Author Archives: Geoff Barker

The Water Pipeline to the Broken Hill Mines

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Water pipeline from the line from Umberumberka to Broken Hill,, Powerhouse Museum, NN10266

Water pipeline from the line from Umberumberka to Broken Hill,, Powerhouse Museum, NN10266

These sections of pipe originally connected the outback mining town of Broken Hill with its the water supply at Unberumberka Creek. They remain significant reminders of just how difficult it has been for the town to find water for both its townsfolk and the silver, lead and zinc mining for which it is famous. In 1883 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) founded the town and initially the water came from small dams and wells. The scale of the mineral deposits however in this semi-desert region of Australia meant the town and the mines were soon out of water.

In 1892 a private water company, the Broken Hill Water Supply Company Limited was formed to build a new water supply from the Stephens Creek Reservoir but by 1901 even this was running out of water. To solve this problem a new dam was built at Umberumberka Creek and construction began in June 1903; unfortunately and somewhat suprisingly a flood in 1903 swept away the partially complted dam and works were stopped. In 1907 the project was resurescted and by 1914 the dam and 19 miles of pipeline, of which these appear to be parts, had been completed.

Water pipeline, parts from the line from Umberumberka to Broken Hill,, Powerhouse Museum, NN10266

Water pipeline, parts from the line from Umberumberka to Broken Hill,, Powerhouse Museum, NN10266

The water was initially pumped from the damn to a balance tank at Blue Anchor Hill and from there gravitation allowed the water to make its way to Broken Hill. This pipeline was primarily of a wooden stave construction eighteen inches in diameter but in some places where the pressure was high a steel pipe was used. The smaples here would have been bound in steel wire and coated with pitch and although servicable they were prone to leaking and required a high level of matainence.

This object is part of the Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS) collection which was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1981. The Society was formed in 1901 and is the oldest historical society in Australia.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, 2012

References
Broken Hill Water Supply Umberumberka Waterworks Submission To Engineering Heritage Australia For An Historical Engineering Marker http://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/Umberumberka_Nomination.pdf

THE PICTURE POSTCARD – ITS EARLY HISTORY

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While doing research on the Bullard postcard collection held by the Museum I came across the following wonderful piece on the impact of the Picture Postcard as a cultural and technological innovation. It was written by Charles King of ‘Daily Mail’ in 1903 and was so good I thought I should share it …

The picture postcard (writes Charles King, in the “Daily Mail”) threatens to become as indispensable to the Compleat Breakfast Table as Pilgrim Oaks. It is not a food and it won’t wash. But it is soon to become a terrible reality. It has already grown powerful enough to move St. Martin’s-le-Grand. The front of the postcard had borne from time immemorial the legend “The address only to be written on this side.” I can well imagine that there were wild scenes at the General Post Office before St. Martin’s-le-Grand gave up its little bit of front before the triumphant onward march of the pictorial postcard. The line down the middle of the pictorial postcard dividing the address on the one hand from the message on the other was drawn, I should hazard, with a deep official sigh.

ONE OF OUR FOREIGNERS.

The strenuous cult of the picture postcard was a criminal alien two years ago, but it has now been naturalised. Like a good many other aliens, it came from Germany. Unlike many other criminal aliens, it left all its criminal tendencies behind in its Fatherland. Now that it has taken out its papers and become true British born it has ceased to insult monarchs, besmirch nations, and pander to the concealed guiltiness of the village youth. This is well, for even in a short space of time this light-hearted cult has run on in serious England at such a pace that during the past 12 months something like 50,000,000 picture postcards have been sold in this country. Few of us are aware of the colossal possibilities of the pictorial card. It has already become a feature in England. It bids fair to become a craze. What does this mean? It means that we may take what attitude we like with regard to the Budget problems, London’s education; the water board, or the next “little war,’ but we cannot afford to ignore the possibilities of the picture postcard. Why, the German husband, going on a little journey, say from Berlin to Hamburg, behaved in a fearful and wonderful manner when the craze was at its height in the Fatherland. he dashed out at each station, swooped down upon the bookstall. brought a postcard bearing a picture of that particular place (however ugly the place), scribbled it word or two (German scribble!)to his wife at home or to some one else, dropped the breathless message into the station post-box, and flung himself into the train just in the nick of time. So firmly established did this craze become that there was a pad, also a pencil, at the railway bookstall, and a convenient corner from which the pictorial postcard could be loaded and fired.

