Powerhouse Museum Collection, object H8736. Gift of the Australian Museum, 1969.
When I picked up this small bone tool in our basement store, I experienced a visceral reaction, the shock of sudden realisation: it linked me to a great-grandfather I never met. The object evoked thoughts and emotions as I remembered listening to countless stories told by my grandfather, Hal Hooker. He was a warm, fun-loving raconteur, a first-class cricketer and a professional radio and TV sports commentator.
I vividly recalled him telling me that his father George was tall, had huge hands, and was boxing champion of the British merchant navy. Once George’s sailing days were over, he settled in Sydney and set up a canvas-goods business. He must have learned sail-making skills while at sea – and he would have used an object like the one I was holding.
Continue reading ‘An evocative object: sail-maker’s seam rubber’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object B1067. Gift of the University of Sydney, 1947.
Mudgee is the place to be from 19th to 21st April. Historic engines and tractors will be there in force, but there will be a lot more to interest visitors, from Clydesdale horses to old-style games for children. Powerhouse Museum curators have selected a group of highly significant objects to take to the event, including this early Daimler high-speed petrol engine, four early gas engines, specimens of fine wool grown in the Mudgee area, a rare woollen convict jacket and an amazing fine-wool jumper knitted by Mudgee’s own Myra Mogg in 1935.
Continue reading ‘National Historical Machinery Rally, Mudgee 2013′
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object H6854.
Would you have guessed the mystery object on display in the Museum’s marquee at Steamfest this year? Visitors to this event held in Maitland over the weekend of 13-14 April were encouraged to have a go. Congratulations to Ray Wilson of Largs, NSW, whose answer was the first correct entry drawn.
Continue reading ‘Steamfest 2013 Mystery Object Revealed’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object 2001/84/108-5. Part of the Sydney 2000 Games Collection. Gift of the New South Wales Government, 2001.
These boots were made for dancing. They are Blundstone work boots modified for tap dancing in the Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Entering into the quirky, innovative spirit of Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention, I selected them for display alongside the staid historic Wellington boots that came from Britain with the exhibition.
Continue reading ‘Blundstone tapboots’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object 2006/54/1. Gift of Quantum Technology Pty Ltd, 2006.
This neat Australian-made Braille note-taker, the Jot a Dot, is on display in the Powerhouse Museum’s version of Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. I selected it to complement the story of inventor Louis Braille, which came with the exhibition but without any objects.
When curator Angelique Hutchison acquired the Brailler, she also acquired a suite of design process material, which adds greatly to its value as an example of product design. Concept sketches, which sadly are not often kept, are of particular interest as they provide some insight into the designer’s first thoughts on a project.
Continue reading ‘Beyond the object: collecting design process material’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object 2001/85/1. Gift of Ron Standfield, 2001.
Wes Standfield’s Supreme mousetrap-making machine has been very popular with visitors to the Powerhouse Discovery Centre since 2007. Definitely a ‘cracking contraption’, it is making its debut appearance at the Powerhouse Museum in conjunction with Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. It is the star object in Australian Inventions, a small display in the foyer and the kick-off point for an inventions trail through the Museum. Both exhibitions, and the trail, can be seen and explored until April 2013.
Continue reading ‘Wes Standfield’s Supreme mousetrap-making machine’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object H5332-2. Gift of L J Williams, 1954.
After walking up the garden path, visitors to this exhibition will enter Wallace & Gromit’s front room and discover three showcases filled with inventions. One traces the history of the telephone, from an early wall-mounted wooden box with hand-wound dynamo to the first mobile phone designed and made in Australia. There are also four futuristic Nokia concept phones, which reinforce the storyline that invention is not a once-only process. As soon as the first phone was invented, its developer (Alexander Graham Bell) and others sought to improve all its parts, and the process has never ended.
This ‘EiffelTower’ telephone was made by US company Western Electric around 1900. It was probably made in Britain, which supplied most of the Western Electric phones used in Australia. Its design was copied from an Ericsson phone, and its nickname derives from the shape of its legs.
Continue reading ‘Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention: Eiffel Tower telephone’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object 97/5/5. Gift of Victa Pty Ltd, 1997.
Why is this lawnmower being checked out and spruced up in the Powerhouse Museum’s conservation lab? The answer is it’s one a diverse group of objects I’ve selected to add to the whacky mix of stories, ideas and activities in the upcoming exhibition Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. What’s slightly whacky about the mower is the brass sign attached to it, proclaiming its significance as the five millionth Victa ever made – it’s hard to imagine revving it up and whizzing around the garden with it, sign and all.
Aardman characters Wallace and Gromit live at 62 West Wallaby Street. They never disclose what town that’s in, but it certainly sounds like an Australian address. Their house and garden, and their inventive world, have indeed been located in Melbourne for a few months, and now the exhibition is being packed up and sent to Sydney. The exhibition opens here on 15 December.
Continue reading ‘Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention: Victa mower’
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object 2002/55/3. Gift of Ms Gwendoline Beryl John, 2002.
Ten years ago, on 12 October 2002, a small group of men murdered 202 people, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians, and injured many others. It was our 9/11. Through horrific images and eye-witness accounts, we observed terror and pain, heroism and heartbreak. Today we remember and honour the victims of these acts of terrorism. This post is a reflection on how those incidents changed our perceptions of Bali, and on how they shifted the cultural meaning of a museum object made in Bali. The object represents an idealised view of that island as a tropical paradise and its people as gentle and welcoming, willing to share their place and culture with visitors. It is a traditional fertility symbol, a delicate figure of rice goddess Dewi Sri made of (biodegradable) palm leaf and paper, designed to be placed in a rice field to ensure a good yield of that staple crop.
Continue reading ‘Remembering the Bali bombings, and musing on shifts in the cultural meaning of an object’