What is your specialty area?
I like to think I’m a ‘jack of all trades’ but I know quite a lot about the history of the Australian merino, early plastics technology, scientific instruments, health and medical devices. I’m currently working on my knowledge of Australian product design for the Australian International Design Awards 2009 exhibition.
How long have you been working at the Museum?
Almost 3 years
What is your favourite object in the collection?
Ediswan Electromassage Machine. This machine has the name ‘Dr. J. Bodkin Adams‘ printed on the box. Dr John Bodkin Adams (21 January 1899 – 4 July 1983) was an alleged serial killer who was never convicted for the murder of more than 160 patients between 1946-1956. They died of suspicious circumstances and 132 of them left him money or items in their will.
Electromassage devices, also called violet ray machines, or violet wands, were used by doctors from the 1880s to treat ‘hysteria’ in women. They were used to massage female patients to orgasm as a treatment. General practitioners welcomed the invention as manual massage was fatiguing and slow. Before the invention of electricity, vibrators were run by water and steam. When portable vibrators powered by line electricity became available at the turn of the century they quickly became dominant medical massage technology. But the appearance of vibrators in erotic films in the 1920s eroded the instrument’s social camouflage.
These devices are touted to cure a huge array of medical issues such as constipation, hair loss, acne, and even brain fag!
What piece of research or exhibition are you most proud of in your career at the Museum?
While working on our collection of Australian merino wool, we scientifically tested it and proved some of the great breeding mistakes of the past. I was then able to present the findings at a conference at the National Museum of Australia in 2008.