A GERMAN ALLIANCE.
And so the pictorial postcards landed on the German breakfast tables (of Berlin, not of Kensington) by the million. I am told that the number of cards that passed through the German Post Office during 1890 was 602,000,000, and that in 1900 this colossal figure has been eclipsed by one far larger-730,000,000.The story of the naturalisation of this fascinating alien is the old, old story, and is bound up, not slightly, with the great speech oat the Prince of Wales waking up England. There was: first, the indifference of the British workman; second, the continued triumph of Germany; third, the arousing of the energy of the British workman; fourth, the downfall of Germany. So it has come about that millions of postcards are being turned out in England beautifully finished, correctly printed, pleasingly produced. “It was a hard struggle at first, “I was told by a picture postcard expert as I wandered among mountains of cards at the warehouses of Wrench, Limited, the other day. I must give the name because this is the only firm in England devoting itself to the picture postcard and to nothing else. Some of the well-known playing-card makers are doing “pictorials” as a branch. But Messrs. Wrench, Limited, make the picture postcard the matter of life or death. “When people went into Kensington Palace and other English Royal palaces and bought pictorial postcards there with pictures showing what they had just seen, they were naturally surprised to find in small type at the bottom of the English scene the words ‘Printed in Germany’ or ‘Printed in Saxony.’ They were the more surprised because the cards also bore the inscription ‘The Wrench Series No.” We got special privileges, took the photographs, designed the cards, and gave them to British workmen to do. The results were melancholy. The line in the front denoting the portion marked off for the address was often out of its place, a picture was askew on the card, an illustration was ‘reproduced’ with the best details left out or appearing blurred or smudged. So we had to go back to Germany. The German makers simply took our pictures and instructions, carried out the latter to perfection or nearly so, and delivered the finished article almost to the very day promised. “We kept in view, however, the fact that the real obstacle in the way of the Englishman was his indifference. We set to work to show him that the picture postcard was something worth taking pains over, and at last he took pains. The result was as you see.

AMONG THE PIGEON-HOLES.
He waved his hand, over a sort of War Office of pigeon-holes with three million picture postcards, duly sorted, arranged, and classified, resting in them. Here you travelled, pigeon-hole by pigeon-hole, round the British coasts. There you made the acquaintance of sweet little backwaters on the Thames. Then you wandered among grand old cathedrals Salisbury, Winchester, Durham, and the rest. Then you fell among golf champions you saw how this famous player stood and how another set to work. You sped in a minute to Ireland, and in two contiguous stacks you saw the old Irish low-backed car on the one hand and Sackville-street, Dublin, with its .up-to-date tramway-cars on the other, Rows of pretty children, knots of fluffy kittens, bevies of beautiful actresses (of whom a word soon), a collection of frowning castles, colleges enough to arouse memories in the midst of the flower of English youth – these and many other classes of subjects lurked in their own particular tiers of boxes. You pulled out “a chunk of Eastbourne.” or took “half a dozen Brightons.”You found picture postcards for every place you hail ever visited or dreamed of; picture postcards for all the emotions in all the wide gamut of human feeling. Do you long for the autograph of your favourite actress? Get a pictorial postcard bearing her beautiful portrait, send it, to her together with a postal order and she will gratify your wish. I don’t know the autograph prices of all our leading actresses, but I am informed that Miss Ellen Terry charges half-a-crown. Of course, the whole of the money thus derived goes to the theatrical charities.

SEMI PICTURE POSTCARDERS.

Tabloid correspondence was born when the picture postcard arose. There is no room for much writing on the new medium. The languorous, soft-scented three volume missive of grandmother’s day is an impossibility now, and the picture postcard is a merciful provision in the breach. Now that that weird production the London letter has spread far and wide to the colonies, our friends overseas neither want nor expect long letters from home. But the picture postcard with “All’s well” or “Willie’s married” jotted in the corner can he dropped into every departing mail with a fresh feature of English life every time. Tabloid correspondence has so taken hold of our busy age that there are young ladies, I am told, who are willing to compress all their “letter-writing” into the scribbling off of a few “pics” while finishing breakfast. For such there is only one logical conclusion. It is a stern and rigid society with an official button, such button to have at the back a large white dise bearing the simple, potent pledge, “No pics between meals.”

Geoff Barker, Curatorial

References
Examiner, Launceston, Tasmania, 15 April 1903, page 7

Hargraves Cradle – Used to Make Australia’s First Payable Discovery of Gold

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Gold washing cradle, designed by William Tom Jr and Edward Hargraves, made by William Tom, Ophir goldfields, Australia, 1851, Powerhouse Museum H8859

Gold washing cradle, designed by William Tom Jr and Edward Hargraves, made by William Tom, Ophir goldfields, Australia, 1851, Powerhouse Museum H8859

This gold cradle was the first to be used in Australia to discover payable quantities of gold. It was made by William Tom Jr following directions from Edward Hargraves and was based on similar cradles (also called rockers) used to wash for gold in California.

