Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
Significance assessment plays an increasing role in informing conservation treatments. Preserving the signs of wear that speak about an item's history is paramount in many treatments; and care is taken to bring an item into functioning order without compromising significant aspects of its fabric.
Significance assessment that identifies the signs of wear and working life will save these elements from being lost—a conservation plan that notes significant marks and other features connected to an item's story will ensure that these will be retained in the fabric of the item.
Conserving Prime Minister Menzies' Bentley
Menzies' Bentley in front of The Lodge after conservation
Photo: Heidi Smith. National Museum of Australia
Sir Robert Menzies' 1963 S3 Bentley was conserved by the National Museum of Australia to retain the marks of wear that testify to its significant life as the car that carried Australia's longest-serving prime minister in his retirement years. The memory of Sir Robert's ample physical form is preserved in the indented leather upholstery of his favourite seat.
The S3 Bentley model made its debut in October 1962 and was designed to offer the best in passenger comfort. The 2.5-tonne Bentley was one of four imported to Australia for the use of prime ministers, visiting heads of state and dignitaries. This vehicle was assigned to Sir Robert after he retired as prime minister on 20 January 1966. In retirement, the Bentley carried him to his favourite sporting fixtures—cricket and Australian Rules Football (he was number one ticket holder for the Carlton Football Club).
The last entry in the owner's manual and logbook records the driver's signature and an R Menzies as passenger on 16 August 1977. Sir Robert died on 15 May 1978, aged 83. After years of storage in a Department of Transport shed, the car, along with the original owner's manual and logbook, was donated to the Museum.
Museum conservators were careful not to alter or erase evidence of past use and age, and a collaboration with curators ensured that the treatment plan included the significance of the vehicle, as well as its physical condition. After three years of conservation, during which replacement parts were carefully crafted according to the manufacturer's original specifications, and all clearly marked as replacements, the Bentley was displayed to visitors. The signs that the car had once been used by a notable Australian are still embedded in its fabric, and speak volumes about him thanks to the sensitive work of the Museum's conservators.
National Museum conservators collaborated with curators to ensure that this historic vehicle was conserved according to its significance as well as its physical condition.
Significance in action
Significance assessment applications and case studies
- Conservation treatment
- Collection risk assessment
- Collection care
- Copying and digitisation
- Collection analysis and policy development
- In situ collections
- Shared collections
- Exhibitions and interpretation
- Online exhibitions
- Online access and education
- Assessing cultural heritage website quality
- Nominating to a register
- Applying for a grant
- Advocacy and resourcing
- Fundraising and promotion
- Thematic studies and regional surveys
- Collections mapping
- Significance training