Recently, a book with its title printed simply on a brown dust jacket went on display in the Treasures Gallery. Like many items in the Gallery, what makes it a treasured collection item may not be immediately obvious (I am reminded to not judge a book by its cover). It is a first edition of Henry Handel Richardson’s (1870–1946) novel The fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia felix (1917), which was among the author’s personal papers, now preserved in the Library’s Manuscripts Collection.
Japan, 1868: an uncertain and tumultuous cultural landscape. Stories of poisoned husbands and murdered lovers. Tales of women turned evil, wreaking havoc upon those around them. Countless tales of unrequited love.
A policeman’s lot was certainly not a happy one in colonial Brisbane, a rough frontier town with an exploding population and alcohol fuelled violence.
Dr Jackie Dickenson and Associate Professor Robert Crawford know a selling culture. Both have been avid observers and researchers of many different aspects and histories of the Australian advertising industry.
As Alan Bennett wrote in his play, The History Boys:
“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”
As we mark another International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017, and in the midst of #nastywomen hashtags and pink pussy hats, I decided to explore the Treasures Gallery to see who I might discover ‘following behind with the bucket’.
This new acquisition arrived too late to be considered for inclusion in the National Library’s The Sell exhibition, which already has three examples of corset advertising, from Belgian and English companies P. D. Corsets and Pretty’s, as well as the well-known Australian brand Berlei.
Days, weeks, months and years associated with particular causes are an often advertised feature of contemporary calendars, but “towel week” is an obscure occasion not many people are likely to recall celebrating.
Before Masterchef, foodtrucks and celebrity chefs, the eating and cooking habits of Australians were limited to the knowledge of recipes passed down to them by their family or shared by their friends. Eating out was an infrequent activity and cooking to a certain degree was a means of providing fuel for the family rather than providing a ‘dining experience’. The influx of immigrants after the Second World War and increasing wealth meant that Australians had access to a wider range of food and more leisure time to cook new and interesting meals.
The process of creating exhibitions is in some ways similar to that of writing a book. We investigate a wide range of material and then over time edit the content down. This also means that sometimes fascinating items never make it into the exhibition. ‘The Cornfield’, Originally considered for our 2014-2015 exhibition, Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War, was one such item. Fortunately the latest Treasures Gallery changeover has given us the opportunity to display this special map.
The National Library’s new exhibition The Sell showcases the Library’s rich collections of Australian advertising, not just with the beautifully produced posters from big companies (like the biscuit manufacturer Swallow and Ariell), or more utilitarian government messages (like a wanted poster for the bushranger Ben Hall), but also with the advertising created for ordinary people.