11 Mar 2019

The story is the thing

By Sharon Bulkeley

Our world’s museums conserve some of the most wonderful and intriguing objects you will ever encounter, from the beautiful to the bizarre. While the objects may be interesting to look at, what really makes them special is their history, the story behind them.

A burnt out old dishwasher takes on new resonance when you know it has emerged from the 2003 Canberra firestorm – an event that scarred our city deeply. A necklace becomes more than just a pretty trinket when you learn it was handmade and given as a gift of friendship from a local Aboriginal man and a white settler in our region in the 1860s.

So what to do with an object whose story is lost? Well we try to find its story of course! CMAG is currently trying to track down the (no doubt very interesting) stories of two unique objects. One is made of wood, the other of metal, each represents our city’s coat of arms. The objects are currently being held by Archives ACT, but they have little information on where they came from, who owned them or what they were used for. We’ve done some sleuthing of our own but now we’re looking for help. If you recognise either of these very Canberra items, or think you might know someone who would, we’d love to hear from you. 

The first object, shown at the top of this page, is made of metal, is very heavy and measures around 65cm high. It’s in very good condition and doesn’t appear to have been hung outside.

A wooden coat of arms showing a white swan and a black swan facing each other. A sheild showing a castle and cross swords is betwwen them, headed by a portcullis infront of a tree, with a crown on top.

Can you help Canberra Museum and Gallery fill in the story behind this object?

The second object, above, is made of wood and measures 79 cm wide by 71cm high. A hand-written note on the back states that it was ‘displayed at the Canberra Tourist Bureau and the National Capital Development Commission, 1952-1989’. However, we’re unsure if this is correct or not, and we would like a little more of the story to tell.

If you think you can help to fill in a bit more of the story of these objects we’d love to hear from you, either via email at cmag@act.gov.au or phone on 02 6207 2581.