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.
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.
The wool for this jacket originates from two sheep many kilometres apart. The first fleece was shorn in Moree, NSW; the second in Beaufort, Victoria. The two fleeces were spun and woven by the donor’s mother, Marjorie Allnutt. The donor Philip Allnutt had a suit tailored out of this fabric at Ravensdale J & Son, 37 Swanson Street, Melbourne. They were members of the Master Tailors Federation of Victoria at the time.
The Goldrush of the 1850’s attracted thousands of immigrants from Asia and Europe who came to “try their luck” and find personal fortunes. Amongst their numbers arrived several British and German silversmiths, clockmakers and watchmakers who brought with them a long tradition of metalcraft. Geelong attracted many of these craftsmen setting up trade in the centre of the township. Thomas Wright was one of leading watchmakers in Geelong who oversaw the Town Clock. Unfortunately, very few examples of his work have survived.
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.
One of the earliest examples of a wagga quilt that exists in Australia. This quilt was made from reused patches and fabric scraps that were stitched together to create a warm covering for a child to sleep under. The quilt was made in Daylesford, but little is known about the maker or users of this quilt. As early as the depression of the 1890s, when times were difficult in Australia, making do became a way of life. The wagga quilt entered the list of uniquely Australian inventions that helped us survive through lean times.
These are samples of products made at the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Mill in Geelong but discontinued before 1960. They were used to show shops what materials were available. The samples were given to Mr Robert Anderson, an apprentice fitter and turner at the mill between 1960-1965. His mother, Mrs Lucy Anderson, sewed the samples into rugs in the early 1960s. Lucy’s rug shows that by 1960 the spirit of the wagga quilt and making do continued in the vernacular of Australian quilters.
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.
Squatter is a wool themed boardgame. With more than 500,000 games sold in Australia as of 2007, it is the most successful board game ever produced in Australia. The National Wool Museum holds the original “Squatter” board game design package as well as several versions of all major alterations to the game, such as the change to decimal currency and an electronic version of the game.
This is a 1931 British Torpedo Gyroscope made of brass and steel. Most likely from the Royal Gun Factory in Woolwich, it supplied gyroscope to the Royal Navy through World Wars One and Two. The Gyroscope works to keep a fired torpedo aimed straight and towards its target. It has an additional wooden case for transportation that also contains instructions. The case is made from wood, foam, paper and ink. The box includes notched carvings for the gyroscope to sit in for the protection of the delicate instrument in transportation. The box is also designed to have a wall removed for the retrieval of the gyroscope, as shown in the accompanying images.
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 patchwork quilt is made from suiting and fabric offcuts. It is machine stitched with red diamond and rectangle motifs at strategic positions. Little is known about the maker or owner of the quilt but the red triangles and squares show a flourish of creativity for the humble wagga quilt.
This ten-kilogram flour bag came from the Murrumbidgee Milling Company Limited, Wagga Wagga, NSW. The name ‘wagga quilt’ takes its name from the flour mills that operated in and around the NSW town. As you will see throughout the exhibition, bags like this one were used as the interior layer of early wagga quilts.
North, by Mark Stoner (2000) consists of seven cement objects resembling sails or fins that vary in size from 2.2 to 3.5 metres high. No two fins are positioned on the same plane and by moving within and around the sculpture the profiles change quite dramatically.
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.
Discovered in an antique shop in 1990, this was believed initially to be the 1943 shield of the Navy Patrol Vessel ML 817 but later found to be from the 817 Squadron of the Navy’s Air Arm. Originally a Royal Navy Squadron, the fixed armed aircraft team was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy. Their aircraft operated off HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne, which were aircraft carriers in the late stages of World War Two. Their motto AUDE FACRE means “DARE TO ACT”.
The wagga quilt still lives on in quilting circles and the Australian imaginary. This contemporary take on the wagga is the winner of the Art Quilt Australia and National Wool Museum’s Expressions: Wool Quilt Prize (2019). Barbara Mellor, of St Helens in Tasmania, made this wagga after researching their history and was fascinated by this early form of recycling. Barbara sourced the used fabrics from a variety of places. Some are from her personal collection while others were given to her. She purchased a woollen three-piece suit from a local op shop and decided to incorporate it into the design, making some unique and distinctive shapes. Another notable feature of the quilt is the patch labelled ‘Parkside’. It was cut from a blanket she purchased from a garage sale from a property that had been the ‘Parkside’ caravan park in the 1960s. The filling of the wagga includes the rest of the Parkside blanket.
This dress was made for the Melbourne Show in 1993 where it won 3rd prize. It was designed by Jean Inglis who was inspired by the Blue Triangle Butterfly (Scientific name: Graphium sarpedon choredon) for her design. The warp and weft for this dress was 2/24 commercially brought black wool. Jean utilised a new weaving technique devised by Theo Morgan in creating the dress. This method used a “tie down” thread of black polyester in the Warp in order to give it more texture. The dress was handwoven by Jean on her personal loom. Ruth Rondell assisted Jean with some of the pattern and final sewing.
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”.
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.
These parking street signs from the 1960s are very diffrent to their modern-day counterparts. They spell out their entire messages whereas modern equivalents use only a few letters and numbers to display the same message. Made from yellow and black painted steel, these signs are heavy but easy to read.
Wool holds a predominant role in our Olympic uniform history. Finest quality Australian wool has frequently been used to outfit our Olympic team. The 1992 Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona. Australia sent 279 competitors kitted out in uniforms designed by Wendy Powitt, who won the AWC’s Olympic Uniform Design Competition in 1990. Her designs highlighted the classic Australian colours of the bush with soft olive greens and creams and a bold floral design that reflected the styles of artists from the Australian Arts and Crafts Movement (1890-1914).
The 1891 Shearers’ Strike was one of the most significant events in the development of the Australian Labor Movement. Barcaldine in Central Queensland was the location for much of this conflict. Graziers were attempting to negotiate agreements on individual stations that went against union rules including a reduction in shearers’ wages. Queensland pastoralists engaged Victorian “free labourers” or “scabs” to keep their sheds running while local shearers were on strike. The conflict required armed police to guard Victorian shearers as riots toke place and woolsheds burnt down. With both sides bearing arms, there were thoughts of a possible “Australian Revolution”. The conflict ended in June 1891 with rebel shearers regaining work, however, several of the strike’s leaders were sentenced to prison
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.
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.