Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels,1890-1917, photograph by George Bell, MAAS collection, 85/1284-765
It’s estimated that about 20,000 camels were brought from India during the second half of the 19th century to work in the vast internal areas of Australia. Accompanying the camels were Afghan drivers. The term “Afghan” is really a misnomer as few came from Afghanistan but rather more came from parts of India and present-day Pakistan. The Afghans, or Ghans as they became known, were extremely competent at working lines of camels and had great knowledge about the care of their charges, a skill which Europeans failed to master.
2007/30/1-69/5/24 Photographic negative, square format 6 x 6cm, Dahl Collings at Stonehenge, photograph by Geoffrey Collings, England, c.1936. Collection: MAAS
This rather majestic black and white photographic portrait of Australian artist, designer and photographer Dahl Collings (Dulcie May Wilmott 1910-1988) was shot by her husband Geoffrey Collings (1905-2000) during a trip to Stonehenge around 1936. It has recently been digitized from a two and a quarter inch square negative still housed in its original glassine sleeve, part of the Dahl and Geoffrey Collings archives held by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney. These important archives document and reference Dahl and Geoffrey Collings multi-faceted Australian and international cross-disciplinary art, design, photography and film practice from the early 1930s through to around 1980.
Together with other photographs in the Collings archives, including the image of the Orion wharved at Sydney Harbour in 1935 (below), this portrait of Dahl demonstrates the Collingses’ emerging interest in asymetrical non-pictorialist modernism (where spatial planes are as significant as forms within the frame). Others shots highlight the influence of the British documentary film and photography movement on their practice (where the human condition is documented ‘truthfully’ in rural or urban settings). A carefully constructed, it places emphasis on the ingenuity of Stonehenge’s construction and the diminutive scale of the human figure when juxtaposed against the man-made monumentality of this prehistoric structure. The Collingses’ own artistic practice is represented by the presence of the artist holding a camera.
Model of the steam locomotive “Locomotion No. 1″, type 0-4-0, 1½ inch scale, 7¼ inch gauge. MAAS collection B630.
The Museum has an amazing collection of models. One of my favourites is this one representing “Locomotion”, the engine used on the world’s first public railway. It opened in 1825 in the north east of England to transport coal from mines near Darlington to the coast at Stockton. The line was built by George Stephenson who also supplied its first locomotive, “Locomotion”, built at his son’s railway works, Robert Stephenson and Co., in Newcastle upon Tyne, which the Stephensons and others had established in 1823. Up until that time George Stephenson had built 14 steam locomotives which had only been used to haul coal wagons on various colliery tramways.
Steam road-roller made by Aveling and Porter Ltd, Rochester, Kent, England, 1923, used at Bowral, NSW. Powerhouse Museum collection. B2275.
Were you one of the many Australian children who played on old steamrollers set up in municipal parks after they were no longer required by local councils? Steamrollers, more correctly called road-rollers, were the last type of steam vehicles used on roads. Ironically, it was the growing popularity of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines that led to the proliferation of steamrollers to compact roads both before and after tar was applied, creating a smooth road surface. Continue reading
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
Candlestick with removable insert, commemorative, ‘Baulkham Hills to Parramatta tramway’, made by Walker and Hall, Shefield, England, 1890-1900
When people from the Hills District catch the new North West Rail Link in 2019 it will not be the first time a railway has come through the area. In 1901 construction began on a tramline that ran between Parramatta and Baulkham Hills with the primary purpose of carrying fruit and goods, as the Hills District was well-known for its plentiful orchards. The purpose of the tramway was to change after an embarrassing mistake that prevented goods being carried through the township of Parramatta, the man who turner the first sod, Minster for Public Works, Mr. E. W. O’Sullivan, tried to rectify the situation to no avail, this resulted in the tramway being used to carry passengers.
In the collection is a commemorative table candlestick that marks the first sod turned at the Baulkham Hills to Parramatta portion of the line gifted to the Minister for Public Works, Mr. E. W. O’ Sullivan, on March 19th, 1901
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.
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.
Portrait of children published in ‘Sydney: a book of photographs’, 1969
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences holds two important photography archives related to Sydney photographer David Mist – the Studio Ten archive (92/401) acquired as a gift of the photographer in 1992, and the David Mist archive (96/44/1) acquired as a gift of the photographer under the Australian Government Taxation Incentives for the Arts program in 1996. In recent years David Mist has been helping digitize these irreplaceable analogue collections with the Museum regularly lending David batches of negatives and transparencies to scan. These digital records then get added to the Collection Database. Thank you David!
Maurice Guillaux and an unidentified spectator. This photo is generally identified as having been taken at the conclusion of the airmail flight, but as the aircraft lacks the OT Cordial advertising on the wings, the picture may have been taken before the airmail flight, or some weeks later. This image was loaned to the museum for copying, by a private individual.
After being delayed at Harden on July 17, due to poor weather conditions for flying, Maurice Guillaux was determined to continue the first airmail flight the following day. While conditions had improved, they were still far from ideal, but on July 18 Guillaux took off at 7.15am and battled a strong headwind and freezing temperatures to reach Goulburn, 150km away, exactly two hours later. He described this section of his flight: “I shall never forget the awful experience I had to undergo…..I had to battle my way and to negotiate a passage though the icy atmosphere above those cruel mountains”. Visibility was limited and Guillaux was guided towards Goulburn by the smoke from a locomotive, though he found it impossible to follow the railway lines themselves.