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Thursday, May 16 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
57. Introducing the CAN Project: Cellulose Acetate & Nitrate Management, Analysis and Preservation

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Cellulose acetate (CA) and cellulose nitrate (CN), in the form of transparent, plastic film supports, have long since been flagged as material requiring attention and action. Many are familiar with this material that is found in institutions collections around Australia and internationally—especially, with the particular smell of vinegar (a result of deteriorating cellulose acetate) and the incredibly flammable qualities of cellulose nitrate. At the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) there are more than 6,000 identified CA and CN items, and an estimated 18,000 items that remain unidentified. The material poses a risk to collections and humans alike due to its unstable nature. However, approaches on how to preserve and manage film collections are not as transparent as the material itself.

It has been a decade since ANMM reviewed their approach to manage the risks posed by CA and CN film. This led to the development of the Cellulose Acetate and Nitrate (CAN) Project which aims to produce a robust long-term preservation management strategy for CA and CN in the National Maritime Collection that will:
  • ensure the collection’s long-term preservation
  • incorporate industry best practice
  • balance long-term sustainability in the current climate of shrinking budgets and competition for resources.
The Project examines the current best practice strategies for cellulose acetate and nitrate, explores changes in knowledge and research and determines where specialist expertise can be found.
These aims have led to an exciting collaboration with the Sydney Analytical Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility (SAVSF). Sydney Analytical have expertise in a variety of spectroscopic techniques and access to a large array of portable instrumentation. Together we have developed a safe and rapid methodology to identify large numbers of negatives using a non-contact, non-invasive technique. Samples from the National Maritime Collection and the Sydney University Museum were investigated using both FTIR (ATR and reflectance) and Raman spectroscopy. Preliminary findings indicate that reflectance FTIR spectroscopy allows for the rapid, non-invasive identification of CA and CN. The data collected from this analysis provides an opportunity to contribute to a much larger collaborative Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project, involving six Australian institutions, called ‘PolyMuse’ that investigates malignant plastics in museum collections.

This research delves into the ANMM’s cellulose acetate and nitrate story, from the initial research stages (including a nation-wide questionnaire of management practices and a pilot condition survey of the ANMM collection) to scientific analysis with Sydney Analytical. Ultimately the goal is to implement an evidence-based preservation management strategy. This project is complex, however, through collaboration and sharing developments the challenges of this material CAN become exciting opportunities.

avatar for Lucilla Ronai

Lucilla Ronai

Conservator, Australian National Maritime Museum
Lucilla Ronai completed her Masters of Cultural Materials Conservation (paper conservation) in 2014 at the University of Melbourne. Upon graduating, Lucilla worked at the State Library of Queensland as an Exhibitions/Paper Conservator for ten months. She then moved internationally... Read More →

avatar for Agata Rostek-Robak

Agata Rostek-Robak

Conservation Manager, Australian National Maritime Museum
Agata Rostek-Robak is Conservation Manager at the Australian National Maritime Museum. She has over 25 years work experience, mainly in various Senior Conservator roles at the State Library of NSW. Agata obtained conservation qualifications from the University of Canberra in 1992... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Elizabeth Carter

Dr. Elizabeth Carter

Manager, Sydney Analytical Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility
Elizabeth Carter is the Manager of the Sydney Analytical Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility (SAVSF) and is responsible for day-to-day management, user training, instrument maintenance and service, and organises and runs user workshops. Elizabeth has been fortunate to assist a large... Read More →
avatar for Nicholas Flood

Nicholas Flood

Senior Conservator, Australian National Maritime Museum
Nicholas Flood is never more a home than when his hands are dirty and as acting Senior Conservator at the Australian National Maritime Museum he is frequently up to his elbows. Beginning his career as an Assistant Conservator, Nick has now been working in the field for over nine years... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT
Uncas Ballroom Foyer Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun