Name: Glynis Jones (I often receive phone calls from gentlemen of a certain age who ask me if I appeared in Mary Poppins!!).
What is your specialty area? I completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Archaeology and Fine Arts and a postgraduate degree in Museum Studies. It was working as an archaeologist on the excavation of the First Government House site on Bridge St that gave me first hand experience of studying the past through artefacts. The glass, ceramics, drains, bones and clay pipes left me with a vivid impression of early colonial occupation of the area.
I joined the Museum as an Assistant Registrar, cataloguing the textiles and dress collection and from there became Assistant Curator and then Curator of fashion and dress. I look after a very diverse collection area covering men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories ranging from elaborate embroidered waistcoats dating from the 1700s to the work of contemporary international and Australian fashion labels including Chanel, Akira Isogawa and Romance Was Born. We also have important designer archives from Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson including their original artwork for textiles and garments, stunning fashion photography and even business records. In addition there are significant manufacturer’s archives from companies like Speedo which document the evolution of competitive swimwear from the racer back woollen Speedos of the 1930s to today’s high tech suits. Through filmed interviews and photography we collect and document the richness and diversity of subcultural and alternative dressing in Australia, from Mods to Metalheads and Goths to DIY punks.
How long have you been working at the Museum? Since 1985
Favourite object in the collection? I love wearing elastic sided boots and never get over the thrill of looking at the first pair of ‘elastic’ sided boots invented by Joseph Sparkes Hall (94/88/1). These very dainty boots are Sparkes Hall’s prototype version of the elastic-sided boot and were presented to Queen Victoria in 1837. At the time they hadn’t perfected the use of elastic rubber in clothing so the gussets are actually made of coiled wire, Sparkes Hall had to wait a few years for rubber technology to catch up with his invention. Another favourite is a collection of photographs by Melbourne based photographer Ilana Rose which document aspects of subcultural and alternative style in Sydney and Melbourne. I love Ilana’s ability to capture her subject’s often spectacular and highly expressive style. I also can’t go past the extraordinary dress embroidered by outsider artist Madge Gill. Made in the 1940s it’s a simple cotton dress which is covered in an explosion of bold freestyle embroidery. And then there’s……………………………..
What piece of research or exhibition are you most proud of in your career at the Museum? Initiating the collecting and documenting of Australian subcultural and alternative style as part of our dress collection. This is one of the most creative and innovative areas of dress; the richness and diversity of its expressions, the way it challenges or reworks traditions and aesthetic codes and the play on gender, age, race, status and body image means the study of subcultural style offers us new ways of thinking about dress. From this research I was able to contribute an article on the history of Australian subcultural style to the recently published Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion.
In terms of exhibitions I loved working on Sourcing the Muse. Eight Australian designers were invited to look through the Museum’s textile and dress collection and select items to use as a source of inspiration for a new work. It was fascinating to see what they chose and to watch the creative process as they translated their inspiration into a finished garment. They didn’t focus on the most visually spectacular or historically significant pieces in the collection. Instead I found them to be most attracted to details of construction, the inside of garments, dress components, decorative techniques from all around the world and in one case the deterioration of historic dress. I enjoy taking designers and researchers into our basement store; they always make me look at the collection in new ways.