Dental Floss and Pool Noodles

You may wonder what this blog post is all about.  But both dental floss and pool noodles are relatively cheap materials possibly lying around your house that could prove very useful when you’re caring for your collections.   

That’s what I learnt last week when I was in the Clare Valley with Artlab Australia conservators Anne Dineen, Stuart Fuller and Kristin Phillips.  We were running a workshop on Caring for Collections for community museums and historical groups in the area at the Clare Town Hall.  We try to run this free workshop in different regions within the state every two years or so.  This year’s workshop was possible through a grant from the Office for Volunteers.

The two-day workshop consisted of theory in the mornings and more practical sessions in the afternoons with plenty of opportunities to ask questions and chat over morning tea and lunch.  Participants learnt about the museum environment and the different pests that attack our collections as well as how to store paper and textile items.  Artlab brought plenty of examples of boxes, bugs, archival materials and equipment to pass around. And that’s when we learnt about dental floss being really useful for gently removing photographs that are stuck down in those nasty non-archival 1970s sticky photo albums.

The fun started when attendees were let loose on Clare National Trust Museum to try out their new found knowledge – checking for potential environmental problems and insect (and possum) activity as well as trying out Artlab’s monitoring equipment. On the second afternoon, everyone had a chance to practice some simple solutions for storing their paper and textile items.  They made enclosures for paper documents such as a four fold flat folder (using archival paper); or via encapsulation (making a see through envelope using Mylar, an archival plastic). They also learnt to surface clean some very well trained stuffed ducks and teddy bears using a micro vacuum kit as well as making supports for storing and displaying textiles.  And that’s where the pool noodles came in.  Those colourful polyethylene foam tubes used as children’s swimming aids or pool toys make good supports for textiles when covered, and are relatively cheap.

We were delighted that the workshop attracted around 25 people from 16 different organisations mainly in the Clare & Mid North region but also the Barossa, Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide.  It was a great chance to not only learn new skills but also network with one another.

More photos of the workshop can be found here. Along with the free set of notes that each participant received, we hope the pictures will be a useful reminder of what was learnt each day.

Don’t forget that our website has a Suppliers’ Directory and useful help sheets that can be downloaded.  Micro vacuum kits can be purchased from us at History SA at $20 each while we also sell small quantities of Tyvek at $3.30 a metre.  Contact us for more information.

Funding for Community History

21 community groups and individual authors and researchers have been granted funding through History SA’s annual South Australian History Fund (SAHF).  Each year the SAHF supports a wide range of projects on a great diversity of historical topics.  Topics included in grants this year include Aboriginal history in Campbelltown, politician Tom Price, mapping tuberculosis mortality in early twentieth century Adelaide and the Coober Pedy Outback Open Air Cinema.  A full list of grant recipients can be accessed here.

Once again this year the demand on the SAHF was very high.  History SA received 68 applications totalling $168,281 for the $35,000 available in the fund. 

The SAHF grant fund opens in June/July each year.  



Bravest of the Brave is now on the Yorke Peninsula

History SA/Veterans SA’s travelling exhibition Bravest of the Brave, which tells the moving stories of the eight South Australians awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War, is now on the Yorke Peninsula for the first time.

Trevor and Lyn Clerke from the Port Vincent RSL collected the display, affectionately known as BoB from the Torrens Parade Ground on Tuesday.  It will be exhibited at 3 venues at the Port Vincent RSL/Memorial Bowling Club, the Port Vincent Institute (Visitor Information Centre) and the Maitland Community Library at the Minlaton District School 

Bravest of the Brave tells the story of eight ordinary men: Arthur Blackburn, Phillip Davey, Roy Inwood, Jørgen Jensen, John Leak, Arthur Sullivan, Lawrence Weathers and James Park Woods – who on one day of their lives, under extraordinary circumstances, demonstrated extraordinary heroism for their comrades and country. Some were born or educated in South Australia; some enlisted here, while others lived here either before or after the war.

Corporal Davey has a local connection having followed farming pursuits on the Yorke Peninsula with his uncles for a short time after leaving school.

At just 19, he was one of the first to enlist three days before Christmas 1914, and was present at the Gallipoli landing in April the next year.

Previously awarded a Military Medal, he received his Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery and initiative in the attack at Merris, France on 28 June 1918.

After the war, he worked for the South Australian Railways and there is a memorial to him in the Adelaide railway station.

