Salvaging the unsalvageable?
Lynn Campbell obtained a Fine Arts degree and studied for a postgraduate qualification in the conservation of paper in the UK. She taught conservation in Zanzibar, East Africa to students from East African countries, and worked at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh before returning to Newcastle upon Tyne to teach conservation. She worked at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery (now Christchurch Art Gallery) for 28 years. Lynn was at the Getty Conservation Institute in 2012 where she undertook research into earthquake preparedness for cultural institutions and took part in a course in China in 2015 (organised by the International Institute of Conservation and the Royal Historic Palaces in Beijing) on new scientific approaches to preventive conservation. Lynn returned to the UK in 2017 where she undertook research into the conservation of heritage wallpapers. This was generously funded by a Winston Churchill Fellowship. Lynn has recently returned from Iceland, where she gave a paper at the XXI International NKF Congress 26th – 28th of September 2018. Lynn has been co-ordinator of the Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team since 1987. http://www.disalteam.co.nz
After the Christchurch terrorist attacks in March 2019, the Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team was instrumental in the salvaging and drying of the thousands upon thousands of artworks and tributes that were laid outside Rolleston Ave and the Masjid Noor Mosque. Working in conjunction with the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, The Christchurch Art Centre, a concerted effort was undertaken to save these tributes for posterity and future scholarly research. The Canterbury Disaster Team advised and physically undertook the salvaging and drying out of these future artefacts, many of which will hopefully be stored at Canterbury Museum. After this experience, it became evident to the team that we were dramatically unprepared to deal with situations such as this. Due to the awful nature of the event, at the time, it is only now that people are coming to grips with the implications for our country and researchers of the future will find collections such as this to be invaluable for any publications or research that will be undertaken in the future.
The terrorist attack has significantly changed the way that New Zealand arts and heritage collections are viewed in terms of safety and security. To ensure that the arts sector becomes resilient in the event that such a terrible attack happens again, it is vital that the arts and heritage sector are prepared. It is essential that the arts and heritage community can learn and adapt to any challenges like this is the future in terms of saving art and heritage material from loss. It is also important that arts and cultural heritage institutions plan for events such as this, so that should the worst happen there is a risk mitigation plan in place.
The paper will focus on what happened in the salvage of the tributes and what has happened to them since, with lessons learned from the experience.