A Fashion Affair: Romance Was Born and MAAS

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'Desert Pea Dame,' Cooee Couture, made and designed by Romance Was Born, Sydney, 2015

‘Desert Pea Dame,’ Cooee Couture, made and designed by Romance Was Born, Sydney, 2015

Our Annual Appeal this year is focussed on acquiring the latest collection by Australian fashion label, Romance Was Born. MAAS has a long relationship with Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, the designers behind the label, as our collection has informed their practice over many years. In this post, curator Roger Leong recounts how that relationship has developed:

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Australia’s Surfing History and Surfboard Design

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Tanya Binning off Bondi Beach, 'Made in Australia' book, 1969, David Mist archive, MAAS collection, 96/44/1-6/3/2. Gift of David Mist, 1996.

Tanya Binning off Bondi Beach, ‘Made in Australia’ book, 1969, David Mist archive, MAAS collection, 96/44/1-6/3/2

On Saturday 20 June 2015 about 30 countries around the world will be celebrating International Surfing Day, Australia included. The idea is to celebrate surfing and the surfing lifestyle with contests and barbecues. More importantly, the day has a sustainability message with surfers participating in projects like beach clean ups and sand dune stabilisation.

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200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo

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Portrait of Jonathon Croft, Deputy Purveyor of Sydney (Rum) Hospital, 1836, hand coloured photograph, artist unknown, Australia, 1850-1855, MAAS collection, 2008/141/1

Portrait of Jonathon Croft, Deputy Purveyor of Sydney (Rum) Hospital, 1836, hand coloured photograph, artist unknown, Australia, 1850-1855, MAAS collection, 2008/141/1

On 18 June 1815, over 140,000 soldiers fought at the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon, the French Emperor, was finally defeated in his plans to control Europe. The victory at Waterloo by the British Duke of Wellington and Britain’s allies was the final battle of many in the long French and Napoleonic Wars spanning from 1793 to 1815. Among those who survived are individuals represented in the MAAS collection who had eventually made their way to Australia as a continuation of their military career or public service.

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Hartmut Esslinger lets rip on design

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Hartmut Esslinger presents at MAAS

Hartmut Esslinger presents at MAAS

While visiting Sydney, German born American design luminary and provocateur Hartmut Esslinger set aside time to visit the Museum for the second time in six months and present his views on design. Convergent design and originality have long underpinned Hartmut’s practice since his early days as founder of Frogdesign. Hartmut had dropped in late last year after the opening of the INTERFACE exhibition and had promised to return. This time I had time to chat to him about the objects and designers represented in the exhibition.

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Japanese Folds exhibition

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 Minaret, lantern-shaped dress (Detail), Issey Miyake, Japan, 1995, MAAS Collection, 95/143/1

Minaret, lantern-shaped dress (Detail), Issey Miyake, Japan, 1995, MAAS Collection, 95/143/1

Japanese Folds (16 May-21 June 2015) is a playful exhibition showing contemporary fashion items and decorative arts from the Museum’s collection centred on the Japanese practice of folding. The exhibition provides an insight into the folding design concept with a focus on the way contemporary Japanese designers have adapted and incorporated traditional folding practices into their work.

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National Archaeology Week

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View of Palmyra, 1999, photographer Paul Donnelly

View of Palmyra, 1999, photographer Paul Donnelly

It was both poignant and fitting that National Archaeology Week coincides with the dreadful news that Palmyra (Tadmor) in Syria – the ancient oasis city of the desert that nearly two thousand years ago was the western fulcrum of the Silk Road – is under threat of destruction. Poignant, because this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site potentially shares the fate of Nimrud’s recent desecration by jack-hammers and explosives, and fitting, because it reminds us of the many reasons we should have an event such as National Archaeology Week – a time during which we can contemplate the advances and issues facing the discipline. In response to this news from Syria I thought I would share an object from the MAAS collection as well as some images taken by me in Palmyra and Damascus between 1999 and 2010.

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Making a nation: “Afghans” and their camels for Australian inland transport

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Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels. Photo by George Bell, part of the Tyrrell collection, MAAS, gift of Australian Consolidated Press, 1985. 85/1284-765.

Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels,1890-1917, photograph by George Bell, MAAS collection, 85/1284-765

It’s estimated that about 20,000 camels were brought from India during the second half of the 19th century to work in the vast internal areas of Australia. Accompanying the camels were Afghan drivers. The term “Afghan” is really a misnomer as few came from Afghanistan but rather more came from parts of India and present-day Pakistan. The Afghans, or Ghans as they became known, were extremely competent at working lines of camels and had great knowledge about the care of their charges, a skill which Europeans failed to master.
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Wirth’s Circus in the Pacific

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Poster, 'Wirth Brothers Grand Circus and New York Equescurriculum', printed in, Melbourne, late 1880s. Gift of the Wirth family, 2012. Collection: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Poster, ‘Wirth Brothers Grand Circus and New York Equescurriculum’, Melbourne, late 1880s, MAAS collection.

This series of posts on Australia’s own Wirth’s Circus finishes up today with only a few days left to see our exhibition, Circus Factory. Previous posts have looked at when the Wirth’s circus hit the road, how we are exhibiting the Wirth’s Circus collection, the family’s musical beginnings, the diary of John James Wirth and how the Wirth brothers transformed from band to circusPhotographs and documents in the Museum’s collection reveal the rapid growth of Wirth’s Circus as well as a series of disasters and triumphs they encountered on their first overseas tours.

In the late 1880s, Wirth’s Circus was a growing family enterprise, including the four brothers, John, Harry, Philip and George, along with their sisters Marizles and Madeline. Documents in the Museum’s collection reveal that on its first overseas tours the circus met with a series of disasters and triumphs.

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The Many Sides of Charles Laseron, Part III

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Presented to the New South Wales Collection of Applied Art by Charles F. Laseron in 1927. Brush pot, Japan, 17th Century, MAAS collection, 115A

Presented to the New South Wales Collection of Applied Art by Charles F. Laseron in 1927. Brush pot, Japan, 17th Century, MAAS collection, 115A

Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the final in a series of three.
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The Many Sides of Charles Laseron, Part II

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Charles Laseron catches an early penguin arrival in Spring, photograph by Archibald Lang Mclean, Cape Denison (Antarctica), 1911-14, State Library NSW collection, ON 144/Q498

Charles Laseron catches an early penguin arrival in Spring, photograph by Archibald Lang Mclean, Cape Denison (Antarctica), 1911-14, State Library NSW collection, ON 144/Q498

Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the second of three. Continue reading