Material Culture: Stories from Objects

Tuesday, May 08, 2018 at 06:00 PM


Old Treasury Building
20 Spring St
East Melbourne, Victoria 3002
Google map and directions

Event contact

Margaret Birtley

0418 814 957

Aust Heritage Festival organisers 

Heritage Festival logo


This seminar was fully booked. Many in the audience sent out tweets during and after the presentations. The tweets have been assembled in a storyline - see here:

Note that, sadly, Storify will cease to operate after 16 May 2018 - so the above link won't work after that date.

As a longer-term alternative, click HERE to download the Storify version as a PDF.


The two presenters were interviewed for the ABC Radio National program, Life Matters. The interview was broadcast on 10 May 2018. Click HERE to access the program webpage (including images of the objects discussed).


We live in a material world, as the songs say, but decoding the objects of the past is not always straightforward. In this seminar, two leading practitioners reflect on the stories they have teased from objects.

Sarah Hayes is a prominent historical archaeologist who researches quality of life and social mobility in 19th-century Victoria through the lives, homes and rubbish of everyday people. She is a Senior Research Fellow in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University and has a passion for making archaeological collections more visible. Margaret Anderson is a senior museum historian with a specialist interest in women’s history. Sarah and Margaret are collaborating on a new exhibition for the Old Treasury Building, Gold in Victoria: 20 Objects, 20 Stories.

The discussion will be chaired by Margaret Birtley, Executive Officer of the History Council of Victoria and experienced museum consultant.

Please book your seat at this free event by clicking the RSVP button at the foot of this page.

Update, 5 March 2018: This event is filling up fast. If you see a 'Sold Out' message instead of the RSVP button, you are welcome to join the waitlist by sending an email request to: [email protected]

This seminar is an event in the 2018 Australian Heritage Festival, organised by the National Trusts of Australia.

With thanks to our sponsors, Monash University Publishing and the Monash University History Program:

Monash University Publishing   Monash University History Program 

and the organising partners:

Old Treasury Building     Monash University History Program      HCV

The seminar is part of an ongoing series, Making Public Histories, that is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. Each seminar aims to explore issues and approaches in making public histories. The seminars are open, free of charge, to anyone interested in the creation and impact of history in contemporary society. Click HERE to learn about other events in the series.

Alarming Prospect - by Leech

Zealous Gold Diggers by artist S T GillSly Grog Shanty by artist S T GillDigger's Wedding in Melbourne by artist S T Gill

The upper work, Alarming Prospect: Single Ladies off to the Diggings, 1853, is by artist John Leech.

The remaining three works are by artist S T Gill: 'Zealous gold diggers', 'Sly grog shanty' and 'Digger's wedding in Melbourne'.

All images are from the collections of State Library Victoria.



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The History Council of Victoria Incorporated (HCV) is the peak body for history in the Australian state of Victoria. Its vision is to connect Victorians with history and to inspire engagement with the past, their identity and the world today. The HCV champions the work of historians and the value of history. It recognises that history can be written about any place, any person, any period. The HCV advocates why history matters.

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The HCV was formed as an advisory body in 2001 and incorporated in 2003. It comprises representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.

As the peak body for history, the HCV has both ‘outward-looking’ roles (including advocacy and representation to government and the wider community, consultation, community education, and networking with allied interest groups) and ‘inward-looking’ roles (including member support, information dissemination, and networking between members).



The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342