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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: acquisitions (2)

A shed full of a life

Author
by Jon Augier
Publish date
29 August 2013
Comments
Comments (8)

Jon is a photographer at Museum Victoria.

In my job I have the privilege of getting up close to many amazing, fantastic collections, and often gaining insights into the stories of the people behind these objects. Recently I went with the Curator of Engineering to a comfortable but modest house in a leafy north-eastern suburb of Melbourne, to take photographs of a collection in its original home before it was separated. Some will be acquired by Museum Victoria and the National Film and Sound Archive, and the remainder will be auctioned off or sadly disposed of in a less dignified manner.

tool bench in shed Beautifully ordered tool bench in the suburban shed.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The exterior of the well-maintained red brick house and tidy front garden said little about its late owner and the life he led. Nor did the unremarkable rooms of the main house. But behind the doors of the buildings in the back garden lay a truly amazing collection that spoke loudly of a rich and eclectic life lived to the full.

Tools in shed Saws, chisels and bits of hardware sorted by size.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The first room we entered was his workshop. To call it a shed would be something of an understatement, though given the special place that sheds have in Australia, particularly in Australian male culture, this must be vying for a place on the top of the list of the ultimate sheds.

The workshop was crammed full but orderly; a place for everything, and everything in its place. And there was almost everything in this place: the tools, equipment and materials needed for a huge range of pursuits including cycling, weight lifting, boxing, fencing, hockey, cricket, tennis, track and field, surf lifesaving, fishing, pigeon racing, astronomy, photography, tap dancing, electronics, carpentry, welding, tool making...

Shed nook filled with books and games. A nook in the workshop filled with books and games.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Among the tools and equipment: barbells, dumbbells, boxing gloves, speed balls, hockey sticks, fencing foils, tennis rackets, spiked running shoes, tap shoes, fishing rods, bicycles, taps and dies, files, spanners, hammers saws, drills, welders, lathes, milling machines, electronic test equipment, photographic printing and processing equipment, a rather serious telescope, and a reference library…

Musical instruments in a shed Musical instruments in the The Blue Orchids Theaterette include drums, guitars, maracas... oh, and some table-tennis bats.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

But that was only part of it; the adjacent building was devoted to the arts and entertainment. Through the front door was a sign in shining letters heralding 'The Blue Orchid’s Theatrette.' The equipment it contained showed that this was no idle boast: a projection booth complete with a 35mm motion picture projector, a screen behind a remotely operated curtain, and an elaborate audio system. The room also housed an extensive range of audio equipment: musical instruments enough for a decent band, including a drum kit, double bass, tuba, piano and guitar. There were also many movie posters and other memorabilia.

Outside the theatre in the shed The curtain concealing the screen and sound system in The Blue Orchid's Theatrette.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Included here are just a few of the hundreds of photos taken by me on the day. I hope you enjoy spotting the details in these photos. The value of such photographs is that they allow us to examine a site in detail, identifying elements that we do not notice on first viewing of the original scene. I also hope you enjoy, as I have, imagining the life this man led.

Musical instruments in a shed The music and hi-fi section in the Blue Orchid's Theatrette.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Much of this collection is of its time; a time passed. So when I was amongst it I thought, "Did the owner, a man just short of ninety, have a computer?" The answer was revealed on the way back out through the house… Of course he did, and of course it was not an off-the-shelf model, but an enthusiast's tower that he probably assembled himself!

Introducing Pendle Hall

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
2 March 2011
Comments
Comments (4)

Pendle Hall is an enormous, elaborate and intricate dolls’ house that Felicity Clemons built almost entirely by hand. It was donated to Museum Victoria through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program in 2010 and work has begun to ready it for eventual display at Melbourne Museum.

Beginning in the 1940s, Melbourne-born Felicity was inspired to create Pendle Hall after her daughter received a small dolls’ house as a gift. Ultimately, Pendle Hall reached 21 rooms of Georgian-style country splendour, complete with parquetry floors, working chandeliers, a fully-stocked larder, a resident family with servants and even a mouse beside a wheel of cheese.

Pendle Hall larder The shelves in Pendle Hall's larder are well-stocked. You can see the wheel of cheese and mouse in the middle of the the first shelf.
Image: Michelle Berry
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Janet Pathe has been steadily registering the individual pieces which number over 600 items. As chief unwrapper, she’s been the first to sight some of the amazing miniature items therein. “ I really like the little pack of cards but some of the pieces of furniture, like cabinets, are just absolutely amazing. All the little drawers and doors open.”

Cabinet from Pendle Hall A cabinet from Pendle Hall's Withdrawing Room. It's hard to believe this intricate piece is only 18 cm high. (HT 25753)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Pendle Hall has been on display in Felicity Clemons’ private museum in Westbury, Tasmania for many years. To transport it from the Apple Isle, the dolls’ house was carefully photographed while assembled, then each item wrapped, labelled and boxed by a conservator. The reference photos will be critical to reassemble and manage all the little pieces, since, as Janet explains, “so much of it is too small, like the tiny candlesticks, for us to put registration numbers on them.”

Display board for Pendle Hall This board shows the tools and techniques Felicity Clemens used while constructing Pendle Hall.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

While Janet registers, conservator Sarah Babister is working through the house room by room. “At the moment I’m doing a conservation assessment on all 612 components, literally looking at every piece, and trying to determine what treatment, if any, needs to be carried out,” says Sarah. “To date most pieces I have examined only require basic surface cleaning, however there are some components which will need to be repaired or stabilised." In some cases she may consider replacing materials (such as a tiny foam mattress) with an inert material because she suspects the foam may be speeding up the deterioration of the bedspread on top.

Sarah with the Chinese Bedroom furniture Conservator Sarah is working through the furniture from the Chinese Bedroom of Pendle Hall.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

ABC Radio National: interview with curator Michael Reason on ByDesign

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