Artlab Conservators work on the Eureka Flag

Think of a historian like a police detective. They come in after the event and piece together the clues to work out what happened. Like a detective they will gather eye-witness accounts from people at the scene or who have some memory after the event of what happened. They will look for written evidence, like a newspaper article or a letter, which tells the story and give some clues. They will consult their specialist scientists for clues, in heritage those scientists are conservators.

Sometimes the clues leave a clear trail and the story can be pieced together with a good deal of certainty. Other times, the clues, the oral stories, the memories and the written evidence are not so clear or may never have been there in the first place. Memories dim and flaws can creep in to any story, regardless of whether your grandmother tells it or you read a journalist’s account in the newspaper.

So what do the conservators say?

In 2010 conservator Kristin Phillips analysed the fabric composition of the flag when conservation laboratory Artlab conducted the treatment work. Following her scientific analysis, she believes the most likely materials used in the flag are fine wool fabrics used for dresses and shirts in the 19th century. It is not believed to be bunting typically used for flags.

Analysis also showed that the fabrics available may have determined the size and design of the flag; rather than the flag being stitched to a predetermined design. Kristin Phillips confirmed that the flag was hand stitched using flat felled seams, a traditional female stitch in the 19th century.

To learn more about the Eureka Flag restorations, watch Val D’Angri and the Chief Conservator of Artlab, Kristin Philips on You Tube.

Want to learn more?