Below we present a growing set of our favourite Object Stories posted to ABC Open.
You would be hard-pressed to find a piano that has travelled further and more frequently than this Berlin beauty, purchased in the 1920s and now on display in Alice Springs at the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. Helen Kempe shares its story, including the 'voice' of the piano itself.
Meet Eric Carpenter and the cotton Speedo swimsuit he wore, over 60 years ago, as a Wagga Beach Lifesaver. (Yes, Wagga Wagga has a beach.)
Water moves wood; wood moves water. A multi-faceted story of wartime irrigation, Japanese internees and a kind paddlesteamer captain.
Jannie Smit salvaged this rotor from a positive displacement pump – for her aesthetic pleasure. It's a beautifully-worked piece of metal that imitates the organic spiral form of many plants and seashells.
From Dorothy Wickham, an intriguing object about sexual relations in colonial Australia – but what's the actual story? Read the comments and follow the links.
How much easier is it, today, to determine the total cost of a list of goods? This story by Kathy Beatson is a weighty reminder.
You couldn't imagine a more beautifully useful object – water jug, hand bag, food storage container, grinding bowl and – for babies – a portable bed. It's lovely to hear a bit of Gija language here – thanks Phyllis, Lena and Shirley.
As a journalist, Solua Middleton bore witness to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations: 'I remember the words "We say sorry". You could feel the tension release from the room, which was filled with many Indigenous Australians who were affected by those removal policies.'
Not only does this story explain how a sextant works, it's a story of ocean navigation from the central desert. Thank you, Fiona Walsh.
Aunty Dorrie Moore's father's certificate of exemption gave him some of the privileges of white people but also (at least in theory) restricted his access to culture, language and family. Find out more about these certificates.
At the end of the era of Holden manufacturing in Australia, 'samgraffeo' describes the place of the FJ in three histories – of his family, Holden and Australia. See also a beautiful example of the model from whence this light comes.
So many rabbits! And on land where English traps were almost useless. Enter the Warrigal trap, a tool for putting an environmental disaster to good use. Rabbit stew! Akubra hats (like this one)! Or for the crafty, warmth.
In 1941 the No. 5 platoon – some of the Rats of Tobruk – crafted this medal from shrapnel and presented it to the battalion doctor, Dr Stanley Goulston, who quietly treasured it for the rest of his life.
From Sophie de Vitis, an object story with the lot: underpants made during WWII from material purchased with ration coupons – and a sign roll for Sydney tram stops – to a WWI pattern with seams in which lice could not hide. And yes, they have been 'mended and restitched over and over'.
As Marilyn Berry explains, these copper penny spoons were crafted on the quiet in a railway metal workshop – a product of larrikin enterprise in the age of postwar frugality.
Did you know that in the 1950s Australian history was taught via comic books? Does that approach work for you? Follow the link and share your thoughts.
news article reports.
This intriguingly-named device is not a toy for swinging singles. Rather, its purpose is to help a horse to carry a load – which is why, as the Channel Heritage Centre says, the Sunshine Harvester Works made so many. Nice to see another object storyteller getting horsey ;)
For decades up to 1930, 'Old Tom' and his pod of orcas cooperated with whalers, herding other species of whale into Twofold Bay and then alerting the whalers to come in for the kill. Why would orcas do this? Read the full story. (One answer is for whale tongue and throat – quite the delicacy, apparently.)
This steampunk-like contraption is a kit for measuring the moisture content of wool on sheep – thereby resolving the vexed question of whether to shear now or wait. Jeff Nagorka explains.
Common in the early 1900s but almost unheard of today – so you may have to travel to the National Museum of Australian Pottery in Holbrook to see one – these pottery traps defended many a tabletop spread from attack by ants.
Fifty years ago as a new migrant at Bonegilla, Roland Sjoberg saw these boats floating past and loved them. Now he makes his own 1:24 scale models. Here at the Museum, we cherish the PS Enterprise and its miniature twin, so we understand!
Another really old cake! (Remember this one?) How sad, that amid the deprivation of the Great War, a piece of his wedding cake was the best memento that William Henson had of his homelife. On the up-side, he did make it home to his wife. Elaine Chick tells the story.
This compact machine was dropped by parachute into Normandy on D-Day for an English soldier to use. Muffler-free, it sounded like machine guns firing – which was good for scaring the Germans away. Thanks for sharing, Hay Gaol Museum.
From Andrew West in Broken Hill, a story two million years in the making, of serendipity, sensitivity, and chivalry – and not, actually, of fences at all, however fascinating fences are.
On the challenge of riding sidesaddle: "I've tried it, and I'm useless, and I've been riding for 80 years." So says Lez Taylor, in this story of how jodhpurs – and the Indian women that inspired them – helped relegate sidesaddles to history.
Donna Hellier's mother rescued a piece of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics finish line as it was being dug up for the cricket – and saved it in a chutney jar. And we have the ABC TV outside broadcast van, which shared the critical moments as runners crossed the finish line.
Having been at both ends of the strap, Howard Lowe reflects on the era of corporal punishment in schools.
