Linda Tijana XRF57 1.Brush and flaking paint

April 2022

New stereo-microscope unveils layers of history

Having set a fundraising goal of 2022 to acquire a new stereo-microscope and specialist camera attachment with enhanced capability for Te Papa, the Te Papa Foundation are delighted to announce this goal has been achieved through the generous support of Webb’s.

Webb’s has made a significant donation to secure a stereo-microscope for Te Papa's conservation team. We understand that this will assist with the preservation and repair of archaeological, and historical artefacts and national treasures. This acquisition aligns well with Webb’s company values and philanthropic goals. We are delighted to enable this important increase in capability at Te Papa.

  • Paul Evans, Webb’s Managing Director

In particular, the main tool for understanding the paintings in Te Papa’s national collection of art which began in 1905, is the stereo-microscope, used by art conservators to examine the surface of the paint in great detail. With this microscope, Te Papa’s art conservators are able to discern individual layers that are not visible to the eye – what paints were used throughout the making of the art, where the artist changed the subject matter, and how the painting has been previously affected by its environment. This ability to ‘look through’ an artwork is crucial, not only for increasing ones understanding of the history of an artwork, but also for developing and undertaking conservation treatments to preserve each work of art to the best of their unique needs. In Te Papa, this allows art conservators to selectively tailor conservation treatments to each layer in every painting.

“It is only by examination of Rita Angus’ painting Central Otago (1953-56/1969) through the stereo-microscope that we came to understand the direct relationship of this painting to her watercolour practice – this discovery would be greatly enhanced by the capacity to provide images of what was seen by this new stereo-microscope and camera.

“The public would be stunned if we were able to share more thoroughly and in a more visually compelling way what we see through the stereo-microscope.”

  • Linda Waters, Te Papa Conservator of Paintings

Through the purchase of a new stereo-microscope and camera, Te Papa’s wider conservation team will be able to extend their reach and impact.  They will be able to record and share observation of taonga and works of art, to enable appreciation by the wider community. Images from the stereo-microscope will allow Te Papa to document and elucidate conservators’ techniques and materials, engaging the public by providing exciting interpretive content, both online and for exhibitions. This imaging capability will allow Te Papa’s significant collection to be shared in new ways with colleagues, historians, academics, artists and those curious members of the public who look at a work of art and wish they knew more.

Te Papa Foundation welcomes and thanks Webb’s for their support in the purchase of the stereo-microscope and camera for Te Papa.





Conservators Tijana Cvetkovic (left) and Linda Waters (right) inspect a painting in Te Papa's collection using an old stereo-microscope.

An example of a photomicrograph from a stereo-microscope, showing before and after affixing flaking paint. 


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