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1001 Remarkable Objects, a Powerhouse Museum Exhibition

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

My father has been beavering away in the Powerhouse Museum's archives for the past few years, unearthing some incredible pieces for an exhibition celebrating the breadth of its collection of decorative arts and applied sciences.

I've been hearing about some of these tantalising treasures as he discovers them - a graphite elephant that survived the 1882 fire which destroyed Sydney's glorious Garden Palace, a map of the Darling River hand-drawn on sail cloth by an anonymous steam boat captain, and camp dancing costumes designed by Catherine Martin from the film Strictly Ballroom.

There are also some dazzling jewels donated to the Powerhouse last year by my mother, Anne, from her personal collection including a brooch crafted from human hair as a Memento mori, a beautiful memory of a loved one and reminder that one day we too will die.

Both my parents are Powerhouse Fellows and have had a long association with the Museum. Dad was on the Board of Trustees and also donated significant pieces. They have campaigned hard to keep the Museum in its present location when the government wanted to redevelop the land. So this exhibition is extremely personal for them.

The more I talk to them about it, the more I realise that this is the culmination of a life's work in the service of conservation and promotion of remarkable craftsmanship. There was a special dinner at the Powerhouse in honour of Dad's curatorium lead before the exhibition formally opened and he asked me to hold up one end of the table for him. I did this last year when the Powerhouse recognised Mum's incredible donation to the institution. Both dinners took place under the wing of the mighty Frigate Bird 11 which is installed in the museum.

The dinner honouring Leo Schofield's curatorium lead.
Under the wing of the Frigate Bird 11

It's an honour to be part of a family that cares so much about these kinds of incredible objects. It's certainly instilled in me a love of collecting unique and unusual things. But one object the exhibition wont feature is the beautiful vase that my NIDA colleagues and I won at the Bratislava Festival of Theatre Academies for the original production of Strictly Ballroom. Baz Luhrmann gave it to me to bring home after our trip behind the iron curtain in 1986. It too will one day probably go to the Powerhouse but in the meantime, it's safe and sound here at home with me.

1001 Remarkable Objects, a Powerhouse Museum exhibition opens 26 August, 2023.


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