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 100 treasures from the collection curated by the themes: Waggas, War, Wool and Work. 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.
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.
Spinning fibres was one of the first processes to be mechanised in the Industrial Revolution. It took many hours of hand spinning to supply the thread needed for the most basic treadle loom. The Hargreave’s cotton-spinning jenny, Crompton’s spinning mule and Arkwright’s water frame in the 1770s are early examples of man moving from hand to machine. Spinning machines have undergone considerable technical evolution. The CSIRO was a leader in this field in the twentieth century. In 1962 it improved on the traditional Spinning Jenny and, in conjunction with the Australian company Repco, produced the Repco Self-twist Spinner. This machine was 15 times faster at spinning fibres. Ten self-twist spinners were installed at Macquarie Worsteds in Albury in 1971. The machines, operated in a small air-conditioned room by one operator, had an output of 1,200 conventional spindles worked by three operators. The prototype of this machine is held within the National Wool Museum’s Collection.
The maker of this wagga is unknown. However, since the creator has used larger than usual pieces of suiting material, they may have worked as or knew of a tailor for their fabrics.
This memorial offers solace for people affected by road trauma, a space for quiet contemplation and reflection. The phases of the moon symbolise the stages of grief, the journey from loss toward acceptance and hope. A project delivered by the City of Greater Geelong, in partnership with the Transport Accident Commission and supported by Road Trauma Support Services Victoria and the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.”
This wool undervest was purchased by Edith Bender for her husband Edwin. Edwin would catch a ‘Red Rattler’ train along the North Shore line to go to work in Pitt Street, Sydney. Edith was concerned Edwin would catch a cold in the unheated train or in his unheated office, so she brought these woollen undervests for him to wear to work. Edwin would wear the undervests under a woollen suit and with a woollen overcoat. Edwin passed away in 1963, at which point Edith stored the undervests away, unable to part with them.
The City of Greater Geelong has commissioned artist, Mark Cuthbertson to create this public sculpture celebrating members of our community who have a lived experience with disability. Drawing reference from powerful political and pop culture statements such as the 1968 Memphis black sanitation workers slogan “I AM a man”, and Helen Reddy’s 1971 anthem “I AM woman”, the work celebrates the empowerment of diversity in our society. Over 85 community members contributed to the artwork development in a series of workshops facilitated by the artist to inform the final design.
This wagga was made during World War Two from disused patterned rayon patches. The wagga is filled with jute bags. The maker of the quilt is unknown. The quilt shows the persistence of wagga quilt making right through to the 1940s.
The Geelong Gaol was proclaimed as a Training Prison from the 1950s and in this role was used to educate prisoners in various trades including printing, sign writing, painting, tailoring, brick laying and toy making. This tricycle was made by a prisoner in the 1950s.
This homemade wagga was purchased from the Old Bank Auctions, Geelong on 2 December 2000 for $20.00. The regular size of the patchwork and the varying colours show that the fabric was most likely sourced from a disused men’s suit fabric sample book.
There is an extensive list of finishing processes in wool production for both worsted and woollen fabrics. Fulling is the immersion and pounding of fabric to make the fibres interlock. Crabbing permanently sets this interlock. Decanting shrink-proofs the fabric. Dyeing changes the fabrics colour. This large Fulling Machine is a distinctive item related to this phase of cloth production. Made by J. Dyson and Sons in Geelong, this Fulling Machine completes all the above steps, except dyeing, with a combination of hot water, soap and friction. Before the invention of such a machine, all these processes had to be completed individually.
Mrs Faulkner of Bendigo made this wagga for her father in his later years when a hot water bottle was considered too dangerous and a blanket was not warm enough. It was donated to the Running Stitch Collection by Mrs Faulkner after she saw their memorabilia exhibition curated by Murray Walker at the Museum of Victoria in 1985. Mrs Faulkner sent the wagga down on the train and Lois Densham picked it up from ‘Travellers Aid’ at Spencer Street station. Many of the quilts in the National Wool Museum Collection were originally part of the Running Stitch Collection.
These waggas were made and owned by Percy Perkins. He was a keen fisherman and hunter his first love was sitting on the banks of the Murray River with a fishing rod in his hand. Family camping trips were spent by the river where everyone slept on stretchers with several army blankets underneath and a wheat bag wagga on top. Perkins joined the police force in his early twenties and apart from an eighteen-month posting in Melbourne, spent the rest of his career serving communities in country Victoria. A good wagga accompanied Percy on all his fishing and hunting journeys. The green colour of the wagga is from ‘Dekkol’, a preservative which Perkins used to protect his cotton fishing nets from rotting. The second wagga is made from two standard sized jute wheat bags split and hand bound along the seams. It is typical of a basic wagga made by shearers, farmers and swagmen. The paint stains on this wagga display signs of later use as a painting drop sheet by descendants who inherited the quilt.
