Inside the Collection

This Little Radio

Small handheld radio with three controls and speaker cloth on the front. It has a leather hand strap and a dark plywood frame.
The ‘Handie Talkie’ portable radio made by David Hain, MAAS Collection, 2007/17/14-1. Photo: Jean-Francois Lanzarone

A small showcase on Level 1 at the Museum shares the story of a very special little radio.

Earlier this year, Red Room Company invited MAAS to contribute an object from the museum collection to the learning resource and workshop program of Poetry Object 2018.

Poetry Object is Red Room Company’s annual poetry writing competition for schools across Australia and New Zealand. The competition invites us to think about how the objects in our lives can hold special personal meanings, and to explore capturing these stories in our own words by writing a poem about a chosen talismanic object. Each year hundreds of young people and teachers submit poems about the objects that are very special to them.

Museums are all about special objects, and our team was really excited to be approached by Red Room to contribute to this year’s program. Many objects in the MAAS collection capture the memories and experiences of remarkable individuals. Curator Campbell Bickerstaff selected a little radio created in 1947 by local radio expert and electronics enthusiast, David Hain.

The Little Radio showcase shares the story of David’s treasured object, what it may have meant to David, and how Campbell came to find it. It includes David’s copy of the Radio and Hobbies magazine featuring the original radio project, his hand-drawn circuit diagram, and a photo of the radio in situ in David’s workshop annotated in his own beautiful handwriting.

This small group of objects gives us a little insight into the life of David Hain.

Snapshot photograph of the little radio sitting on a bench in David's home surrounded by miscellaneous household material.
Snapshot of the little radio in David’s home, MAAS collection, 2007/17/14-3. Photo: David Hain

David’s story

David Hain was born in 1926 and lived in Lane Cove, NSW, all his life. David developed a passion for electronics and carried on a radio sales and repair business, offering home visits for new radio demonstrations and to fix up old sets. To the local community he was the go-to repair guy.

The curator’s story

In 2007 I was invited by David’s sister to examine the radio material remaining in his house after his death. The visit had a profound impact on me — his collection and documentation demonstrated his interest, expertise and a desire to contribute to the development of radio. Many of the radios included hand-drawn circuit diagrams. One radio, however, came with a photograph that had notes on the back detailing David’s recollections in his own handwriting:

‘This little radio has a long history. I built it long before the advent of transistors. It was a Radio & Hobbies project. I altered the design several times, took it on holidays to Lake Burrill and elsewhere. When transistors became available I used it as a test bed for many circuits. I learnt a lot. I forgot the present status of its works, but I have an affection for it.’

Image of the reverse of David's snapshot with handwritten notes about his connection to the radio. Transcript given in the quote below.
David Hain’s handwritten notes about the little radio on the reverse his snapshot, MAAS collection, 2007/17/14-3. Photo: Ryan Hernandez

The hope is for David’s story to prompt visitors of all ages to reflect on their own experiences, and includes some questions that we hope will provoke some interesting conversations amongst visitors:

What would you hate to be separated from?

What do you think David learnt from his radio?

Have you ever tried to repair something broken to keep it alive?

The Learning team is co-hosting a suite of poetry workshops with Red Room. Visiting school groups will experiment with circuit poetry, exploring the work of the Little Radio’s creator.

Written by Campbell Bickerstaff and Karolina Novak
June 2018

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