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Marking time

Marking time on collecting

Tuesday 1 October 2013

What Alex Symons did next

I have kept searching for information about Alex Symons, the purser of the steam yacht Merrie England. Two accounts have turned up, both written by men who worked with him in British New Guinea in the 1890s.

The first is the diary of Henry Mitchell, a crew member on the Merrie England in 1893–1895, now in the John Oxley Library.

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Saturday 21 September 2013

An atlas of photographic processes

The Getty Conservation Institute has released a terrific resource for collectors and custodians of historic photographs.

The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes is intended for practicing photograph conservators, cu­ra­tors, art historians, archivists, library professionals, and anyone responsible for the care of photograph collections. Its purpose is to aid in the formulation of analytical ques­tions related to a particular photograph and to assist sci­en­tists unfamiliar with analysis of photographs when in­ter­preting analytical data. The Atlas contains in­ter­pre­ta­tion guides with identification of overlaps of spectral peaks and warnings of potential misidentification or mis­in­ter­preta­tion of analytical results.

It’s published as a set of free pdf documents​—​an Introduction, plus separate chapters on the Albumen, Carbon, Collodion on paper, Collotype, Cyanotype, Halftone, Photogravure, Platino­type, Salt print, Silver gelatin, and Woodburytype processes​—​with the promise of more to come. Each of these chapters has an historical account of the development and use of the process, and a guide to identifying photographs made by that process. The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion methods include looking at the print with the naked eye (which I can do), low-magnification microscopy (which I can manage, sort of, with hand lens and scanning), and using XRF and ATR-FTIR spectometry (not possible for me, but interesting to read about).

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Saturday 27 July 2013

More about the heliograph

For the record, I have identified the heliograph my father is using in the photo I showed here the other day.

It is a British Mance type heliograph, mark V. On the web are pictures, more pictures, a copy of the 1905 handbook, and the memoirs of a Second World War British army signaller​—​who remembers the special excitement of using the heliograph during a training session on the golf links over­look­ing the Firth of Forth in the early 1940s, when with the aid of a bright moon the heliograph worked well and the signals could be read clearly.

Best of all, here is a set of cigarette cards published in 1911 that explain the whole business​—​something we will not see again, in this new era of plain packaging…

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Tuesday 23 July 2013

The purser of the steam yacht ‘Merrie England’

Since Papua New Guinea is in the news, I’ll mention a cabinet photograph I recently bought from a dealer in England. It’s a portrait of a handsome young man wearing a naval officer’s cap and coat. It suggested a few lines of inquiry.

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Monday 8 July 2013

A severe blow

A while ago in Dunedin I visited the Otago Settlers Museum, an institution founded in 1898, the 50th anniversary of the first Scot­tish settlement of Otago. In the beginning the museum fo­cused on the earliest European arrivals​—​from 1848 until 1861 when the gold rush started. The focus gradually wid­­ened to ac­knowl­edge more recent arrivals and, eventually, the Māori people who had been there all along. In 2012 the museum was renamed Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Toitū is the Māori name of a stream that once flowed near the site, and the word carries other con­no­ta­tions, as the museum website explains.

In the museum is an ‘early colonists’ gallery, purpose-built in the early 1900s. In this large square room, lit by lantern windows at the top of the hipped ceiling, there are hundreds of framed pho­to­graphs stacked six rows high. It’s very impressive, and gives the impression that anybody who can’t point to an ancestor on the wall is a newcomer.

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Tuesday 19 March 2013

Olga Nethersole woodburytype zoomified

Let me decode that headline:

Olga Nethersole (1867-1951) was an actress and a celebrity in England and America. She is a perfect subject to demonstrate the woodburytype.

Woodburytype was a process for printing high quality black and white photographs, used from the late 1860s until about 1900. This Woodburytype print of Olga makes a fine test for zoomify

Zoomify is software for zooming and panning website images.

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Friday 9 November 2012

Piggyback princess

In September 1868 Princess Alexandra was photographed with her baby daughter Louise riding piggyback. The picture makes the princesses look like ordinary people. Perhaps because of its charming informality this photograph, published as a carte-de-visite, was a best seller. Loyal subjects, in their hundreds of thousands, bought copies to put in their albums. One of these has found its way into my collection.

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Tuesday 26 June 2012

A well-executed likeness

I just added to my little collection a carte-de-visite portrait of Colonel Samuel Wensley Blackall (1809-1871). Blackall was ap­point­ed Governor of Queensland in 1868, and died in office. In the photograph he sits in an arm chair with a sword between his legs and a feather hat on his knee. The setting is plain​—​there are no drapes, no columns, no furniture apart from the chair. The only decoration is the patterned linoleum on the studio floor.

It’s odd that he was photographed sitting down, rather than standing upright in a formal military pose as I would have ex­pected for a governor’s portrait. Perhaps he was suffering from the illness from which he died. I don’t know what ailment caused his death, but I have read a suggestion it was something he caught in the tropics​—​he had been governor of colonies in West Africa and the West Indies.

