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 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.
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.
The simplest form of wagga quilt is the jute wheat bag wagga. This wagga was made of several two-bushel bags hand bound together. Two rows of red jute and one of orange run the length of each side. Two holes have been mended with white string. Green, purple and black markings have been stamped into the bag. Although the maker is unknown, the size shows that this quilt was created for a child to sleep inside.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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
Invented by Joseph Ferrier in 1866, the patent was purchased by Humble & Sons who manufactured and distributed them from their Geelong foundry. The Ferrier Wool Press was used throughout Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Sent out as a flatpack, the press was put together on the farm. This press was made by Humble & Nicholson in Geelong in 1890 and sold to Shanahan Brothers in Birregurra. A key feature of any woolshed, this wool press needed three people to tip over the wool filled top box before it was pressed into the lower box using the lever. It is an early example of Geelong’s long history of design, invention and manufacturing.
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 small woollen suiting wagga was machine stitched, backed with orange cotton and edged with brown navy and white striped braid. It shows how important old and disused suiting fabric was for quilt making during World War Two.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This wagga was made by Jean Hepner’s grandmother from used woollen garments during the Great Depression. The garments were hand stitched on to an old woollen blanket. The quilt was used by at least five of the seven children in the family. It had assorted covers that were replaced when needed. In later years, it was also used by Hepner’s grandchildren.
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.
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 wagga is made from men’s suits and coats, unpicked and sewn together. It was made by the great uncle of George Stephens. Mr Stephens was a mining engineer from 1885 to 1915 in Stawell, Main Lead (near Beaufort), Diamond Creek and Costerfield in Victoria. His last residence was at Bosterfield, where the Wagga was used as a bed quilt until the 1940s. Not just a maker of wagga quilts and an engineer, Mr Stephens was also a hero – in 1910 he saved the life of a blacksmith at Diamond Creek Gold Mine.
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.
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.”