More dates

Objects at Sea

Price FREE Get tickets

Event description

We live surrounded by material things. Some are mundane and utilitarian, others exotic objects of desire, but all our belongings have something to say about who we are and how we live. Objects reflect both culture and history. Individually and collectively, they shape our lives, link us to others and connect us to the past. Yet objects are often strangely absent from accounts of past lives. This seminar series aims to unpack some of the stories that objects can tell about the present and about the past.  We also hope to provide a forum for discussion for those of us interested in material histories. We aim to cast the net widely, with no limitations on either time or space.

Luke Keogh:
The Wardian Case: Lost at Sea or a Case for Stories?

In 1829, the surgeon and amateur naturalist Nathanial Bagshaw Ward accidentally discovered that plants enclosed in airtight glass cases could survive for long periods without watering. The Wardian case, as it became known, revolutionised the movement of plants around the globe. In the cases plants had greater chance of survival when in transit. After the first successful experiment on a journey from London to Sydney and back, the cases were used for over a century and had a major impact on the distribution of plants around the globe. As a museum object, the Wardian case is almost lost in collections worldwide, with only thirteen of these boxes remaining. In this presentation Luke Keogh travels across the oceans with live plants in Wardian cases and delves into the ways to approach the histories of lost museum objects.
Photo: Garden workers and a representative from the United States Department of Agriculture pose with a Wardian case at the Dominica Botanic Garden, Roseau, 1932. Photo by P.H. Dorsett. Collection of the Archives of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Luke Keogh is a curator and historian. His book The Wardian Case (Chicago, 2020) won the NSW Premiers General History Prize and was Garden Media Guild’s Book of the Year. He lectures into the museums and history programs at Deakin University.

Dr Peter Hobbins
Pickled and preserved: a brandy bottle, a drunken sailor and a shipwreck

Why would a ship’s captain steer his vessel toward shore on a night that was literally dark and stormy? Did it have anything to do with the 3000 cases of brandy, spirits and ale in the hold? Indeed, was Captain Samuel Bache drunk when the barque Queen of Nations grounded just north of Wollongong on 31 May 1881? This presentation focuses on a fragile survivor of that shipwreck – a brandy bottle. What might this vessel and its tempting amber fluid tell us about materiality, mobility, consumption, labour, economics, environment, safety and psychology at a moment of technological transformation in sea travel?

Dr Peter Hobbins leads the curatorial, library and publications teams at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. As a curator and historian of science, technology and medicine, he focuses on what we can learn about the past when things go wrong, including snakebite, pandemics, aircraft crashes and shipwrecks.

Material Histories is presented by Old Treasury Building in partnership with Deakin University and Australian Catholic University.

Logos from the Old Treasury Building, Deakin University and Australian Catholic University.

Powered by

Tickets for good, not greed Humanitix donates 100% of profits from booking fees to charity

Refund policy

No refund policy specified.