Vivienne T

Vivienne T in the conservation lab

The Commerce gallery, one of our oldest galleries at the museum, is currently being dismantled to make way for a new temporary exhibition space. Installed before the museum opened to the public in 1991, all of the objects that were on display are being lovingly taken out of their showcases and moved to collection stores. As part of the process, conservation staff will now check and photograph each object over the coming months. Even museum objects change as they age and we expect that some objects will look a little different from when they were originally put on display.

One of Vivienne T’s tyres dripping yellow fluid. The fluid is probably stabilisers which have migrated out of the rubber tyre.

Vivienne T was among the first objects to be removed from the gallery. Vivienne T is a remote controlled scale model of the 1940s Tasmanian lobster fishing craft of the same name. The model has changed a little since collection. The tiny tyres strung along her side as fenders have begun to deteriorate and have sticky surfaces. This is a characteristic way in which plastics and similar materials change over time. Now that the deterioration process has begun, it can’t be reversed. Unfortunately, the change to the tyres has stained the side of model and is damaging the paint.

After some thought, and discussion with the curator of this object, we’ve decided to cast one of the original tyres and replace them all. There are some problems with this idea. The tyres are original to the model, and we prefer to keep and repair original material where we can. But, the tyres have started to change. We expect that the tyres will only get worse from now on and may continue to damage Vivienne T. In the end, we felt that this was the right approach. The tyres will be cast from a stable material like plaster to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future. In a couple of weeks, with a little help from our conservators and preparators, Vivienne T will look just like she did when she came to us in 1991.

Vivienne T at acquisition

Week 11

Apart from a few bits and pieces, I have completed the hull and all the components.

Overall view of the model

Overall view of the model

It took me a little longer than expected to complete and rig the small boats off the hull, but I am very pleased with the results. I have yet to make the oars and the sail bundles of these boats.

Close up of the small boats

Close up of the small boats

The carronade was a lot of fun to make. I turned the barrel out of PVC rod, similar to how the cannons were made before. Soon all the cannon will be rigged to the deck.

Close up of canon

Close up of canon

The plan for the coming week is to make all the masts of the model, having already completed the bowsprit at the front of the hull.

Contributed by model maker Mike Bass.

About the project

Talking over the plans with curator Nigel Erskine

Talking over the plans of the Beagle with curator Nigel Erskine

2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s ground breaking book ‘On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection’ and the bicentenary of his birth.  The ANMM is going to celebrate by staging a Charles Darwin exhibition.

As part of the exhibition the museum asked me to build a model of the HMS Beagle, the ship that took Darwin on his voyage of discovery back in 1831.

When I take on a project like this, for me it’s not just another build. Museum work is definitely special as you are creating a bit of history and hopefully portray it in 3D to the public something interesting.

My initial impression when viewing the drawing for the Beagle was “the real thing was so small, how did they work and live on board”.  The other problem I discovered was the limited sources of information for the Beagle. Written descriptions and line drawings are all that I have to go on as well as help from allot of experts in the fields of Maritime Archeology and weaponry of the time.

What I do not want to produce is a nice shinny model with clean glossy wood finishes.
At the initial meeting to get a feel for the model I described wanting to give the model a finish “as if it has been at sea for a few weeks”. I will use subtle weathering and shading techniques to create not only a model but hopefully a snap shot of the past.

There are areas of the ship that are ‘grey areas’ such as would the Beagle continue to have the cannonade at the front of the ship, etc. I will be opening problems I encounter to the forum here hopefully for some educated answers.

I have 4 ½ Months to complete the model.

I aim to have the following done:
The hull and deck – Mid October
All components and Masts – End November.
Rigging, Base and Travel Case – End December.

I have been looking forward to this journey and as you watch me make the Beagle, I hope you enjoy it as well.

Mike Bass