Seeking the lost Browne boys: Spiritualism and grief

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in-between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths. Images: National Library of Australia.

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths. Images: National Library of Australia.

Communing with the dead

In tasteful parlour rooms across the world, the mood was set. Accompanied by soft lighting and gentle music, people quietly gathered, waiting not for romance but in the hope of receiving messages from the dead. The appearance of a well-known historical figure would cause a stir but generally, it was messages from loved ones who had passed on which audiences waited breathlessly for.

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths.

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Saving a life at the beach

Surf Life Saving Handbooks from 1940 to 1946 at the Vaughan Evans Library. Vaughn Evans Library Collection.

Surf Life Saving Handbooks, from 1940 to 1946, at the Vaughan Evans Library. Vaughn Evans Library Collection.

Surf Life Saving handbooks of yesteryear

The first week of September is history week and the theme for 2018 is ‘Life and Death’.

Each weekend, many Australians flock to the sea for fun, sport and recreation. It is part of the Australian way of life – a place of work and play. At the same time, the sea can be harsh, unpredictable and deadly. A true symbol of life and death at sea is the Australian Surf Life Saving movement, a group who work tirelessly to prevent death at sea and ensure Australians can safely enjoy all that a coastal lifestyle has to offer.

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Life and death in paradise

Pitcairn Island from the sea. Image: Nigel Erskine/ANMM.

Pitcairn Island from the sea. Image: Nigel Erskine/ANMM.

The Bounty mutineers and their descendants on Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn is a small volcanic island rising abruptly out of the deep waters of the eastern South Pacific Ocean. The nearest inhabited centres are Easter Island 1,770 km to the east, and the Gambier Islands 480 km to the northwest.  The island is cliff-bound and open to full ocean swell, limiting access to the island to small boats capable of negotiating the surf.  There is no safe anchorage and little flat land, indeed the island lacks almost every convenience conducive to settlement.

But in January 1790 a small British naval vessel arrived at Pitcairn carrying 28 people aboard – His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty.

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That’s a wrap! History Week 2013

Lead imageLast week we had the pleasure of hosting a History Week event here at the museum – From Glass-plate to Cyber-space. As the theme was Picture This, we decided to talk about how sharing the museum’s collection online has completely transformed it and we invited representatives from other cultural institutions to do the same. As promised, we organised our photographer *cough* absolute lifesaver *cough* to record the event for those of you who couldn’t make it along. Enjoy! Continue reading

Picture This: History Week 2013

History WeekWhat’s your favourite story from our photographic collection? Is it the voyage of the Sunbeam, the glamorous Hera Roberts or the mystery disappearance of two film stars? How about the ‘yachties’ – master shipwright Billy Barnett, Frank Albert or Sydney’s oldest yachtsman? For History Week this year the theme is Picture This, and on 11 September, in partnership with our friends Inside History Magazine, we will be exploring how cultural institutions are using digital communities to share photographic collections and unlock the past. Join my fellow blogger Penny Hyde, myself and our guest panellists Paula Bray, Geoff Hinchcliffe, Mitchell Whitelaw, Lisa Murray and Bernard de Broglio for a lively discussion about the exciting world of online collections! Continue reading

La Belle Époque

Group photo

From left to right: Laura Stewart, Christie Milton, Robyn Murphy, Jessica Allison, Inger Sheil, Anna Porcaro, Tara Mannell and Stephanie Wigens
Photographer Nicole Cama, ANMM

Portrait of model wearing black evening gown

Anna Porcaro modelling a black evening gown made by Rebecca Smith
Photographer Nicole Cama, ANMM

On Wednesday night, the museum hosted its answer to this year’s History Week theme – Titanic Threads. And what a spectacular night it turned out to be! For two hours, guests were transported back to the fashions of the Titanic era. Beaded hats, pretty lace and hobbled skirts paraded across the carpet, a sight not usually witnessed in the Tasman Light Gallery. There were gowns made in every fabric including velvet and silk and one outfit composed of tablecloths dyed in different shades of green. Each outfit was sewed and threaded to perfection to create a vibrant festival of colour that made us all wish we lived in the ‘Beautiful era’ for just one day. Continue reading

Titanic Threads

Hobble skirts, Kimono-style dresses, tea gowns and opulently beaded dinner dresses…..

What is the Belle Epoque?

How is it different to the Edwardian Era?

Can you read a piece of antique fashion like a historical document?

And just how does a costume designer on the set of a movie like Titanic decide what to dress the actors in to reflect authentic period fashion with just the right amount of Hollywood-style creative license?

We are just a week out from our fascinating History week seminar Titanic Threads which will be illuminating the answers to these questions and more.

Concept sketch for Rose Dewitt Bukater

Concept sketch for Rose Dewitt Bukater. Illustration by David La Vey. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox.

Fiona Reilly, Head of Costume at the National Institute of Dramatic Art( NIDA) and herself a talented and experienced theatre, film and television costume designer will be bringing insight into the processes behind this seemingly glamorous profession. More than this she will also have in tow a selection of gorgeous and authentic fashion items from and inspired by the Belle Epoque era for a fashion parade by NIDA students at the event. NIDA has an extensive costume collection including antique clothing dating back as far as the 1800s kept for the purposes of student research.

Titanic Threads will also connect with our current exhibition Remembering Titanic: 100 years that features beautiful costumes from the 1997 blockbuster Titanic. Walking through the exhibition with Fiona she explains how there would have been at least 6 of each of these outfits, spares are always made on the set of a film in case the outfit is snagged, stained or damaged during production (and if you’ve watched the ending it’s no wonder that more than few of the infamous “sinking dress” were required to withstand multiple takes of running around the ship and hours of wading in water). Jack’s costume is the one she really disagrees with, even a third class passenger would have dressed much more formally than this, it would have been quite scandalous to be caught in what he wears most of the time- something akin to an undershirt. Of course there are other discrepancies, a little bit of a creative take on history as films so often do- Rose shows far too much cleavage and a woman of her breeding wouldn’t have ever been caught outside without a hat to match this yellow sundress. Other elements are quite true to form however, costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott would have spent extensive time researching from photographs and actual vintage fashions to recreate the style and feel of the era.

Molly Brown costume concept sketch

Molly Brown costume concept sketch. Illustration by David La Vey. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox

Our resident historian, author and Titanic enthusiast Inger Sheil will also joining the line up at Titanic Threads to share the stories of some of the couturiers on board the infamous vessel.

Fashion can be a very special index of a period in history- social mores, economic climate, political identities and artistic influences. The Belle Epoque is no different.  To this end Titanic Threads will also unveil some of the historical context behind this era’s shift in styles that took puffs sleeves to tapered, wasp-waisted corsets to chemise – brassiere combos, and the emergence of bustle-free, oriental inspired and empire line garments that changed the course of fashion as we know it.

Titanic Threads

Wednesday 12 September 6-8pm

$20/ $18 members ( includes light refreshments and exhibition entry)

Bookings Essential and available online