For CSIRAC’s display at its 50th Anniversary celebration in 1999 and the opening of Melbourne Museum in 2000, conservators produced a comprehensive brief for it’s conservation and re-assembly.
This required identification of all components, tracking the environments where CSIRAC had been used and stored, locating material evidence of use on components and considering their physical and chemical condition.
The advice of engineers and users who operated CSIRAC was invaluable to the conservators. It was their responsibility to apply conservation `principles of minimal intervention treatment, retain important evidence of use and compile documentation of all treatment stages.
The majority of components received basic cleaning and physical stabilisation. The operator’s console, paper-tape punches and readers, cabinets and hard disk drive were prioritised for more extensive conservation treatment, based on their significance.
CSIRAC was not restored to working condition owing to a combination of cost, safety and heritage considerations.
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As the main position occupied by operating staff, CSIRAC’s console was in markedly different condition to other components. Habitual use evidence included chair-scrape marks, extensive and disfiguring paint losses, cuts in paint layers from splicing paper tape and widespread paint deterioration.
A decision was made to document the console’s use-wear evidence then remove the remainder of the highly deteriorated original paint layers. The console’s appearance would then blend visually with the rest of the assemblage, allowing the public to view CSIRAC as a whole item. Treatment of the console also required work on its internal circuitry.