Category Archives: News

News and happenings in and about the Museum.

Self-guided walking tour mobile app reviewed

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The release of another self guided walking tour (part one of the new ‘Exploring old Sydney’ series on the Powerhouse Museum walking tours iPhone application) marks a perfect opportunity to critically review how this product has performed to date. For those adverse to detail, key lessons are highlighted in bold.

A significant technical factor in the Museums quick transition from original tour idea to app release has been the My Tours solution. Its use highlights the strengths that a software as a service methodology can offer. In the Galleries, Libraries and Museum (GLAM) sector there is no need (and often budget) to reinvent the wheel for certain digital products. My Tours is an example of a competent package that works well to cover a common GLAM experience like audio tours. Treating ‘software as a service’ gives our curatorial staff the opportunity to focus on the all important content creation aspect of product development.

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How to make a nib – a story of gold rainbows and diamonds for Valentine’s Day

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Powerhouse Museum Collection.

I struck gold in the basement last week: 14 carat gold in the form of this delightful didactic display showing stages in making a fountain pen nib.


Powerhouse Museum Collection.

Note the shape of the ‘breather hole’, which exposes ink to the air and helps it move smoothly towards the writing tip: a tiny heart. The perfect nib for writing a Valentine’s Day card!

Gold has been used to make jewellery and keepsakes since ancient times. Pure gold is too soft to use for nibs, or indeed for jewellery, so alloys are used instead. To make 14 carat yellow gold, the pure metal is alloyed with copper and silver; 58.3% of the mixture is gold, and the rest consists of equal amounts of copper and silver.

A nib with a gold point would wear quickly, so a tiny quantity of a fourth metal is fused onto the writing tip. This is iridium, a very rare, very dense element. Like gold, it is highly resistant to corrosion, and an iridium-tipped gold nib can last a lifetime and write millions of words.

Iridium derives its name from the Greek goddess Iris, whose symbol was a rainbow. The chemist who discovered it, Smithson Tennant, named it for the ‘striking variety of colours which it gives, while dissolving in marine acid’ (hydrochloric acid). Just the element for penning a Valentine’s Day card with hope in one’s heart!

Tennant also discovered the true nature of diamond, another gift we associate with romantic love. He did this in 1796 by rather unromantically heating diamonds with potassium nitrate in a gold vessel and deducing that diamond is merely a crystallised form of ‘charcoal’, the element we now call carbon.


Powerhouse Museum Collection.

The gold nib display was donated to the museum in 1924 by the Wahl Company of Chicago, which later made pens with the brand name Eversharp. Reaching behind it on the basement shelf, I found this slightly battered card listing the steps in making a nib. As well as adding value to the object, this list has a certain inherent charm. It links us to the person who wrote it by hand, perhaps using a gold nib with a tiny heart delivering ink to its rainbow tip.

Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop and problem gambling

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People around the world are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth on 7 February. Australia’s librarians have named 2012 as National Year of Reading, so we can celebrate the bicentenary with extra enthusiasm.


Powerhouse Museum Collection. Gift of Mr and Mrs Handcock and Martha Lennard, 1921.

This plaque features an appropriately vivid but depressing scene in the shop imagined by Dickens as the home of Little Nell and her grandfather. Along with the bucket-loads of Dickens-branded merchandise available today, it is testament to the popularity of his tragicomic novel The Old Curiosity Shop, which has been in print continuously since 1841.

The earthenware transfer-printed hand-tinted plaque was made by William Adams and Sons of Tunstall, England, between 1896 and 1921. In the 1930s or 1940s Waddingtons made a set of playing cards that ironically bore an illustration of the shop, the girl, and her grandfather, who was addicted to gambling on card games. Today’s fans might prefer to buy a t-shirt or bumper sticker asking ‘What would Little Nell do?’

