The Compressed Air washing machine

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Compressed Air manual washing machine made by Wolter, Echberg and Company, 6 Russell Street, Melbourne, 1879. Powerhouse Musem collection, K1235. Purchased 1984.

Compressed Air manual washing machine made by Wolter, Echberg and Company, 6 Russell Street, Melbourne, 1879,, K1235. Purchased 1984.Collection:MAAS

This space age looking piece of domestic technology, reminiscent of Mr Squiggle’s rocket, is a manually operated washing machine made in Melbourne by Echberg, Wolter and Company in about 1879 and marketed as the ‘compressed air’ machine. It’s made of galvanised iron with a distinctive rocket or torpedo-shape. A central drum, with two cone-shaped ends, contained the water and suds in which the clothes were washed. The idea was that dirty clothes, soaked in hot water, soap and washing soda (sodium carbonate), were placed in the “torpedo-shaped” tub, which pivoted on a stand. The lid was sealed and by rocking the tub for about five minutes the washing was said to have been completed.

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Treasures from the collection: Scrimshaw

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A10889 Scrimshaw, depicting Maori people and native animals and plants, bullock horn / wood, carved by member of New Zealand Royal Artillery, 1860-1870

A10889 Scrimshaw, depicting Maori people and native animals and plants, bullock horn / wood,, 1860-1870. Collection: MAAS

Scrimshandering, Schrimshonter, schrimshander or scrimshaw as we know it, is the art of carving or decorating whale bone, whales teeth and walrus tusks.

The Museum has eclectic and fascinating collections from parasols to fans, netsuke and scrimshaw. The earliest examples of scrimshaw were acquired around the 1900s. The bullock horn pictured above was carved by a member of the New Zealand Royal Artillery in the 1860s. Often pieces are unsigned and difficult to date but, fortunately the Museum has some information about this piece.

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The Queen’s 1954 Royal Tour of Australia – a rare surviving memento

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Railway timetable cover from the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia. MAAS Collection, gift of Bruce L. Partridge, 2014. 2014/138/1.

Railway timetable cover from the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia. MAAS Collection 2014/138/1, gift of Bruce L. Partridge, 2014. 2014/138/1.

Many of the objects which come into the Museum have great stories. One of the most delightful over the last few months was the acquisition of this very rare fabric-covered railway timetable. It was used in the Museum’s superb 1901 Governor-General’s railway carriage in which Queen Elizabeth II travelled to parts of New South Wales during her 1954 Royal Tour of Australia.
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The Astrographic Telescope: Part Two

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:  L to R: John Cooper, Jim Poole, Tim Morris and Merve Collins

The conservation team, left to right: John Cooper, Jim Poole, Tim Morris and Merve Collins

The Conservation staff undertook the initial sorting out of the various telescope parts at the Castle Hill store. Earlier in the year, Tim Morris, a metals and engineering conservator at MAAS, had begun the restoration of the Astrograph. He was greatly assisted by a team of enthusiastic volunteers : John Cooper, Jim Poole and Merve Collins,(pictured with Tim above). The first job was to separate the components from each telescope, then  re-assemble the Astrograph telescope. Once assembled it could be worked out what parts were missing. and what condition the telescope was in.

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Portrait of the artist

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2007/30/1-69/5/24 Photographic negative, square format 6 x 6cm, Dahl Collings at Stonehenge, photograph by Geoffrey Collings, England, c.1936. Collection: MAAS

2007/30/1-69/5/24 Photographic negative, square format 6 x 6cm, Dahl Collings at Stonehenge, photograph by Geoffrey Collings, England, c.1936. Collection: MAAS

This rather majestic black and white photographic portrait of Australian artist, designer and photographer Dahl Collings (Dulcie May Wilmott 1910-1988) was shot by her husband Geoffrey Collings (1905-2000) during a trip to Stonehenge around 1936. It has recently been digitized from a two and a quarter inch square negative still housed in its  original glassine sleeve, part of the Dahl and Geoffrey Collings archives held by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney. These important archives document and reference Dahl and Geoffrey Collings multi-faceted Australian and international cross-disciplinary art, design, photography and film practice from the early 1930s through to around 1980.

Together with other photographs in the Collings archives, including the image of the Orion wharved at Sydney Harbour in 1935 (below), this portrait of Dahl demonstrates the Collingses’ emerging interest in asymetrical non-pictorialist modernism (where spatial planes are as significant as forms within the frame). Others shots highlight the influence of the British documentary film and photography movement on their practice (where the human condition is documented ‘truthfully’ in rural or urban settings). A carefully constructed, it places emphasis on the ingenuity of Stonehenge’s construction and the diminutive scale of the human figure when juxtaposed against the man-made monumentality of this prehistoric structure. The Collingses’ own artistic practice is represented by the presence of the artist holding a camera.

