History & Technology

DISPLAYING POSTS FILED UNDER: History & Technology (94)

History & Technology

Research and collections that document Victoria's history since European settlement, including community and domestic life, cultural diversity, technological change and innovation, and major historical events.

Martin Sharp's Federation Tapestry

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
4 December 2013
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We're sorry to hear of the recent death of Sydney artist Martin Sharp, His many achievements – among them the co-creation of Oz magazine in the late 1960s and the psychedelic refurbishment of Sydney's Luna Park in the 1970s – Sharp designed the tenth and final panel of the Federation Tapestry which hangs in Melbourne Museum.

Celebrations 2001 Federation Tapestry Celebrations 2001, the tenth of the Federation Tapestry series, designed by Martin Sharp.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Central to Sharp's tapestry, titled Celebrations 2001, is one of his most often-used motifs: the word 'Eternity' in elegant copperplate script. This is a tribute to Arthur Stace who wrote the word on the streets of Sydney, anonymously, for decades. Sharp surrounded this centrepiece with other powerful images of Australia: 'Sorry' written in the sky above the Sydney Opera House, an artwork by Ginger Riley, a quote from Patrick White, and the First Fleet.

Links:

Tribute to Martin Sharp by Sean O'Brien on ABC Open

Infosheets about the Federation Tapestry

Restaging old photos

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
20 November 2013
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Comments (4)

Simon is a presenter with MV’s Outreach Program. He travels all over metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria in one of our two Outreach vans with a dinosaur sticker on the side. You should give the vans a toot if you see them.

There is a photography saying that claims that the best camera is the one you have with you.

Outreach van in the stars The Museum Victoria Outreach Program van under the stars.
Image: Simon Conlon
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It seems obvious, then, to take my best camera with me when traveling around Victoria delivering the museum's Outreach Program. First I took some pictures of our Outreach van against the starry sky and then our team had the great idea of searching our collections for objects connected to the regions we were going to. With a quick search of MV Collections Online I would be armed with a handful of photographs from yesteryear to re-stage.

Castlemaine Post Office, 1894 Castlemaine Post Office, 1894. (MM 004334)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Castlemaine Post Office, 2013 Castlemaine Post Office, 2013
Image: Simon Conlon
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These photographs are from my recent trip to Castlemaine and they proved tricky to find. During my hunt I approached a local gentleman, Brian Cornish, who looked over all the photos but could only place one - the State Electricity Commission building. Directions memorised, I jumped in the van and found it straight away. I had just taken my first picture when Brian reappeared in his car. He had remembered the locations of the other pictures and beckoned me to follow him in convoy. Half an hour later, handshakes and thanks were exchanged and I was on my way with three pictures in the bag - or at least in-camera, on-card. 

State Electricity Commission building, Castlemaine, 1949. State Electricity Commission building, Castlemaine, 1949. (MM 011468)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Castlemaine State Electricity Commission Castlemaine State Electricity Commission building in 2013. The Outreach Van is parked around the corner.
Image: Simon Conlon
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The original pictures were taken on glass plate negatives using a large-format box camera, just like the one you might imagine: on a tripod with the photographer under a heavy black cloth at the back, only without the handheld puff of flash powder. Both the tripod and box would have been weighty and cumbersome,  and in addition, the light-sensitive, heavy glass plates would be carried in a sealed box of their own. Not like our own pocket-sized versions. All this would make the photographer very picky about what they photograph. 

Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, 1894 Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, 1894.(MM 004338)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, 2013 Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, 2013
Image: Simon Conlon
Source: Museum Victoria
 

(Speaking of picky, this is the closest I could get to the original photo as the geography has changed since.)

You can catch the some of the Outreach team and their treasures at the RACV Energy Breakthrough Festival on Saturday 23 November in Maryborough.

1889 tram model

Author
by Matilda Vaughan
Publish date
29 October 2013
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Comments (1)

Matilda swapped a life working as an engineer for a life curating the museum’s historical Engineering collection. She’s very curious about how stuff works, how it’s made and why. If a machine’s got a switch, she’ll definitely flick it.

