University of Melbourne ceremonial mace conserved

With rising temperatures, so too come the collective sighs from university students as they put the final touches on assignments, sit exams and prepare to receive their hard-earned degrees. When this year’s cohort take the stage in December all eyes will undoubtedly be drawn to the University of Melbourne's ceremonial mace, which was recently conserved by Grimwade Centre for Cultural Material Conservation objects conservator, Evan Tindal.

Designed and manufactured by famed gold and silversmith Stuart Devlin in 1965, this object symbolises rebirth and renewal as it fronts each academic procession. However timeless though it may be in form, Devlin’s principal material of choice – silver – is particularly susceptible to environmental pollutants that leave behind the tell-tale signs of silver sulphide tarnish. One might be tempted to break out the Silvo or silver dips of days past – a hangover from tackling grandma’s silverware collection – but these products are often too abrasive and contain harmful chemicals like ammonia. Rather, Evan employed a wet surface clean with acetone to remove surface dirt and oils. Areas exhibiting tarnish and etched-in fingerprints were gently buffed out with a paste of calcium carbonate and ethanol.

Equally important to treatment is the implementation of a cleaning protocol following use and a storage environment to prevent any reoccurrence of the corrosion described above. Recommendations were made to this end, and the mace is now ready to front graduation ceremonies for years to come.

Detail of the mace being treated by Evan Tindal

Image: Detail of the mace being treated by Evan Tindal