The Last Yarn
The Last Yarn, a digitisation project, has supported the photography of key nineteenth-century works in the NGV’s Australian fashion and textiles collection for access through our online collection database.
Giving the garments a life beyond the archive, the project acknowledged the appeal of recent exhibitions such as Australian Made (2010) and Fashion Detective (2014) which investigated aspects of historical dress.
Now over 50 additional works have been catalogued, given new underpinnings, photographed and uploaded so that audiences elsewhere in the world can discover the local dressmakers, tailors and retailers who defined early Australian style.
The Main Line Starter Clock: Keeper of public time
An authoritative presence on Platform One at Spencer Street Station for almost one hundred years, the Main Line Starter Clock stood over the people of Victoria from its installation in 1871 until 1960, when the station was re-developed and the clock was gifted by Victorian Railways to the Melbourne Museum.
This majestic artifact is now cleverly housed in a model ‘Museum Station’ in the new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery.
Built by watchmaker Thomas Gaunt at his premises in Bourke Street’s Royal Arcade in consultation with Government Astronomer Robert Ellery, the clock weighs some 150kg and stands – as you can gauge from this image of Conservator Sarah Babister as she repaired paint loss and removed decades of accumulated grime from the face – an imposing 1820mm high by 1190mm wide.
Martin Hallett: In celebration of a career
Victoria is privileged to have a robust GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector. The capacity of our sector is the result of work undertaken by many dedicated people. We would like to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate a colleague who has played a particularly significant role in ensuring the strength of the Victorian scene.
In April 2016, Martin Hallett retired from his role as Senior Manager of Victorian Cultural Network, part of the Agencies and Infrastructure unit of Creative Victoria. Martin was subsequently awarded with a Victorian Public Service Medal and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Victorian Museum Awards for his four decades of work in the Victorian collections sector.
Threads: Quilts & waggas
Quilting is often thought of as a pastime more than an art form.
A domestic craft practiced mainly by women, we think of quilt-makers working individually or in intimate circles, sharing stitches and scraps of fabric along with gossip and hushed conversation. In truth, quilts are complex objects.
Both utilitarian and artistic, quilts not only testify to the industriousness and ambition of their makers, but they also enclose generations of economic, cultural and social change.
Quilts tell stories and are objects of inference, through which multiple histories can be glimpsed, imagined, covered over: threads gathered and dropped. Few objects are as riven with the small and large shocks, fears, desires and dreams of everyday life.
Open House Melbourne
Modern Melbourne is a series of filmed interviews and rich archival material that documents the extraordinary lives and careers of some of our most important architects and designers including Peter McIntyre, Mary Featherston, Daryl Jackson, Graeme Gunn, Phyllis Murphy and Allan Powell.
Melbourne’s modernist architects and designers are moving into the later stages of their careers. Their influence on the city is strong and the public appreciation of their early work is growing – they have made an indelible mark on Melbourne. Much of their mid-century modernist work and latter projects are now represented on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Many of the Modern Melbourne subjects enjoyed a working relationship and a friendship with Robin Boyd, the influential architect who championed the international modernist movement in Melbourne.
The three-dimensional aspect requires a different approach that encompasses numerous angles and mannequin positions as well as complex lighting techniques.
The photographic treatment is informed by the garment’s condition, history, fabric and construction techniques. As such, this kind of photography is a team effort between myself, the textiles conservator and the curator.
Jane Routley and Elizabeth Downes
Degraves Street Subway & Campbell Arcade: The underground artspace
When you first come down the stairs, the Degraves Street Subway seems a bit daunting.
The long, pale pink tiled corridor with its blocked-off doorways and blotched asphalt, seems the perfect place for a mugging. A mysterious blind alley, which used to be an opening into the Mutual Store (and the earliest bowling alley in the CBD), leads off to your right. But stick with this corridor. It’s safe and is actually the route into the Campbell Arcade - a little slice of indie fringe artist-land which I think is a fine place to be.
The Dolls of Victoria: An unveiled toy story
Our attachment to dolls – beyond them being simply an idealised smaller version of a human figure – reflects many aspects of human behaviour and cultural practices.
Dolls have long been attributed with magic powers, associated with religious beliefs, and connected to family rituals and traditions. Whether used as common toys, instruments of storytelling, educational tools, or to provide comfort and support to people during times of distress – dolls have maintained a significant place in many cultures.
Examining their function and use across place and time can reflect major global developments, social changes and the impact of major historical events such as immigration and war. This story looks at the manufacture, use and enjoyment of dolls held in cultural collections throughout the state that have been catalogued here on Victorian Collections.
A Snappy, Collapsible Hat
On the outside it appears to be an ordinary top hat, but hidden on the inside is a technological innovation at least forty years in the making...
Mark S. Holsworth
Art at Flinders Street Station
The average commuter passing through Flinders Street Station could remain blissfully unaware for their entire lives of anything more artistic in the station than the endless advertising images.
