On Friday 6 August the Kelly gang will have a reunion of sorts as all four sets of armour go on display in Beechworth as part of the annual Ned Kelly Weekend. Our conservation and registration team has been working to ensure Ned Kelly’s armour reaches Beechworth safe-and-sound, though not necessarily in one piece.

Shelley Jamieson, the State Library of Victoria’s Conservation Coordinator, has been overseeing preparations to pack Ned’s armour up for transport and display.

‘Ned Kelly’s armour is an Australian national treasure so we take every precaution before moving it anywhere. Our conservation team work with specialist museum movers to make sure everything is transported safely and put back together the way it is meant to be.’

The Kelly armour is made up of six parts: the helmet, breast plate, back plate, lappet, left and right shoulder plates. It is made from forged steel mould boards from ploughs, iron bolts and the helmet is contains a wooden cross-brace. It weighs a total of 41.4 kilograms.

The conservation team has custom built transport mounts and boxes for the armour. The plates and helmet will be packed separately in foam shaped to exactly fit each piece so that the armour doesn’t move or get damaged in transit.

Preparing Ned Kelly’s armour for travel gives the conservation team the opportunity to check its condition.

‘We carry out a detailed condition report and photograph every piece. It’s thick metal so there’s not much that can go wrong but corrosion can be an issue. The armour has developed a brownish patina over time. It has been coated with a protective wax but we keep a close eye on the steel to make sure the patina is maintained and no new corrosion develops.’

Of course it is important to make sure that Ned’s armour looks right too.

‘We created a stainless steel display mount for the armour. It’s tricky because the armour’s not symmetrical. We need to make sure the pieces are supported correctly so that they fit together and look correct in relation to each other.

The helmet is probably the hardest part to mount because whole front visor is loose and can’t be tightened. We had to work out a way of supporting this heavy piece as well as holding the front part in place so that the slit, which is such an iconic part of the helmet, is correctly positioned.’

So after working closely with the armour how practical does Shelley think Ned Kelly would have found it in use?

‘I don’t think it would have been practical at all. It would have been really hard to move in it, if it was hit by a bullet it would have been noisy. It would be incredibly claustrophobic and heavy.’

Ned Kelly’s armour will be on display in Beechworth from Friday 6 – Sunday 8 August 2010.

Learn more about Ned Kelly

Tom Ingpen and Andrew Foster fit Ned Kelly's helmet to its display mount.

Tom Ingpen and Andrew Foster fit Ned Kelly's helmet to its display mount.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Wow, this would have been really interesting to see. Where is the armour normally kept? Is it possible to see during the rest of the year?

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