Inside the Collection

2010 Movable Heritage Fellowship Winner: Carly Todhunter

Carly and Margaret
Carly Todhunter and Margaret Simpson with the Bayko toy house. Photography by Geoff Friend © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved

Each year the Powerhouse Museum’s Regional Services Program offers a Movable Heritage Fellowship to students residing in New South Wales enrolled at any University campus. Movable Heritage refers to any natural or manufactured object of heritage significance. The successful applicant undertakes a research project as part of the Fellowship on one or more objects in a community museum, historical society or other collecting institution. They are awarded $5,000 and also spend one week at the Powerhouse Museum receiving expert guidance by a supervising member of staff.

The winner of the 2010 Movable Heritage Fellowship is Carly Todhunter. In this post, Carly shares with us the nature of her research project and the experiences she has gained working with Margaret Simpson, Curator, Science, Technology & Industry at the Museum.

My name is Carly Todhunter and I am currently studying heritage and archaeology as part of a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney. As the Movable Heritage Fellow for 2010, I’ve been engaging with ways that the Powerhouse Museum brings their exhibitions to life with oral histories, photography and other online media forms to see how these may be adapted to bring an online presence to the collections of regional museums.

In the past week I’ve sat in on a photography shoot for a Bayko house set, written a blog on a turn of the century ice-cream maker and explored the stores at Castle Hill. Short of swimming with dolphins, the week has given me a taste of the adventures being had everyday behind-the-scenes at the Powerhouse.

Farm cart with milk cans used at Minnamurra House from the Illawarra Museum
Farm cart with milk cans used at Minnamurra House from the Illawarra Museum. Image courtesy of Carly Todhunter.

My project is looking at dairy machinery in collections from the Illawarra, specifically the Illawarra Museum; Tongarra Bicentennial Museum; Berry Museum; Gerringong Museum; Berrima District Museum; Pioneer Farm Museum; Nowra Museum and the Wollondilly Heritage Centre. For each Museum, I am creating records for the dairy machinery in their collections. Some of the machinery I am looking at includes cream separators, butter churns, butter pats, cream and milk cans, ice-cream makers, milking stools, milking machines, cheese presses, pint milk bottles, a Streets ice-cream sign and a farm cart.

Alfa-Laval 'Viola' cream separator from the Gerringong Museum
Alfa-Laval ‘Viola’ cream separator from the Gerringong Museum. Image courtesy of Carly Todhunter.

In addition to creating digital records for all these objects, I am also developing a number of other resources including a blog; postings of photographs of the Museums, their collections and important sites in the history of the dairy industry to go on Flickr and education packs for primary school children.

Measures for milk vendors from the Tongarra Museum
Measures for milk vendors from the Tongarra Museum. Image courtesy of Carly Todhunter.

This project, which will be complete in December 2010, will allow me to pass on the knowledge and many insights I have gained. It has also enabled me to meet some very interesting characters at the regional museums! One volunteer I met shared with me a narrative of the history of the local dairy industry of the Berrima District, which he had researched and prepared for an upcoming exhibition. Ironically, however, this volunteer also revealed to me that he was lactose intolerant! Though I cannot claim to suffer from the same ailment, I’m already beginning to wonder if (after having studied the dairy industry so extensively) that will become my fate too!

Carly Todhunter
Movable Heritage Fellowship winner, 2010

5 responses to “2010 Movable Heritage Fellowship Winner: Carly Todhunter

  • Dear Carly, congratulations on your fellowship and work in the dairy industry.
    I am a heritage consultant in Victoria who is currently trying to ascertain what survives of early milking machines (the overhead milk line examples, rather than bucket plants). To date I have found only a few examples from the 1930s which remain in sheds. There are a number of old horizontal vacuum pumps held by collectors and in historical society sheds, and a couple of historical societies have recreated milking sheds and milking machines, but original machines with original air or milk lines, ‘claws’, teat cups etc are particularly elusive.
    Would you have come across any early (particularly pre WW2) milking machines in your research of Illawarra collections? If so, I’d be very interested to hear about them. Or any other contacts or information you think may be of interest. Many thanks.

  • Hi David, thanks for your interest. Unfortunately I have had a similar experience of struggling to find early milking machines in the museums I have visited in the Illawarra. There are, however, components of milking machines or items that were associated with milking machines during the time of their use in the Berry Musuem’s collection.

    The first is a milking machine releaser. I have posted an image on Flickr in the hope that it may be of assistance to you. The link is below:

    The second item is a kerosene engine manufactured by J. B. Petter & Sons Ltd that was used to power a milking machine, however I presume this would fall outside your study.

    I would be happy to have further contact with you about this. Thanks again, Carly

  • Hi Carly,
    What a great project. Dairying was such an important industry in the Illawarra and it is a theme that crosses many collections. But I suspect the collections are quite fragmentary and not so well contextualised as one would like. When you’re near the end of the project it would be good to have a roundtable discussion with the participating museums about what you’ve discovered in their collections, what’s missing and perhaps look at the possibility of a collaborative approach to collection development to create more distinctive collections in each museum, avoid duplication and enhance the interpretation of dairying as a theme. Connecting the collections with significant dairying sites would be good too. Keep us posted!

  • Hi Carly
    I note that you have the Wollondilly Heritage centre on your list of museums with dairying collections. we do have a few objects from the Burragorang valley, notably milk testing equipment and beautiful ceramic cream separator, but the best provenance comes from the former residents of the valley – which we do have!
    regards Doreen

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