Photo of the Day

photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum

Hadley + Maxwell

March 14th, 2014 by

Hadley Maxwell

This week we have had the artists Hadley + Maxwell spend three hours casting one of the objects from our collection, the bust of Queen Victoria This portrait bust was from the facade of the the Grace Bros Department Store in Market street in Sydney.

Hadley Howes and Maxwell Stephens have worked as a collaborative duo under the moniker Hadley+Maxwell since meeting in Vancouver, Canada in 1997. The artists work across a range of different mediums including film, sound, drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, often incorporating several methods of practice into multi-faceted exhibitions with a strong conceptual focus. Hadley+Maxwell explore the correlation between the social and the personal, examining the relationship between public perception and private life.



They use cinefoil to make impressions on sculptures and then create new work.  Their proposal for the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine what you Desire is titled Manners, Habits and Other Received Ideas and will be on display at Carriageworks from 21 March – 9 June 2014. -

We were lucky enough to get to film their casting process here at the Powerhouse- you can watch this on the video below

Remote waterfalls at Wattamolla in 1907

March 13th, 2014 by

96/150/1-204 Postcard, Waterfalls at Wattamolla, National Park, New South Wales

This postcard from the Bullard Collection shows the famous swimming hole at Wattamolla picnic area in what is now the Royal National Park on Sydney’s southern boundary. Wattamolla Creek tumbles over the rock creating a deep lagoon and calm swimming hole behind the surf beach. Today, this is one of the most popular spots in the park and on a sunny day it can be hard to find space for a picnic rug (let alone a car space). Back in 1907, Wattamolla was considered remote.

‘The Official Guide to the National Park of New South Wales, 1902′, advises that Wattamolla can be reached by sea from Port Hacking and provides a safe harbour.  It states that at present it is visited by ‘ … the more adventurous spirits, whom no ordinary inconvenience or roughing it can daunt, if good sport amongst the fish is at the end of the journey.’  The lagoon behind the beach is described as ‘always teeming with fish’. These days it could be described as always teeming with swimmers. The cliff pictured in this postcard is also a renowned ‘jump rock’ and many photos can be found of people leaping  into the waterhole from the top of these falls.

Post by Lynne McNairn, Web and Social Technologies

No known copyright restrictions

Swimming at Clifton Gardens pleasure grounds

March 12th, 2014 by

Positive image from a scan of a Powerhouse Museum, Tyrrell Collection, glass plate negative

This image shows the swimming enclose and pavilion at Clifton Gardens in Sydney Harbour in about 1910. The existing Marine Hotel, Port Jackson dancing pavilion and skating rink was bought by Sydney Ferries Limited in 1906 in order to provide a tourist destination for their ferry services.

Sydney Ferries added the large circular swimming enclosure, with its dramatic 50 foot diving platform, featured in the centre of this image.  Although Clifton Gardens Pleasure Grounds had been a popular destination since the 1870′s, swimming was not a featured activity until the early 1900′s when laws banning public bathing began to be relaxed.

Until the mid 1930′s, the facilities attracted large crowds on most weekends and public holidays. Many workers picnic days were held here;  Water Board workers, butchers and bank employees were amongst the organisations who hosted their annual picnic days at the site.

The pavilion and swimming enclosure were destroyed by fire in 1956.

Post by Lynne McNairn, Web and Social Technologies

Photography Kerry & Co

No known copyright restrictions.


A day at Clifton Gardens pleasure grounds

March 11th, 2014 by

85/1284-2128 Glass negative, half plate, 'Clifton Gardens', Kerry and Co., Sydney, c. 1884-1917

This image looks across Chowder Bay on Sydney Harbour to the Port Jackson Pavilion and Pleasure Gardens at Clifton Gardens.  These facilities were a popular attraction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald dated 28 Jan 1896 states: ‘Clifton Gardens attracted a large concourse of people yesterday. There was dancing all day in the Port Jackson Pavilion to the music of C. Boxsell’s Australian Band. The pavilion is of large size and is excellently ventilated, and, notwithstanding the warmness of the weather, dancing was indulged in with freedom. The grounds afforded capital opportunities for al fresco lunching, and family parties could be seen in different parts. There was a display of fireworks in the evening’.

Although we do not not have an exact date for this photograph it is clear that it was taken on a day of some celebration. The bay is crowded with water craft. A steamer can be seen at the wharf and another smaller steamer, crowded with passengers appears to waiting to berth. A small yacht decorated with flowers is also approaching the wharf.