The Victoria Cross is the British and Commonwealth’s armed forces’ most coveted award, their supreme decoration for gallantry, under enemy fire.  Only 1,356 medals have been awarded since its introduction in 1856.

Port Vincent is the Bravest of the Brave’s 11th venue. It is booked up to travel to a variety of venues in South Australia throughout the rest of 2013, and most of 2014.

The first of many projects that are being prepared worldwide to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in 2014-2018, Bravest of the Brave is available from History SA free of charge to travel to schools, RSL clubs, museums, libraries, aged-care facilities, community centres etc. There is also a schools resources kit.  Enquiries regarding the exhibition’s availability should be made on 08 8203 9888 or email for more information.

More photographs of the display at other venues including its launch by the Hon Jack Snelling MP in April 2012 are here

Migrant history at Pennington commemorated

City of Charles Sturt’s upgraded Pennington Gardens Reserve was officially launched yesterday (8 October).  The park is dedicated to the thousands of migrants who passed through the Finsbury/Pennington Migrant Hostel which occupied 40 acres of land along Grand Junction Road, including this site, for nearly four decades until 1985. Former hostel residents, staff, and their families joined council officials, designers Arketype and the Hostel Stories research team in an enjoyable community event in the late afternoon sun.  

The upgrade was a response to the devastating vandalism of the original hostel memorial last year.  The reserve was first created in 1993 when artists Hussein and Angela Valamahesh installed the Booker Court Memorial, featuring 13 inscribed bronze diaries with memories collected from interviews with many people who originally stayed at the hostel.  In March 2012 this art work was trashed and stolen.

The new interpretative project has involved improving landscaping, installing a barbecue, picnic facilities and artwork and signage, acknowledging the powerful and emotive experiences of hostel residents and the important role the hostel played in the migration of South Australians from the 1950s to 1980s.  Bowden-based design studio Arketype was contracted to undertake the installation which includes a representation of a Nissen hut; interpretive hoops; large scale cup, plate, knife and fork; and 15 interpretive diaries and entrance signage.

After the official speeches, a smoking ceremony was performed by Senior Kaurna Cultural Custodian Karl Telfer with assistance from Charles Sturt CEO Mark Withers and Mayor Kirsten Alexander in the Nissen hut-inspired barbecue shelter as well as the Garden of Memories. 

In the early 1940s the site housed workers for a nearby munitions factory.  After World War II it was converted to accommodation for Displaced Persons from Europe. Until the closure in 1985 Pennington, formerly Finsbury Migrant Centre, was one of a number of centres in South Australia which catered for migrants who arrived here from different parts of the world including Europe, South East Asia, Middle East and South America.

Part of the new installation is a walkway with engraved pavers featuring the names of families who spent time at the hostel. One of these features former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who spent her first month in Australia at Pennington when she was nearly five years old, after emigrating from Wales with her parents and sister in 1966.

The Pennington Gardens Reserve project has involved input from the team currently undertaking the Australian Research Council-funded Hostel Stories project at the University of Adelaide.  Another project partner, the Migration Museum launches their Hostel Stories exhibition next month.

More photos from the launch can be found here

If you would like to participate in the Hostel Stories research project phone 08 8313 5570 or email or for more information go to this website 

South Australian Collections Ready for the ADR

South Australia is ready to get involved with the Australian Dress Register (ADR) following a workshop held at Ayers House Museum.  On Friday 20 September an enthusiastic group of people met at Ayers House to find out about the ADR and how to include items from their collections on it.  The Powerhouse Museum’s Lindie Ward presented the workshop with assistance from Mary-Anne Gooden from Artlab.  Ayers House Museum generously hosted the event in their gorgeous dining room and provided access to costume items for use in the workshop.

The Australian Dress Register (ADR) is a collaborative online project initiated by the Powerhouse Museum to document significant and well provenanced men’s, women’s and children’s garments. The ADR was established in 2007 and was originally restricted to clothing relating to NSW. However, recently it has been opened up to include garments from around Australia. A large number of costume items are held in South Australian collections, both public and private, and the ADR provides an opportunity to showcase significant items while making the history about them readily available to other museums or individuals researching the history of Australian dress.

The ADR workshop was held as part of the combined 2013 South Australian State History Conference and Oral History Association of Australia National Conference.  More images from the ADR workshop can be seen here and images from the conference here.

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