Category Archives: Technology

The Goods Line – then and now

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Ultimo Road railway underbridge, showing the four, decorative cast-iron columns. Photo by Phillip Simpson, 2015.

Ultimo Road railway underbridge, showing the four, decorative cast-iron columns. Photo by Phillip Simpson, 2015.

Yesterday I took a stroll along Sydney’s newest pedestrian walkway, The Goods Line. It opened last Sunday (30 August 2015) and goes from the Ultimo Road railway bridge to the Museum’s new entrance in Macarthur Street, Ultimo, an inner Sydney suburb. Its route is part of the old Darling Harbour goods railway line which brought the State’s produce, especially wool, wheat and coal to waiting ships at Darling Harbour for transport around the world. Continue reading

Henry Ford’s Model T and its impact in Australia

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This 22 hp, 4-cylinder Model T Tourer was made at Ford’s Walkerville factory, Ontario, Canada, in 1916. Ford Canada supplied cars to the British Empire. MAAS collection, B727-1

It was Henry Ford’s dream to “democratise the automobile” by not only making it available to the rich but to everyone. He did this by producing the inexpensive Model T, a car which took the world by storm and was a significant invention during the Industrial Revolution. Between 1908 and 1927, a staggering 15 million Model Ts were made and sold worldwide when car manufacturing was still largely in its infancy.

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The Aesthetics of Prosthetics: a Brief History

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Prosthetic arm, 1920, MAAS collection, 2004/158/1-1

Prosthetic arm, 1920, MAAS collection, 2004/158/1-1

On Wednesday, 15 July 2015, museums around the world are sharing #DisabilityStories found in their collections. We’re joining the conversation with this post by MAAS Curator, Damian McDonald, who details the technologies used in prosthetics in our collection:

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Hartmut Esslinger lets rip on design

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Hartmut Esslinger presents at MAAS

Hartmut Esslinger presents at MAAS

While visiting Sydney, German born American design luminary and provocateur Hartmut Esslinger set aside time to visit the Museum for the second time in six months and present his views on design. Convergent design and originality have long underpinned Hartmut’s practice since his early days as founder of Frogdesign. Hartmut had dropped in late last year after the opening of the INTERFACE exhibition and had promised to return. This time I had time to chat to him about the objects and designers represented in the exhibition.

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Form Without Ornament: A New Industrial Design Process

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A page from an AEG catalogue showing variations on a theme – consumers were able to customise their kettle purchase by choosing from three shapes, sizes and finishes. (from T. Buddensieg, ed., Industrie-kultur, courtesy Gebr, Mann Verlag, Berlin.)

A page from an AEG catalogue showing variations on a theme – consumers were able to customise their kettle purchase by choosing from three shapes, sizes and finishes. (from T. Buddensieg, ed., Industrie-kultur, courtesy Gebr, Mann Verlag, Berlin.)

Our Interface exhibition unpacks some strategies employed by designers to simplify the way we use information technology (IT) tools. But surprisingly, the earliest objects in the exhibition are not IT artefacts at all but come from our decorative arts collection. We included a vase by famed British designer Christopher Dresser and a teapot by German designer Peter Behrens to demonstrate an early advanced understanding of design in the age of mass production. Bear in mind, both objects were made around the turn of the 20th century, a time when manufacturing and our consumption of goods was fundamentally changing as part of the Industrial Revolution.

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The Compressed Air washing machine

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Compressed Air manual washing machine made by Wolter, Echberg and Company, 6 Russell Street, Melbourne, 1879. Powerhouse Musem collection, K1235. Purchased 1984.

Compressed Air manual washing machine made by Wolter, Echberg and Company, 6 Russell Street, Melbourne, 1879,, K1235. Purchased 1984.Collection:MAAS

This space age looking piece of domestic technology, reminiscent of Mr Squiggle’s rocket, is a manually operated washing machine made in Melbourne by Echberg, Wolter and Company in about 1879 and marketed as the ‘compressed air’ machine. It’s made of galvanised iron with a distinctive rocket or torpedo-shape. A central drum, with two cone-shaped ends, contained the water and suds in which the clothes were washed. The idea was that dirty clothes, soaked in hot water, soap and washing soda (sodium carbonate), were placed in the “torpedo-shaped” tub, which pivoted on a stand. The lid was sealed and by rocking the tub for about five minutes the washing was said to have been completed.

