National Gallery of Victoria

Revised Conservation Policy

Following is a recently revised conservation policy for the National Gallery of Victoria. The NGV was established in Melbourne Australia a decade after the National Gallery in London and contains a large collection of important artworks from a wide range of cultures, but especially European paintings and works on paper and one of the most important collections of Australian Art.

The first NGV Conservation Policy was written by the staff of about 4 conservators in 1984. Since then the section staff has grown considerably and the role of the department has matured and evolved, encompassing a much more integrated approach stressing collection management over repair.

This revision sought to condense the previous much more lengthy document to focus on principles and roles. It is the result of extensive and lively discussion over many weeks by myself, the heads of conservation sections, the Senior Research Curator of International Art and the Deputy Director of International Art and Collection Management.

I offer this document for fellow conservators' consideration and as a reference point. It reflects how conservators in this institution see themselves and their role in the preservation of our collections. As it is brief, I don't feel too guilty about taking up space for what for most people will be of limited interest, and do hope a few colleagues will find it useful for their next consideration of their own policy.

Thomas Dixon, Chief Conservator
Conservation Department
National Gallery of Victoria
180 St Kilda Rd
Melbourne Vic 3004
+61 3 9208 0348
Fax: +61 3 9208 0249
9 October 1996

1. Introduction

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) was established in 1861. Its mission is to stimulate awareness, understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts and to care for, develop and promote the State collection of art works for Victoria and the wider community.

The formation of this collection carries with it an intention and an obligation to preserve and conserve. The NGV recognises the need to balance access to and preservation of the collection.The collection is wide-ranging with artefacts from many periods and cultures. Materials and media in the NGV precincts include paintings, works on paper, photography, sculpture and decorative arts.

The National Gallery of Victoria Conservation Policy exists under the umbrella of the National Conservation and Preservation Policy for Moveable Cultural Heritage 1995, the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) code of ethics and the Draft Victorian State Conservation policy, and in association with other NGV Policies.

2. Principles

2.1 Conservation and restoration of items in the care of the NGV will take place within the AICCM code of ethics.

2.2 The NGV recognises that preventive conservation of the collection is the most effective means of conserving its cultural material. Preventive conservation techniques for the collection as a whole will in general be put in place before treatment of individual items.

2.3 The NGV aims to ensure every artefact in the collection be housed and presented according to the highest standards. Preservation concerns are equal for all works of art, whether on display, in store, or on loan.

2.4 The NGV recognises that the preservation of the collection requires the inter-relationship of staff, collection and building.

2.5 The NGV will continue to monitor and assess the impact of its activities on the preservation of the collection.

2.6 The preservation of the collection is a responsibility of all NGV staff.

2.7 Resources will be applied efficiently and effectively to the preservation of the collection through a specialist Department of Conservation at the NGV.

3. Roles of the Conservation Department

3.1 Manage the preservation of the collections of the NGV.

3.2 Provide specialist advice and service to NGV staff for the preventive conservation of the collection.

3.3 Carry out conservation treatments on individual items.

3.4 Examine and document the collection and maintain conservation records.

3.5 Develop, maintain and implement an NGV disaster recovery plan.

3.6 Carry out research into materials and techniques of conservation, materials and techniques of works of art, environmental conditions and other matters affecting the conservation of the collection.

3.7 Provide leadership at a State and National level within the conservation profession.

3.8 Provide specialist conservation information to public institutions, community groups and individual custodians of cultural materials.

3.9 Participate in cross-institutional research programs.

3.10 Support other staff of the Gallery in performing their specialist roles.

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