Geelong is a community of collections and collectors. The City of Greater Geelong holds a rich and diverse Heritage Collection of over 12,000 objects. Spread across numerous locations throughout the region, the collection reflects Geelong’s history as a vibrant and progressive city.
The oldest artefacts in the collection date to the 1790s. There are mayoral chains, industrial machines, extensive maritime and wool collections. There is an ever-changing outdoor collection, which includes both monuments and public art. There are even confiscated contraband items from the old Geelong Gaol – handmade tattoo guns, shivs and drug paraphernalia.
In April 2020 the City of Greater Geelong finalised the report Our Heritage, Our Collection that lays the foundation for caring for managing and providing access to this extraordinary heritage collection.
We have hand-picked 50 treasures from the collection curated by the themes: War, Wool and Work. In time, more Geelong regional treasures will be added. If you would like to see other themes or objects on this site, jump to the about page to find out more and let us know.
Painted black enamel metal chest, thought to be the original lock box used by William Weire, the first Town Clerk of Geelong. It was used to store important documents such as early leases and agreements.
The SS Edina was one of the longest running steam vessels anywhere in the world. Built in 1853, it was used in the Mediterranean during the Crimean War, carried cotton for the Confederate states during the American Civil War and ended its days on Port Phillip Bay, over a century later, making the trip between Geelong and Melbourne. It was only recently relocated during the work for the Our Heritage, Our Collection project.
Stanley Couzens, a Gunditjmara man and long-time Geelong resident, painted this story upon commission from the Geelong Wool Combing Company. It depicts hunting in the You Yangs, the distinctive granite peaks that overlook the region. In 1993, Couzens’ painting was translated into a pattern by textile designer Jenny McMahon. It was then turned into a jumper using wool sourced entirely from the region. It was fully processed, from fleece to fabric, in Geelong. The jumper was given to attendees at the opening of the Geelong Wool Combing company on 10 December 1993. Among the many guests, was the Prime Minister Paul Keating.
The statue of Prince Albert Edward was commissioned by Sir William John Clark and carved by Charles Summers, founding member of the Victorian Society of Fine Arts to commemorate the death of King Edward VII in 1910. The statue was originally housed in the Melbourne Public Library before being presented to the people of Geelong by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1939. In 2013 the statue was restored, a new head, arm and toe were carved from matching white Carrara Italian marble.
This tattoo gun made from a plastic tooth brush, pen, tape and small battery motor. The gun was used to make tattoos on inmates within the Geelong Gaol. It was seized from an inmate in the late 1980s. At the time it was the oldest inhabited prison in Victoria. The Gaol was designed by Henry Ginn, the first colonial architect of Victoria. It was constructed between 1849 and 1864 using convict labour. The Gaol closed in July 1991.
The Axminster Carpet Loom was originally built by Brintons in England in 1910 and was later used in their Geelong factory. The loom was in operation until the 1960s and then became a central feature of the National Wool Museum. The loom is known as an Axminster gripper loom. The gripper system was invented by Brintons in 1890 and operates using a gripper shaped like a bird’s beak. This loom also uses a jacquard system for weaving colours. In jacquard weaving, punched cards are used to instruct the loom which colour to use. The system was invented by Joseph Jacquard, a silk weaver from Lyon, and was introduced in 1804. It revolutionised pattern weaving as it had the capacity to create intricate patterns. Charles Babbage was later to adapt Jacquards punch-card system to produce a calculator that was the forerunner of computer programming.
This Navy Postcard was the property of Charles Tug Wilson. These postcards were distributed to time poor sailors in order to pass on a message to a loved one without having to take too much time to think of a message. It shows the ways in which defence force staff interacted with the home-front. Did receiving such a postcard carry the same affection as a hand-written postcard?
Tricorn ornately styled and finished in black velvet with woven details and ostrich feathers. Formal clothing was regular practice by mayor and councillors for many events throughout the municipality. Such formalities continued for over a century.
The unknown mariner was commissioned by the City of Greater Geelong in 2015. The enormous artwork by Cam Scale was a made as a tribute to the maritime history of Geelong. The life of a Mariner is not always easy. This mural captures the life and tales of an old man of the sea, a face that has been weathered by time and the elements.
Cloth sample from an opera cloak made in England c1820. Wool for the cloak was clipped from John Macarthur’s merino sheep in 1816. Macarthur is recognised as a pioneer of the wool industry that was to boom in Australia in the early nineteenth century. The British woollen mills were desperate for wool at the time because of the Napoleonic blockade, and the Australian bale sold for a record price. Australia needed a product to sell in European markets which did not perish during long sea-voyages and which offered high value per unit of weight.
This paper certificate details the service record from Charles “Tug” Wilson who was training in the Australian Royal Navy during World War 1. It states the vessels he served on and for what period of time. Ships included are the HMS Vivid, HMS Europa, HMAS Platypus, HMS Apollo and HMAS Powerful. Wilson switched between both Australian and British ships during his time of service.