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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: hv mckay (2)

Sunshine Harvester employees

Author
by Nicole D
Publish date
19 September 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Your Question: Do you have information on the employees at Sunshine Harvester? My grandfather travelled from Victoria to South America and then Europe in their employ. He was scheduled to go to Russia when WWI began and went to the USA instead, where our family remain today.

The legend fostered by the company is still alive in the images and memories of those who were linked by land, work, city, or machine to this enterprise.

Group portrait of employees at H.V. McKay Massey Harris Group portrait of employees at H.V. McKay Massey Harris
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The stories of the people who worked for Sunshine Harvester are captured in the Workers pages of the Sunshine Harvester Works website. These pages include information about the lives of generations of company employees and images of the staff and their families at both work and leisure. You may even see images of your grandfather and his family there.

H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, circa 1920s H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, circa 1920s
Source: Museum Victoria
 

As your enquiry hints, the company had a diverse export market, eventually supplying over 160 countries, including North America, South America and Russia and Sunshine Employees were sent to these countries from Australia to assist in running the business.

Museum Victoria holds a large collection of objects, documents and images relating to the history of HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester in which you can explore information about the company's history, products and glimpse the lives of its employees.

H.V. McKay Massey Harris, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, Jul 1950 H.V. McKay Massey Harris, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, Jul 1950
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although the museum holds a wealth of information, including some company records, the employee and personnel files are in Australian Trade Union Archives at the University of Melbourne, which also holds a large collection pertaining to HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester.

  A corner of the foundry pouring molten metal A corner of the foundry pouring molten metal
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The article 'Resurrecting the Sunshine Harvester Works: Re-presenting and Reinterpreting the Experience of Industrial Work in Twentieth-Century Australia' tells the fascinating story of how the HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester collection came to the museum and how, along with the University of Melbourne Archives collection, it is used to tell the story of the company and its employees.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Sunshine Harvester Works

HV McKay crate

Author
by Liza Dale-Hallett
Publish date
27 December 2011
Comments
Comments (1)

Liza Dale-Hallett is a senior curator in the History and Technology Department. She is responsible for the Sustainable Futures Collection, which includes historical agricultural machinery.

Ken Porter, a former Transport Manager at agricultural machinery manufacturer Massey Ferguson, accidentally stumbled into heritage conservation when he rescued a wooden box from a dumpster in 1991. He thought the box might be some use to him at home, but noticed that a square of cardboard was nailed to it, reading: The plaster cast of H.V. McKay. Not to be opened until another one needed.

Ken Porter Ken Porter, Volunteer at Scienceworks, with the mysterious crate he rescued from a dumpster.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

For another five years Ken secretly rescued nearly 100 years of history of the McKay manufacturing enterprise. This 'rubbish' was squirreled away and subsequently offered to Museum Victoria where it now forms one of Australia's most significant industrial heritage collections.

'No one thinks of history. Until I found that box I didn't either. It takes a quirk of fate that keeps these things,' recalls Ken, now an Honorary Associate of Museum Victoria. Since 1996, Ken and 20 other ex-employees (with many more from around Australia) have been busy identifying and documenting the collection of 15,000 images, over 700 films, numerous objects, and over 5,000 trade publications.

H.V. McKay  |  Sunshine Harvester brochure Left: Portrait of Hugh Victor McKay. 1912. | Right: Seedtime and Harvest Shall Never Cease: H. V. McKay, General Implement Catalogue, Sunshine Harvester Works
Source: Museum Victoria
 

From humble beginnings, H.V. McKay created the largest industrial enterprise in the southern hemisphere. His equipment was widely used on farms across Australia and was exported to over 150 countries. Following McKay's death, his legacy to Australian agriculture continued through McKay Massey Harris, and later Massey Ferguson (Australia). In 1986, after a period of over 80 years of manufacturing in Sunshine, the company ceased production. This period of major change also included a significant 'clean up' of old company records, which is when Ken's rescue efforts began.

After so many years documenting the McKay Collection, the crate remained a mystery waiting to be revealed. What was inside? How could we open it without damaging the contents?

Michael Varcoe-Cocks, Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), volunteered his expertise in radiography to help examine the construction and content of the crate before it was opened. Radiography reveals physical features not otherwise visible to the naked eye. It is often employed to better understand the condition and method of manufacture of a work of art, and doesn't harm the object.

Examining the x-ray films at NGV Examining the x-ray films at NGV.
Image: Justin Schooneman
Source: NGV
 

The x-ray was performed in the NGV's Technical Examination Room. Michael enclosed the crate in lead then passed a beam of x-rays through it. Film sensitive to x-rays recorded an image of the crate, inside and out, which provided useful information for MV Conservator Karen Fisher about how to open the crate. Karen used a Japanese Cat's Paw (mini crow bar) to gently lift the rear panels; inside were two profile reliefs of H.V. McKay, both in plaster, not a 'bust' as indicated on the outside of the crate.

MV Conservator Karen Fisher opening the crate with a Japanese Cat's Paw. MV Conservator Karen Fisher opening the crate with a Japanese Cat's Paw.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

two profile reliefs of H.V. McKay. The two profile reliefs of H.V. McKay.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Karen then turned to the letter secured by drawing pins to the front of the crate. She used humidification and a heated spatula to make the paper more flexible and break the seal. The letter confirmed that Wallace Anderson was the sculptor commissioned to create the relief profiles. Anderson worked as an artist for the Australian War Museum, the Australian War Memorial and as an independent sculptor. Anderson's most famous works are 'Simpson and his Donkey' (1935), and busts of nine former Australian prime ministers located in the Ballarat Botanic Gardens (1939-45). He also created the bust of H.V. McKay now on display in The Melbourne Story.

We still don't know why the profiles were created or whose initials are represented on the lower edge of one of the plaster moulds... but after 20 years, the crate's contents are finally free.

Links:

H.V. McKay Sunshine Collection

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