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Tasmanian treasures revealed in 10 objects

Bear from the collection of the Wynyard RSL Museum

Teddy bear from the collection of the Wynyard RSL Museum

Tasmania’s community museums play an important role as the custodians and story tellers of our state’s unique cultural heritage. The 10 Objects – 10 Stories: Celebrating Community Collections exhibition at QVMAG in Launceston is a wonderful showcase of Tasmania’s small museums and collections and a celebration of what they do.

With over 140 small museums and collections in Tasmania, this exhibition represents a small portion of the diverse and unique objects and stories associated with the cultural heritage of our state.

These largely volunteer-run museums and collections receive support through Arts Tasmania’s Cultural Heritage and Roving Curator programs. These programs are focused on improving best practice in the preservation of Tasmania’s heritage so the objects and their stories are maintained for future generations.

This exhibition was curated by Veronica Macno and Melissa Smith who are Arts Tasmania’s Roving Curators. They are in the wonderful position of being able to travel the state visiting these museums and helping them preserve their collections. They have selected objects for this exhibition that represent the diversity of the types of collections in Tasmania and also their geographical spread.

Objects have been chosen from as far as Melaleuca in the south west; to Wynyard on the North West Coast and Avoca in the Midlands.

For example there is a teddy bear from the 1920s that belonged to Alexander George Innes II a Gunner with the 2/8 Field regiment, AIF Abroad who fought in the Battle of El Alamein. Alexander George Innes II was born in Smithton and joined the Australian Infantry Forces underage at 17. His father chased him as far as Sydney but he had already departed for the Middle East on the Queen Mary 1. Alexander came from a family of ten children, so his bear would have been a coveted possession and was taken with him during his war service from 1941-1943. The teddy bear is from the Wynyard RSL Museum collection.

There is also a handcrafted quilt made by people outside the local Tasman community in response to the 1996 tragedy at Port Arthur. The quilt known as the We Care quilt is from the collection of the Tasman Peninsula Historical Society in Premaydena. It was donated to the Tasman community by members and Australia-wide friends of the Tasmanian Quilting Guild. It symbolises the anguish, concern and compassion that people outside the local Tasman community felt after the tragedy. The quilt is one of the few articles related to the massacre that is in the care of the community and able to be viewed.

Plus there is a remarkable brushtail possum jacket and hat made from 28 skins by a Hobart Furrier. John Cunningham was stationed at The Arm River Forest Camp as a young forester in the 1970s. He snared possums with the intention of acquiring enough skins to have a jacket and hat crafted for his future bride, Sharon. The skins were tanned and assigned to furrier Frank Zaplatel of Montrose, Hobart who constructed the jacket and hat. The majority of skins taken in Tasmania during this time were exported overseas, mainly to Europe, making these locally made pieces rare products of this trapping period.

The 10 Objects – 10 Stories: Celebrating Community Collections exhibition is at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Inveresk in Launceston until 23 July 2017.