Inside the Collection

Meet the curator- Anni Turnbull

Anni Turnbull
Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved

Anni Turnbull

What is your specialty area?
I have worked on a diverse range of exhibitions during my time as a curator here, acquiring objects along the way. I’ve learnt about vastly different subject areas from car fanatics to futurists design and see myself as an interpreter, using a variety of tools to tell stories.
I love the idea of the power of individuals to change the way society thinks and moves. I think an object is made more meaningful with people’s stories around its design, function, use and relationship in a broader context of culture.

How long have you been working at the Museum?
I have worked as a curator for twelve years.

Individual Favourite object in the collection?
Our collection is so vast and diverse it’s a pleasure to go to the basement or the Open Display Store at Castle Hill and discover what we have. This also makes it very difficult to have one favourite object.

For sheer beauty I love the Delphos evening dress designed in 1907 by Mariano Fortuny, not only sinuous and flowing, but it also freed women from the restrictive restraints of the corset.

For sadness and the human condition is the boys dress worn by John Marsden, 1802 – 1803, it has a family tragedy behind it. Two-year-old John was wearing the dress when he died after falling into a pot of boiling water in the Marsden’s kitchen in August 1803. His death was a heavy blow to Elizabeth Marsden, whose first son Charles died in a carriage accident two years earlier in August 1801. In a letter to Captain John Piper in August 1804, Elizabeth wrote: ‘I think I need not remind you that this is a month that has been fatal to me and mine – I have therefore made a determination not to leave home or suffer my dear children out of my sight as little as possible until this fatal month has expired…”.

And for its fantastical design appeal I love the Stanfield ‘Supreme’ Mouse-Trap Machine: the machine was built and owned by one family and also represents the Australian tradition of ‘making do’. This Stanfield machine was built from second hand parts and was used continuously in a Mascot factory, between 1942-43 and August, 2000, producing 96 million mouse traps.

What piece of research or exhibition are you most proud of in your career at the Museum?

One of the first groups of objects I acquired for the museum was for the exhibition Cars and Culture: our driving passions in 1997. We had one archive of futurist industrial designer Charles Frederick Beauvais. Through research I uncovered another archive containing a wooden model rear engine car ( I’m pictured holding it) and fabulous drawings of a futuristic city of Sydney following the Utopic idea of technology as a solution and included heli-ferries departing from Sydney’s Wynyard station.

Beauvais, originally from England gave an Australian interpretation to an international futurist movement.

A favourite experience was developing the exhibition the ‘World Cup Dream: Stories from Australia’s soccer mums and dads’. Photographer Jean –Francois Lanzarone and I investigated the role of the 2006 Socceroos’s parents, most of them post World War II migrants each with fascinating lives and stories to tell, a passion for football and endless devotion to their children, unstintingly ferrying them between training and matches.

Working on the exhibition Greening the Silver City: seeds of bush regeneration and then travelling it around NSW to ten different towns has been fantastic. I feel like a story detective and have uncovered fabulous innovative local solutions to environmental problems by communities from Broken Hill to Yamba.

One response to “Meet the curator- Anni Turnbull

  • Hi Anni, love your work! I was excited to hear from Carola Salazar that you are wearing one of my curiously unusual artifacts. I don’t know which one though, and, as you are a fan of the object and the story behind it, I would love to give you the back story of your piece. Come by my workshop anytime for a complimentary beginner’s session in lost wax.

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