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’
The recaptured image from an all but destroyed glass plate negative
Most people don’t have the patience to attempt what our recent intern, Amir Mogadam from the Universtiy of Newcastle has just finished – probably one of the most challenging jigsaws you’re ever likely to see. But conservators are a patient if somewhat quirky mob. Amir worked with conservator Rebecca Main on a storage project to condition report, treat and rehouse a collection of large glass plate negatives (515 x 415mm) which were produced around 1870-1880 at the Freeman Brothers Studio, Sydney.
Continue reading ‘Doing jigsaws at work, recapturing an 1880s image’
86/4466 Cash register made by The National Cash Register Co, Dayton, Ohio, United States of America, c. 1900
With Christmas over and the sales in full swing, it seemed like a good time to look at this beautiful old cash register.
This cash register was made in about 1900 by the National Cash Register Company, in Dayton, Ohio the first company to manufacture and promote cash registers. This machine is an example of the ‘brass era’ when cash registers were designed to look beautiful as well as register sales. They featured elaborate moulded brass casings and viewing panels so that people could look through to the mechanism inside. Such machines would have been important status symbols and indicated to customers that this was a thriving business.
Continue reading ‘Counting cash with brass – cash register from 1900′
Sales catalogue for Sunbeam motorcycles, England, 1929
This charming drawing is from the cover of a sales catalogue for the 1929 range of Sunbeam motorcycles. The drawing shows a man astride his Sunbeam in the English countryside, with an empty country road stretched out behind him. These were the days of little traffic, few road rules and certainly no helmets. Driving and motorcycling could be pure adventure!
Continue reading ‘The halcyon days of the Sunbeam motorcycle’
2007/16/1 Dessert plate, Australian wildflowers, porcelain (bone china), made by Doulton & Co, painted by Louis Bilton, Burslem, Staffordshire, England, c. 1892
This beautiful dessert plate from the collection features a plant common in Sydney bushland but unusual as a subject for china painting. The plant is the Fringe Myrtle or Calytrix tetragona. Waratahs, Flannel Flowers, Christmas Bells, Wattle and Gum Leaves are frequent subjects but the Fringe Myrtle has not attracted many artists to its cause. The Museum database notes:
Continue reading ‘Rare Doulton dessert plate painted by Louis Bilton with Australian wildflowers’
B1174 – Motor cycle and sidecar made by Bradbury & Co Ltd, Oldham, England, 1914.
Motorcycles or motorbikes can have unsavoury connotations in current times with the phrase ‘outlaw motorcycle gang’ rarely out the headlines but in 1914 when the Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar were built they were the height of middle class respectability.
Continue reading ‘The Bradbury motorcycle and sidecar – respectable transport’
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.
Continue reading ‘Photographing the 1874 Transit of Venus’
Mark Daly with Mr and Mrs Devil
How do museums, particularly large museums keep going on a daily basis? What do people in these departments called front of house and security do?
Fellow curator Geoff Barker and I thought we would show a glimpse of some of the hidden workers photographed with their favourite Museum objects.
Continue reading ‘International Museums Day 2012, behind the scenes’
Traffic congestion in a big city like Sydney is never far from the headlines and for those of us who need to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge it is a daily reality. But traffic congestion in cities is nothing new. In London in the 1630s the clogging of narrow city streets by the increased use of horse-drawn vehicles was causing considerable outrage amongst the populace.
Continue reading ‘Solving Traffic Congestion in 1634′