State Of The Art Cases Keep Thylacine Gallery From Decay
by Sarah Aitken
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery’s Thylacine Gallery is currently closed as the precious exhibits undergo some gentle maintenance and move into some new, state-of-the-art display cases. We caught up with Nikki King Smith, TMAG’s Senior Objects Conservator, to find out more.
Nikki, what condition are the thylacine exhibits in? Our thylacine specimens have been on display fairly constantly throughout the museum’s recent history, in some cases for about 50 years, and so are consequently showing signs of wear.
What factors impact on the thylacines? Light exposure is a major element in the degradation of organic material, such as mounted specimens like the thylacine. Oxygen also promotes the deterioration of organic materials such as animal skin, and this deterioration can often be visible as yellowing, embrittlement and colour fading.
What do we lose if we leave these thylacines to decay? The thylacine specimens in the TMAG collection are irreplaceable and these new display cases will assist us in slowing down their degradation so they can be continue to be seen by museum visitors into the future.
Where are the new display cases from? What do they do? The new anoxic display cases, which have been funded by the Friends of TMAG and produced by Launceston-based company Applied Conservation Science, will protect the objects inside by providing a sealed, oxygen-free environment. The cases and their specialised lighting systems inside have been developed in Tasmania by experienced conservator David Thurrowgood. This is the first time this type of case has been used at TMAG, and there are only a few of these specialised cases elsewhere in Australia, protecting important documents and objects at places such as Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The cases David has developed for TMAG are also particularly technologically advanced, as they are the first to use spectroscopic monitoring, which constantly monitors and logs the conditions in the case electronically.
How much do you worry about the thylacines in the museum – and what do you worry about? We do worry about the condition of objects in our collection, including the thylacine specimens, and that is why we are working on projects such as these new anoxic cases to improve display conditions and ensure that objects are protected.
Are there other specimens of thylacine? TMAG has several thylacine specimens in its collection, however not all of them are able to be on show in the Thylacine Gallery at the same time.
When do you think you’ll open the room again? We hope to have the Thylacine Gallery open to the public in a few weeks, in time for the Christmas holidays.