What do you do when a significant part of our local transport history would make a great addition to a new exhibition, but it no longer exists? Well, you recreate it in miniature, of course.

By 1888, Melbourne was already on its way to an integrated suburban rail transport network, and horse-drawn tramcars mingled with cable tramcars. Tramcars propelled by electric motors were very new and developing rapidly. Overseas commercially-operated installations were powered by either on-board batteries or connections to external underground or overhead electrical wiring. The first electric tram powered by an overhead wire in Australia was demonstrated as a fee paying, passenger-carrying attraction within the grounds of the 1888 Melbourne International Centennial Exhibition.

Men on Melbourne's first electric tram Australia’s first suburban electric tramway service at the Box Hill terminus on opening day, 14 October 1889. Do these passengers look excited about their ride on the latest public transport system in Melbourne?
Source: Doncaster & Templestowe Historical Society (DP0203)

While news reports from the time provide basic information about the tramcar and the exhibit, we couldn’t find any surviving photographs. However images do exist of its later use, in the following year, on the Box Hill-Doncaster Tramway Company’s route. This route ran from Box Hill Railway Station up what is now known as Tram Road, towards the Observation Tower and close to where Doncaster Shoppingtown now stands.

We provided these photographs, supplemented with curatorial research gleaned from historical literature such as newspapers, engineering journals, patents and electric tramcar and street railway technology reviews, to model maker Mark O'Brien. He used this information to prepare a digital model using 3D modelling software, carefully deconstructing parts to suit the manufacturing method.

Man sitting at computer showing a 3D digital model The 3D digital model can be rotated and viewed from all angles, to match the viewers’ perspective to the original photographic image.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Then came the real art of the project: translating the digital model into an actual object. The miniature parts were crafted with a blend of traditional model making techniques and additive manufacturing technology (3D printing).

parts of tram model Left: assembly of the tram model parts prior to painting and finishing. Right: the truck (or bogie) construction prior to painting, in the hand of the model maker Mark O'Brien.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

parts of tram model Left: detail of conductor base. Right: electric motor, wheels and axle box, 3D printed and finished to resemble metal.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Scanning the tram model into the collection system Upon its arrival at the museum, we checked the condition of the tram model, registered it, tagged it and scanned into the Collection Location System for tracking.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

When the Box Hill tramway closed down, the original tramcar was sold to H.V. McKay’s Sunshine agricultural implements manufacturing plant and stripped of its electric motor and fittings. The tramcar carriage itself became one of the shelter sheds used for workers’ leisure activities in the nearby parklands. It suffered the fate of most wooden objects left out in the weather for years. In the museum environment however, this miniature representation of the tramcar will live on as part of the as part of the state’s permanent Rail Transport Collection, and will be part of the Think Ahead exhibition at Scienceworks from December 2013.

Benalla building update

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
28 October 2013
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Comments (2)

Back in 2010, we blogged a game of 'then and now' on a road trip to Benalla using historical photographs of the town from Collections Online.

Floodwaters around a Benalla hotel This photograph in our collection was originally documented as as 'Negative - Floodwaters around a Benalla hotel, September 1921' (MM 6159)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We thought we'd identified the location of this 'hotel' that was surrounded by floodwaters in 1921, but a few knowledgeable commenters pointed out that the flooded building in question was actually the Bank of New South Wales. Recently John Duncan-Watt sent through more information and a beautiful picture of the building in 1914.

Bank of New South Wales, Benalla John's photograph of the Bank of New South Wales, Benalla, 1914.
Source: John Duncan-Watt
 

John can even identify the people in this photograph because he's related to them. He says, it shows his "great-grandfather Thomas Lambert standing in front of this building, as this was his posting as a Manager with the Bank of NSW. Standing with him on the road and on the upstairs verandah are his wife Emily (nee Brodie) and adult children and a recent addition to the family - Sidney Paul Frederick Morris who married Thomas Lambert's daughter, Laura Irene Lambert." 

