Category Archives: Environment

Fibro coast

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'Seaside Cottages', Wunderlich Limited, 1937. Powerhouse Museum collection.

‘Seaside Cottages’, Wunderlich Limited, 1937. Powerhouse Museum collection.

The Gold Coast City Gallery has been displaying the exhibition Fibro Coast; it will soon be at the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery. Fibro Coast is about the holiday architecture that is still a feature of the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

When I was writing the Fibro frontier during the 90s I went on a research trip to  Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. I hadn’t been to any of these places since I was a child so it was a revelatory sort of trip, especially the amount of fibro on view which I eagerly recorded on film. So I was pleased to be asked by the Gold Coast gallery to write for the exhibition catalogue and give a gallery talk.

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Meccano orrery for Earth Hour

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2010/1/90 Meccano model of an orrery, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England. 1960-1975 (detail)  

Saturday 29th March 2014 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm EST is Earth Hour, when we get the chance to turn off the lights and possibly consider our place in the universe.

This Meccano orrery is a clever mechanical device used to demonstrate the position, motions and phases of our Earth and the Moon as we orbit the Sun. This motion explains much about our planet; day and night, the seasons, the tides and the prevailing direction of weather systems through the atmosphere.
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Pumice from Antarctic volcanoes and Sydney beaches

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C4737 Mineral specimen, pumice from the summit of Mount Erebus, collected during Sir Ernest Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition, Antarctica, 1909-1911

C4737 pumice from the summit of Mount Erebus, collected during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition, Antarctica, 1909-1911

Over summer the beaches of Sydney have seen the arrival of a ‘pumice raft’. The high tide line has been marked by a distinctive row of small light weight rocks which floated in on the tide. The phenomenon caused much comment amongst beach goers and gave children an exciting new material for their sandcastles. As usual a search in the Powerhouse Museum collection turned up something interesting; samples of pumice collected in 1908 by the party who made the first ascent of Mount Erebus in Antarctica. The party included Sir Douglas Mawson and Dr T. W. Edgeworth-David and the climb was undertaken during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition. Continue reading

Gold Rush: the story of a steam engine

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Powerhouse Museum Collection object 85/304.

Powerhouse Museum Collection object 85/304.

When I first saw this engine, running quietly on steam in the Powerhouse Museum, and read that it powered a gold dredge on the Ovens River in Victoria, I imagined a fairly benign operation, sucking up part of the river bed, extracting gold from it, and replacing the material. The ecology of the river would have suffered local disturbance, but that section of river would have recovered over time. I failed to guess the full impact of gold dredging.

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Hill’s Mini-Hoist rotary clothes line

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Toy Hills Hoist "Mini-Hoist" rotary clothes line, made by Hills Hoists Ltd, Adelaide, South Australia, 1956-1959. Powerhouse Museum collection 87/664.

Toy Hill’s Hoist “Mini-Hoist” rotary clothes line, made by Hill’s Hoists Ltd, Adelaide, South Australia, 1956-1959. Powerhouse Museum collection 87/664.

I’ve seen this little 60-cm high Hill’s Hoist clothes line in our basement storage area for years and always assumed it was a model which reps might have taken around to secure sales. Clearly, lugging a full-size clothes line around with you was out of the question and this is a perfect model of the famous clothes line which sprouted up in backyards across the nation. However, research in The Australian Women’s Weekly between 1956 and 1959 revealed ads for a Mini-Hoist, a toy version of the Hills Hoist rotary clothes line.

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Christmas, jewellery and the Museum’s collection

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Roseanne Barley RE pics 002

Brooches, 'Found Out - Floral Brooches' aluminium / stainless steel, Roseanne Bartley, Australia , designed 2004, made 2013.Powerhouse Museum Photography: Rebecca Evans

Brooches, ‘Found Out – Floral Brooches’ aluminium / stainless steel, Roseanne Bartley, Australia , designed 2004, made 2013. Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Photography: Rebecca Evans

I am pretty excited to share these floral brooches with you by contemporary studio jeweller Roseanne Bartley. Not only are they recent acquisitions for the Museum’s permanent collection, but they will also be displayed in our exciting and upcoming jewellery exhibition, due to open September 2014.
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The undies that almost stopped an Antarctic expedition

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Underpants  worn by James Castrission and Justin Jones during the Crossing the Ice Antarctic expedition. Image courtesy of James Castrission and Justin Jones.

Underpants worn by James Castrission and Justin Jones during the Crossing the Ice Antarctic expedition. Image courtesy of James Castrission and Justin Jones.

These two pairs of undies are part of a large collection of equipment and personal items used by Antarctic adventurers James Castrission (Cas) and Justin Jones (Jonsey) on their ‘Crossing the Ice’ Antarctic expedition to the South Pole, 2011-2012.

You may rightly notice that the pair on the left does not look like your average pair of underpants and it would not be remiss of you to ask what the unusual thing attached to them could possibly be…
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Condom architecture

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Tin Men

Danny De Vito, Richard Dreyfus and Cadillacs in Tin Men, 1987. Copyright Allmovies.com

Re-skinning of buildings takes several forms, not all of them particularly reputable. During the 60s and 70s salesmen prowled the suburbs, seeking out fibro and weatherboard cottages that could be re-clad with aluminium or vinyl. The hard sell would then begin, with promises of capital gains, improved appearance and insulation. I’m not sure that many houses were actually improved, especially as the new cladding was usually screwed on over the existing one.

This business was immortalized in a popular US movie of the 1980s: Tin Men was both satirical and nostalgic about two competing aluminium cladding (‘siding’ in US lingo) salesmen, played by Danny De Vito and Richard Dreyfus.
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Happy Wattle Day 2013

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Botanical illustration of 'Acacia pycnantha (Broad-leaved Wattle)' by Agard Hagman

97/63/1-23 Botanical illustration of ‘Acacia pycnantha (Broad-leaved Wattle)’ by Agard Hagman.

September 1st is Wattle Day, the perfect excuse to feature another of Agard Hagman’s lovely botanical illustrations from  1888.

The Museum’s first Curator, Joseph Maiden (later Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens) was a well known wattle enthusiast. He loved wattles for both their beauty and their usefulness. 

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