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Sunday 23 January 2011

After the flood

When I was a child in primary school an old man gave me a stack of photographs​—​a couple of dozen whole-plate contact prints with scenes of the 1893 Brisbane River flood and its aftermath. At the time, I thought those pictures were wonderful, and I still do. They started my interest in the history of photography, and they were the beginning of my own little collection.

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Tuesday 11 May 2010

Daniel Marquis in Scotland

Four more cartes-de-visite have joined my little collection of the work of the photographer Daniel Marquis (1829-1879). These give us a glimpse of the work he did in Scotland, before he emigrated to Australia.

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Thursday 9 July 2009

Carte-de-visite or visiting card?

I have just bought a little photograph on ebay. It’s not from Queensland, so it doesn’t fit my collection, but it took my fancy.

On the front is an albumen print, rather faded, of a pretty Italianate villa, with stone arcades, polychrome brickwork, cast iron filigree cresting, and a conservatory. The house sits in a picturesque garden, with strolling paths and flower beds. I think it’s a copy of a watercolour picture of the scene, not a photograph from life. It looks like the house of somebody who had done well in Melbourne, perhaps as a merchant or a speculator in mining stock.

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Sunday 10 August 2008

Object of obsession: the lead pencil

Bob Truby is the author of the website Brand name pencils, of which he says: This site has been designed to visually introduce to you the incredibly diverse world of brand name pencils. I trust that you will be amazed at the sheer number of pencil brands once produced in the USA and abroad. Sadly those days are over and the craftsmanship, skill and pride once put into the ordinary pencil is but a thing of the past.

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Wednesday 14 May 2008

Another Daniel Marquis photo

I have just acquired another carte-de-visite photo from the studio of Daniel Marquis. It’s a scruffy specimen but I am glad to have it. I’ve added it to my online museum. On the back is some writing in a language-other-than-English. Would anybody care to identify the language, and tell me what it says, please?

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Thursday 14 February 2008

Where is this?

I’m intrigued to know the identity of the Queensland bush township in this old lantern slide.

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Friday 26 October 2007

At last, a Daniel Marquis photograph

I am now the owner of an original carte-de-visite photograph by my distant relative Daniel Marquis, proprietor of a photographic studio in George Street, Brisbane. He established the studio in 1866, not long after arriving from Scotland. He died in 1879.

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Saturday 13 October 2007

Shovel collection

The Stonehill Industrial Heritage Center at Stonehill College, Massachusetts, holds a vast archive of documents and objects about the shovel-making enterprises of the Ames family in the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection includes 755 shovels​—​something Eric Olthwaite could only dream of.

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Thursday 21 December 2006

circusmuseum.nl

Enjoy the fabulous collection of historic circus ephemera at circusmuseum.nl. There are thousands of colour lithographic posters from the Hamburg printing firm of Adolph Friedländer, each one catalogued, digitised, and available on the web. The website nicely explains, in Dutch and in English, the provenance of the collection.

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Sunday 19 March 2006

LibraryThing

Books recently added to my library catalog:

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Sunday 30 January 2005

Radioactive tools of trade

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum aims to chronicle the scientific and commercial history of radioactivity and radiation. The collection includes a shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

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Wednesday 24 March 2004

Fruit crate labels

Dwayne Rogers collects and sells old fruit and vegetable box labels. His website displays hundreds of labels, classified by theme and by product. (via Coudal Partners).

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Sunday 18 January 2004

Materialism: the drawing cure

Danny Gregory’s everyday matters blog is one of my daily diversions. He is a compulsive sketcher who makes drawings that examine the way he is living. In today’s post he feels a surfeit of objects around him: I feel like I own too much and appreciate it too little. Having diagnosed his own condition, Danny prescribes a cure for himself:

I like the idea of a journal diet. Draw everything you own. Everything. Every single book, every stick of butter and shoelace. Now that would be a humbling experience. Or just draw everything you eat for a week. You’ll be thinner, calmer and happier.
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Tuesday 23 December 2003

Collecting Airstream caravans

In this month’s special places piece about the Farnsworth house I mentioned Lord Palumbo, owner of the house from 1968 until a few days ago. A little googling today turned up another mention of him.

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Sunday 30 November 2003

Doggy-do bags

Last year, my sister Fiona commented here: Our local dog-friendly park provides doggy-do bag waterproof receptacles. This is a refreshing alternative to sharps containers… Each doggy-do bag contains a handy rectangle of cardboard for use as a scraper. Whether you want it or not, I will send you one. An unused one, be assured.

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Monday 24 November 2003

Cabinets of curiosities

I’m grateful to Caterina for pointing out the website Cabinets de curiosités. If you understand French you can read about weird collections of objects from the time before museums became public institutions. If French is a foreign language to you, just look at the pictures or use google to translate.

