Ainslee Meredith is a researcher, writer and paper conservator, and the first in her family to attend university. Currently in the final year of her PhD at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, she talks about improving access to conservation services across Australia, and how climate change might pose challenges for future conservation efforts.
It was the nature of working with your hands and materials that really attracted me to working in cultural materials conservation. I was lucky to work with the curators at the Cunningham Dax Collection as a conservation intern for a year. I also volunteered at the Royal Botanic Gardens library, digitising the slides of early botanists. During my Master of Cultural Materials Conservation, I specialised in paper, writing my thesis on artists reappropriating archives to create new works.
Last year I received a Faculty of Arts 110 Scholarship. The financial security it gave me was so helpful. It assisted my field work and meant that I was able to put time into volunteer work, a lot of which was in the conservation industry and with community organisations. I was also able to organise a student conference that built on a Universitas 21 grant to establish an international network for students and early career researchers in cultural materials conservation.
My PhD focuses on increasing access to cultural materials conservation for smaller collections across Australia, particularly those located in regional and remote areas. Collections which aren’t managed by state or national institutions face greater geographic, economic and professional barriers to conserving their objects. I’m interviewing people working with collections around the country, mostly looking at smaller organisations that don’t have a conservation department and trying to gauge how they take care of their objects, what their needs are, and their perceptions of risks to their collections.
I did a study late last year with a colleague in Brisbane that uses models of future climate change compiled by the CSIRO. It’s not perfect science, but it’s the best we have. Mapping both the distribution of heritage collections and potential environmental impacts helps us understand future risks. The idea is, if you have this kind of information then you can think about how you store your collection and the kinds of materials you need to use in order to protect objects from certain effects.
In my research I look at the problem of not having a current conservation policy in Australia. While it’s in an early stage of gathering the data and evidence, the idea is to eventually push for a conservation policy at a federal level. My supervisors, Professor Robyn Sloggett and Dr Marcelle Scott, have both led this work for a long time.
I’m now in the final stages of researching and writing. As for what’s on the horizon... I really love working and engaging with people, which you can get in academia, especially in teaching. I’d also like to keep researching. I think my dream would be two part-time jobs, doing different things – working with as many different people as possible.
For more information and details on how to apply please visit the 110 Scholarship web page.
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