Inside the Collection

Conservator’s Corner- Preserving the Cyril Ruwald Collection

Drawing by Cyril Ruwald
Drawing by Cyril Ruwald. Collection; Powerhouse Museum

We have received funding for a project called TAM (Total Asset Management). The project focuses on our collection, rather than on exhibitions. The objective is to preserve, document and manage the collection so that it can be made more widely accessible.

One component of the project that is nearing completion is the rehousing of the Cyril Ruwald Collection. It consists of 1424 architectural plans and drawings including diazo prints, pencil and ink drawings, blueprints, negative photo-prints and monochrome photographs.

Cyril Christian Ruwald (1895-1959), was one of several architects who designed hotels for Tooth & Co during the 1930s and 1940s. He was instrumental in adapting the streamlined horizontal look of European modernism to hotel design. The collection is regularly viewed for research.

The project involved the following steps:


Drawings in conservation storage

Photography Powerhouse Museum © all rights reserved

Step 2: Photography – digital conservation photography of the Ruwald collection has now provided greater access to conservators, staff and clients. Conservation photography clearly documents all aspects of an object so that conservation staff can accurately report its condition. With items from this collection, photographs are taken of the front and back of each, and prints are made of those requiring conservation and condition reports, as well as after-conservation shots.

Drawing by Cyril Ruwald
Cyril Ruwald. Collection; Powerhouse Museum

The images were shot with a Canon 30D, EF 28-135mm lens and Elinchrom soft box studio lights. Studio lights are set at 45 degrees and equidistant from the subject, to provide flat and even illumination. Digital RAW originals of each of the images are kept – then using Photoshop CS3, they are resized to jpgs and the object identification number is added to each image, for uploading to our Collection Database K-EMu.

Step 3: Preservation – the individual requirements of each item were assessed and more fragile items, including blueprints and drawings on tracing paper etc., are interleaved with archive text, placed in Mylar sleeves or supported with archival backing boards as required.

A condition report is written for each item and the photographs are annotated to indicate areas of damage and deterioration. Drawings treated, so far, have had large tears, missing pieces, been stuck together, and tackiness and staining from adhesive tape. The drawings on tracing paper have been the most fragile and damaged.

They were carefully separated from each other and from any interleaving tissue between them. Tape, staining and tackiness, and fragments of paper from other drawings, were removed by swabbing with a cotton bud with petroleum spirits and lifting off with a scalpel. Fragments of paper were matched with holes and gaps in the drawings. Creases and folds were removed one by one by swabbing with a cotton bud dampened with di-ionised water, burnishing with a bone folder over a piece of Mylar, and pressing under weights.

Tears were repaired and missing pieces of paper re-attached. Tracing paper is a difficult material to work with because it cockles when it is wet, so two methods of sticking the paper together have been tested – dryish starch paste and Japanese tissue, or small strips of heat set tissue. The first method seems the best – it is stronger, despite the threat of cockling, and the heatset tissue does not stick as well to the tracing paper, so the first method will be used for future repairs on this collection.


Conservators at work
Photography by Powerhouse Museum © all rights reserved

The Ruwald collection has now been relocated to a new 23 drawer storage cabinet designed specifically for the flat storage of plans and drawings. The cabinet, made of zinc coated steel finished with a high quality powder coating, has perforated drawers allowing for ventilation of the works.

It is hoped that with the photographs available online, there will be less need to access the original drawings, reducing wear and tear on the original objects.


Following the family tradition, Cyril Ruwald’s grand daughter, Monica Earl, a Sydney Uni architecture student, recently won the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Design Medal for her redesign of Belmore Park.

4 responses to “Conservator’s Corner- Preserving the Cyril Ruwald Collection

  • Hi Charles,

    I am the Events Manager for Camden Valley Inn, which was one of Cyril’s designs. I was wondering if there is any photo’s or plans or history of the Camden Valley inn in the collection?
    Unfortunatly there is not a lot of written or photographic history that i can find on the Camden Valley Inn and think that this would be very interesting for our guests.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon


  • Hi Lee-Michelle,

    Thanks for your message. Unfortunately we don’t hold Ruwald’s designs for any hotels in the Camden area. I had a look at your hotel website and the building certainly resembles those he designed for rural areas.

    Sorry we can’t be more helpful.


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