85/1284-2128 Glass negative, half plate, 'Clifton Gardens', Kerry and Co., Sydney,  c. 1884-1917

Detail showing decorated yacht.

Post by Lynne McNairn, Web and Social Technologies

Photography Kerry & Co (85/1284-2128)

No known copyright restrictions


Horse ambulance at St Vincent’s Hospital

March 10th, 2014 by

85/1284-2483 Glass negative, half plate, 'St Vincent's Hospital Front Elevation', Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917

This image shows St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst in the late 19th century. A horse drawn ambulance is waiting outside and a patient is being delivered on a stretcher. A nurse and possibly a doctor wait beside the stretcher and a woman looks on from the balcony above. The scene looks staged for the camera and its difficult to tell if the patient is a real person or a shop dummy.

The first ambulance service in Australia was established in response to Sydney’s smallpox epidemic in 1881. Hand litters, stretchers and horse-drawn wagons were used to transport patients to the isolation hospital at Little Bay (now Prince Henry Hospital).  Over the years the ambulance service has changed from a simple patient carrier to a highly technical, expertly coordinated resuscitation and transport system.   Certainly a far cry the uncomfortable looking transport below!

Positive image from a scan of a Powerhouse Museum, Tyrrell Collection, glass plate negative

Detail showing the horse-drawn ambulance

Post by Lynne McNairn, Web and Social Technologies

Photography: Kerry & Co (85/1284-2483)

No known copyright restrictions


Mrs H. Rickards in Toots costume

March 7th, 2014 by

Positive image from a scan of a Powerhouse Museum, Tyrrell Collection, glass plate negative

This portrait of performer Kate Rickards is one of three in the Powerhouse Museum’s Tyrrell collection showing Mrs Rickards in costume as ‘Toots’, one of her most acclaimed stage roles. The Land Lubber: a Nautical Nightmare, was a farcical comedy written especially for Rickards by Garnet Walch. Tootsie Sloper, the principal character, is from a seafaring family, and swears that no man who cannot prove himself a sailor shall ever become her husband. She tests her suitor, Bertie Bobolink, the eponymous ‘landlubber’, (played by Kate’s husband, Harry Rickards), on a voyage around the stormy east coast of England aboard a yacht, also called Tootsie. Kate Rickards played another, minor (male), character called Charles in the same play.

The Land Lubber was first staged in Sydney at the School of Arts. When the play was performed in New Zealand, the Auckland Star attributed its success to Kate:

her song was very good and in the sparkling repartee with which the little piece fairly sparkles she is brilliant. Miss Rickards has fully established herself as a popular favourite in Auckland

Auckland Star, 12 December 1889, p 10

Kate Rickards was born Kate Roscow, in Melbourne, and spent some of her childhood years in Nelson, New Zealand. At the age of eleven she was apprenticed to Lottie D’Aste and Victor Angell of Lottie’s Royal Magnet Troupe during their 1873 tour. As Katie Angell, she was promoted as ‘the youngest and most beautiful trapeze performer in the world’. In 1880 she married a British performer, Harry Rickards, at Chorlton in Manchester. The new Mrs Rickards took her husband’s birth name, Leete, as her stage name. The Rickards-Leete Combination toured Australasia in 1885-86, opening in Melbourne in Bric-a-Brac.

In 1892 the Rickards made Sydney their headquarters. It was on Kate’s advice that Harry leased the Garrick Theatre and renamed it the Tivoli. Both Harry and Kate took part in performances. The Tivoli theatre and circuit were outstandingly successful and Harry Rickards became known as Australia’s king of vaudeville. Around 1905, the Rickards family moved into Canonbury, a grand mansion that Harry had built at Darling Point.

In January 1894, Kate retired from the stage to concentrate on costume design for her husband’s productions. With help from some London theatrical costumiers and assistants in Sydney, Kate designed costumes for the Rickardses’ first foray into pantomime, Jack the Giant-Killer; or, Harlequin Fee Fi Fo Fum, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table at the Theatre Royal.  She was also credited with designing costumes for The Gypsy Revels at the Prince of Wales Opera Theatre in Melbourne in 1895 and The Carnival at the Tivoli in 1901.

When Harry Rickards died in 1911, Kate and his daughters inherited an estate valued for probate at over £135,000 in Australia and £10,000 in England. After her husband’s death, Kate involved herself in the Crown Street Women’s Hospital and continued the Rickards’ tradition of hosting Christmas dinners for the poor in the basement of the Sydney Town Hall.

