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Louise Bennet
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Australia’s 719-year-old edition of Magna Carta, the only copy in the southern hemisphere, will be removed from its case at Australian Parliament House as part of a new conservation and testing program.

Australia purchased one of only four copies of the rare 1297 Inspeximus Magna Carta in 1952 and the document was housed in a non-oxygen environment constructed by the CSIRO in 1962.
The Director of the Parliament House Art Collection at the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS), Justine van Mourik, said the delicate operation of opening the case will be carried out by the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC), which has been contracted by DPS to undertake the work on the significant document.
“Conservation science has made huge advances over recent decades and the removal of Magna Carta from its case will allow us to properly document and digitise the manuscript from every angle, as well as rehousing it in a new, state-of-the art display case,” Ms Van Mourik said.
“The document has been encased in this anoxic environment for more than 50 years, but before that it existed for the better part of 700 years in oxygen.
“This will be an opportunity for various experts to examine the manuscript in order to better understand its construction and to advise us on any future requirements for its ongoing preservation.”
The manuscript has been removed from public display (2 December) and temporarily replaced with a replica during the conservation program. The conservation work will be completed in four phases over the course of almost 12 months.
The public will be kept up-to-date with the progress of work, with video and photographic documentation of the project to be posted on the Australian Parliament House website at
The Magna Carta was a charter agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede in 1215, guaranteeing certain political and legal rights to local barons. The 1297 Inspeximus Magna Carta issued by Edward the First is regarded as one of the foundation charters of parliamentary democracy worldwide.
Purchased for £12,500 by the Australian Government to be displayed in the Australian Parliament, it is now estimated to be worth more than AUD$20 million.  It is the only Magna Carta in the southern hemisphere and one of only four known copies of the 1297 charter worldwide.