How can you prove the alcohol content of your whisky, brandy or gin? This question has long been of interest to distillers, excise collectors, publicans and serious drinkers. This intriguing and inventive box of calibrated glass bubbles provides one answer.
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When I first saw this engine, running quietly on steam in the Powerhouse Museum, and read that it powered a gold dredge on the Ovens River in Victoria, I imagined a fairly benign operation, sucking up part of the river bed, extracting gold from it, and replacing the material.
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.
‘Save your Burnt-out Lamps. Repairs guaranteed equal to new.’ This line appeared in Sydney newspaper ads from 1918 to 1920. The small ads included an eye-catching drawing of a light globe with ‘OLD LAMPS MADE NEW’ written inside it.
When I picked up this small bone tool in our basement store, I experienced a visceral reaction, the shock of sudden realisation: it linked me to a great-grandfather I never met. The object evoked thoughts and emotions as I remembered listening to countless stories told by my grandfather, Hal Hooker.
Coming up with an idea for a research project was not difficult for me living on the edge of the Western coalfield of NSW. Evidence of Kandos’ past reliance on the winning of coal doesn’t take much digging. With superior Kandos cement from kilns heated with Kandos coal contributing to the concrete footings and pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, no wonder it stands strong after 80 years. Evidence of the region’s present reliance on coal is also easy to find with many coal mines dotting the landscape. Fascinated by the objects in the Kandos Bicentennial Industrial Museum that came from the Kandos Collieries located within a kilometre of the back door, I want to tell the story of the many men who have mined this black treasure from 1913 to 2001. Having grown up with green coloured glasses, I’m enjoying the challenge of respecting the history of coal-mining, researching the facts about this industry and recoiling at what some mines are doing to the land. In just the same way as you always see the same type of car that you’ve just purchased, but never really noticed that model before, I am finding coal everywhere. From statues of miners in Lithgow to 1936 maps of NSW minerals in my late grandfather’s books. Being a city girl, I have not grown up with any sort of wood heating and cannot share in people’s memories of the smell of coal, but I am a poet and there’s plenty of coal miner’s poetry to be found in Kandos. There must be some time for musing underground. And before you think that coal references can be boring, even Alfred, Lord Tennyson describes the amazing knight, Sir Lancelot: His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd; On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode; From underneath his helmet flow'd His coal-black curls as on he rode, As he rode down to Camelot.
If you visit the Powerhouse Museum between 10 am and 1 pm on 9 March for our 25th birthday celebrations, you will be able to see the accurate detail captured in this bronze bust of Sydney pharmacist Ernest Pollock.
This gold cradle was the first to be used in Australia to discover payable quantities of gold. It was made by William Tom Jr following directions from Edward Hargraves and was based on similar cradles (also called rockers) used to wash for gold in California.
People often ask me what curators do. Usually my answer is "we research, collect, document and display objects.” However, this answer doesn’t seem to satisfy people who wonder what really goes on behind the scenes in the museums and galleries.
“Ask Koreans ... what appeals in Korean music and typical responses will focus on feelings ... Korean music tugs at the heartstrings. Korean music – and, by extension, Korean musical instruments...
I struck gold in the basement last week: 14 carat gold in the form of this delightful didactic display showing stages in making a fountain pen nib. Note the shape of the ‘breather hole’, which exposes ink to the air and helps it move smoothly towards the writing tip: a tiny heart.
The Asian art and design collection of the Powerhouse Museum holds many fine examples of metal craft, including a significant collection of decorated Japanese tsuba (sword guards), as well as kozuka knife sheaths and handles, which use an alloy of copper and gold named shakudo.