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The State Library’s Conservation department works behind-the-scenes to ensure all collection and loan material selected for an exhibition is prepared and installed to a museum standard. The recent installation of ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR was no exception. With a diverse array of materials, each item required a unique approach to handling, preparation and display. A total of 126 items were selected, ranging from large format colour posters, promotional t-shirts, vintage electrical equipment and even freeze-dried ice cream!

Assessment and selection

Conservation work closely with the Exhibitions team to ensure all materials selected for an exhibition are suitable for display. This means that objects must be stable enough to withstand handling and be safely displayed for the duration of the exhibition. The works selected are then assessed for any conservation treatment or preparation that may be required. The method of display is mandated by both the condition of the item and the exhibition design.

Material on loan will have a formal report that documents the condition on arrival and can be referred to throughout the life of the exhibition. This condition report is checked again at the close of the exhibition to ensure that no change has occurred.

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Assessing the condition of a record sleeve in the Conservation lab

Preparation of exhibition materials

We used a number of different display methods and constructed a range of custom supports for the materials selected for ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR. Conservators also carried out a selection of treatments to repair and stabilise items prior to display.

For example, it was planned to display a selection of Triple R t-shirts in the centre of the gallery from the ceiling. They required brush vacuum clean and steaming in preparation for display. After investigating several display options for the t-shirts, the decision was made to suspend them on rods. The shoulders were padded out and secured in place providing adequate support, while also ensuring the graphics were visible.

 

Works on paper were displayed in frames or mounted to the wall behind Perspex cases. Three-dimensional objects had barrier layers and simple mounts constructed, while books and bound material were displayed on custom-made ‘cradles’ to support the binding for the length of the exhibition.

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Japanese paper hinges are adhered along the edges of large colour posters for framing

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A work on paper is hinged into an archival mount

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Six subscriber cards mounted and ready to frame

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A book is installed onto its cradle in the exhibition gallery

Installation

Once the exhibition build was completed, Conservation and Exhibitions staff proceeded to install the collection items and loans. The exhibition designer and curator are responsible for the layout of the overall exhibition content, while Conservation is responsible for handling the material with the invaluable support of experienced art handlers.

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Framed works placed against the wall on chocks, ready for installation

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Triple R t-shirts arranged on their rods

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Triple R t-shirts installed overhead

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A framed record sleeve ready for installation

Maintenance

During the life of ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR, Conservation staff check the exhibition daily to ensure that no change has occurred to collection and loan material, including exhibition accessories such as frames and display cases.

Conservation feel incredibly gratified to see ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR up and running. Throughout the exhibition process – from the first selection of objects in the Conservation lab, right up to the installation week (set to a soundtrack of exceptional Australian musicians) – we found ourselves sharing stories of our own unique connections to this iconic community radio station. We hope that the public enjoy this exhibition as much as we enjoyed working on it!

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Various objects are carefully arranged inside a showcase

ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR is open now until Sunday 26 February. The exhibition explores the history, culture and character of this iconic station, whose programs continues to influence and inspire Melbourne’s independent music scene.

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