In considering why Dickens’s stories are of interest to Australians today, we can point to his rich array of characters and situations. We can make parallels between the episodic and dramatic nature of his novels and the current popularity of TV serials that share this approach. Or we can reflect on Dickens as a commentator on issues that are still relevant today.

The issue at the core of The Old Curiosity Shop is problem gambling, which amplifies Nell’s poverty and leads to her travels, tribulations, starvation and death. The same issue is important in Australia today, both socially and politically, but the current focus is on poker machines rather than cards. Gambling addicts still borrow and steal to feed their habit, families still lose their homes because of the losses incurred, but poker machines are promoted as fun for players, providers of jobs and a means of raising funds for community projects.


Powerhouse Museum Collection. Gift of Mrs Shirley Nutt, 2008.

Of course, many players readily control their outlays, but problem gamblers provide an unhealthy share of the profits made by clubs, pubs and State governments. The best solution might be to restrict payouts. I wager not many of today’s gamblers would be tempted to pour streams of cash into this early poker machine just to win a few cigars.


Powerhouse Museum Collection.

Bold multicolour graphics, coloured symbols on the spinning reels, and the prospect of a cash payout made this 1930s machine more inviting. Although poker machines were illegal in Australia at the time, their use in NSW clubs was tolerated. Today, poker machines are big business in several States, and the lure of huge jackpots makes dazzling video poker machines even more seductive.


Powerhouse Museum Collection.

In 1956 poker machines were legalised in NSW. This 1950s poker machine, made in Sydney, appears to have paid a maximum of 10 shillings on a bet of sixpence. The player could pull the handle and anticipate the thrill of seeing twenty sixpences clattering into the chrome tray. Above the tray, the lined and curved chrome fascia mimics the cars of its day. Some players imagined they were in the driver’s seat, able to improve their odds by pulling the handle of the ‘one-armed bandit’ in a special way.

The symbols on this machine’s reels are playing cards – which takes us back to Nell’s grandfather, the ruinous risks he took in the hope of winning at cards, and his zealous certainty that the odds would soon turn in his favour. Charles Dickens was indeed a master storyteller, and his stories still speak forcefully to us today.

Wireless and Handheld Devices at the Museum of Old and New Art

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Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Photo G. Barker, 2011

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, 2011

The alarm was set for 5:00am but the rain outside, and five hours sleep, did little to renew the enthusiasm so confidently expressed when Nick’s initially suggested we fly to Tasmania for the day to visit the Museum of Old and New Art ‘MONA’ in Hobart. Four others from the Powerhouse Museum’s Digital and Emerging Tech team were going and that combined with the non-refundable flight and my partner’s ‘you will be going’ looks ensured that somehow by 6.30 I was in line to get on the plane to visit David Walsh’s privately owned museum.

One of the main reasons for the visit was to look at how this museum has integrated handheld technologies into as its core function for interpreting the space, instead of using labels. Another was to look at how Walsh’s personal vision and complete control of the space influenced the kinds of objects selected and the way they were displayed.

We arrived by cab from the airport before the museum had opened and rather than queue up we wandered around the grounds. The first thing that struck me was how from the outside the project looked almost like a military fortress embedded in hillside above the Derwent River. From the outside its all concrete, rusty metal, and vast slabs of sandstone facing off against the suburban homes and family lives that surround it. This seems to reflect the confrontational nature of much of the collection housed in the darkened halls beneath, and its owners delight in challenging the norms and poking a finger into our collective brain matter.

However iconoclasm isn’t a question here for ironically MONA seems to have achieved what many state and federally run institutions find so difficult – it has populist appeal. The displays may be sexually explicit, violent, irreverent, and controversial but more importantly they are, almost without exception, NOT BORING.

