Tasmanian Textiles and Clothing in Film

For the moving visual addition to the Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey exhibition now showing in the State Library Reading Room, we were able to find a few gems from the late Tasmanian Film Corporation. The Tasmanian Film Corporation was the last incarnation of the Tasmanian Government film unit, which was established in 1946 by the Lands and Surveys Department. It would evolve into the Department of Film Production in 1960 to oversee the full range of film production in the state before being transformed into the government owned commercial business model in the guise of The Tasmanian Film Corporation in 1977. If it moves, we’ll shoot it was a witty commercial made in 1968 by the Department of Film Production about their services.

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Introducing our new exhibition: Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of Fabrics and Clothing in Tasmania

Duck trousers, straw bonnets, and bluey: the history of Tasmanian textiles and clothing is filled with colourful and unique garments, characters, and stories. Stories like that of Joseph Bidencope, a skilful tailor and milliner from Poland, whose popular hats made in Battery Point were exhibited to great success at the Philadelphia International Exhibition in 1876. Or the many stories of the female convicts housed in the factories at Cascades and Ross – some of whom were imprisoned for stealing aprons, bonnets, and jackets – who made, embroidered, and laundered clothing.

These stories- and many more- are at the heart of a new free exhibition Duck Trousers, straw bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of Fabrics and Clothing in Tasmania currently on display in the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room in Hobart. The exhibition has original records and heritage books from the Tasmanian Archive and State Library collection on display, along with information and images in our new exhibition space.

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Tasmania Reads: Reading an Account of the Voyage of a Convict Transport (Part One: The Challenge)

The State Library and Archive Service is issuing a challenge to Tasmanians to read five different examples of nineteenth-century handwriting from our Heritage Collections, each featuring a different set of records held in the State Archives.

The scripts are selected to give you insights into some of the key strengths of our collection and we hope they will pique your interest to explore further.

As the week progresses, the challenge will get a bit more difficult, as you become more familiar with reading script. 

Each challenge will consist of two blogs. The morning blog will contain your transcription challenge, while the afternoon blog will provide the answer, as well as historical background to the events discussed in the challenge task. There will also be recommendations of other resources held in the Libraries Tasmania collections on the topic for you to explore.

Your Transcription Challenge

Your first challenge is to transcribe a passage from the account of the voyage of the Female Transport, Garland Grove (2) in 1842/1843:

Tasmanian Archives: Abraham Harvey, Reminiscences of a Voyage on the Female Convict Ship Garland Grove, p.4 (1842-43), NS816/1/1.  Abraham Harvey was the 2nd Officer on board the Garland Grove, which left England in August 1842 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in January 1843.

The Answer …

will be published in our blog this afternoon. Stay tuned!

91 Stories: Cabinet of Curiosities

Natural history collections are not only useful to scientists. They also reflect the life of the collector, his or her family, their connections, and the worlds they inhabited – even the state of their digestion! Ruth Mollison’s story about Morton Allport’s shell collection is a piece of detective work, a personal history, and an insightful (and sometimes unnerving) exploration of how one Tasmanian family intertwined art, science, reputation and obsession.   

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The Art of Mapping Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington

Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington is an integral part of the Hobart landscape. For the Muwinina people it is a place of cultural and spiritual significance, and a place of creation. Since the European settlement of Lutruwita/ Tasmania, the mountain has commonly appeared in visual and written descriptions of Hobart, providing a sweeping backdrop that frames the small town nestled along the river below. However, Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington is more than simply an iconic background; it has long been a source of resources for the town itself, including ice, timber and mining, amongst other things. Moreover, the mountain has long been regarded as a place of recreation and leisure, with picnics at the Springs and walks to its many waterfalls amongst its most popular activities. In 1935, Jack Thwaites (1902-1986) – a renowned Tasmanian photographer and conservationist- provided a wonderful description of Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington watching over Hobart, and alludes to the many ways in which the mountain draws people in…

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The Lanney Pillar – Installation at the Allport Gallery

In January 1889 a bronze statue of William Lodewyk Crowther (1817-1885) was erected in Franklin Square where it stands today. Made in England by the sculptor Signor Racci and shipped to Hobart, it was placed on a locally designed plinth in the same civic square as the Franklin statue which commemorates the Governorship of Tasmania by the Arctic navigator Sir John Franklin.

The Hobart Mercury, Thursday morning, January 10, 1889 reported on the ceremony to unveil the Crowther statue. The Chairman of the committee said:

This memorial may remind future generations, that even monuments may perish, but deeds, good or bad, never die.