However, as befitting any major public building, there is some commissioned art at Flinders Street Station.
Rosemary Clare Kelleher
Australian Natives’ Association (1871-2021): Celebrating 150 Years
Friendly Societies in England existed from about 871 Current Era. Their aim was helping others in sickness and distress and to foster helpful human relationships. The Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society established a branch in Victoria in 1837. Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows (MUIOOF) and other English Friendly Societies followed.
The A.N.A. Founders wanted to provide friendly society benefits to its Australian born members and encourage Australians to manage their own affairs and plan their own future, independently of nostalgic ties to another homeland. Fourteen men attended at the first meeting established a committee to consider forming the “Victorian Natives’ Association”. This soon became the Australian Natives’ Association,(A.N.A.) admitting men born in all Australian colonies.
A.N.A. was registered as Friendly Society 1871. Membership fees assisted people in times of sickness and bereavement. All meetings were open to the public, with no secret signs or regalia, unlike the English-based friendly societies. The Australian Natives’ Association amalgamated with MUIOOF in 1993 to form Australian Unity. A.N.A.Fraternal Organisation (A.N.A.Fraternal) then formed to continue the social and cultural activities of the former A.N.A.
Hamilton Gallery / Public Galleries Association of Victoria
From Watercolours to Decorative Arts
Bequests have been critical to Victoria’s regional galleries, with the wealth generated from farming and the discovery of gold in leading to the establishment and the continuous expansion from colonial times through to today.
Hamilton Art Gallery was established through a bequest from a local grazier, Herbert Buchanan Shaw. The Shaw Bequest consisted of paintings and prints, European silver and glass as well as English, Chinese and Japanese ceramics dating from the 18th century.
Ten years after it was established, Hamilton Art Gallery acquired a group of watercolours by 18th century painter Paul Sandby through a grant from the state government. An upper floor was added to the gallery to accommodate these works.
The collection has continued to grow through gifts, grants and bequests. The original bequest of 870 items has expanded to 8,500 items, making Hamilton Art Gallery one of the largest and most diverse regional gallery collections in Australia, spanning watercolours to decorative arts.
Today, the gallery is divided into six spaces – upstairs you will find the Sandby collection, Asian art, the Print room and Australian art, while on the ground floor you will discover the Shaw Gallery of decorative arts and the Ashworth Gallery for travelling exhibitions.
Featured here is a selection of works from the gallery’s collection – from watercolours by Paul Sandy to world class examples of decorative arts together with work by Australian artists dating from the 19th century to contemporary times. Watch a video to learn about the initial Shaw Bequest and experience the richness and diversity of Hamilton Art Gallery’s collection acquired through the generosity of benefactors and governments over the past fifty years.
Getting it Right
There is a great deal of effort that goes into preparing a museum garment for display which the public never sees. This is especially true for historical items.
Most obviously, there is the core work that our textile conservators do examining and treating works so that they are safe to exhibit. Equally vital is the task of creating the appropriate underpinnings and padded supports which ensure a garment has a historically accurate silhouette, and that the fragile fabrics are supported during display.
During the nineteenth century a lot went on beneath women’s gowns. Victorian fashion relied on a variety of contrivances to generate form; corsets compressed the waist, petticoats, crinolines and later cage-crinolines made skirts wider and fuller, while bustles produced a cantilevered behind. Working in tandem with the garment, these structures performed both functional and aesthetic roles.
Making Do on ‘the Susso’: The material culture of the Great Depression
There are currently 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans. The demands on renewable sources like timber, clean water and soil are so great they are now being used at almost twice the rate that the earth can replenish them. Finite resources like fossil fuel are consumed at an alarming rate, changing the earth’s climate and pushing animal species to the brink of extinction. Current patterns of consumption are exceeding the capacity of the earth’s ability to provide into the future.
All over the world, environmental movements concerned with sustainability have sprung up in response. Conscious consumers are advocating for their right to repair their own electronic devices, fighting a culture of planned obsolesce and disposability. Others are championing the repair, reuse and recycling of clothing and household goods to extend their lives. Reducing waste in the kitchen and promoting food options with lower environmental impact has become increasingly popular.
Climate change may be a uniquely twenty-first century challenge, but sustainability has a history. In 2021 many people are making a conscious choice to embrace anti-consumerism, but during the Great Depression of the 1930s it was necessity that drove a philosophy of mend and make do.
In 1929 stock markets crashed and sent economies around the western world into free fall, triggering the Great Depression. Australia’s economic dependence on wool and wheat exports meant that it was one of the worst affected countries in the world. The impact of the Depression on the everyday lives of Australians was immense. Not everyone was effected with the same severity, but few escaped the poverty and austerity of the years 1929-1933 unscathed.
At the height of the Depression in 1932 Australia had an unemployment rate of 29%, and thousands of desperate people around the country queued for the dole. Aboriginal Australians were not eligible for the dole, and had to rely solely on government issued rations.