What you are in for is made clear from the very beginning of the visit when you are receive your personal i-phone for the tour from the friendly front of house staff. One of the first things you notice after logging in is two buttons on the bottom which gives you information about the objects. One is called ‘gonzo’ and if clicked gives and brief account of how the object was purchased or a visitors or artists impression of the object. The second, with the graphic of a penis, is titled ‘art wank’ and clicking this gives you a detailed account of the object, the artist etc. From personal experience I am almost certain that this sentiment, if not vocalised by visitors to art museums, was often what they actually thought about the kinds of text usually provided. Even better was seeing how many of the mainly elderly audience were happy to read an ‘art wank’ and I couldn’t help feeling they were probably reading more than when it was presented in a more formal way.

One thing I wasn’t so keen on was the set of buttons, which effectively replaced the ‘like’ button concept from Facebook with ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’. I thought these were a bit constrictive as many of the works didn’t conjure up those kind of extremes of emotion in me. But then again the sentiments were quite in keeping with Walsh’s overall feeling his collection was indeed pushing the boundaries, and were extreme.

So where was I – that’s right we’re at the reception area, with I-phone, hand poised to press LOVE or HATE, and feeling like I’m about to take a Dante-esque trip in this high tech lift though the bedrock to some subliminal realms below.

Lift, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, photo G. Barker, 2011

Lift, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, 2011

This first thing that strikes you when you step out of the lift is the Egyptian scale of the space carved out of the rock. It’s like being it some kind of futurist movie set, walkways above a high tech bar which are a precursor to a series of dark recesses and corridors going off in different directions. This is where you really start to get to grips with the tour guide you have in your hand. Press the pink ‘O’ and it gives you your location and lists the artworks nearby. It also allows you to enter your email address at this point and this will record the objects you visit (although this did appear to be linked to whether you actually ‘loved’ or ‘hated’ an object rather than just stood in front of it) and – this was pretty cool – sent the list with pictures though to your email for after your trip. It even lists the objects you didn’t see for another visit – all of which is a great help right now as I write this post.

Basement level entry, MONA, Hobart, photo G. Barker, 2011

Basement level entry, MONA, Hobart, 2011

Then its time to set off on the journey and make your way back to the surface. One of the other things you quickly notice is how dark everything is. This one feature makes a tremendous difference to the entire experience and is one which I couldn’t help but feel has the potential to transform any museum.

The other thing I noticed at this point was that although visitors can take photos without a flash the Mona handheld did not have a camera. And even though I tried juggling using my own phone camera, it limited the way I could capture my experience. So bring a good camera if you are serious about documenting your visit.

I guess this will mean having three pieces of tech to carry around which does seem a little unnecessary. Perhaps it would be nice if the MONA phone had a camera so at least you could take some happy snaps and load these into your museum experience to send to your email.

So what about the work? The great thing as I have said was it was interesting NOT BORING, stuff moved, was well lit and even when potentially boring stuff (like pieces of flint) were displayed they were arranged in interesting artistic patterns. Again I think museums could do a lot here in simply looking at how objects are arranged or combined can potentially create a new level of interest. I also liked the way ‘all roads led to Rome’ there were no dead ends or cul-de-sacs to escape from. A great example of this was after looking at the skinned kitty and the hanging wax horse (PXIII by Berlinde De Bruyckere) I rounded the corner to be confronted with a black wall which on closer inspection opened when I pushed on it and brought me back to the main corridor. Interesting, exciting and relies on humans exploring rather than being directed.

Another example of this was the opaque white cube, Queen (A Portrait of Madonna) by Candice Breitz, which was in the centre of the displays on one level. From the outside I could see shadows moving inside and walked around it wondering what was going on when I came upon a door. On opening it and walking inside I was confronted by a bright wall of TV’s which contrasted strongly with the outside ambience, even more jarring was the Capella voices, mostly not very good, singing Madonna hits, kinda in time, but the longer I stayed the more embarrassed I felt watching them.

One of my favourite objects Artifact, by Gregory Barsamian, was a huge metal head lying on its side at the top of some stairs. But it was the flashing light coming from inside that attracted my attention and in this case curiosity was rewarded with a stunning stroboscopic light show inside the coil of wires lining the interior of the head.

