People are usually quite shocked when I tell them we have this bong in the Museum collection. Perhaps because the type of bong shown above is hand-made? Common? Looks a little like rubbish?
I’m not sure why it is so shocking, museums all over the world have drug paraphernalia in their collections. The Powerhouse itself has a nice collection of opium pipes, ceramic water pipes, and syringes.
This particular bong was collected by the Health and Medicine Curator in 1996, and she states
The smoking of marijuana is becoming an increasingly common recreational pursuit in Australia. Even though marijuana remains an illicit drug, many kinds of manufactured bongs are freely available in specialty shops. However, amongst young people with limited incomes, the home-made, disposable bong is very popular. Often referred to as ‘Orchy bongs’, after a brand of orange juice, they are made from a plastic sport drink or juice bottle fitted with a piece of garden hose. The rise in popularity of this style of marijuana smoking explains the mysterious rash of chopped hoses in the front gardens of Australian suburbia in recent years.
The advantages of this kind of bong are; Firstly, they are cheap – manufactured bongs are expensive and often breakable, whereas the only outlay for the user(s) of an Orchy bong is the metal cone. Secondly, they are disposable, so that when they become dirty and smelly they do not have to be cleaned but can simply be thrown away. Disposable bongs are a common sight in gutters, stormwater drains, parks, beaches and other places where rubbish accumulates.
This particular example was found in a street gutter in Ultimo, an inner-city area of Sydney. It is made from a … drink bottle and is decorated with graffiti-style insults, probably written with a green … paint pen. For the Powerhouse Museum collection, it is a significant example of the ephemera of life in the 1990s.
I thought I would write this blog post as a reminder that not all museum objects are shiny, pretty, or expensive. Some come straight from the gutter, yet are intrinsically valuable in the power they possess to tell a story.