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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.

A photo of a large white poster which reads 'I'm from the ABC. Please help!' with the ABC logo at the top centre. Fingers from the person holding the poster are just visible on both sides.

Discover how the ABC crowdsourced couriers with the help of this sign, which was used up until the mid 1990s.

A detail image from a painting which features three airplanes painted in white flying across a large brown dot filling a large part of this detail image.

Unlike most Object Stories, in this case the object came into existence long after the story. It’s Vanessa Adams’ tribute to a secret her grandmother kept until just before she died.

A detail image featuring a pair of magpie geese artwork made from ghost nets.

In Far North Queensland, locals respond creatively to a serious threat to marine life: discarded fishing nets, aka ghost nets.

A detail image from a card featuring four colourful birds.

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.

A photo of cast iron book press with a woman in a pink shirt in the background.

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.

A photo of a letter written in blue ink on white paper. The background in the photo is black.

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.

A detail image of a piano's keyboard with a finger pointing at a brass label engraved with 'Stroud. Berlin'.

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.

A photo of a wooden object known as a swingle bar used for draught horses. Lying flat on a carpeted surface, it has a metal ring on each end with a larger ring fixed to the centre of the bar.

This intriguingly-named device is designed to help a horse to carry a load. They were mass produced in Australia in the early 1900s by the Sunshine Harvester Works.

A model plane placed on a white, red and blue striped fabric.

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.

Photo of an older person holding up a dark coloured swimsuit.

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.)

Detail taken from a sepia photograph featuring the top part of a whale's skeleton, the head and ribs.

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.

Star and badge of a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.

Formally honoured for his work on the Overland Telegraph, Sir Charles Todd was quite well known for his terrible puns. (This glowing obituary notes several gems.)

A detail image of a white boat featuring the words 'New Moon' in black capital letters and three vertical black stripes to the right.'.

Water moves wood; wood moves water. A multi-faceted story of wartime irrigation, Japanese internees and a kind paddlesteamer captain.

Wool moisture measure.

This steampunk-like contraption is a kit for measuring the moisture content of wool on sheep — thereby answering the question of whether to shear now or wait. Jeff Nagorka explains.

Detail taken from a video featuring an old irrigation pump.

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.

Rotor from a postive displacement pump, the part that moves the water.

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.

Detail of a Chinese coin.

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.

A pottery ant trap for a table leg.

Common in the early 1900s but almost unheard of today, these pottery traps defended many a tabletop spread from attack by ants.

Detail from a photograph of an 18kg calculator with a handle and 67 keys.

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.

A 1:24 scale model of a paddle steamer.

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!

A hand holding two black and white photographs featuring a young girl in a Double Thomas splint for people growing up with severe polio.

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.

A painted wooden container.

You couldn’t imagine a more beautifully useful object — water jug, hand bag, food storage container, grinding bowl and a portable bed for babies.

Old wedding cake.

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.

Detail taken from an old photograph featuring a woman with a small child behind her to the left.

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.

A pass for press access to Parliament House for the Prime Minister's apology to the Stolen Generations.

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.’

Folded motorbike on grass.

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.

A detail image taken from a video. A small yellow car with a young girl holding the steering wheel with the late Princess Diana seated to her left.

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.

Sextant held to the eye of a person on a beach.

Not only does this story explain how a sextant works, it’s a story of ocean navigation from the central desert.

A detail image of three pieces of petrified wood.

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.

Detail of a cushion cover made from the First World War era's cigarette 'silks'.

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.

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.

A photo of a sign with the word 'Saddlery' in black capital letters and a thick black arrow pointing to the left.

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.

Two breastplate with a kangaroo and emu and the words 'Bob Wheelpoolee King of Boulia' on the top medal and 'Nugget Queen of Boulia 1930' on the bottom medal.

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.

A colour photo of the back of a 1953 FJ Holden featuring a bullet light.

At the end of the era of Holden manufacturing in Australia, Sam Graffeo describes the place of the FJ Holden in three histories — his families, Holden's and Australia's.

Detail of black and white photos from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and a jar filled with dirt, sealed with plastic and elastic band.

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.

An old smoker to pacify bees.

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.

Detail of a steel rabbit trap.

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.

Leather strap, written all over by various hands.

Having been at both ends of the strap, Howard Lowe reflects on the era of corporal punishment in schools.

A teddy bear sitting on a window ledge.

Vanessa Brennan describes a soft and successful approach to teaching children empathy and responsibility.

Detail from a medal handmade from schrapnel after a bombing, with the words 'Presented by Lord Haw Haw to the Tobruk Rats, 1941'.

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.

Underwood portable typewriter in its (open) case.

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.

A wooden spear thrower with a white background.

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’.

One pair of underpants printed with names of tram stops in white capital letters.

From Sophie de Vitis, an object story with the lot: underpants made during WWII from an old sign roll for Sydney tram stops, with seams in which lice could not hide.

Bracelet made from plaited hair, with a gold clasp.

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.

Bracelet made from blue, white and red beads in a geometric pattern.

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.

A row of four teaspoons. The bowl of each is crafted from an Australian penny.

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.

Detail from two tobacco ration forms dated 1945.

“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’.

A coiled skipping rope.

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.

Cover of the comic 'Major Mitchell and Australia 'Felix'.

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.

A grey-haired man holds a t-shirt with a colourful psychedelic design.

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.

A detail image of typed script for the Australian television drama, The Sullivans, held in the corner by a hand with red nailpolish on the thumb.

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”.

The lid of a box marked 'Centenary souvenir birthday cake, 1834–1934, Victoria, Australia

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.

Worn black top hat resting on purple velvet. Another piece of fabric, possibly organza, with red stars, is draped around as well.

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.

Detail image of a telephone exchange with a number dialler in one corner and over a dozen wires inserted into it. On the wall next to it is a photograph of two women working at a similar exchange.

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.

A detail image of hands holding a ceramic monkey seated on a stack of books.

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.

Detail image of a book with poppy pasted into it and a range of poems.

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.

mother of pearl brooch in the shape of Australia, with metal text spelling out 'AIF mother'.

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.

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