Edward Hargraves was the man responsible for triggering the gold rush in New South Wales in the 1850′s and soon after his discovery even larger finds were made n Victoria. Although Europeans had settled in Australia in 1788 it took over 50 years for them to begin successfully extracting commercial quantities of the country’s vast gold resources.

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Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Proven in Australia, 1922

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In late August 1922 a group of astronomers, naval men, and Aboriginal stockmen began the arduous task of unloading their complicated scientific equipment and stores from boats onto a deserted beach on the coast of Western Australia. The shallow nature of the approach meant the boats were anchored three or four miles from the high-water line and the stores, after being brought to shore, were then transported by donkey wagons to the observation site at Wollal. This was no ordinary expedition and its members knew the eyes of the world were on them waiting to see if they would be the ones to finally prove Einstein’s controversial ‘Theory of General Relativity‘.
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Museum Mythbusters – the graphite elephant story

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Sculpted Elephant, carved from graphite, purchased from F Krantz, 1884, Powerhouse Museum, 6189

Sculpted Elephant, carved from graphite, purchased from F Krantz, 1884, Powerhouse Museum, 6189

For most of the hundred-plus years this graphite elephant has been in the Powerhouse Museum’s collections it has been inextricably tied to the Garden Palace fire of 1882. The main reason for this has been the ongoing claims that the elephant was one of the only Museum objects to survive the flames. These claims have, over the years, increased its significance and given it a special place within the Museum’s collections. But research over the past few years has revealed a very complicated tale, and while this elephant has played a starring role, it is perhaps not quite as heroic as once thought.

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Cleopatra’s Needle or ‘Thornton’s Scent Bottle’

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Bathurst Street from George Street', photo by Kerry and Co, Sydney, 1890-1900

Bathurst Street from George Street', photo by Kerry and Co, Sydney, 1890-1900

This photograph was taken from George Street, Sydney and looks up Bathurst Street. At the very end, where it joins Elizabeth Street and Hyde Park, the single most obvious feature of the photograph can still be seen today.

This is the obelisk was erected in 1857 and unveiled by Mayor George Thornton. This architectural feature is a clear indication of the Victorian craze culture for all things Egyptian post the decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1822, even in far off Australia.

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Photographing the 1874 Transit of Venus

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Composite portrait, frontispiece for publication 'Transit of Venus 1874', 1892, Powerhouse Museum,P3548-780

The Transit of Venus on 6 June 2012 is the latest occurrence of an event that has shaped the scientific history of Australia. Captain Cook’s expedition to observe the 1769 transit in Tahiti led to the European settlement of Australia. The 1874 transit may not have been quite as auspicious but it did lead to some major advances in the use of photography for astronomical observations.

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Museum Exhibitions – some new approaches

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Open Storage Displays, Powerhouse Discovery Centre, Castle Hill, Sydney

Over the last six months or so the Powerhouse Museum has been going through a major revitalisation project. One result of all this activity has been the opening up of some large exhibition spaces. Given this is International Museums Day and the current interest within the museum surrounding exhibition development I thought it could be an opportune time to blog about this vital area of museum work and see how museums in general have been approaching the issue.

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An Australian relic from Leichhardt’s exploration of the interior

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Drinking cup, used by James Calvert. on Leichhardt’s expedition from Brisbane to Port Essington,1844 -1845, Powerhouse Museum, NN10265

Drinking cup, used by James Calvert. on Leichhardt’s expedition from Brisbane to Port Essington,1844 -1845, Powerhouse Museum, NN10265

It may be hard to imagine now, but once this cup must have been one of the most important things in the life of James Snowden Calvert. Around 165 years ago this cup travelled with Calvert and Leichhardt on the first overland trip from Brisbane on the east coast of Australia to Port Essendon on the west coast. On this trip across the dry and dusty interior water was often in short supply and the ration handed out to Calvert in this cup must have been one of the highlights of each day. Perhaps this was the reason he kept the cup as a memento of the hardships they shared on this, the first of Leichhardt’s expeditions.

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Edoardo Majeroni – Italian 'red shirt' and Australian actor

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H8504-8  Edoardo Majoroni, collodion / glass, part of a collection housed in wooden chest, Freeman Bothers 1876

This is a portrait of Signor Edoardo Majeroni who, with his wife, presented stage performances in theatres across Australia in 1876 and the 1880s. In this image he is dressed in a Russian military costume for his acclaimed role in a one-act play entitled ‘The Old Corporal’ The play was performed in Sydney in 1876 and the photograph appears to have been taken by the Freeman Brothers Studio while the performances were fresh in the minds of Sydney-siders.

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