Clanging of the Locks

Tough voices, heavy footsteps, and the clang of brass padlocks on iron bolts echoed around the cold stone walls and floors of the cell blocks, day after day. ‘I often think of the clanging of the locks. If an inmate wanted something, he would usually get the lock and bang it on the bolt to […]

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A Soft Reminder?

Machine sewn and finished by hand, this silk blouse was expertly made. But its maker will forever remain anonymous, since it was made in a time of slow stitching and slow fashion, when clothes were made with great care and usually had no labels identifying makers. Nor were any records kept about who wore the […]

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A Critical Crusade

Seven-year-old Norm Ryan probably never felt so ill when he was admitted to Maitland District Hospital on 18 April 1940.* His symptoms, which might have included a sore throat, swollen neck, rapid breathing and fever were recognised as diphtheria and the hospital immediately notified East Maitland’s health inspector Basil Volckman. The following day, he attended […]

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Idle Hands Busy

This simple tray made in the 1980s has the innocent look of a home craft project. But it was made by a prisoner at Maitland Gaol (in operation 1848-1998) where Australia’s most notorious and hardened criminals were locked away. Despite their crimes, many Maitland prisoners put their time inside to good use. To keep prisoners […]

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User Pays?

In mid-1876 a committee of men from the West Maitland Borough Council assembled to plan the location of the town’s first 25 gas streetlamps. The Council had passed the decision to install lights as early as 1860 and ten years later, the Maitland Gas Light Company was formed to supply the gas. But someone would […]

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Pretty But Practical

This day dress and petticoat were owned and worn by Mrs Ann Chellew nee Milburn (1872-1948) when a young woman around the turn of the twentieth century. Ann was the daughter of Janet Miller and James Milburn, who migrated to Australia from Scotland and England.  Arriving with her family (in 1852) Janet was a baby, […]

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Close at Hand

From the 1920s, this medicine chest was kept and used by the Gall family on their dairy farm near Berry. It remained in the family until the property sold, around 2007. It is a simple but captivating artefact that offers an insight into basic medical care on a family-run farm in twentieth century Australia. In […]

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Keeping His Cool

Dairyman Leslie Crawford knew that the cooler he could make the cream after separating the milk, the finer the butter would be. Fortunately, he had this useful device to help. Cool water entered via the pipe on one side, flowed through the interior, and out through the pipe on the other side, cooling the metal […]

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The Lost Art of Whitework

Parents of newborn babies today know that zipper onesies are very practical, especially those in bold colours and printed patterns that hide the inevitable spills and stains. But spare a thought for previous generations, when it was expected that babies be dressed in multiple fancy garments like those in this layette set, which were traditionally […]

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Those Were the Days

In 1878, when her mother Margaret passed away, Phoebe Day (1855-1930) was just 23 years old. Unlike her nine older siblings, Phoebe was probably still living with her mother and caring for her since the death of her father, Edward, two years earlier. As the eldest sibling at home, Phoebe may have taken responsibility for […]

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