Why is this lawnmower being checked out and spruced up in the Powerhouse Museum’s conservation lab? The answer is it’s one a diverse group of objects I’ve selected to add to the whacky mix of stories, ideas and activities in the upcoming exhibition Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. What’s slightly whacky about the mower is the brass sign attached to it, proclaiming its significance as the five millionth Victa ever made – it’s hard to imagine revving it up and whizzing around the garden with it, sign and all.
Aardman characters Wallace and Gromit live at 62 West Wallaby Street. They never disclose what town that’s in, but it certainly sounds like an Australian address. Their house and garden, and their inventive world, have indeed been located in Melbourne for a few months, and now the exhibition is being packed up and sent to Sydney. The exhibition opens here on 15 December.
In selecting objects to complement those that came from England with the exhibition, I’ve looked for things that might surprise as well as inform, and for visual as well as historical interest. Running across the diversity of objects are the themes ‘materials of invention’ and ‘protecting intellectual property’. The challenge in writing labels has been to weave these themes as weft into the warp of object descriptions and historical timelines, with as light a touch as possible.
My other aim has been to Australianise the exhibition a little. Victa is a well-known story of Australian innovation. Visitors will find several other Australian-made objects in the ‘telephones’ and ‘boots’ timelines, including a 1996 mobile phone and a very special pair of Blundstone boots. There are several more in Wallace’s library, including an e-book reader invented way back in 1988, a portable Braille note-taker and a mechanical shearing handpiece (look out for Shaun the Sheep, who could be in for A Close Shave!)