On 10 March the Powerhouse Museum celebrates its 30th birthday. Over the past three decades the Museum has produced an enormous number of amazing exhibitions covering everything from science to art, Star Wars to high fashion. These opportunities allow us to showcase the vast and diverse objects contained within the MAAS Collection. Consisting of over 500,000 objects it is one of the largest museum collections in Australia. Dedicated MAAS Staff have been preserving, caring for, safeguarding and acquiring new objects for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection over the last 130 years. To celebrate this occasion we asked some of the Museum’s staff and volunteers to share memories of their favourite exhibitions and collection objects.
Name: Gara Baldwin
Year started: 1993
Current role: Volunteer, Curatorial
Past roles: Rights and Permissions Officer
Favourite object or exhibition: Memorable for me was the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1995 for the museum’s Mary McKillop tribute exhibition, when he was in Sydney to beatify Mary McKillop. We were all allowed to watch, from the top level of the museum, his arrival in the Popemobile. His security men, with dogs, went through the entire museum just before his arrival. It was all very exciting!
Name: Suzanne Chee
Year started: 1984
Current role: Conservator
Past roles: Student Intern, Conservation Assistant
Favourite object or exhibition: A very difficult question. My favourite exhibition of all time must go to Christian Dior: The Magic of Fashion (1994). We had a lot of time studying the beauty of each garment, admiring the craftsmanship (mostly executed by women) and marvelling at the construction details of his very complicated patterns. It was pure haute couture at the highest level. The exhibition design was outstanding – it transported you into a world of romance and decadence.
Name: Glynis Jones
Year started: 1985
Current role: Curator
Past roles: Assistant Registrar, Assistant Curator
Favourite object or exhibition: Faith Fashion Fusion: Muslim Women’s Style in Australia because it was the first exhibition to look at the intersection between faith and fashion and to celebrate the creativity and entrepreneurship of Australian Muslims, including the amazing Burqini designer, Aheda Zanetti. It has been travelling Australia and now internationally since 2012 and has provided the exhibition team with wonderful opportunities to work with museum staff from Katanning to Kuala Lumpur. The generosity and support of the local Muslim community in the development and ongoing tour of the exhibition has been a highlight of my career.
Name: Mandy Crook
Year started: 1990
Current role: Registrar
Past roles: Assistant Registrar, Assistant Curator, Clerk
Favourite object or exhibition: I have worked on many amazing exhibitions but one of my favourites was a very small one containing only one object. Celebrating 50 years: A Style Icon: 1959-2009 was an installation to celebrate 50 years of Barbie. The installation garnered a lot of attention from the public and very close attention from me and our Barbie Curator Margaret Simpson, as our Conservator Gosia Dudek had the fun job of dressing Barbie.
Name: Judy Coombes
Current role: Head of Strategic Collections
Past roles: I have had 10 different roles at MAAS including Registrar (Documentation and Exhibitions), Registrar (Collection Administration) and Manager Registration.
Favourite object or exhibition: My favourite Exhibition has been 1000 Years of the Olympic Games: Treasures of Ancient Greece. The staff we worked with from Greece were incredibly generous with their time and expertise, both here and in Greece. I was fortunate to be the courier for the exhibition back to Athens and the museum curators took us to Delphi where I learned so much about ancient Greece. My favourite objects are the Maralinga Clock, which is extremely evocative of a time when Indigenous people were unacknowledged and ignored; and the turbo shell and gold snuff box, which is the earliest documented gold object produced in Australia.
Name: Katrina Hogan
Year started: 1995
Current role: Governance Manager
Past roles: Volunteer, Customer Service Officer, Guide Lecturer, Clerical Officer (Registration), Assistant Registrar, Registrar
Favourite object or exhibition: The Tyrrell Collection of glass plate negatives. I worked on a dedicated project to catalogue the 7900 glass plate negatives which form the Tyrrell Collection. The collection was owned by Sydney bookseller James Tyrrell having been acquired from the studios of Charles Kerry and Henry King. I even called one of my sons Henry! The images include a wide variety of subjects, my favourites being the streets of Sydney, views of surrounding suburbs and regional areas. My favourite image is of pioneer settler Lucy Sawtell and her children.
Name: Geoffrey Wyatt
Year started: 1986
Current role: Education Program Producer
Past roles: Casual guide (PHM and Obs), Assistant Education Officer, Education Officer, Senior Astronomy Educator
Favourite object or exhibition: Leonardo’s Codex in 2000 was the coolest but From Earth to the Universe in 2009 had stunning backlit images of the Universe. To look at those amazing images of galaxies and see them as they were millions of years ago and consider what might exist within them ignites a fire in my soul and fills me with wonder. ‘For some, who are travellers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky’, oh how I wish they were guides for us all.
Name: Marinco Kojdanovski
Year started: 1996
Current role: Media Producer
Past roles: Photographer
Favourite object or exhibition: Love Lace because it was great opportunity to photograph and interview a diverse range of artists and their works. Photography in the museum allows me to push the boundaries and create images that justify our fabulous collection.
Name: Carey Ward
Year started: 1980
Current role: Registrar
Past roles within MAAS: Conservator
Favourite object or exhibition: What I enjoy most about working in the Museum is that every day is different, and I get to work with a fabulous range of objects. My favourite exhibition was Austrian Arms and Armour closely followed by Lucian Henry – among many others. My favourite objects are the model collection, especially the model of the New Zealand steam tug SS “Awarua”.
Name: Eva Czernis-Ryl
Year started: 1985
Current Role: Curator
Past roles: 6 different roles, starting with Conservator
Favourite object or exhibition: A tea and coffee set, designed by Denton Corker Marshall (DCM) in Melbourne, for Alessi (Italy, 2003), which I acquired in 2005. This micro skyscraper for the table (it dismantles into individual components for use) was part of Alessi’s ‘Tea & Coffee Towers’ series launched at the 8th Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2002. DCM was one of 22 internationally acclaimed architectural firms invited by Alessi to provide a design for a tea set.
“Alongside many of my long-standing colleagues, I am immensely proud to have been part of a MAAS community that has worked hard, collaboratively and in innovative ways for decades to position the Museum not only as a Sydney cultural icon, but also as an internationally recognised leader among the best museums in the field.
As a curator, often working in partnership with generous benefactors and the wider community, I have sourced, researched and acquired hundreds of applied arts and design objects. I feel extremely fortunate to have played a role in enriching MAAS’ world-class collection and bringing it to life for visitors though exhibitions, publications and public programs. I look forward to seeing MAAS continue to prosper and inspire diverse audiences, well into the future.”
-Eva Czernis-Ryl, Curator, 2018