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Meet conservator Ainslie Greiner

Colour photograph of Ainslie Greiner at work.
Ainslie Greiner. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

Respect for quality workmanship

Ainslie works as a large technology conservator at the National Museum.

Recently, he has been working on vehicles including the Bean car owned by adventurer Francis Birtles, and the Daimler used by Queen Elizabeth II.

This is not just a job for Ainslie – he has enormous enthusiasm for the objects he works on and great respect for the work that went into making them in the first place. The job also brings insights into the impact of technology on Australia's recent history.

The Museum has a team of consultants who work with Ainslie and bring many years of expertise to the conservation and maintenance of the Museum's fleet of historic vehicles.

1948 DE 36 hp Daimler landaulette used on Queen Elizabeth II's 1954 Royal Tour

Ainslie is part of the team working on the Royal Daimler Project. This historic car came to the National Museum in a dilapidated state in late 2009 and the Museum is aiming to transform it back to its original state. The Daimler will be on display in the Museum Workshop exhibition.

The large technology team is working to fully document the vehicle and conduct a detailed mechanical survey. During this work, there will be a rare opportunity to see the body and the chassis separately and to discuss the survey findings with Ainslie and his colleagues.

Colour photograph showing an old motor vehicle under a gum tree. A tractor and forklift are visible in the background.
The dilapidated Daimler on a farm in South Australia, before it was moved to the National Museum in Canberra.

The 'Sundowner' Bean car and Saw Doctor's wagon, 1920s

Keeping objects functional is one aspect of maintaining their significance. Many vehicles in the large technology collections are more than just display pieces – the engines that drive them have a place in history as part of the evolution of technology over time.

The 'Sundowner' Bean car driven by adventurer Francis Birtles is one of the cars maintained as a functional object, on show in the Museum Workshop exhibition. The large technology team has conducted extensive and innovative analytical research into the appropriate use of inhibiting lubricants, coolants, brake fluid and oils for this 1925 manufactured vehicle.

Colour photograph showing an open-topped vehicle witH a long engine cowling and boat tail. One man sits behind the steering wheel of the car, whil another leans over the front wheel.
Ainslie Greiner at the wheel, preparing to 'exercise' the Bean car, assisted by consultant Ian Stewart.

While exercising the car, Ainslie and his colleagues draw a lot of valuable information from the sound and feel of the vehicles when they are being exercised. And the sound of the Bean car running is unmistakable – loud and throaty, yet smooth. It is a blast from the past.

Other recent projects included starting the tractor that pulls the Saw Doctor's wagon, for the first time in six years. Ainslie completed this task with colleagues Col Ogilvie, Ian Stewart and Ken Houlahan.

The Saw Doctor's wagon was also cleaned thoroughly and 'bombed' to kill any insects which might have taken up residence. The tractor and wagon were on show in the Hall display.

The Paddle Steamer Enterprise, 1878

Ainslie is also part of the team that carries out regular maintenance work on the Paddle Steamer Enterprise, the largest functioning object in the National Museum's collection. The Enterprise is moored on Lake Burley Griffin, next to the Museum building in Canberra.

Launched in 1878, the Enterprise had an active working life before it came to the Museum. Keeping the vessel functioning requires engineering know-how, experience with pressure vessels and a thorough understanding of the workings of the engine.

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