Conservators save rare Griffin artwork

Conservators save rare Griffin artwork
7 March 2013

Expert National Library of Australia staff and a contracted textile conservator have saved a rare lithograph on silk, created by Marion Mahony Griffin - one of Canberra's original designers - from likely ruin.

The 90-year-old lithograph on silk, which was lent to the Library from a private collection for The Dream of a Century: The Griffins in Australia’s Capital exhibition, had become stuck to the glass in its original frame, unbeknownst to the owner. It was only when NLA preservation staff were inspecting the work, prior to its installation into exhibition, that the problem was discovered.

 ‘Quick action by National Library experts and Victoria Gill, a contracted textile conservator, undoubtedly saved this rare piece of Australian history from further decay and will ensure its survival for future generations to appreciate,’ Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Ms Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, said.

 The exhibition, which opens on Friday 8 March 2013, celebrates Canberra’s Centenary.  It puts a human face on the legendary architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin – Canberra’s original designers.

 The exhibition traces the life and work of the couple, from the day a young Walter, at secondary school in his native Chicago, first learned of Australia’s Federation. It follows on to  1911, when, with his new wife and business partner Marion, he entered the international competition to design Australia’s capital. The following year, helped greatly by his wife’s beautiful drawings, Griffin won the competition. Much of the exhibition material has never been seen in public before. The National Library acquired its large collection from the family of the Griffins’ Australian partner, Eric Milton Nicholls in 2006.

 ‘It is astonishing in size, scope and complexity,’ Guest Curator Christopher Vernon, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Western Australia, said of the collection.   ‘It covers some 40 years and comprises more than 2500 items, including original drawings, maps, blueprints, photographs and lantern slides. There are also preliminary sketches, scrawled annotations, newspaper cuttings, correspondence and all manner of paperwork from an architectural office.

 The Dream of a Century: The Griffins in Australia’s Capital runs from 8 March to 10 June 2013. Free exhibition.

 High-res images from the exhibition are available.

Contact: Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia 

M:0401 226 697

E: shopman@nla.gov.au