The Geelong Gaol was proclaimed as a Training Prison from the 1950s and in this role was used to educate prisoners in various trades including printing, sign writing, painting, tailoring, brick laying and toy making. The Stuffed Koala toy was made by a prisoner and given as a gift to Calypso Rockers who performed for the inmates in 1957.
This coverlet was made for Chris Neyland by Rene Densham when he was born in 1953. The quilt was created from scraps of woollen fabric from clothing used in the family. It was used in Chris’ cot or pram when he was an infant. His aunt Lois Densham donated the quilt. Lois can remember the dark green fabric coming from a jacket she once wore and the blue tartan pieces from a skirt worn by Rene, her mother. Lois also remembers her mother being “a better piano player than a cook or a sewer”. According to her, the quilt was “made in the tradition of making do from a family who knew how”.
This street sweeping cart was used on Pakington Street before the amalgamations of six local councils to form the City of Greater Geelong. The cart is from around 1960 when the City of Geelong West had approximately 17,500 people within its borough. The cart was wheeled up and down the popular street; cleaning litter and providing a clean and pleasant street for locals and shop owners alike.
This quilt was made by Harry Walter Hewitt Wilton (1872-1950). Harry joined the Essex Regiment and served in the British Military in India and also served in the Second Boer War. He married the seamstress Mary Elizabeth in India in 1895. Harry was injured during battle and made this quilt as part of his rehabilitation. The quilt was made using woollen army singlets. Harry and Mary moved to a farm near Orbost, Victoria, in 1914. The quilt remained in the family until 2019.
This is a classic crazy quilt. Although not technically a wagga, crazy quilts took many of the ‘make do’ techniques of wagga quilt making. This quilt was made in Highton, Geelong. It is a double bed sized quilt in the classic ‘crazy’ style with extensive use of herringbone and feather stitching. The pieced style of the quilt, made from squares of patchwork, is similar to the style of quilts made by members of the Country Women’s Association (CWA). The women sometimes made a quilt as a group activity and this one was possibly a 1930s group creation.
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 Belcher Fountain was created by the Britannia Ironworks in Derby, England and presented to the town of Geelong by Mayor GF Belcher at the end of his term in 1874. This drinking fountain is a testament to the Temperance Movement that advocated the restriction of alcoholic drinks. The fountain is one of the oldest heritage objects in Geelong’s Outdoor Collection.
This distinctive wagga was made by Mrs Lizzie Morton on her farm ‘Wanera’ at Benjeroop on the Murray River. It was stitched with a treadle machine. Her sister Flora MacDonald did the running stitch and provided the silk backing. The squares were sent as samples from a firm called ‘Fred Hesse’ who advertised in the Melbourne papers: “Be smart and dressy in a suit by Fred Hesse”. The buyer chose a sample and then sent it back with measurements and received a ‘mail order’ suit. In this case, the samples were used to make this unique quilt that has survived from the 1930s.
WARM was a community project about why the earth is warming and what people can do about it. It was led by the artist collective called SEAM – Sustainable Environment Arts Movement. It comprises two large-scale artworks created by Lars Stenberg. First, a landscape scarred by coal mining. Second, the same landscape many decades later, regenerated and renewed after the closure of the coal mine. In 2016, 250 knitters from across Australia created more than 1,000 knitted pieces. During several days of installation, these knitted pieces were assembled to create the image of the renewed landscape. WARM was a sustainable project. All knitted elements were from left over, reused or organic wool. Any unavoidable emissions created as a result of delivering the project were offset by trees planted by Fifteen Trees. WARM has recently found a permanent home in the National Wool Museum’s Collection. Paintings by Lars Stenberg
Knitted pieces designed by Georgie Nicholson
Graphic design by Mel Stanger
This was the jumper of John Brown, who played 48 games for Geelong including the 1963 Grand Final in which he wore this jumper. Formed in 1859, the Geelong Football Club is the second oldest in the Australian Football League and one of the oldest clubs globally.
The White Farm is a series of eleven artworks by Linda Gallus of a neglected sheep and cattle farm in Curlewis, Victoria. Purchased in 1994, the property was painted white for sale. The shearing shed has not been used since the sale and has turned to ruin over the last thirty years. Gallus was compelled to capture these buildings and their strange patina of white paint before nature reclaimed them completely. Two artworks from the series, Another Gust of Wind and Green Trough, are now part of the National Wool Museum Collection.
This large wagga is made from fabric pieces that were handstitched together and lined with jute wheat bags. The fabric pieces are roughly rectangular and of various sizes. They are made from cut-down pink and green cotton knit garments. The wagga was once described by early collectors as the ‘world’s worst wagga’. Today, it is considered one of the most significant waggas in the National Wool Museum’s extensive collection. Unfortunately, very little is known about the maker of this wagga.