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Locomotion No. 1, George Stephenson and the world’s first public railway

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Model of the steam locomotive "Locomotion No. 1", type 0-4-0, 1½ inch scale, 7¼ inch gauge. MAAS collection B630.

Model of the steam locomotive “Locomotion No. 1″, type 0-4-0, 1½ inch scale, 7¼ inch gauge. MAAS collection B630.

The Museum has an amazing collection of models. One of my favourites is this one representing “Locomotion”, the engine used on the world’s first public railway. It opened in 1825 in the north east of England to transport coal from mines near Darlington to the coast at Stockton. The line was built by George Stephenson who also supplied its first locomotive, “Locomotion”, built at his son’s railway works, Robert Stephenson and Co., in Newcastle upon Tyne, which the Stephensons and others had established in 1823. Up until that time George Stephenson had built 14 steam locomotives which had only been used to haul coal wagons on various colliery tramways.
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The Wirth brothers — from band to circus

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Illustration of George Wirth performing as a clown, from his scrapbook. He was a talented tumbler, clown and horseman. Gift of the Wirth family, 2012. Collection: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Illustration of George Wirth performing as a clown, from his scrapbook. He was a talented tumbler, clown and horseman. Gift of the Wirth family, 2012. Collection: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

After leaving Ridge’s Royal Tycoon Circus in 1880 the Wirth brothers established themselves as the Star Troupe of Varieties. With just six artists, including Japanese acrobats and a German comedian, they assembled a program of acrobatics, clowning, contortion, spinning hats, boxing and comic songs. They padded the evening out with a few polkas and cornet solos. Audiences responded with repeated encores. The Star Troupe of Varieties developed into Wirth Brothers Circus.
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Curating shoes: from heel to toe

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'Heel appeal' showcase. Photography © Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, 2014.

‘Heel appeal’ showcase. Image: MAAS.

On 29 November 2014, the Museum opened ‘RECOLLECT: Shoes’ – a new exhibition inspired by the idea of visible display storage. Comprising more than 800 shoes dating from the 1500s to now, visitors can see everything from the first pair of elastic sided boots in the world made for Queen Victoria in 1837 to designer names like Louboutin, Yves Saint Laurent and Lacroix. Continue reading

Pacific objects in focus #5: ‘Ulapinaki’ by Leanne Joy Lupelele Clayton

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'Ulapinaki', ula lei, measuring tape (red) / cable ties / plastic peanuts, designed and made by Leanne Joy Lupelele Clayton, New Zealand, 2010

‘Ulapinaki’, ula lei, measuring tape (red) / cable ties / plastic peanuts, designed and made by Leanne Joy Lupelele Clayton, New Zealand, 2010. Collection: GOMA Acc.2011.319 (Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation). On display at the Powerhouse Museum for the exhibition ‘A fine possession: jewellery and identity’.

When someone creates a ula lei (necklace of flowers), it is a sign of affection and is usually given to another as a gift with the purpose to embellish that person as part of a greeting, farewell, alofa (love), a celebration or graduation. In my culture, when a ula lei is presented to you, it is a definite link between past and present. It is a mea lofa of love (gift). All these things are links which I am choosing to activate in my work.

- Leanne Joy Lupelele Clayton

Leanne Joy Lupelele Clayton is a New Zealand born-Australian printmaker, sculptor and wearable’s artist of Samoan-European descent. Known for her use of recycling ordinary, everyday materials into meaningful artistic forms, Leanne uses art to make a contemporary commentary on her Pacific heritage, especially as it relates to cultural and personal memory and the roles of family and tradition in a cross-cultural society. “My artwork represents a confluence of Polynesian and Western cultures, utilising techniques and materials from each…I like to draw from diverse historical materials ranging from family photographs through to clothing and dress; exploring how cultural traditions shape who we are and where we are from”.
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The Astrographic Telescope: a story of restoration- Part One

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The 2008/19/1 Astronomical equipment, 13-inch Melbourne astrographic telescope, lens and accessories, metal / glass / wood / leather, made by Howard Grubb, 1888-1890, used by Melbourne and Sydney observatories, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia / Sydney, New Sourestored telescope in the Conservation workshop, MAAS

The 2008/19/1 , 13-inch Melbourne astrographic telescope, lens and accessories, metal / glass / wood / leather, used by Melbourne and Sydney observatories, restored telescope in the Conservation workshop,Collection: MAAS

The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Conservation Department has recently completed the restoration of our very old and internationally significant Astrographic (photographic) Telescope. It will be on display in the new dome at the Sydney Observatory soon in early 2015. The telescope was made in 1887 by Howard Grubb, one of the best known instrument makers of the nineteenth century.

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