Wednesday 4 December 2013 by Alana Treasure. 3 comments
First World War Centenary, Conservation, Dioramas, Getting ready to move

Part 2 - Reinforcement and Movement

As mentioned previously, the dioramas consist of a number of sections of base framework, some of which are bolted together, some of which are not. Well-hidden behind the display cases, facades and the diorama surface, few still sat on their original leg castors, while many had been trimmed and placed on fascinating, decades-old systems of levelling the individual sections.

Example of levelling system under Bullecourt and Ypres diorama bases

Various bricks, part-bricks (eek!) and timber chocks sat under the legs propping the dioramas up. They were somewhat stable – despite how precarious it looks! But obviously, work needed to be done before it was possible to move any of the dioramas to relocate them in their new positions. Workshop worked for hours under each one (some have more room than others!) to create a solid, structural timber framework attached to the existing timbers so that several sections could be safely moved together. Dernancourt, being far larger than the rest (at around 9 metres wide), and not on its original framework, also required an additional aluminium and steel framework with the help of the tow tractor to move as a whole unit.

The motion of the diorama base is then achieved by placing trolley jacks to raise the diorama up to insert wheeled platforms (dollies) underneath this strong new framework. The diorama base can then be carefully wheeled about the space.

Workshop's new timber framework incorporated to existing Bullecourt diorama base

Workshop,  Registration and Conservation teams move the diorama bases with jacks and dollies

Dernancourt, with additional aluminium and steel framework, required some assistance from Paul on the tow tractor

Once the base is removed from within the backdrop (this requires precision movement as they fit very tightly), the movement of each Western Front dioramas' fibreglass ‘domed’ backdrop was then achieved by firstly unbolting it from the floor, temporarily reinforcing the shape with lengths of timber, attaching an ‘L’ bracket system along the lower section, then jacking this up to place dollies beneath and then carefully wheeling to a new position. The dollies, brackets and reinforcement were then removed once the backdrop was secured by cables to the ceiling space (to support the shape), and then the diorama base slowly wheeled back to within the backdrop.

Movement of the fibreglass backdrops

To facilitate Built primary building works, the five Western Front dioramas were each initially moved to temporary locations on the eastern side of that gallery, so that their final location spaces could be prepared (electrical, air-conditioning work in the ceiling and building of the new niche enclosure walls). The movement process was then repeated and the dioramas now sit in their new positions and part-built enclosures, awaiting final position tweaking when the front facades will be installed in secondary building works.

The Western Front dioramas lined up in their temporary positions on the eastern side of the gallery

Are we sure this fit in here before?! Moving the enormous Dernancourt base back into its backdrop in new location


Conservation team update

There have been some team changes over the last few months, the conservation team sadly farewelled Jocelyn for a fantastic position at the National Gallery of Australia, but we have happily welcomed the work and company of Eliza and Noel both part-time on the project.

Noel and Kasi currently at work on Lone Pine in the Gallipoli gallery

Nick hard at work on Lone Pine

I am also now on 6 months maternity leave! Just a note of thanks to the baby for not slowing me down at all (well maybe slightly in my underneath base crawling for jack and dolly positioning at the end!)  and it really has been business as usual (with additional pillows)! Remarks about needing to play the sounds of drills, vacuum cleaners  and beeping scissorlifts, to comfort the baby as familiar noise over the past 9 months have been noted!


Rob Slater

Fantastic to see the dioramas being handled so carefully and the restoration work carried out on suspended frames. I far cry from when I was part of moving many of the dioramas and repainting them with George Browning. Back then they were chopped into pieces and reassembled and George and I had to repaint the backdrops. Well done to all. Now all I hope you get the information related to these dioramas correct as some of the present information panels were incorrect on my last visit last year.

Irene Roy

Looking forward to seeing this finished ... my father was in WW1 Lesley Angus Bradford Roy, last time I went to the AWM we couldn't show the grandchildren, as we went with the intent to show them, but was sad it was closed & that the research area isn't there, I went there to do some work in the research area but couldn't as thee were just 2 computers in an area where you couldn't sit down etc, plus there was a line up to use the computers .... I don't seem to be able to get what I'm looking for at home, I think it's just the feeling of being there in awe .... My dad & his 2 brothers were over there .... I'm only 60yrs old, my dad was 54 when I was born :)


Hello from Victoria. We would love to know what further progress is being made on the dioramas. As an example of the conditions Australians and New Zealanders faced, constructed just after the war by veterans its imperative that these displays with such an important link are given the attention they deserve. These dioramas are now a lasting example of what our forefathers thought should be depicted for us. All the work the team had done up until December looked great. I hope this is still getting the same amount of attention. Good luck all.