February 2023

New stereo-microscope for Te Papa's art conservators

The Foundation is delighted to announce that the stereo-microscope purchased for Te Papa has arrived safely and is now officially in use. This important acquisition was made possible by the generous support of Webb’s.

Stereo-microscopes are a vital tool in an art conservator’s arsenal and are used to examine the surface of paintings in minute detail. With this microscope, Te Papa’s art conservators are able to discern – and importantly, capture – individual layers that are not visible to the eye: what pigments were used throughout the making of the piece, where the artist changed the subject matter, and how the painting has been previously affected by its environment. This allows the conservation team to selectively tailor conservation treatments to each layer in every painting.

As an added bonus, images from the stereo-microscope can also document and elucidate artists’ techniques and materials, thereby expanding what we know of their practice. These microscopic images also provide exciting content for interpretation, and provide a deeper access for the public using the materiality of the object as a ‘way in’.

“We were delighted to unwrap the new Leica M80 this month and begin working with it,” says Tijana Cvetkovic, Te Papa’s Painting Conservator. “This new machine is more sophisticated than our previous Leica, as it allows us to take photographs and video of what we see through the eyepiece. To be able to capture, record and share this information with colleagues, researchers and the public is a huge benefit.”

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