Architectural conservation students from the University of Western Australia recently had the chance to get some hands-on experience at a National Trust place.
Dr Ingrid van Bremen, Senior lecturer in architectural conservation at the University of Western Australia, along with former National Trust Conservation Architect Kyra Lomas and Conservation Officer Narelle Worth, led a paint scraping workshop at the Samson House stables in Fremantle.
Paint scraping is one form of architectural investigation that can help reveal clues about the way buildings have appeared over time and the recent workshop at the stables was designed to introduce new students to the practice on site.
Before taking up tools, Dr van Bremen delivered a lecture on Western Australian paint types, colour schemes and investigation processes.
The students then learnt how to use various tools, including scrapers, scalpels, light lupes (hand lenses that can be used to produce enlarged photographs of paint scrapes with smart phone cameras), to prepare scrapes of key painted elements of the building.
The layers revealed were eye matched against Australian standard colour charts and fandecks, with results written down on pre-prepared charts. Photographs were made and small samples were collected which, together with the charts, could be studied in the lab later to make up record sheets for further analysis and for the historic record.
The exercise went very well as an introduction to this process, and prepared students for the real work of investigation at Collie Goods Shed for the Heritage Skills Association project in early April. The paint layers of the stables building have been used before as a team training exercise, preparing students for investigative work at Wonnerup House last year.
Findings help paint a picture
As well as providing an opportunity for students to develop their skills with real world experience, findings from these workshops contribute further information that can be used to inform the history, interpretation, and conservation works of this special National Trust place.
The Samson House stables were built between 1900 and 1902. Using the results of the paint scraping investigation, along with historic photographs, we can say that the weatherboards outside have been painted for most of their life time to protect them from the weather, and in a range of colours. Different walls have had a slightly different number of layers, mostly to do with their orientation and weathering environment.
Interestingly, while the building is referred to as ‘stable’ on early drawings, archaeological investigation has found no evidence of this use. The art deco interior detailing is similar to the enclosed verandah of the main house.
Heritage skills in practice
The National Trust was delighted to offer these new students the opportunity for skills development in conjunction with Dr Ingrid van Bremen.
Later this month third year archaeology students will be developing their investigative skills at an archaeological field school at Peninsula Farm with Ben Smith, Professor of World Rock Art, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia.
Book your visit
Interested in peeking into the lives of this early Fremantle family? Book a tour of this iconic house to find out more about Fred, Rita and the rest of the Samson family history.
Samson House is open on the first Sunday and third Wednesday of the month (unless it coincides with New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Please note that bookings are essential and guided tour times are set, so make sure you plan ahead to avoid disappointment.