Inside the Collection

International Museum Day: where Museum collections make regional connections

Presentation set for setting the first stone in the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge
96/250/1 Presentation set, design and construction of Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, wood / metal / ivory / fabric, Allerding & Son, Sydney, 1889

This post by loans registrar, Katrina Hogan is an example of the Museums regional loans program, highlighting the Powerhouse Museums collection and its important links to New South Wales industrial and social history.

On the weekend 3-4 May 2014, the Dangar Island Historical Society commemorated the 125th opening of the Hawkesbury River Bridge with a series of events and an exhibition about the history of the construction of the bridge.

The exhibition included a loan of two objects from the Powerhouse Museum’s collection: a trowel and gavel presentation set, the Inscription on the trowel reads “Presented to Mr Louis Samuel on the occasion of settling the first stone in Hawkesbury Bridge Pier N.S.W. This pier is the deepest foundation in the world, being [blank] feet below high water”. The ivory gavel would have been used to tap the stone. The stone setting ceremony occurred shortly after completion of the first pier on June 6th 1887. Sydney based stonework contractor Louis Samuel & Co was awarded the tender for the masonry work on the bridge piers after the job was advertised worldwide. Louis Samuel & Co was the only Australian company to be awarded a contract on the massive project, with the Union Bridge Co. of New York winning the tender for both sinking the piers and constructing the spans.

It also included a souvenir booklet from the opening of the Hawkesbury Bridge (NN10233). Dangar Island is accessible only by boat and the loan negotiations involved working through the logistics of how best to transport the items.

A couple of hours before my scheduled delivery of the loan the borrower was advised that the showcase they had planned to hire to display the loan could not be transported to the island and therefore it was unlikely the loan could proceed. Always have a Plan B! After undertaking a site visit and with further discussion back to the Museum it was decided that I would accompany the objects for a one day display on Sunday 4 May, where they could be displayed in a small display case kindly provided by one of the island residents.

Governor Marie Bashir viewing the Powerhouse Museum loan in the exhibition
Governor Marie Bashir viewing the Powerhouse Museum loan in the exhibition

The display of the loan proceeded very well.  The exhibition was well attended and our objects generated much interest and discussion.  Several dignitaries were in attendance:  Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW, Philip Ruddock Federal Member Berowra, Senator Deborah O’Neill Federal MP for Robertson, Matt Kean State Member for Hornsby, Mr Ian Thom Sir Henry Parkes Foundation (and great-great grandson of Sir Henry Parkes)and Steve Russell, Mayor of Hornsby Shire Council. Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences Trustee
Tim Ebbeck was also in attendance.  The Dangar Island Historical Society and in particular Dave Reynolds and Peter Wolfe deserve congratulations for the organisation of such a successful event and exhibition and for their role in documenting their local history

Matt Kean spoke about the event in the NSW Parliament the following week.

Written by Katrina Hogan, Registrar Loans

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