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Conserving the Tasman map

In 2020 major conservation work was undertaken to prepare the Tasman map for exhibition. It is believed that Prince Roland Bonaparte, the great-nephew of Napoleon I, had the map varnished and framed after buying it at auction in 1891, and it was in that condition when it arrived at the Library in 1933. 

Conservator Dana Kahabka, in consultation with national and international experts, developed an ecofriendly concentrated polymer solution to safely remove the varnish from the map. The main technical challenge in this conservation project was to control the fast and potentially destructive flow of solvent into the varnish without damage to the work on paper below. The 380-hour operation used 6000 cotton swabs, 2400 pieces of abaca tissue and three litres of the solvent. It's the first time anything on this scale has been undertaken by the Library's Conservation team. The work revealed previously obscured details and subtle markings on the seventeenth-century manuscript chart.

Following the conservation work the chart was rescanned by our digitisation team.  Joy Lai the Library’s Imaging Specialist, set up strobe lighting in our studio to ensure even illumination across the object.  The chart was digitised in six frames using a high-resolution medium format camera, ensuring maximum colour accuracy was captured across its surface texture and fine detail.   Joy then combined these files to produce a single, master image, approximately 1 gigabyte, 15000 pixels long by 12500 pixels high. This new preservation master reveals the unvarnished surface, providing an opportunity to deep zoom into the intricate features of cartouche and coastlines. 

Detail of chart before and after the treatment.

Before
Detail of the Tasman map before conservation

Detail of the Tasman map before conservation

After
Detail of the Tasman map after conservation

Detail of the Tasman map after conservation

Watch the progression of this intricate conservation work as it reveals the hidden details of the original chart.

Conserving the Tasman map

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