It’s been a busy few weeks, with more things to do then I can poke a stick at. Most of it includes a lot of relaxing before Uni starts back up for the year. However, I have been attempting to get ahead in my texts before the class starts. One of the books assigned to last years class is Objects - Reluctant witnesses to the past by Chris Caple. It’s a fantastic read so far, and I’m loving finding ideas for evidence that I hadn’t considered before. I’m sure I will have more commentary when I have finished reading the book!
As an additional piece of excitement I have been busily preparing for my trip to England this year, having been accepted into the Open Palaces Programme. Occasionally, as I am working out where to stay and what other places to see, I am struck by how vast the world is and how many museums there are to visit yet.
“There is... there was...a country...that spoke in the language of leaves”
I have a deep love of embroidery and textiles. I love the history and the art behind pieces. I love the history of ‘womens work’ and it’s impacts on the world around us. So I was exceptionally pleased to discover an incredible example of modern embroidery in the Great Hall at Parliament House. During a wander after the Urban Sketchers group meet up and throw down, I discovered it with a friend while we were admiring the tapestries. We may have spent the next 10 minutes photographing and trying to analyse the skills and methods that were used to create the master piece.
Commissioned in 1984, the embroidery took 8 years to complete. The work was a collaboration between Kay Lawrence and the Embroidery Guides of Australia. The artwork is 16 meters long, stretching almost the full length of the Great Hall. To convert the original water colour painting into an embroidery, a countless number of techniques were used. From a distance, the painting looks whole and complete, up close there is a myriad of intricate and amazing details. The Australian Women’s Register describes the work as taking 12,000 hours of work, performed by over 504 women over several states.
It is breath taking in person, and my photos could not even state to capture how amazing this work is. Parliament House has an incredible collection and is wonderful to explore, but if you are interested in textile art this is an absolute must see.
Yesterday, I found myself daydreaming about solutions to personal heritage and community in a world that increasingly becoming filled with small spaces. Personally, I love the concepts behind a lot of new developments in apartment building design: shared spaces on levels for socialising, community gardens, gyms, private cinemas shared by tenants. I wonder if apartment buildings will become as socialable as the street party scene that my parents remember.
I thought that a natural step in this social movement, was to create a new position within an apartment block of a Heritage Officer. Paid from the yearly strata fee, the purpose of the position is to create community through displays and exhibitions about occupants in the building. By linking people to these often hidden or overlooked heritages, apartment designers could create a greater depth of connection and empathy amongst occupants. Occupants could be as involved (or as disconnected) as they chose, with the Heritage Office requiring skills in privacy and sensitivity. The likelyhood is that it would take quite some time to create the traction for people to be willingly involved, so the Heritage Officer would need patience and people skills.
Some examples of displays/exhibitions that could be achieved:
- Wedding dresses: Some displayed in museum style cases, other reproduced for display in corridors or common spaces. Interpretive panels with information about the dress and potentially the wedding day for the person involved.
- A digital resource with favourite recipes from apartments, with a different meal show cased on the website regularly. This could be expanded into multicultural food days or teamed up with a company who could delivere all the ingredients for the show cased meal in a box for those who want to try making it.
- A book with the favourite children’s stories from around the apartment block
- Large interpretative vinyls, tracking the distances that people have come to live in these apartment blocks
- A collection display in the foyer of apartment dwellers favourite tea cup or coffee mug
I have now turned into one of those odd sorts who stay up reading the Hansard report from Parliament House. Recent transcripts were interesting, not only because of Marriage Equality (Yay!), but also some comments by the Honourable Julie Owens MP about the Parramatta Female Factory:
“ The Parramatta Female Factory deserves and needs to be World Heritage listed. The national heritage listing provides protection for part of the site, but the New South Wales state government and UrbanGrowth, its development arm, are intent on developing thousands of units up against the walls of the factory. To join the campaign, I urge people to sign the Parramatta Female Factory Friends petition calling for World Heritage listing so that the community and future generations can enjoy this fantastic piece of history right in the heart of Parramatta. The oldest female convict factory, a Greenway building, right in the heart of Parramatta deserves World Heritage listing.”
Deserves and needs to be World Heritage listed? I’m not sure that holds up entirely. It’s an incredible site but is it of World Heritage standard? I would certainly describe it as nationally significant, which is why it absolutely deserves the National Heritage listing which it already has. And should we be using Heritage listing as a primary method of ‘rescuing’ places?
Sites on the World Heritage List are places of outstanding universal value. Admittedly, for the committee to find a place to potentially of value, it only needs to meet at least one of the selection criteria. Having read back over the available criteria to choose from, I’m not sure it would fit into any of the world heritage list categories. The criteria that marks it as Nationally Significant - women/children’s lives and convict history - is not necessarily of universal significance.
I’m not a huge fan of the emotional push for a building to be listed to ‘rescue’ it. ‘Rescuing’ a building takes a siginicant amount of emotion invested in something other then the evidence of whether a building deserves to be listed. It becomes a case of good-guys vs developers/government. In addition, it means that instead of choosing to list buildings which naturally fit into the selection criteria, the information is sometimes stretched in a bid to contribute towards saving the building. The emotional connection that we have to historic buildings can’t be denied, but not everything should be rescued. Much like museums, there is only so much space and money, and concentration should be placed on the buildings that truely deserve higher recognition.
Museum working, game playing and dog loving geek. Tune in for musings about the GLAM sector, and generally geekiness.