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Reaching for the heights at the Forrester Gallery - Waitaki Council

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The gallery will continue to be closed into early 2020, to allow for additional fire compliance work to be carried out on the 136 year old building. 

Waitaki District Council Property Manager Renee Julius has confirmed that while the bulk of the remediation and upgrade work is proceeding in good time and on track, in order to comply with the building code, the ornate plaster ceiling at the gallery must now be fireproofed. 

 The fire-proofing options are to: (a) build a false ceiling over the existing heritage plaster ceiling which meets fire compliance regulations or (b) apply a special fire retardant to the plaster. Both options have pros and cons. A false ceiling would protect but also obscure the ceiling until a new transparent fire retardant product was developed. Applying a fire retardant (known as tumescent paint) would preserve the ceiling but cover over the existing paint scheme as the only currently approved products are opaque. 

This week internationally renowned conservator Carolina Izzo, will be climbing the scaffolding up to the 4.6 metre high ceiling to carry out a stratification test of the ceiling. This investigation will attempt to find out what original paint colour scheme of the ceiling as well as any changes over time. 

 Forrester Gallery Director Jane Macknight says: "Gallery oral histories suggest the ceiling was repainted in its current colours in the 1950s/1960s in accordance with a colour scheme chosen by the Bank Manager’s wife. We know that the current ceiling is well-loved and quite famous and so we want to find out as much as we can about the ceiling as built and how it has been altered over time. Then we can make a decision about the way forward." 

Gallery staff will make the results of the conservation analysis available to the public and will be seeking community feedback on the options for the ceiling via surveymonkey. The survey will be made available via the Forrester Gallery and Waitaki District Council Facebook pages and through Hard copy versions of the survey will also be available at the Museum. 

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