I won’t go on to list all the great stuff at the museum as my advice is to see and experience it for yourself. This is a great experience and I’d like to congratulate David for making this one of the more successful and expensive examples of entrepreneurship in the cultural sector. By the time we made our way back to the surface hours has gone by, our group of five had met, wandered off, got lost, bumped into each other at video screenings, seen each other from afar on stairways going to other unknown places and eventually sat down to discuss the experience at lunch.

Overall I liked the way the lines were blurred between art, architecture and the more traditional museum objects, albeit weird and eccentric ones. No thematic schema, no one way to view the works, lots of accident and serendipity, no text, and dark catacombs of walkways and stairs and stone making for an experience I hope other museums embrace. My five hours sleep was rapidly catching up on me as the five of us made our way to Hobart airport and back to Sydney. I can barely remember the plane trip and journey home but I think we all agreed it was a day-trip to remember. Thanks Mr. Earnshaw.

Lynne, Nicholas, Estee and Carlos, Hobart, photo G, Barker, 2011

Lynne, Nicholas, Estee and Carlos, Hobart, 2011

Centenary of Mawson’s 1911 Antarctic Expedition – Part 2 – The riddle of the sledges

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Australian-made sledge used on the 1911-14 Mawson Expedition, Powerhouse Museum Collection, H8143, Gift of Australian Museum, 1967.

What do Douglas Mawson, aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave, a Sydney car body builder and the Klondike gold rush have in common? They are all part of the riddle of the Museum’s sledges.

In my last post I wrote about the Norwegian sledge in the Museum’s collection used on Mawson’s 1911-14 Australian Antarctic Expedition. According to Mawson’s “The Home of the Blizzard” he not only took 20 Norwegian-made sledges but 17 sledges made in Sydney. The Museum has 3 sledges used on this expedition, one has a manufacturer’s plate indicating it was made by L. Hargan of Norway but the other two are quite different in appearance.

During my research on the sledges I found the documentary evidence on the Australian-made sledges was patchy and inconclusive. Perhaps the sledges themselves could help explain their origins. Sue Gatenby, the Museum’s Conservation Scientist enlisted the help of botanical expert, John Ford, to analyse all the sledges in our collection. In fact we have six, three from Mawson’s expedition and another three said to be from Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated 1912 expedition.


Botanist, John Ford, taking timber samples from the Museum’s sledges. Photo Powerhouse Museum Collection.

The botanical expert took very tiny samples for later analysis. He verified that Mawson’s Norwegian sledge was hickory, another was also hickory but the third was Corymbia (Eucalyptus) maculata or spotted gum, an Australian hardwood. But who on earth would have made a sledge of Australian gum trees? The very idea of making Antarctic sledges here in sunny Sydney seems as bizarre as an Icelandic manufacturer making surf boards or bikinis.

With his tiny torch, the botanist carefully examined the grain of the sledges. While running his eye along one of the cross pieces he asked “Does the name Worsfold mean anything to you?” Yes! I was so excited! By chance the week before one of our archivists, Jill Chapman, who knew I was researching the sledges, sent me a photocopy of a 1915 letter in the Museum’s Archives from one Alexander Worsfold, a car body builder of King Street, St Peters, an inner Western Sydney suburb. But I wondered at the time how did he fit in? (Trove wasn’t then online.) I should add that the sledges had all been out of the store and thoroughly cleaned and repaired in our conservation labs during the 1980s and photographed several times in the studio yet no-one had ever notice the name Worsfold impressed into the timber.

Alexander Worsfold’s letterhead advised that he was a “wholesale manufacturer of motor and carriage ware, especially wheels and bodies”. This was when motor car bodies were still hand-built of timber. His printed letterhead further confirmed his involvement in supplying several Antarctic explorers as it notes: “Specialities: Designer and Manufacturer of Sleighs, Skis, Toboggans and Antarctic Appliances for Dr Mawson’s Expedition, Captain Scott’s Relief, Professor David’s Magnetic Discovery”. Added in pen at the end of this list is: “Shackleton Expd 1914″.

