Five things about ice

by Dr Andi
Publish date
12 August 2011
Comments (1)

I love the idea of an ice rink outside my Melbourne Museum office window. I really want to try ice-skating at this year's Melbourne Winter Festival (18 August–4 September). Admittedly I haven't skated since my teenage years but it's like riding a bicycle, isn't it?

The subject of ice conjures a range of interesting things, from majestic giant icebergs to the tinkle of ice in your cocktail. So I went looking for things in our collection on the topic of ice.

1. Ice-skating is an energy-efficient way to travel.

I learnt this fascinating factoid at a meeting with my fellow science communication colleagues. As a mode of transport it could only suit the odd Canadian who happens to have a frozen lake between home and work.

This is one of the 420 lantern slides once used by lecturer Walter S. Binks, a popular psychology and vocational guidance lecturer based in Melbourne, Victoria. He lectured throughout Australia in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lantern slide of a man ice skating Lantern slide of cartoon sketch of a man ice skating, circa 1930s. (MM 69844)
Source: Museum Victoria

Two ice skating ladies Two ice skating ladies happily demonstrating a bandaging technique at the rink, circa 1960s. (MM 054716)
Image: Laurie Richards Collectionof Commercial Photography
Source: Museum Victoria


2. Ice has much associated paraphernalia - boxes, buckets, cabinets, chests, cubes, houses, men, picks and tongs.

Before domestic refrigerators there was the ice chest (or cabinet or box). This is an early 20th century Koola cooling chest. The ice was generally placed in the top part, and water was poured onto the insulation panels (often made of things like fur, skin or charcoal ash). In this object the insulation was asbestos! Yikes! The low openings in the cabinet drew in air and this created a cooling effect. All the melted ice was collected in a drip tray underneath.

Koola cooling chest Koola cooling chest (ST 030419).
Image: Charlotte Smith
Source: Museum Victoria

Ice blocks for your ice chest used to be delivered by the ice man from the ice house who would lug around the blocks using a pair of these ice tongs.

Ice tongs (ST 026528). Ice tongs (ST 026528).
Source: Museum Victoria


3. Ice can be a temporary art medium.

This photo is circa 1960s. It depicts two male chefs skilfully carving ice with chisels. They have sculpted a lovely polar bear, a penguin and some seals. But look closely: there is also Venetian gondola and I think there's a punch bowl. Plus you can just make out that the centre piece is a 3D version of the old RACV logo. 

Ice-carving Elaborate ice-carving, 1960s (MM 054918).
Image: Laurie Richards Collection of Commercial Photography
Source: Museum Victoria


4. There are links between life on earth and my freezer.

Water is one of those rare substances that expand when they solidify. Luckily for freshwater fish, ice therefore floats providing insulation for winter and not a frozen food section.

This picture reminded me of myself pondering the defrosting efficiency of my freezer.

Lantern Slide - Woman in Ice Cave Lantern Slide - Woman in Ice Cave (MM 032537).
Source: Museum Victoria


5. Ice is at its best in the form of cream or gelati!

This gelati box is from Taranto's Continental Gelati and Ice Cream Company Pty. Ltd, circa 1962.

Taranto's gelati carton Box - Taranto's, 'Three in One', 1962 (SH 000949)
Source: Museum Victoria

Comments (1)

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Liz 16 August, 2011 09:19
I love the way your mind works Dr Andi. Five very different but evocative images to get us in the mood for ice. My memories of iceskating are of a very wet and sore bottom.
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