Stephanie Gibson - NZ AIDS Memorial Quilt

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:05] So it all started with Rachel from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, acting on behalf of the New Zealand aids Memorial coach contacted pepper in 2008. I think it was a phone call or an email to start with, and said, you know, which of the interest is in the quote coming here? And I said, Well, can you write us a formal letter, so we can consider it because it is quite a serious offer. I mean, it's a large collection, and we have to think a lot of things through. So she did write to us formally, it's a beautiful letter, I just read it the other day, it's about a three page letter describing the history and significance of the quote. And it's actually a section lovely document and its own right. So that will go on the archive. Anyway. So I tabled that later with my colleagues. And we all talked about how we wanted to bring it to the dead. Everybody needed to know what that means. And what it means was that the could no longer be so accessible in the way that it was, it can no longer be in church halls on school floors. It couldn't be out on the grass, because we had to apply museum standards. So the quotes that they came into the museum would be treated in quite a different way, and how they had thing that been a very public collection. [00:01:24] So I explained all that to Rachel, and she went away and talk to everybody and that sector. And they all agreed it was too soon. He was too soon to actually give up the life of the quotes the life that that had, they still needed to be out in the public. So I say that's cool. Just come back to us when you're ready. [00:01:43] And then the next date was I'm pretty sure it was it out games last year, you see it Gareth that you know how you guys going with thinking about the quote candidates paga. So I'm pretty sure that you actually kicked off the conversation again. And then that's when Michael approached us. Next, when I first met Michael, we had some wonderful emails and phone calls. And in Michael came to to partner with you the other day and brought the one block to show. So that was my team that was clear. And I my boss, in Tanya Walters, the kitchen manager. So anybody else the other day, I think I might have been in we just had a wonderful time talking about the possibilities of bringing the quote into the museum. So that was last year 2011. [00:02:27] Had you come across the quote before those correspondence with with Rachel and also talking to Michael, [00:02:35] Eileen, an international science as really aware of the project internationally, that I hadn't personally encountered the New Zealand coach before. So it was wonderful to know, the depth and breadth of it. I was really excited. [00:02:52] So when you first saw a panel or a block, how did you feel? [00:02:58] Well, obviously, there's an emotional and physical response to the emotional one is how everybody feels they feel very moved, and you realize how intimate and personal there and that time doesn't change anything. As soon as you see a name in a person being honored by their loved ones. You feel a connection and you feel grief and sorrow even though you don't know them, it's very palpable. It's a really visceral experience. The curator in May, of course, immediately starts to worry about the physicality of the objects, how biggest is how many different materials is made of how some of the materials look at that unstable, might have come unpicked over time might be a bit duty because they've been lying on graph. So I think these two things at once, I thought those two things at once, when I saw it, I still and amazed by the scale of them. I think that's really huge. A critical part of them is the scale in terms of impact. [00:04:07] One of the ones that really gets me as Peter Catholics, who was the first panel, and I just, I just get shivers. When I when I I see that. [00:04:18] It's interesting, because I don't know, I think I might I just picks up on the little things. Actually, I just I think I just I'm really drawn to those tiny things we see other personalities coming through and the longing and love for people. [00:04:35] And the idea that will say with Peters panel, that it was somebody in the late 80s that wanted to remember him in this particular way, and how that's kind of traveled through time. [00:04:49] Yeah, and also how cute a lot of those memories are things like TD abuse and stuff toys and had shapes and stars and pretty sort of almost hopeful, positive things like rainbows and lots of color. They're incredibly optimistic, actually, which is surprised me when I first saw them. [00:05:11] And also, there's a lot of recurring motifs. And just like in everyday life, has been documented on quite a few of the panels. [00:05:21] So they're not, I mean, when I first heard about the quote, I thought, well, they'll all be beautifully made by so as people do not have. So I just assumed that all the soldiers and families and friends got the job making the panels that I quickly realized that anybody may panels, and some of them are just made stuck together with glue. You know, I mean, people have used every type of object they can possibly get their hands on, it's not organic. [00:05:49] And everybody's had a go, which is not normal unquote, making normally, people have a bit of something's going on behind them before they start a quote. So that's why I really love them as well. Everybody had a great joined in [00:06:02] the three dimensional aspect of a lot of these quotes, like we're in front of one here