From conservation to digitisation – Dr Edward Wilson’s Watercolour

Here at NZMS we are privileged and proud to work with artefacts of both national and international significance. We recently had the pleasure of digitising a newly discovered diary of George Murray Levick, a member of Scott’s 1910-1913 expedition, for the Antarctic Heritage Trust
This year the Antarctic Heritage Trust provided NZMS with the exciting task of digitising an incredible find – a watercolour painted by Dr Edward Wilson. The painting was discovered by Antarctic Heritage Trust Paper Conservator, Josefin Bergmark-Jimenez, who was conserving what was believed to be an empty portfolio brought back from a recent conservation trip to Borchgrevink’s Hut at Cape Adare.
Dr Wilson undertook two expeditions to Antarctica with Captain Robert Falcon and was Chief of Scientific  Staff in the 1910 expedition. Dr Wilson and three others sadly perished in 1912 upon their return from the South Pole. Further information on Dr Wilson can be found at the following link.
In the conservator’s own words “I opened it and there was this gorgeous painting … I got such a fright that I jumped and shut the portfolio again,” said Josefin. “I then took the painting out and couldn’t stop looking at it – the colours, the vibrancy, it is such a beautiful piece of work. I couldn’t believe it was there.”
NZMS Christchurch, which is based in Canterbury Museum, were able to faithfully reproduce the painting using a custom-designed SLR-camera rig. This non-invasive technique ensured the original was not affected in the scanning process and is able to create high quality images with highly  accurate colour rendition.  The team were amazed by the condition of  the 118 year old painting and were pleased with the scanning results, as the image quality was almost identical.
“We’ve been able to create a high quality facsimile of the painting so we are now looking forward to sharing it with the rest of the world, said The Antarctic Heritage Trust’s General Manager Operations and Communications, Francesca Eathorne. “We have been overwhelmed by the positive response from around the world. It’s a poignant reminder of the legacy those early polar explorer left behind.”