Sex and Museums: uncovering a tool of delight

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Packaging for sex toy 2008/60/1-3

Packaging for sex toy , object 2008/60/1-3

As part of the Ultimo Science Festival 2014, the Powerhouse Museum hosted a night of the Science of Sex. Along with talks form Dr Karl Kruszelnicki from University of Sydney, evolutionary biologist Professor Rob Brooks, and marine biologist Professor Emma Johnston from UNSW, Museum curators brought out a selection of sex related objects from the collection. Among them were the obstetric phantom, the birth control calculator, Madam Lash’s corset, and of course the electro massage device.

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Jewellery and adornment from the Pacific, part 1: Fijian pig’s tusk

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Boar's tusk, Fiji, c.1890, 92/177-1. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

Pig’s tusk, Fiji, c.1890, 92/177-1. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

Since the late 19th century, the Museum has collected a select and representative range of Pacific material culture – namely, body ornament, clubs, implements of daily use, textiles and dress – from the island regions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. In the early days, the majority of these objects were collected via missionaries, while more recently they have been purchased at auction or generously gifted to the Museum from private collectors.

In the development of the exhibition A fine possession: jewellery and identity, I have had the privilege and pleasure to re-awaken the stories of many of the Pacific objects in our collection. In this series of posts, I wish to highlight a number of these – especially those being displayed in the exhibition – starting with one of our striking Fijian pig’s tusks.

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Marc Newson and Apple design at the Powerhouse Museum

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Caroma Marc Newson Bathroom Collection. Courtesy Good Design Australia

Caroma Marc Newson Bathroom Collection. Courtesy Good Design Australia

The recent news of Marc Newson joining the Apple team is a big deal in the design world. This really does confirm the Australian-born designer’s ‘superstar’ status. Those of you familiar with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences would know that our collection features many products designed by Newson for the mass market.

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Remembering World War 1: Geoffrey Hargrave’s life in six photos

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Powerhouse Museum Collection object P2903-9/81. Gift of William Hudson Shaw, 1974.

Powerhouse Museum Collection object P2903-9/81. Gift of William Hudson Shaw, 1974.

Lawrence Hargrave, aeronautical inventor, was one of thousands of Australians who lost a son in World War 1. Among the Hargrave artefacts and papers in the Museum’s collection, there are six photos that tell the story of his son, Geoffrey Lewis Hargrave. In the first, he is a baby posed with his hopeful parents, Margaret and Lawrence.

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A major jewellery exhibition opens soon at the Powerhouse Museum

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Artwork, 'Tiara', aluminium, tin, by Fiona Hall, Sydney, Australia, 1990

Artwork, ‘Tiara’, aluminium, tin, by Fiona Hall, Sydney, Australia, 1990

This week we start installing this Museum’s most ambitious jewellery exhibition ever. Celebrating the central place of jewellery in cultures from antiquity to now, A fine possession: jewellery and identity will present over 700 pieces of jewellery from Australia, Europe, USA, Asia, Africa and the Pacific which were made and/or worn and collected in Australia.The exhibition opens at the Museum on 24 September.

A fascinating window into our past, jewellery remains an essential part of cultures around the globe. The exhibition will explore how we have expressed our desires, fears and hopes as well as our identity and creativity through jewellery; while jewellery we wear can reinforce our personal or cultural uniqueness, creative jewellers can express their identity and personal values through jewellery they design and make.

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War Time Dress on the Australian Dress Register

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Tinonee Victory Parade Flag dress worn on Australia Day 1919

Tinonee Victory Parade Flag dress worn on Australia Day 1919

The Australian Dress Register (ADR) is a website that celebrates men’s, women’s and children’s dress that has an Australian provenance. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs on the Register. The Register supports the garments remaining in their locations, but allows the information to be shared with a world-audience. The criteria for contributing to the Register is simple – if an item of clothing has a good story behind it and is put in the social context of the time it was worn, then we’d love to see it on the Register. With the 100 year anniversary of World War 1, it’s a good opportunity to look at what entries are on the Register that are associated with wartime. You can search the browse option or the timeline on the front page. You can do in-depth searches by clothing type, era, location, theme or manufacture details. There are not many uniforms on the ADR, so we would like to focus on this area in the next few years.

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Convict jacket

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A9762, jacket, mens, convict period, felted wool, maker unknown (war department, made in Great Britain, worn in Australia, 1855-1880

A9762, jacket, mens, convict period, felted wool, maker unknown (war department, made in Great Britain, worn in Australia, 1855-1880

This coarse wool jacket is a reminder of the harsh life experienced by convicts in colonial times. Conspicuous, two- coloured uniforms were made to differentiate troublesome convicts and humiliate them, and ensured it was difficult to escape undetected.

For convicts transported to the colonies of Australia, inadequate clothing was one of the many hardships to be endured. Although many thousands of convicts were transported to New South Wales between 1788 and 1840, few articles of convict clothing have survived. They were not considered prized items to be preserved. The Australian Dress Register documents a few convict items.

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David Mist collection digitization project

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Portrait of children published in ‘Sydney: a book of photographs’, 1969

Portrait of children published in ‘Sydney: a book of photographs’, 1969

The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences holds two important photography archives related to Sydney photographer David Mist – the Studio Ten archive (92/401) acquired as a gift of the photographer in 1992, and the David Mist archive (96/44/1) acquired as a gift of the photographer under the Australian Government Taxation Incentives for the Arts program in 1996. In recent years David Mist has been helping digitize these irreplaceable analogue collections with the Museum regularly lending David batches of negatives and transparencies to scan. These digital records then get added to the Collection Database. Thank you David!
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Sir Henry Parkes: Not just the father of federation

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85/1286-509 Glass negative, full plate, 'Sir Henry Parkes', unattributed studio, Sydney, Australia, c. 1880-1923

85/1286-509 Glass negative, full plate, ‘Sir Henry Parkes’, unattributed studio, Sydney, Australia, c. 1880-1923. Coolection: Powerhouse Museum

Many Australians associate Federation with Sir Henry Parkes and his significant contribution in bringing Australia together in 1901, but he was much more than that. Parkes arrived in Sydney in 1839 with his wife and young child (Sir Henry would eventually father 17 children), finding work as a laborer and later in a foundry. He was also a bone and ivory turner and manufacturer, journalist, publisher, writer and politician.
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Wire has many uses from bee houses to candle snuffers

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90/58-111 Sculptural form, face, glass/metal/insulating wire, Douglas Annand, Sydney, 1950

90/58-111 Sculptural form, face, glass/metal/insulating wire, Douglas Annand, Sydney, 1950

Wire has been a material used in a variety of areas from the domestic sphere to agricultural, medical and applied arts areas. The Museum’s collection has wire products from cake cooling racks to electrical components and to sculptures like the one above made by designer Douglas Annand. The sculpture is a collage of various materials to create an outline of a human face. The central feature is a cylindrical clear glass form containing a blue liquid, with a number of circular indents, creating glass feet, and a nose. Green insulating wire is wound around glass and extends out either side with a green button for each eye.
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