History preserved thanks to grant

A PIECE of history will be preserved for future generations thanks to a $5000 grant.

The money, from the Regional Arts Development Fund, has ensured three historic artworks owned by the Gympie Historical Society will be conserved, restored and reframed.

Gold Mining and Historical Museum Secretary Ralph Richardson expressed his relief.

"The necessity of having this work done was originally identified in a Preservation Plan prepared for the Museum by conservator Carolyn O'Rorke in May 2006," he said.

"The need for conservation and restoration of the artworks has been a priority since that time.

"However the nature of the work is such that it can only be done by a specialist professional painting/paper conservator and the museum has not been in a position, until now, to fund engaging such a specialist."

Mr Richardson said there was one water-colour and two pencil drawings.

The watercolour, No.1 North Phoenix Gold Claim, 1882, by C G S Hirst, is large and shows the North Phoenix headframe and surrounding buildings and mullock heaps in some detail.

Mr Hirst signed the painting as having been done "Dal Vero" (from the true one) as he prided himself on painting from the actual subject.

The two pencil drawings, Worrum, Royal Mail Stage and Cumnock Cottage, 1876, are by J W Laing and are dated 1875 and 1876 by the artist.

Worrum, shows a mail staging post 13 miles south of Gympie.

'Cumnock Cottage', in Nash St, Gympie, shows the new home of James Cockburn the blacksmith and the first timber sawn house in Gympie.

Hirst and Laing were both itinerant artists, picking up commissions wherever they could.

And they both died as paupers, Hirst in Brisbane in 1890 from an overdose of opium and Laing in Tiaro in 1877, where his death certificate described him as a "travelling sketcher originally lawyer's clerk".

All three works, due to their artistic value, rarity and their depiction of early Queensland, have been assessed by art consultant Greg Roberts as "of state significance".

The conservation work will be done by RSM Conservation, which has workshops in Mapleton and Brisbane.

When the works are returned they will first be displayed in the Gympie Regional Gallery for a short period as part of Heritage Month.

They will then be permanently displayed in the Gold Museum.

The museum's grant is one of five recently announced by Gympie council in the latest round of Regional Arts Development Fund awards.