with a big, hasty camera. That's Graham. [00:06:16] Graham heist, [00:06:17] for 1952 died 1988. And his family and friends created a three dimensional camera, I presume he was a photographer or interested in photography. So it's three dimensional camera is about 10 centimeters deep. And it's made from what looks like a quite an unstable rubber foam, which will deteriorate over time. So this particular panel is of concern to us. And we might actually try and isolate it out of it from the rest of the block when we fold it up. Like you know, so free materials just so that if it does degrade, it won't affect the rest of the block. Because generally speaking, people have used good, long lasting materials like caution. That occasion people have used a modern sort of some theatrics, which won't last I can eliminate paper, it's a bit of a problem for us and the museum to keep it stable. So even though the museum has a really good environment, and we try and save everything for for posterity, some things will degrade. It's beyond our control. But I think it's the minority of the quotes, most of them are pretty robust. [00:07:27] How do you document something that is three dimensional? So for instance, this camera how to do physically write down this is 10 centimeters high? [00:07:36] Yeah, because on our database, we do lavish mints. It's all recorded me describe the each coach. [00:07:45] Yes, it's part of my job is to physically understand it. But because the quote website itself is so detailed, I haven't replicated all the information that was noted about each person, basically, the two websites for just link together. So when Papa puts the quotes online, you'll be able to see our description of them. But you'll also get a link to the the AIDS quote website and get deeper information about each panel. [00:08:16] Because I mentioned, quite a lot of these panels will have elements that are unknown to the people that made the quote that may not necessarily resonate and 50 years time. Are you going to try and approach people and get as much information about the panels as possible? Or are you just going to document as big as what you see, [00:08:40] I think what we document what we see now, but we hope because of the accessibility of actions online, that people will keep us up to date, or come to us and reconnect with their panels over the years. And also given that looks after the quote website hopes the same that people will keep coming to Him To update that will only go out proactively probably to talk to people, if we're going to put when we put them on display need to know revert more probably for now, we'll just understand that as they are now [00:09:21] that we welcome any information, and we will add it to the database whenever it comes in. [00:09:29] So just getting back to that meeting, we have Michael Port, the quote him to show you what were your kind of discussions after that meeting, what what what was going through everyone's minds. [00:09:41] Well, we were all really excited and positive. But we knew that there would be conservation issues. So what what we did, the first thing we did was as a history and Pacific team, because we're one big team, it's about was about eight of us. We had an acquisitions meeting, which we do every week, and we tabled to close, we talked about them. And we all agreed as a team that they were of national significance in should be collective. So it's the festive, there's a discussion. So then it was my job to actually write a formal proposal for to be circulated to other parts of the paper for assessment and approval. So I wrote it all the formal writing up of the projects, to I had to justify it. Talk about the significance and its history, and how it fits into the purpose collection overall. So I did the legwork, I got sign off for my colleagues. And in that went to our collection development manager. And then she made sure that that proposal was all kosher. And then she seemed off to the Conservation Department for their assessment. And the conservators with within consumed with the extra materiality and the condition of quotes in the long chain survival, what were the chances of them actually surviving. And their proposals also considered by our collection management team who had to find the storage space in those two with a key issues. So everybody understood the significance, there was never any debate over that. Everybody totally understood they were, they should be in a museum, that was fine. But it was the size of them in the condition of them that we had to carefully and quietly work through. And it took us probably nearly a year. [00:11:33] So we had to find a space, we actually don't have enough room in our TechStars store, we've actually don't have this type of room. [00:11:41] But in our large history store at Torres Strait, we found room up there, we found enough in the shelving system. So these actually, even though the textiles actually won't live in the textile collection, they'll be in the greater history collection. So once we realized that there was room, [00:12:01] then the next step was to bring a conservator to Auckland, so she could spend a day with them. And really think through all the issues and ramifications of bringing material like this into the museum. Because all storage and all treatment and all care over the years, costs thousands of dollars. It's like, basically, it's like buying a house and filling it up with stuff. And it's there till the end of time, somebody's got to pay the rent, somebody's got to pay the rights. So it's a very expensive process to look after large objects