Museums & Galleries Qld

Kellee UHR Museum and Gallery Assistant, Moreton Bay Regional Council blogs from The National Trust of Australia (Victoria)

Posted on: 16 July 2013

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The first thing that strikes me on arrival at National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is the incredibly beautiful terraces it housed in – Tasma Terrace. Situated just behind Victoria Parliament and in front of a sculpture by Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee, commemorating the 100th anniversary of female suffrage in Victoria, Tasma, as it is affectionately known sets the tone of an exciting week of historical houses and collections.

The collections team at the Trust are three passionate individuals and my mentor, Lizzie Anya-Petrivna is a joy from our first face to face introduction. A short orientation and introduction and we are off to be immersed in the Costume Collection for the rest of the day.

The Trust’s costume collection is stored primarily at Labassa Mansion, one of the 23 historic venues that the Trust manages. It is here where I will spend the majority of my first week.  Labassa is one of Australia’s most outstanding 19th century mansions. Hidden in a cul-de-sac in North Caulfield, Labassa’s striking Romantic facade and opulent interiors reflect high-Victorian era grandeur. My initial introduction to the collection does not disappoint – it is a relatively large collection and tells the fashion history of Melbourne and Victoria. The strengths of the collection are in the locally made and worn costumes, dating from 1850-1970. The collection provides insight into patterns of consumption, emigration, trade, and social change. We unpack racks and solander boxes filled with items, each one with a little story from Lizzie. This hands-on introduction to the collection is a great experience and builds confidence straight away.

After this day-long intro to the garments, the real project begins – looking at the substantial collection of Victorian era undergarments (chemises, camisoles, petticoats, split drawers, stockings, and combinations to name a few items). Photographing and taking notes for provenance research take up most of the day. Day three is a ‘research day’. Beginning a lengthy process of provenance research, looking mainly at donors and establishing a pattern in who has donated and when. This involves a introduction to The Trust collection database and more importantly to ‘Mrs Goss’ diaries’, a collection of hand written diaries of all donations made to the trust from the early 1960s to the 1980s.

Day four and five is more collection research. More unpacking and handling the items are undertaken all while discussing styles and techniques and beginning to combine notes on themes that are coming through in the collection that could be drawn from for a future exhibition. By the end of the week I feel so confident with the garments and I am getting a good idea on the importance of provenance research as a tool for curatorial development. Lizzie and I are both so excited by what might evolve with the second week of my mentorship (in September) and the possibilities of future work together on the Trust’s collection. So far this experience has further solidified my professional goal of working in dress collections and the possibilities for exciting programing ideas for specific cultural venues.

M&GSQ’s 2013 Mentorship, Exchange and Fellowship Program is funded by Arts Queensland through the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF). RADF is a joint Queensland Government and Local Government partnership to support local arts and culture.

See M&GSQ’s website, www.magsq.com.au for more information about the Mentorship, Exchange and Fellowship Program.

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Museums & Galleries Queensland

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Museums & Galleries Queensland is the peak professional body for the public museum and gallery sector in Queensland.

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