Obituary: Colin Pearson

Dr Colin Pearson © Julian Bickersteth

Vale Dr Colin Pearson, “Father of the Conservation Profession in Australia”, friend and mentor to generations of conservators in Australia and internationally. The Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) is saddened to report the death of Dr Colin Pearson, AO, MBE on Sunday 17th April 2016. Colin was a former Council member and Vice President of IIC.

Born in the Midlands in England, Colin studied at the University of Manchester from 1962–66 where he completed a Bachelor’s degree, a Masters and PhD in Corrosion Science. He arrived in Australia in 1967 to take up the position of Research Scientist at Materials Research Laboratories, Melbourne. During this time Colin undertook the conservation of iron cannon and ballast jettisoned by Lieutenant James Cook from the Endeavour in 1770 and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1970 for his contribution to corrosion science.

Colin set up the Conservation Department of the Western Australian Museum in Fremantle in 1971, specialising in the treatment of maritime archaeological material from Dutch and colonial shipwrecks on the West Australian coast. In 1977 he joined the Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE) to establish a conservation training programme, the first in Australia and one of earliest programmes to include an ethnographic conservation specialisation. Under his tenure, the CCAE (later the University of Canberra) program offered courses at Bachelors, Masters and PhD levels graduating 338 students over its 25 year history.

In 1994 he was appointed Professor of Cultural Heritage Conservation and made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for contribution to heritage conservation. The following year, he was appointed Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (TSE) and Honorary Life Member of the AICCM. In 2002, upon his departure from the University of Canberra, Colin was appointed Emeritus Professor and continued working as a heritage conservation consultant between rounds of golf.

He is the author of over 120 papers and a number of major texts, including ‘Conservation of Marine Archaeological Objects’ in the Butterworths conservation series and one-time executive member of both ICOM-CC and the IIC Council. Colin received the ICOM-CC medal in 2014 in recognition of his influential role within the field of conservation. In this same year, he established a grant attached to the AICCM ‘Outstanding Research in the Field of Material Conservation Award'.

Julian Bickersteth

June 2016