In 1922, following a visit to England, Kate Rickards died on board the RMS Ormonde while crossing the Red Sea. As well as providing for her family, she left £100 to each of her servants.

There was a great demand for cartes de visite photographs of performers such as this one, along with royalty and other celebrities, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The performance elements of a theatrical production could be more easily staged in a studio than captured live and the portability of postcards made them popular as both gifts and mementoes.

The Powerhouse Museum holds a number of objects relating to the Tivoli theatre. These images can be viewed on the online collection database.


March 8 is International Womens Day. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.


Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian

Photography by Kerry & Co, Tyrrell Collection, 85/1286-488
No known copyright restrictions.

The garden in the studio

March 6th, 2014 by


The rustic look set was one way to bring the outdoors into the studio and create a portrait with all the romance of the countryside and none of the disadvantages of hot, cold, wet or windy weather. Sometimes this effect was achieved with the use of a painted backdrop, as can be seen in another portrait posted previously on Photo of the Day.

The young woman has been photographed in profile, gazing out of the frame, rather than directly engaging with the viewer. One of the most appealing aspects of this photograph is the way that the gradations of tones in the background have faded and formed a type of halo around her head and shoulders.



Photography by unattributed studio, Tyrrell collection 66/290A

No known copyright restrictions


Ape with tree

March 5th, 2014 by


This photograph of an ape is one of two photographs titled ‘Ape’ in a series of unattributed photographs in the Museum’s Tyrrell collection. The photograph is unusual in that most of the photographs of live non-native animals in the Tyrrell collection were taken at the Moore Park Zoo but this animal does not appear to be captive.

Apes and monkeys, captured in Africa, were popular pets in Victorian times when the transportation of animals was less regulated.

Photography by unattributed studio, Tyrrell collection 85/1286-313

No known copyright restrictions

A stroll on the Bridge

March 4th, 2014 by


This photograph of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is dated January, 1932. The Bridge was not officially opened until March 19, 1932 but this photograph shows a group of people –  two men, two women and a little girl –  who appear to have been privileged with behind the scenes access whilst construction was still underway. Men at work can be seen above them on the ladder centre right.

According to the Museum’s collection records, this print is one of a series of photographs commissioned by the Department of Public Works. As a group they document the construction of the Sydney City Underground Railway and the Sydney Harbour Bridge between 1922 and 1932. The photographs are thought to have been made under the supervision of A. J. Kent, New South Wales Government Printer, between 1923 and 1943.  While individual photographs were taken by different photographers, they all worked under the supervision of Robert Bowden, at the Public Works Department.

Photography by the New South Wales Department of Public Works, Sydney, Australia, January, 1932

No known copyright restrictions

The Duke and the bears

March 3rd, 2014 by

66/224b Group of men in the twenties

This photograph, from the Museum’s Tyrrell collection, shows Henry, the Duke of Gloucester at the Koala Park Sanctuary in West Pennant Hills, Sydney on November 27, 1934. It was the Duke’s first visit to Australia. The Duke’s visit to the Koala Park Sanctuary, in the company of a party of old Etonians, was also filmed and can be viewed on the site.

The park was founded and run by Noel Burnet, (holding the bears) an Australian environmentalist and fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. Noel Burnet published an article about his vision for the park in December of the same year. The article can be viewed on Trove.

The Duke of Gloucester was reportedly ‘intensely fascinated by the bears’ and his visit to Burnet’s sanctuary was not his first encounter with Koalas. In Adelaide on October 19 he was also photographed at a  Koala park in Adelaide. That photograph, which can be viewed in The Perth Daily News on Trove, became the tour’s most popular image of the Duke. It also made history as the the first wireless photograph to be published – in the UK Daily telegraph just twenty-five minutes after being handed in at Melbourne.

In 1945 the Duke of Gloucester returned to Australia with his wife and two young sons, William and Richard, to become the Governor-General. The Duke replaced Lord Gowrie as Governor-General and after being sworn in on 30 January 1945, he served in the position for a period of two years.

More about Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Governor General of Australia can be found on the Australian Dictionary of Biography online.

Today is UN World Wildlife Day.  According to the United Nations website:

World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people. At the same time, the Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.


Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian

Photography by unattributed studio, Tyrrell collection 66/224b

No known copyright restrictions

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