the care of the collection. The
Management Plan included a conservation policy and utilised the
ratings allocated from the Conservation survey to prioritise
conservation treatments within the five year plan. The resources,
responsibilities and budgets were given for each year.  An
appearance objective for each work after conservation was considered
important as the public had mixed responses to items that had been
conserved previously.  The Maintenance Manual provided the 'how to'
information, including a maintenance schedule sheet for each item
with the task and frequency. The delineation of roles was discussed
as to what parks staff could do and what a conservator could do.
Unfortunately due to funding restraints the Maintenance Manual was
not implemented, however approximately 40% of the collection has
been conserved in accordance with the Management Plan.

A maintenance strategy is currently underway to update the inventory
to include new works and the maintenance sheets to allow for treated
works. The major task is to determine what work unskilled staff such
as Parks workers, who are increasingly contracted firms can ably
perform and when professional staff are required.

The issues you highlighted seem to be worldwide concerns; there is
never enough money to implement the required systems; Fundraising--I
believe the Council has tried this option to assist with funding for
new works to little avail. Annual Maintenance--the priority system
worked well here as long as a budget had been set aside for the
work. Volunteers--I haven't had experience with volunteers but know
that there are public liability and professional indemnity insurance
issues to consider as well as the high involvement required with
supervising volunteers.

Parks Staff--when done in house there is continuity of involvement
and some staff members almost felt responsible for some works,
especially the high maintenance water features. However with the
increasing trend to outsource basic maintenance, there is the
concern of work being dollar driven and a higher turn over of staff,
who should have basic training from conservators outlining their
responsibilities and limitations. Repair of plant and hydraulics -at
the City of Sydney the responsibility for water features has been
split within departments; property and asset management contract out
the maintenance and repair of hydraulic and electrical components,
with close liaison with the curator, who maintains control over the
treatment of the artworks.

I hope our experiences in Sydney have been of some help to you. I
would be happy to discuss any issues further off-line if you are

Anne Cummins
Sydney Artefacts Conservation
+61 2 9713 4109
Fax: +61 2 9713 2350

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:32
                Distributed: Thursday, December 2, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-13-32-003
Received on Wednesday, 1 December, 1999

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