retreated really seriously. Because the power will be here for hundreds of years, fingers crossed until the end of time. So once we commit to collecting objects, we commit to the care for ever. So they'll live way beyond me. So it's, [00:12:55] it's always a group decision, it's always a very carefully thought through, we're spending public money. I mean, the taxpayer funds, the storage and all the staff is also a lot of the staff resource. [00:13:08] So we have to be very careful that it's the right thing to do. And so we worked all through that. [00:13:15] The conservator wrote up a report, the kitchen manager found the space in the in Africa and Development Manager brought all the people's comments together and said, Yep, we can approve this, we can move forward. And then it was signed off at that level. And then it went to the data gift, which Michael assigned. And now it is legally ours. So to papa now legally owns the actual physical objects. But we share Katie Jackie, you know share guardianship over the intellectual knowledge and the emotions and the the spirituality of the shoot. [00:13:58] You mentioned that these will be stored in [00:14:02] some kind of environment or history environment, can you give me an idea about what kind of conditions that will be living living in in terms of temperature, right. [00:14:10] So we try and keep a storerooms at about 21 to 22 degrees. And I think it's about 50% relative humidity. So it's quite a dry, warm environment. [00:14:23] And the key thing is no moisture, no light, no food, and well aerated. So it's a very stable environment. And it's it's with it, there's an international standards, that's where objects don't degrade in those conditions. [00:14:42] Or maybe it's 55% relative humidity is sort of a near. I mean, New Zealand is a very humid country. So we do put a lot of control back a house and to the storage areas. [00:14:53] And they will be folded but not as much as they were in the past. I think they'll probably be folded maybe courses, some of them will be rolled. But they'll always be interleaved with acid free tissue or acid free traffic, which is a great material that you sometimes see in buildings, I think it's a very robust, so free material. So the quote will be very comfortable. And sometimes we call it intensive care. Imagine you're a patient and you've gone to hospital and you've been treated with gloves and loving care. And the sheets are all beautifully crisp and clean. It's a bit like Deb's, but like going into hospital permanently. And the staff will wear gloves when they handle the objects [00:15:37] and now be stored in a relaxed manner. So that they won't be all the folds that you can see now things will just be a bit more relaxed. I mean, they'll still be a few wrinkles, but crinkles will slowly relax out. [00:15:51] And all the panels be cleaned. [00:15:55] I think what they'll do first is stabilize the ones that are most problematic by the camera. [00:16:01] I think there's too much to actually clean. And also you don't really want to lose too much of the patina of their age. I mean, for 20 years, they've been displayed in spaces where they have gained a bit of Dude, that's okay, they've had a life these, this is what we would call social history, these objects have had a life, the wear and tear as part of this story. If you make them pristine, you're taking away part of your history, you're taking away the way they were used and loved and appreciated. I think basically, we just treat things that have become unstable. Or maybe there might be a really unsightly stain, we might clean away that we try not to intervene too much. [00:16:46] Because you don't want to lose that part of your story, the life cycle. [00:16:51] I'm really interested in how you've been talking. And these panels seem to work on so many different levels, social history, personal history, national history. [00:17:03] Do you have any kind of in comments for I suppose this is one, this is the ending of one part of the journey but also the beginning of another? [00:17:11] Well, I mean, I, I hope that we'll be able to get one line as soon as possible. And I hope we'll be able to do more public programs around them either bring them out like this for just a few hours, or actually display them for a long periods period of time. So I'm hoping that we can work towards that now program here at Harper and find the right space for them and interpret them in a really meaningful way. It gets a lot of visitors and to see them. Sorry. So it will do a lot of work internally. Because you've only met probably the museum any part of the museum is also another whole huge area, the museum, it's all Front of House, it makes the exhibitions and does all that work. So I'll you know, we'll talk to them about how we can get them out on display. [00:18:00] And just remind people that you know, [00:18:03] material culture like this is really important, because as they said before the periphery, there's all the intangible [00:18:12] culture and behind these, [00:18:16] which is wonderful, but the tangible culture, there's no other way to experience that as here, that being in front of it, seeing the texture, [00:18:27] the actual work that's gone into them. Even the craziness with the camera here in front of me, it's a it's pretty amazing experience that you just can't get any other way. And that's what museums can give to people and give them the real experience. So that's what I hope we can do over the next few years. Let's give whatever that is this real experience.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.