Workshops to prepare and restore family heirlooms from bushfires

Updated: May 19, 2020

Victoria Pearce knows a thing or two about picking up the pieces after a bushfire.

She lived through the Ash Wednesday bushfire in the 1980s, she was in Duffy when the 2003 bushfire came through and now, living in Primrose Valley, the past few weeks means she has been on alert from the Carwoola bushfire.

But it's because of these experiences - and in particular the 2003 Canberra bushfires - which inspired Pearce, who is a conservator, to create Endangered Heritage.

Originally running out of Duffy before relocating to Fyshwick, Endangered Heritage began as a response for people wanting to restore items after they were damaged by fire, water, or even in the back of the car during an evacuation.

"I started doing workshops every Saturday for locals to bring stuff in to talk about themes such as leather or photos or silver or textiles," Pearce says.

"What came out of that was a lot of feedback from the community about the things that they forgot to take. The things that they regret that they hadn't taken. Things like grandma's handwritten recipe book that has all of the family recipes and the family traditions of every function and every wedding. If you lose that, it is irreplaceable as photos."

Using that information, Pearce has been running Disaster Preparedness workshops for the past 10 years. It aims to jog people's memories about what it is they need to take when it's time to evacuate - whether it's from an incident such as bushfire, or even due to a burst pipe - as well as giving information about how to appropriately pack items to avoid damage.

However, if an item is damaged, Pearce says there is always a way to fix what is broken.

"One of the things that's just devastating is that people grab their most precious things, shove them in the car with the dog, with the water bowls, with everything else and it gets damaged," Pearce says.

"Because they're grief-struck, confused, their priorities have shifted, they're just glad to be alive, and because it's got broken and they're so angry, they throw it away.

"Even if it's not a priority ... put it in a box, keep it somewhere safe because a conservator will always be able to put the pieces back together."

Endangered Heritage's second workshop focuses on conservation after a disaster. Even if, for example, photos have been lost in a fire, Pearce says there are ways to get something back.

"I had one woman who had come in and she was angry and grief-struck because she was on holiday when the Duffy fires came through," she says.

"She had lost everything including photos of her dad who had passed away. It turned out he was a member of the local RSL ... so she, prompted by me, put a message in the local RSL's monthly newsletter.

"People she had never met turned up with photos from Christmas parties and morning tea photos. She ended up with photos of her dad covering over a decade."

View the original article here.

  • The next Disaster Preparedness event is on Thursday from 5.30pm. The next conservation after a disaster event is on February 21. For more information find Endangered Heritage on Facebook.