In 1915 Worsfold had written to the Museum seeking support for his application to help the War effort as he had specific knowledge of Australian timbers. He enlisted in the AIF and went into the 9th Australian Field Ambulance where he designed a portable stretcher which looks remarkably like a sledge. Worsfold was also involved with Lawrence Hargave and his timber cellular box kites.

The timber for Worsfold’s sledges was supplied by Allen Taylor & Co. who had numerous timber mills all over New South Wales. They were also “powellised” or heated to rapidly season and preserve them. At this time there was great interest, and research undertaken, at the Museum regarding the commercial use of Australian timber. But who had knowledge in Sydney at the time to design sledges? It is said to have come from Alfred Charles Samuels who’d been at the Canadian 1896-1901 Klondike gold rush. His nickname was Klondike Dick and he ironically ended up being Mayor of the beachside suburb of Manly.

And how did Mawson find the Australian sledges in Antarctic? In “The Home of the Blizzard” he noted that the ones “built in Sydney, of Australian hard woods, included mountain ash which tended to split and spotted gum which was strong but heavy.” I can tell you that the runners on our Norwegian sledge are considerably worn but the Australian ones showed little wear.

This all goes to show that object research can be a work in progress. We add bits and gradually build up the story.

Post by Margaret Simpson, Curator

Mirath in Mind- Celebrating the legacies of Fairuz

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Mirath in Mind logo designed by M K Graphics

Community outreach and engagement is a core responsibility of any museum. This is what helps us to bridge social and cultural divides, develop greater tolerance and understanding, facilitate new connections and relationships with one another and expand our way of seeing.

The Powerhouse Museum has a long tradition of working together with communities, from our collections and exhibitions (see for example, Beirut to Baghdad: communities, collecting and culture, Our new home Meie uus kodu: Estonian – Australian stories and Ties with Tradition: Macedonian Aprons, among many others) to public programs, affiliated societies, regional services and online presence. One of these communities I have been strongly involved with is the Arab and Lebanese community (especially in Sydney and Melbourne) for two important projects. The first is an upcoming exhibition on contemporary Islamic women’s fashion in Australia (more of which will be revealed in the coming months) and the second, which I would like to share with you in this blog post, is an independent external organisation, Mirath in Mind, of which I am a representative committee member for the Museum.

Mirath in Mind is a non-profit organisation committed to celebrating and promoting the art, heritage and culture of the Arab and Lebanese world in Australia. Founded in 2010, Mirath (which means “heritage” in classical Arabic) focuses on a different cultural or artistic legacy each year and in 2011 it is the legendary Lebanese singer, Fairuz.

In case you’ve never heard of Fairuz before, it might be easier to compare her with a mainstream western performer. I would say she has the celebrity status of Madonna in the Middle East, but the elegance, grace and poise of someone more like Celine Dion. In terms of her singing abilities, however, she is unparalleled.

Fairuz was born Nouhad Wadi Haddad on November 21, 1935 in Jabal al Arz, Lebanon. She started singing at an early age, initially hymns and other popular songs of the time for radio (like Ya Zahratan Fi Khayali by Farid al-Atrash and Mawwal by Asmahan), before singing her own songs composed not only, but most famously, by brothers Assi and Mansour Rahbani. Together, they wrote many of Fairuz’s best-loved songs (my personal favourite is “Nassam Alayna”). They also scripted several of her films, including “Bint el-Haras” and “Safar Barlek”.

