ross sea artefact conservation programme
ICS provides specialist technical support for the Ross Sea Artefact Conservation Programme run by the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust. This has involved designing and equipping the laboratory at Scott Base, developing the long term strategy for the collection management, care, display and maintenance of the artefacts, and participating in the employment of conservators.
The artefacts which are being conserved are the tangible relics of the expeditions of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration which ran from 1899 to 1917.
Beginning with Carsten Borchgrevink's first winter-over in 1899 at Cape Adare, and finishing with Shackleton's second expedition in 1917, there were 5 expeditions in all, with Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton each leading two. The huts and their contents are extraordinary relics expressing with immense power the human endeavour and resources which these brave men brought to Antarctica.
The artefacts number some 15,000 in all, and comprise a great array of sledging gear, dog and pony tack, cooking utensils, sleeping bags, scientific equipment and above all, large numbers of canned and bottled foodstuffs.
We have been involved in assessing and cataloguing these collections since 1996, with regular visits to the huts by key ICS staff. During 2002-2004, ICS were part of the team that developed strategies for their conservation, and as from the winter of 2006, a six year program has been funded to allow the conservation work to take place.
Such a program has never before been undertaken, and ICS is researching and developing specific treatment methodologies for cold climates, as well as providing technical support to the conservators who spend up to nine months in very isolated circumstances, much of it in the dark.
The conservators maintain a blog with stories about their work, the artefacts, and their life in Antartica.