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Ice Bird – the unsinkable boat

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Dr David Lewis, happy on his arrival in Cape Horn, South Africa, March 1974. From BOX 2 B 24446-2. Collection: MAAS

Dr David Lewis, happy on his arrival in Cape Horn, South Africa, March 1974. From BOX 2 B 24446-2. Collection: MAAS

Restoration of the sailing boat that made the first single handed voyage to Antarctica
Dr David Lewis was a courageous sailor, an extra-ordinary navigator and an adventurer with big dreams. He was the first navigator in modern times to cross the Pacific Ocean without using instruments, following a legendary Maori course from Tahiti to New Zealand. In 1972, David undertook another adventure to sail, alone, to Antarctica and circumnavigate the subcontinent. He bought a second hand, steel hulled boat designed by Dick Taylor. It was an 11 metre sailing boat, called Ice Bird and David and some friends hurriedly prepared it for his summer journey. The steel boat had a large amount of lead in the ballast in case the boat capsized. The trip involved sailing through the ‘Roaring Forties’, the ‘Furious Fifties’ and the ‘Screaming Sixties’. He encountered mountainous seas with 35 metre waves, constant gales, hurricanes and freezing temperatures. The boat was not built for such incredible conditions and capsized three times, twice on the way to the Palmer Antarctic Station and once on its way to Cape Town, South Africa. Continue reading

A Fine Possession and solving the mystery of a French pendant

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H5025 Pendant, set with gouache miniature on cardboard depicting a hot-air balloon flight of the Montgolfier Brothers, gilt metal cannetille, paste (glass), maker unknown, France, about 1783-1815

H5025 Pendant, set with gouache miniature on cardboard depicting a hot-air balloon flight of the Montgolfier Brothers, gilt metal cannetille, paste (glass), maker unknown, France, about 1783-1815. Collection Powerhouse Museum.

Every now and again when working with a Museum’s collection, you will come across an object that was acquired so long ago that little is known about its provenance. There are a few meagre clues to help uncover what you hope will turn out to be an enriching and surprising story, something that shows that this piece is special. And once and a while, the story exceeds your expectations.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 10

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Maurice Guillaux sitting in his Blériot aircraft before a performance. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Maurice Guillaux sitting in his Blériot aircraft before a performance. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

As Maurice Guillaux recovered from the August 1 crash of his aircraft (see Part 9 of this story), war broke out in Europe, plunging that continent into the conflict that would become known as The Great War. Guillaux recovered from his injuries within a few weeks, and his Blériot aircraft was repaired, but the French aviator began to realise that the time for aerial displays was over: crowds were beginning to wane and the public’s attention was occupied by news of the war. Guillaux began to talk of returning to France, to help defend his homeland, and a newspaper article in the Perth Sunday Times on August 30 reported prematurely that he had already gone back to Europe. This erroneous report may have resulted from confusion between Guillaux and his translator/manager Lucien Maistre, who seems to have embarked for France some time in August.

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World War One grenades: one with a lifesaving little lever

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World War I grenades and fuses in the Recent Acquisitions Showcase

World War I grenades and fuses in the Recent Acquisitions Showcase

The weapon which would conjure up a – albeit highly visceral – image World War One trench warfare would be the rifle bayonet. So much grainy footage of young men charging across no-man’s-land with bayonets fixed gives us the impression that that was the main strategy of trench battle. However, rifleman with bayonets attached for defensive action were more often used to protect grenadiers – the infantryman who deployed grenades either by hand or by an attachment on a rifle.

H5556 World War One bayonet

H5556 World War One bayonet

On display at the Museum in the Recent Acquisition Showcase, in recognition of 100 years since the beginning of World War One, are two examples of grenades used in the war, along with two examples of bomb fuses.

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