Wilma Williams' Aunt Betty was 16 and dux of her school when she landed a job with Fletcher Jones, a newly established clothing manufacturer. Always generous with his staff, Fletcher Jones was also a pioneer of workforce participation, converting his business into a co-operative so that all staff owned shares in the company.
In 1903 Miles Franklin's sister Laurel died, aged 11. To commemorate her short life, another sister, Linda, made this bracelet from Laurel's hair; it's now part of the Tumut Museum collection.
"I declare that I am a genuine smoker" – Margaret M is fascinated by these forms for tobacco rations for ex-service personnel, from an era when smoking 'was expected, condoned, assisted and supported'.
"Harry Freakman, Shrink, hee har, are you mad?" Dr Harry Freeman worked at the infamous Aquarius Festival that overtook Nimbin in 1973, and ended up with a psychedelic Tshirt treasure. Also worth a look is the contemporary ABC Four Corners report on the festival.
From the Museum of the Riverina, an object of many lives. First, a gentleman's firm brim hat. Second, a showman's bread and butter. Then, before finally coming to rest in the museum, it was good old timey fun.
When we’re sitting in the trenches / Midst the hail of shot and shell / We still have time to send a line: / “Dear Mum, I’m safe and well.” How wartime mementos helped Vera Rayson understand the impact of war – on all parties.
You can also hear an interview with Vera Rayson via ABC Radio National's Hindsight program.
Charlie Moss survived his World War I service, and came home with this crafty 'upcycled' plane – the fuselage is a bullet casing, the movable tail and wings are a copper alloy, and the wheels are Belgian coins.
Formally honoured for his work on the Overland Telegraph – those medals are the star and badge of a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George – Sir Charles Todd was a quintessential gentleman, remembered for his multifarious benevolence, and for his mastery of the much-maligned art of wordplay. (This glowing obituary notes several gems.)
How much energy have Australians expended trying to control the flow of water? In 1984, the Hunter River reasserted control, taking Greg Scott's irrigation pump and concealing it for 15 years.
Nita Howells became quite attached (haha) to these cuffs over the course of her career as a police officer. Designed effectively for controlling violence, they only ever failed her once.
It's difficult to imagine spending six minutes in this full body splint, let alone six years. Ann Maree McLeod contracted polio at age six, and the best treatment was immobilisation for as long as she was growing. Now in the Greens Gunyah Museum, the splint stands testament to the value of vaccination.
The young boy in this photograph was intrigued by the radio behind him. Locked when not in use, protected by an embroidered cover, and housed in a niche in the wall, it was also full of very small people. Sohrab Nabi-Zadeh shares his story.
In 1985, the Shepparton road safety program hosted a visit by the royal couple, Charles and Diana. As a young girl Camille was tasked with chauffering the Princess, and for this story she recalls all the drama.
From Gilgandra Historical Society, a war story of culture, communications, feminine industry, the impassioned Cooee March and, of course, loss. Also of comfort?
The objects of Leeanne Wilson's story are housed in the National Museum of Australia, part of a large collection of Aboriginal breastplates. For the Museum, they represent pivot points in the history of cross-cultural relations. For Leeanne, whose ancestors received them, they represent souls that need to be healed.
As Wendy King explains, smokers like this one pacify the bees so beekeepers can inspect a hive, harvest the honey and – most importantly – protect the bees on which our food security depends. See also this bark painting self-portrait by Jimmy Wululu, Sugarbag Dreaming.
Vanessa Brennan describes a soft and successful approach to teaching children empathy and responsibility.
For 52 years June Cashman worked as a nurse. Her most rewarding time was in Aboriginal health in the 'red centre' in the 1960s. She has always treasured the woomera (spearthrower) she was given when she left, reminding her of the knowledge and talents of people then considered 'primitive'.
Rudy Sabbo's grandmother was given this armband or bracelet when, to escaped from an arranged marriage in Vanuatu, she followed her lover on to a blackbirding boat.
With the holiday season of over-indulgence looming, listen to June Noble describe the fun, healthy pastime of skipping.
in 1981 Donna Hellier worked to ensure the historical accuracy of The Sullivan's show. She's a second-generation Australian television industry professional – her mother quit because "you couldn't show a pregnant woman on TV in 1958".
Remember when (or imagine if!) telephoning someone involved a human Operator and one of these contraptions? Helen Wallace shares some inside knowledge on how it worked.
Whew, it's been a long journey for this coach. It was built around 1878, and carried passengers between Surat and Yuleba until 1924. Acquired by the Commonwealth in 1925, it arrived in Canberra in 1927. Then in 1932 it was back in Sydney for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Restored (with vinyl!) in 1962, it was transferred to the National Museum in 1979. And since March 2013 it's been back in Queensland, on loan to the Cobb & Co Museum. Now – thanks to Janelle Insley – there's a new chapter in its story.
Sometimes it may be better to not know the whole story. Maybe the details are too awful to contemplate. In a way, not knowing also gives you space to wonder and imagine, as this story by Norm Clarke shows.