Historical photograph, people on verandah Detail of John's photograph showing Mrs Emily Lambert, her adult children and her son-in-law on the upstairs verandah of the Bank of NSW, Benalla.
Source: John Duncan-Watt

Men standing outside building The trio of dapper gentlemen by the steps of the Bank of NSW includes John's great-grandfather Thomas Lambert.
Source: John Duncan-Watt
 

John's photograph shows detail of the building that our own copy hadn't recorded, including the name of the bank on its parapet. We're very grateful that John and the other commenters revealed the true identity of the building and we'll correct our records accordingly.

Having our collections online and accessible means we can tap in to the Victorian community's knowledge of their own stories, people and places, and we're always pleased when someone takes the time to augment the information we have on our collections. Our Historypin channel is proving particularly fruitful for updating photograph locations.  

MV TOURS app

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
11 October 2013
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Excellent news for urban stickybeaks – we've just released the first three walking tours for the new MV TOURS app. If you’re the kind of person who likes to look up at the older bits of Melbourne, download these free, self-guided tours to your smartphone or device: Spotswood Industrial Heritage, Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, and Melbourne's Golden Mile. Think of the app as having a curator in your pocket, telling you stories on demand.

MV TOURS app This chap is on the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens walking tour, and learning about the Hochgurtel Fountain. This was a top spot for promenading in true 1880s society fashion.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I had a chat to one of those pocket curators, Dr Charlotte Smith, about her favourite parts of each route. She led the curatorial team developing the three tours and she's proof that there is always more to learn about the city, even if you’re already an expert historian. She’s particularly smitten with the strange corrugated iron annex hung from the side of the Gothic Rialto Building in Flinders Lane – urinals from the 1890s. "They’re just beautiful! I had no idea they were there," says Charlotte. "In those times they didn't have internal plumbing, but an office building still needed to provide a place for men to relieve themselves."

Melbourne's Golden Mile tour app Screenshot from Melbourne's Golden Mile app showing the Rialto Building urinals.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This urinals are a stop on the Melbourne's Golden Mile walking tour, which is based on Professor Graeme Davison's original booklet guide to accompany the path of circular metal disks embedded in city pavements. "We've neatened it a bit, but we follow the Golden Mile disks except where footpaths have been resurfaced and the disks are gone." This tour traces the boom era of Melbourne when the young city was flush with gold money and eager migrants.

Charlotte describes the Spotswood Industrial Heritage walking tour as "fabulous. I’ve really fallen in love with Spotswood." Among stories of manufacturing – fuses, agricultural equipment, glass bottles and more – is the sense of a place that evolved a distinctive character.

Says Charlotte, "we’ve tried to tell the story of it as a suburb with an old soul. There are stories about migration and changing manufacturing needs. The reason why the suburb is so important is its location – it is slightly lower than Melbourne, the river flows past it, and the first train line passed through Spotswood  to the main port at Williamstown." The walking tour also features items of notoriety produced in Spotswood: the glassworks made the suburb the 'Home of the Stubbie', while bushranger Ned Kelly's armour was fashioned from ploughs made by local firm Lennon and Company.

Stubbie Stubbie
Image: Laurie Richards
Source: Museum Victoria
 

All three tours are richly illustrated with hundreds of photographs and images drawn from MV's collections and other important sources, such as Wolfgang Sievers' photographs of industry and Mark Strizic’s beautiful photos of Melbourne in the 1950s. Charlotte particularly loves "a photograph we found for the Fuse Factory on Hall Street, of women working with their heads covered in scarves to protect themselves from flying bits and pieces." These and other images show how places have changed over the years, and in many cases, places that no longer exist.

While Charlotte expects that the Spotswood tour will be most used by local residents, international visitors are a big audience for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Garden tour, requiring certain concessions for those unfamiliar with the damage that possums can do. Those strange rings of metal around trunks of trees? Possum guards. (That grey furry mound in a tree hollow? Possum.)