Fairuz recently performed at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam and some colleagues and I from Mirath were lucky enough to have secured tickets. You see, the Carré Theatre only has a capacity of 1700 and tickets sold out within a day of being advertised! Many travelled from far and wide to Amsterdam just to see Fairuz in concert. They came from Morocco, Palestine, Belgium, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and…Australia! Even though Fairuz performed only a small selection of songs, most of which were from her more recent albums, it was a magical experience and the fervour of the crowd carried over into the streets of Amsterdam until well into the wee hours of the morning! You can get a taste of the atmosphere by having a look at some of the television media coverage here.

Since one of Mirath in Mind’s key objectives is to educate and inspire the younger generations (who have an Arabic background, but not exclusively so) about the cultural icons and legacies of their native past, Mirath has been running a number of educational activities about the life and work of Fairuz. These have been taking place in schools and universities in Sydney and Melbourne where Arabic is a spoken language, among which includes St Charbel’s College Punchbowl, the Holy Spirit College Lakemba, the Holy Saviour School Greenacre, the Antonine College Coburg, the University of Western Sydney and Deakin University.


Chadia Gedeon-Hajjar, President of Mirath in Mind talks to Year 8 and 9 students at the Holy Spirit College Lakemba about Fairuz. Image courtesy of Marie Joseph Abi-Arrage.

This has involved almost 1000 quizzes with students on the previously mentioned films, “Bint el-Haras” (for primary students) and “Safr Barlek” (for high school students), as well as a variety of singing, multimedia, drama, arts and crafts projects more broadly linked to Fairuz’s expansive career. We’ve also been running an essay competition in Universities, as we noticed there is a significant gap in well-researched, academic writing on the topic of Fairuz and the Rahbani brothers. All of this hard work will culminate in an Awards Gala Day ceremony that will take place at the Powerhouse Museum on Monday 21st November (the date of Fairuz’s 76th birthday upon which we will also be launching ‘National Fairuz Day in Australia’). On this day, the top performing students in the quizzes and essays will be awarded while the finalists in the creative and performing arts competitions will compete before a panel of judges for prizes (we’re even staging a ‘Fairuz Idol’!).

We are now starting to think about what other Arab cultural icons we should feature in future Mirath in Mind projects. Perhaps Khalil Gibran, Youssef Chahine or Sabah? What do you think?

If you’d like to find out more about the work of Mirath in Mind, please take a look at our website – Alternatively, you can contact me – Please note the Awards Day at the Museum is by invitation only.

Brian Schmidt wins the Nobel Prize

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It’s an exciting time for astronomy in Australia, with the recent announcement that Professor Brian Schmidt is to receive the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics and the strong possibility that the nation could be selected next year as the site for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Both optical astronomy (Schmidt’s area of expertise) and radio astronomy (the domain of the SKA) have flourished here since World War 2. Australia is thoroughly embedded in the amazing international effort to observe, measure and understand the universe.


Powerhouse Museum Collection. Gift of Mt Stromlo Observatory, 1989.

While most of the Powerhouse Museum’s astronomy collection relates to the history of our own Sydney Observatory, we have a few items used at Mt Stromlo, where Schmidt carried out his prize-winning observations. Professor Ben Gascoigne built this polarimeter at Mt Stromlo in 1963 to detect magnetic fields in distant dust clouds. The instrument, currently on display at Sydney Observatory, was designed to be bolted onto a telescope, gather the light scattered by dust particles, and detect the alignment of particles that indicates the presence of a magnetic field.

Now Brian Schmidt was born and studied in the USA but carried out key work in Australia. The aura of winning a Nobel Prize is such that we are happy to claim him as one of ours, while also making the same claim about Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, who was born and studied here but migrated to the USA, where she did the work that won her the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Both Schmidt and Blackburn hold dual citizenship, so they can be claimed legitimately by both nations. Importantly, these scientists can be seen as valuable role models for the youth of both countries, which is why the Museum is interested in telling their stories – as well as the stories of less stellar scientists such as the talented Ben Gascoigne, whose other claim to fame was as the husband of artist Rosalie Gascoigne (both of whom were born in New Zealand but chose to live in Australia).

