Inside the Collection

Category: Design

Albert Arnold’s 26-function combination tool

May 12, 2014

Debbie Rudder
  You can have your Swiss army knife or Leatherman. I’m impressed by this beautiful tool designed, patented and made by blacksmith Albert Arnold in Sydney in 1898. It is packed with functionality: ten spanners, a glass-cutter, cork screw, wire-cutter, screwdriver, bicycle repair kit, hammer and tack raiser.

Fibro coast

April 16, 2014

Charles Pickett
The Gold Coast City Gallery has been displaying the exhibition Fibro Coast; it will soon be at the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery. Fibro Coast is about the holiday architecture that is still a feature of the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Steamfest 2014 Mystery Object revealed

April 14, 2014

Debbie Rudder
Would you have guessed the mystery object on display in the Museum’s marquee at Steamfest this year? Visitors to this event, held in Maitland over the weekend of 12-13 April, were invited to have a go.

Home made commode an ‘ensuite’ from 1909

April 7, 2014

Lynne McNairn
A commode is defined as 'a stand or cupboard containing a chamber pot or washbasin'. They date from before the days of sewerage and flushing toilets, when for obvious reasons, the toilet or can was located outside the house, usually at the far end of the backyard.

Neons and museums

February 17, 2014

Charles Pickett
A few years back I was interviewed about the fate of Sydney’s neon advertising signs: 'The great age of neon has passed,' laments Charles Pickett, a curator of design and society at the Powerhouse Museum, an institution that houses the AWA sign that once sat atop the eponymous1930s skyscraper, and a red neon greyhound removed recently from Wentworth Park Raceway.

Goodbye Shirley Temple

February 12, 2014

Margaret Simpson
The popular and timeless child film star, Shirley Temple, has just died at the age of 85. This child's colouring book is one of the many items of merchandising produced when she was in her prime. For adult and child fans alike, it provided a fascinating sneak peek into Shirley's glamorous world showing where she worked at the film studio in Hollywood, her home, pet dogs, rabbits and horse, her own pedal car as well as the car her father drove her to work in.

Water rat fur coat and a long romance

February 10, 2014

Lynne McNairn
This very unusual fur coat was donated to the museum in 1993. Curator, Glynis Jones recalls, "I remember visiting the donor, Mrs Buckland, she sat me down in her lounge room and sipping a small glass of whisky, related the wonderful story of her coat.

Utility and beauty through science

January 22, 2014

Deborah Turnbull
Do you know what a heliostat is? As with most scientific instruments, I had my educated guesses but didn’t know for sure. Luckily my colleagues are Matthew Connell and Nick Lomb and they can assist me in understanding my curiosities.

One armed bandits

January 15, 2014

Charles Pickett
I read some good news recently – the number of poker machines in NSW pubs has reduced by 2675 in the past two years. More pubs are giving pokies the flick. I’m interested in this for a couple of reasons: The Powerhouse holds what is probably the only collection of poker machines in a major Australian museum.

Hill’s Mini-Hoist rotary clothes line

January 6, 2014

Margaret Simpson
I've seen this little 60-cm high Hill's Hoist clothes line in our basement storage area for years and always assumed it was a model which reps might have taken around to secure sales. Clearly, lugging a full-size clothes line around with you was out of the question and this is a perfect model of the famous clothes line which sprouted up in backyards across the nation.

Christmas wrapping cloths, inspired by an Asian tradition

December 23, 2013

Nicole Balmer
December is here and Christmas starts announcing its approach with sprigs of sparkly neon tinsel and piles of fake snow in air conditioned department stores.   I love shiny things and generally run at Christmas full tilt, unplanned, slightly hysterical and usually exhausted by the time the big day arrives.

Shopping around

December 18, 2013

Charles Pickett
A groovy shopping mall is a contradiction in terms for many people. Yet that is what has just opened at the Central Park development on Sydney’s Broadway. As malls go the new one is small but it’s illuminated from above by a Jean Nouvel-designed heliostat and according to the Herald, has the personality of ‘a well-dressed hipster with a short attention span’.