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30 May 2003

The enduring need for people to make things with their hands is explored in Rare Trades, a major new exhibition travelling Australia and opening at the National Museum in Canberra next Friday, 6 June.

Rare Trades tells the stories of 24 people from across Australia who maintain the tools and traditions of often ancient trades, exploring how and why they continue to work with their hands in a predominantly digital age.

'Rare Trades celebrates the ability to transform raw materials into beautiful and functional objects, from the classic trades people fondly remember like tinsmithing and bookbinding to more unexpected trades like haystack building and scroll painting,' said National Museum of Australia Director Dawn Casey.

Media are invited to preview Rare Trades at 11am Thursday June 5

See Rare Traders in action theatrical Sydney milliner Jean Carroll, Adelaide glass eye maker Paul McClarin and Melbourne stonemason Andrew Patience.

Rare Trades is curated by the National Museum's Sophie Jensen and Mark Thomson, author of the book Rare Trades and the best-selling book Blokes and Sheds.

A travelling tinker's wagon, fully outfitted for its journey through post-war Australia, vividly illustrates a way of working that did not survive the changing times.

The exhibition features more than 200 objects, including a Porsche Spyder rebuilt by hand; the shoes worn by Christine Anu in Moulin Rouge; a movie theatre with footage of nine traders explaining their work; plus their distinctive tools prickers, jiggers and ducknib tongs!

Rare Trades explores humans as tool makers and tool users; the process of transforming raw materials into useful objects; the passing on of secret and not so secret trade knowledge; how technological advances relate to these old trades and our feelings for them today. A bladesmith, blacksmith, stone tool maker, craypot maker, sailmaker, weaver, clockmaker, shoemaker and wheelwright are among other traders featured. An extensive workshop program offers children and adults a chance to learn from the rare traders.

The exhibition is on show at the National Museum until 12 October then travels to the South Australian Maritime Museum, Adelaide, from 11 December-24 April 2004; and the Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich, from 11 June 2004-10 October 2004.

For more information contact Martin Portus, National Museum of Australia on (02) 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or email

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