Reinvigorating a city ... and history

By Sue Bassett

Conserving artefacts from the early British Antarctic expedition huts whilst actually living in Antarctica is without doubt a unique, ultimately challenging and wonderful experience for any conservator. Truth be known, it’s life-changing.

The Trust’s current artefacts conservation team, working on the contents of the earliest and most remote British hut in Antarctica, is based in Christchurch. This is because it was logistically simpler to transport frozen artefacts from Antarctica’s Cape Adare to New Zealand for treatment, and then refreeze them and take them back. The Christchurch location offers the team a different set of opportunities, such as weekends to explore NZ’s spectacular South Island and a workplace in the centre of one of the biggest rebuilding projects in the Southern Hemisphere. Following the demolition of about 75 per cent of Christchurch’s CBD in the aftermath of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, the $40b rebuild of the city is now in full swing … on every street and on every corner, it seems.

As part of the inner city reinvigoration plan there is a Friday street-food market in Cathedral Square, alongside the tumbled ruins of the once majestic cathedral, so the team makes a point of going along for a coffee and a spot of lunch. We listen to the buskers and sometimes join the other clientele, mainly high-vis-clad construction workers and tradies, in reviving the community spirit with a leisurely round of quoits.

Quoits on a Friday in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square

And then it’s back to the lab to conserve … hang on … some century-old coffee, luncheon meat and quoits!  

Packets of historic coffee, 1899

Tin of historic preserved lunch tongues, before treatment

Handmade rope quoit, after treatment


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