National Museum conservators conducted treatments on the chair used by former Prime Minister Ben Chifley. Labor politician Ben Chifley became Australia's 16th prime minister in 1945, and the chair was used by Chifley at the Hotel Kurrajong where he lived while in Canberra. Chifley chose to stay at Hotel Kurrajong rather than in the Prime Minister's official residence, the Lodge, believing it would save the taxpayers' money. As Hotel Kurrajong was remodelled, and experienced periods of closure in the following decades, the chair was placed in storage to be saved because of its reputed significance as one of Chifley's favourites.
During the 1980s, the Australian Labor Party donated the timeworn chair to the National Museum. In preparation for its display in the Landmarks gallery the chair required conservation treatment to stabilise the existing damage and restore it to its former appearance. Several techniques were used during this treatment. The separated leather parts were secured into position by stitching cotton thread through the existing stitch holes and the leather was gently pulled together. Using pre-existing holes ensured that the chair was not damaged further. Acid free tissue was used to pad out and shape the repaired leather where stuffing had been lost.
Photos: Lannon Harley.
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The chair is wrapped in calico and then sealed in polyethylene sheeting for freezing.
The horse hair stuffing and organic materials contained within the chair are an attractive food source for pests. As a preventative measure to eradicate any pest infestation that might be present, the chair was frozen prior to treatment.
The chair before conservation treatment showing damage to the seat, arm rests and sides.
The damage to the leather arm chair includes splits to the leather, lost stuffing and damaged stitching. This damage is likely to have occurred after the chair was used by Chifley.