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

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Image courtesy of Acaben, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

The Museum is saddened to hear the news of Steve Jobs passing.

He will forever be immortalized in the Museum with the acquisition of an Apple I computer we acquired last year.

The Apple I was designed, manufactured and sold by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the mid 1970s and launched the Apple Computer Company. The Apple I is rare with around 50 surviving examples in public and private collections worldwide surviving from a production run of approximately 200.

In an environment dominated by computer kits with cumbersome input and output devices the two Steves’ Apple I represented a significant step towards a marketable personal computer. Steve Wozniak’s design for the Apple I employs an elegant economy of component architecture to perform the tasks of processing, generating video output and refreshing memory simultaneously and was easily connected to a keyboard. These differences made the Apple I’s usability vastly simpler and its cost dramatically lower. This combination of features made the Apple I a product of interest to a wider community of users. Many would view the Apple I as the first personal computer.

The story of the two Steves and the Apple Computer Company is a reiteration of the American Dream (that anyone can make it big). The combination of Wozniak, the engineering wiz and Jobs, the entrepreneur, visionary, showman and risk taker saw and realised a future for the personal computer in an industry dominated by large computer corporations and office machine manufacturers.

RIP Steve, you will forever be remembered and admired for your brilliant achievements.

The Eureka Flag; 150 year mystery solved?

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Eureka Flag, replica made in 1982

Eureka Flag, replica made in 1982

While working on a story relating to the Eureka Stockade I came upon some interesting information which may clarify a nearly 150 year old mystery relating to who designed the famous Eureka flag. Some accounts credit a Canadian miner, “Captain” Henry Ross, as being the designer of the flag. Others say the designer is still unknown and that Ross was simply the person who took the design to the three women, Anastasia Withers, Anne Duke and Anastasia Hayes, who sewed up the flag in time for the rally on 29 November 1854.

A 1949 article in Queensland’s Morning Bulletin newspaper claims that the original flag was designed by Mr J. W. Wilson one night at the beginning of the uprising when he was in conference with Kennedy, Humphrey, Lalor and some others. The article included the following quote from a 1905 publication by Wilson … After some talking the discussion turned to what the flag should be and a variety of suggestions were put forward. “It was late when I went outside the tent, and I saw the Southern Cross shining in the sky just before it,” Mr Wilson said. “Kennedy, called, “I’ve got it. Here’s the idea. Come out.” “Where is it?’ he asked, and I replied that it was the Southern Cross, five white stars on a blue field. It was then agreed that this should be the flag.” Mr Wilson said. “The party went to another tent and roused a tarpaulin maker. They got what bunting they required and then and there made the blue banner with its garniture of white stars. Next day, being a Government official and having charge of the working prisoners, Mr. Wilson had a straight pole about 6 ft long cut in Byles’s [sic] Swamp, Ballarook Forest.

It was dressed and carried to Bakery Hill. Later in the day when the meeting was held the starry banner floated above the hill. It was then that the licenses were burnt and the greatest enthusiasm displayed by the men who were determined to resist the authorities. After Federation the stars were placed beside the Union Jack on the Australian Ensign.

From the Morning Bulletin, 1949

From the Morning Bulletin, 1949

Where exhibitions go to die: Reverse Garbage

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The Museum is always on the lookout for ways to reduce the amount of waste created when we take an exhibition down. What we can’t recycle or use in another space sometimes gets given to ‘Reverse Garbage’ , which is an amazing facility in Sydney.

Reverse Garbage is a non profit run co-operative that promotes environmental sustainability and resource reuse. They collect high quality industrial discards, diverting them away from landfill and sell them at a low cost to the general public.

We were thrilled to find that someone has taken our latest donation of these acrylic blocks pictured above (removed as part of our revitalization program)

And turned them into chicken coops!


Photograph courtesy of Reverse Garbage © all rights reserved