Past News at Kluge-Ruhe

Bark Re-housing Project Underway • Wednesday July 14, 2010

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is currently undertaking a major project to preserve over 530 Australian Aboriginal bark paintings by re-housing them in custom storage containers.

Approximately one-third of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection consists of bark paintings from northern Australia. The paintings are made from sheets of Eucalyptus tetradonta bark painted with natural pigments mixed with a binder. These pigments are fragile and often unstable. The bark paintings range in size from less than several inches to over 14 feet in length. Kluge-Ruhe’s bark paintings represent important elements of traditional Indigenous life and are significant to the history and culture of Australia.

In the summer of 2009, Kluge-Ruhe conducted a full inventory of its collections and assessed the condition and storage of the collection. During the inventory over 100 of the paintings were surface cleaned. It was determined that the bark paintings required a storage solution that would create greater accessibility to the collection, minimize direct handling of the paintings, and provide the paintings with adequate support during retrieval.

The Bark Re-housing Project is a culmination of a year of planning by Associate Curator Dominique Cocuzza, during which each bark painting was evaluated and categorized by size in order to create a space efficient storage plan. Ms. Cocuzza designed open-sided stackable trays that are standardized by size. This storage configuration enables Kluge-Ruhe to maximize its existing space and maintain visual access to each piece for monitoring. Stable archival storage materials were chosen for the project and were pre-cut by the supplier to save time during assembly at Kluge-Ruhe.

In June 2010, Kluge-Ruhe summer interns Kelly Accetta and Katie Pawlowski began assembling the customized trays under Ms. Cocuzza’s supervision. The trays are constructed from a rigid corrugated plastic with foam corner pieces. Each tray is then customized with foam supports conforming to the inherent irregularities of the bark. Labels with catalogue information and color images of the paintings are attached to the outside of each tray to facilitate easy retrieval in storage. The trays can also be used to immobilize the pieces during shipment to other museums that have requested them on loan.

As of mid-July 2010, the interns have already constructed over 200 storage trays. The Kluge-Ruhe Collection plans to finish this project by January 1, 2011.

UVa’s commitment to collections care is evident in our plan for a new conservation and storage center designated for several collections owned by the University. The facility will double Kluge-Ruhe’s current storage space and create improved access to the collection for staff, students, and researchers. The shared conservation labs and teaching space at the center will also encourage collaboration among staff members working to preserve collections across the University.