The Mercury 10/1/1889 p. 3

As it turns out – prescient words.

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‘By Mountain and Sea’: the Model Factory at Cadbury’s Claremont

It has been stated in Melbourne newspapers that there is a probability of the world-famous English firm of Cadbury’s cocoa and chocolate manufacturers establishing a factory in Melbourne or Sydney to supply Australian requirements. It is understood, however, that there is an equally good chance, if not a better one, because of climatic and other advantages, of the factory being established in Tasmania. … It is understood that the location of the factory will be decided upon very shortly. Should Tasmania be favoured, the State will be given a great lift up.

The Mercury, 25 Mar 1920, p.4

In January 1920, a group of executives from the English firms of Cadbury’s and Fry’s visited Tasmania to examine a possible site for a new factory. The group had already visited several other potential sites in Australia, including along the Paramatta River in Sydney, and the western suburbs of Melbourne (Freestone, Model Communities, p.151). The executives were, however, won over by the cool climate and beautiful scenery of Tasmania that they found to embody the Quaker values of the company. The site that was chosen was unique: a 100-hectare peninsula that extended out into the River Derwent at Claremont in the northern suburbs of Hobart. The site met all practical requirements for production too: the surrounding suburbs offered a ready workforce, and there was strong state government support, excellent infrastructure including an international shipping port, and a good power supply thanks to the Hydro.

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The Lady Conductor and the Score of ‘The Toreador’

A single item, sitting on a library shelf, can be the thread of a story that weaves through locations and generations. This one is a ‘musical score’ – the sheets of music notes used for a performance – owned by a notable (but little known) Tasmanian woman.

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An International Woman: Emily Dobson (nee Lempriere)

Community Archives recently purchased a studio portrait of Emily Dobson (nee Lempriere) (1842-1934) as a young woman. It provides a rare window on the early life of a woman who entered the public sphere in her 50’s and was a prominent activist until her death at 91.

Emily Dobson was a wealthy, nineteenth-century woman who used her position in society to organise and influence her community into action. Mrs Dobson is known for creating, and being the driving force in at least nineteen philanthropic societies. She was endlessly curious and had a wide range of interests that evolved throughout her life. Her interests ranged from alleviating poverty through health, sanitation, food and housing, and caring for the needs of the sick and people with disabilities, through to social and educational organisations for women and girls, such as the Girl Guides, Victoria League, Alliance Francaise and Lyceum Club. Although Emily did not agitate politically or challenge the establishment, she worked hard to improve society in the ways she felt were proper.

Emily Dobson, ca. 1866, Tasmanian Archives: PH40/1/363
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Isn’t it good, Taswegian Wood: Experiments in Growing Cricket Bat Willow Trees and a Wooden Cricket Pitch

In the 1930s and 40s cricket bats were a precious thing. Around the world, bats were in short supply, largely due to an increase in demand for English willow (Salix alba var. caerulea) for use in a range of items both during and after the Second World War. As was noted in correspondence between J. M. Crockett and The Commissioner of the Australian Council of Agriculture in July 1940:

every available tree of this type has been taken over in Gt Britain for War Purposes, the chief item being aircraft construction, the timber being the best substitute for spruce, which is all tied up now in countries occupied by the enemy … The other uses for this willow is artificial limbs for which no other timber is suitable, and recently has [been found to have] the quickest, and most powerful detonation as a component in high explosive fuses for shells … So you can see that none of the tree is not of high commercial value.

As a cricket bat manufacturer, J. M. Crockett (Jim) had obvious motives in writing to the Commissioner and highlighting both the current global willow shortages and the value of willow timber more broadly; he wanted to propose the planting of willow trees as a viable and profitable agricultural activity in Australia. As Jim Crockett continues in his letter, ‘in normal times Australia’s requirements alone is 100,000 cricket bats annually, for which 4,500 mature trees would be required to produce the same.’ Kashmiri willow, which today is a major source of cricket bat willow, had not yet been fully developed as an industry outside of India, and so the bat-making industry was having to look further afield to other sources of willow. Australia, and most particularly the cooler and wetter climate of Tasmania, was certainly a strong option worth exploring. Over the next few years Jim Crockett made several visits to Tasmania, noting the ‘climatic conditions ideal’ for willow bat propagation. Indeed, he went so far as to state that ‘not only could Tasmania make Australia self-sufficient, but an export trade to the empire’s cricketing Dominions was extremely likely.’

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