New research and teaching labs – with cutting edge analytical equipment to detect the paints and pigments used by artists and examine drawings underneath paintings – will be housed in the new Centre being launched today at the University of Melbourne.

Director of the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, Associate Professor Robyn Sloggett said that the new state-of-the-art facilities would benefit students, museums and collections across Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

“In order to train the next generation of art and cultural conservators, we work closely with museums, collectors and communities to restore objects and items that are often tucked away in collections,” said Assoc Prof Sloggett. “We offer assistance when communities don’t have the resources to protect and conserve damaged items.”

“The Centre has a very practical industry focus and strong community connections,” said Associate Professor Sloggett “including a long term partnership with the RSL LifeCare ANZAC Village in Narrabeen, and with the Warmun community in Western Australia.”

The Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation works closely with Indigenous artists from a number of communities across Australia.

“Our relationship with the Warmun community in Western Australia is particularly strong,” said Assoc Prof Sloggett “after we worked with Elders to save over 600 significant paintings and objects from the community following the flood in 2011.”

“The cultural and spiritual significance of an object or artwork informs the way we undertake conservation. We don’t necessarily aim to make an object look like it did when it first was made, but allow the history and meaning it has to people, evident in its use to remain present in the object.”

A gift of $6.9 million from the Cripps Foundation has enabled the creation of the new Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. The program has been running since 2003 and has just moved into its new facilities.

Founded as an academic centre in 2003, the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation is Australia’s leading provider of cultural materials conservation education, offering the Master of Cultural Materials Conservation as well as a PhD program.