The REB tour also includes exquisite drawings by builder David Mitchell of the Exhibition Building. "They’re at the University of Melbourne archive and not often seen. It's fascinating to look at one of the historical drawings then look up at the building and see how it has been realised." 

These three tours are the first instalment in what we hope will be a library of tours of Melbourne and regional places. Download one or all of the tours to your device through either the App Store or Google Play, and let us know what you think! 

Links

Walk through History support page

View all Museum Victoria apps

Immigration Museum: Melbourne's Golden Mile

MV Blog: A golden morning

The McCoy Project

Author
by Robin Hirst
Publish date
1 October 2013
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Dr Robin Hirst is the Director of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at Museum Victoria.

On Wednesday 18 September, Museum Victoria and the University of Melbourne launched the McCoy Project. This initiative will foster collaborative research between our two institutions, formalising a tradition that stretches back almost 160 years.

Event Organisers of the McCoy Project Launch At the McCoy Project launch: (L-R) Dr Robin Hirst, Director, Collections, Research and Exhibitions, Museum Victoria; Susannah Morley, Research Collaboration Manager, University of Melbourne; Ms Christine Tipton, Business and Grants Manager, Collections, Research and Exhibitions, Museum Victoria; Professor Mark Hargreaves, Professor, Department of Physiology, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Partnerships), University of Melbourne.
Image: Les O'Rourke Photography
Source: University of Melbourne
 

The McCoy Project is named after Irishman Fredrick McCoy, one of four inaugural professors appointed by the University of Melbourne in 1854. When he arrived, the newly-established National Museum of Victoria occupied a couple of rooms in the Old Assay Office in La Trobe Street.

McCoy was desperate to have the museum and its collections at the university in Carlton, despite fierce public opposition. McCoy had a victory when the University Council provided funds to build a museum wing on the north side of the Quadrangle. Now he just needed the collections.

In July 1856, McCoy took direct action and transported the contents of the museum from the city to the university. Melbourne society was outraged. The Melbourne Punch had a field day, and published a highly critical poem. It talks of McCoy, William Blandowski the museum’s first curator, and Ferdinand von Mueller, the colony’s botanist.

There was a little man,
And he had a little plan,
The public of their specimens to rob, rob, rob,
So he got a horse and dray,
And he carted them away,
And chuckled with enjoyment of the job, job, job.

Blandowski’s pickled possums,
And Mueller’s leaves and blossoms,
Bugs, butterflies, and beetles stuck on pins, pins, pins,
Light and heavy, great and small,
He abstracted one and all –
May we never have to answer for such sins, sins, sins.

There were six foot kangaroos,
Native bears and cockatoos,
That would make a taxidermist jump for joy, joy, joy,
And if you want to know,
Who took them you should go,
And seek information from McCoy, Coy, Coy.

When one’s living far away,
Up the country dare I say,
It’s very nice to have such things at hand, hand, hand,
Yet it don’t become professors,
When they become possessors,
Of property by methods contraband, band, band.

cartoon in Punch, 1856 Caroon titled 'The successful foray: or the professor's return'
Source: Melbourne Punch, 14 August 1856
 

McCoy’s museum outgrew the space in the Quadrangle, and he had a new National Museum building erected on adjacent land (where Union House now stands). The public were gradually persuaded to make the trip to the ‘country’ to visit the thriving new museum and its big new exhibitions. And so the progenitor of Museum Victoria remained on University of Melbourne turf until McCoy died in 1899, when the authorities moved everything back to a city site - the State Library building.

With this shared history in mind, the university and the museum held a workshop in September 2012 to explore how we might work more closely together for our mutual benefit. From that sprang the Research Discovery Day in May 2013, where 100 researchers gathered to look at our collections and discuss research projects. Their enthusiasm was palpable and the McCoy Project was born. Its first initiative, the McCoy Seed Fund, will help get new collaborative projects off the ground.

Links:

The McCoy Project

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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