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27 September 2004

The challenges of conserving precious metallic objects — from Brunel's Great Britain steamship to a shipwrecked toilet, from early Australian motor cars to historic Maltese armour — are being examined at the Metal 04 conference at the National Museum of Australia next week.

This is the first time the premier conference for the preservation of metals in museums has been held in Australia — with more than 80 international delegates flying into Canberra from 4-8 October.

Convenor and National Museum conservator David Hallam said Metal 04 would examine the latest research in the handling, treatment and storage of artefacts, damage from air pollution, working on challenging sea and land sites and corrosion studies.

'A lot of people think that metals don't age, but they most definitely do,' Mr Hallam said. 'For us, all metals are precious. Their crystal structure changes as they age and sometimes these are so dramatic that artefacts lose their original shape and meaning.'

Speakers at Metal 04 include:

  • David Watkinson from Cardiff University's School of History and Archaeology on how humidity is being reduced to slow corrosion on Brunel's Great Britain, the world's first iron-hulled, screw propeller passenger ship, in dry dock at Bristol.
  • Gerhard Eggert from Stuttgart's Academy of Art and Design on the preservation of early Egyptian, Greek and Roman metals and the discovery of new forms of sulphurous copper corrosion.
  • David Hallam from the National Museum on a new test for deciding the best lubricants to use in vintage vehicle engines.
  • Dr Ian MacLeod from the Western Australian Maritime Museum on stabilising metals hauled from the sea, and a new project monitoring corrosion rates and pollution on artificial reefs off the Australian coast.
  • Christian Degrigny from the University of Malta's Dept of Materials and Metallurgy on the changing structure of ten 16th Century pieces from the Palace Armoury in Valletta.

Metal 04 is the conference of the Metals Working Group of the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation. Full conference proceedings are available.

For interviews, abstracts or more information please contact public affairs director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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