Explore our favourite Object Stories below, and read the full story on the ABC Open website. These stories were sent in by members of the public in 2014 using visual and written form.
For a century from 1910 many children paid a penny for life membership of the Gould League, pledging “to protect all birds except those that are noxious”. This membership card is from 1941.
This cast iron book press lives in the basement of Newcastle Regional Library. It would have been used to bind books that were perceived at the time as being valuable enough or important enough to be restored and preserved.
Sometimes ‘enemies’ turn out to be friendly. Shorlty after the end of World War II, a Western Australian farmer received this affectionate letter... from an Italian prisoner-of-war who worked on her farm as an internee.
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.
Charlie Moss survived his First World War 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
This unique and beautiful cushion was made from cigarette silks sent home from the battlefields of France during the First World War. The story comes from the Gilgandra Historical Society.
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.
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.
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.
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 likely bought this typewriter for Betty. He was also a pioneer of workforce participation, converting his business into a co-operative so that all staff owned shares in the company.
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’.
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 is 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’.
This skipping rope, dating from the 1920s, was once the possession of the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame foundation member June Noble's mother. It now sits proudly in the Museum's collection.
Did you know that in the 1950s Australian history was taught via comic books? The comic strip format may have been designed to further engage children in Australia’s history — an easy to understand format, rather than a lengthy dry volume of endless words.
Dr Harry Freeman was a psych student at university when his mates convinced him to be a volunteer doctor at the Aquarius Festival in 1973. In this video he tells us the story of his treasured object, a psychedelic T-shirt.
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”.
A mind-boggling story from the Glenelg Shire Council. The very large cake of which this decrepit piece was part was housed in a building modelled after the cake itself. And to this day there may be a gold sovereign inside this morsel.
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.
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.
This ‘learned monkey’ is the only tangible remnant of 79-year-old Vera Wasowski’s life in Poland, and is testament to unlikely survival in extreme conditions. Witness her powerful story. *Warning* — you will see some disturbing archival images.
Discover the drama of the moments before the camera captured this celebrated photograph, and consider the converse: the many images it took (in the hands of photographer, Richard Crawley) of uncelebrated people in the everyday streets of Melbourne. Both are amazing.
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.
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.