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Monday 15 September 2003

Guitar and banjo museum

As vintage instruments come into his workshop for repair, Frank Ford photographs them for his museum. He explains his motivations like this:

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Saturday 30 August 2003

Denis O’Donovan’s library

In 1874 Denis O’Donovan became Queensland Parliamentary Librarian. He was an unlikely arrival in the colonial frontier town of Brisbane — capital of the state of Queensland, separated from New South Wales 15 years before. O’Donovan was a cultivated man, educated in Ireland and France.

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Thursday 24 July 2003

Looted treasures

I enjoy the messages I get from people who don’t know me, re­spon­ding to things I write on this website​—​like one today from Suzanne Charlé, mentioning a story she wrote for the New York Times: Tiny treasures leave big void in looted Iraq:

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Tuesday 15 July 2003

stoveburner.com

This is yet another website that consists of an ordered collection of related objects. Burners from discarded gas appliances are collected here, and sorted into piles: from stoves [subdivided into stovetop, broiler, hot plate], from heaters [space, hanger, hot water], and from commercial kitchen equipment. Lined up for inspection, these burners invite us to enjoy and compare their physiognomies.

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Thursday 26 June 2003

A Lewis Hine scandal

The Atlantic Monthly website has an article by Richard B Wood­ward, Too much of a good thing: photography, forgery, and the Lewis Hine scandal. Here’s the blurb:

The theoretical physicist who ignited the biggest firestorm in the history of the American photography market was sim­ply trying to figure out if his vintage photos were gen­u­ine. By the time he learned the answer, two of the country’s best-known photography scholars had come under a cloud of suspicion.
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Monday 23 June 2003

Tool patents online

Some of my cheerful companions on the OldTools mailing list have helped to build the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents. This is a searchable database that opens the historical records of the US Patents Office. Here you’ll find patent specifications for great leaps in American tool design (like Justus Traut’s 1888 plane iron lateral adjuster, used ever since by the Stanley company), and for thousands of smaller steps forward.

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Monday 31 March 2003

Another toaster museum

Here is another web collection of toasters to add to the one I pointed out last year.

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Sunday 23 March 2003

Collecting saw handles

As a harmless distraction from war and mayhem, consider the aesthetic merits of saw handles. Like this one — the beech handle of a nineteenth century dovetail saw made by Thos Turner & Co, of Sheffield.

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Wednesday 27 November 2002

A collection of cartes-de-visite

Instead of sitting in a rustic chair in the company of birds I have spent a little time scanning Queensland carte-de-visite pho­tog­raphs so you can see them here.

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Monday 11 November 2002

The wooden library

The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences maintains the Alnarp Library, which specialises in horticulture and landscape planning. Its collection includes a wooden library. I’ll quote from the library’s website:

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Saturday 2 November 2002

Conserving photographs

I spent today at a photographic preservation workshop, looking closely at daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other early photographs, and learning how to care for them. Thanks to Lydia Egunnike, conservator at the State Library of Queensland, for an excellent session. My little collection is in for some tender loving care.

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Monday 28 October 2002

Japanese manhole covers

Thanks to the Museum of Online Museums for pointing out this collection of Japanese manhole covers. The text is in Japanese (which I can’t read) but the colourful covers speak for themselves. I have previously mentioned manhole covers in Chandigarh and other places.

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Monday 26 August 2002

Toaster museum

Australian Hotpoint toaster, early 1920s (Toaster museum)

German web designer Jens Veerbeck indulges himself with a toaster museum attached to his business site. Like the letterpress museum this is a collection that can be filtered various ways — in this case, by country of origin, by features, and by manufacturer. Our host writes:

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Wednesday 21 August 2002

Letterpress museum

Briarpress.org has a delicious online museum. Dozens of virtual printing presses are here, richly linked and organised, displayed with other tools of the trade. And there is an illustrated glossary of letterpress terms​—​handy if you don’t know your frisket from your tympan. I admire the clarity of words, pictures and nav­i­ga­tion. My congratulations to Eric Nevin and the other authors.

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Saturday 17 August 2002

Collecting bread tags

Here’s another one for the ratbag file. Someone known as Transactoid has an online collection of bread tags, with illustrated notes about tag types and terminology for collectors. Compared with this, even banana stickers or vomit bags sound engaging.

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Thursday 4 April 2002

The Russian avant-garde book 1910-34

Thanks to Andy Crewdson for pointing out the website of this exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

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Wednesday 27 March 2002

Musee Mechanique reprieved

David Nebenzahl of San Bruno, California has sent me a cheery message: My sad story about the Musee Mechanique has a happy sequel.

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Monday 18 March 2002

Musee Mechanique to close

Read about community upset over closure of San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique. The National Park Service plans to refurbish the historic building where the collection is housed.

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Friday 1 March 2002

Museum of Jurassic technology

The MJT is my special place for this month. Here’s a selection of websites that illuminate that remarkable institution:

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Sunday 3 February 2002

National Quilt Register

This is a note of appreciation for the National Quilt Register, a web-accessible database of historic quilts in Australia. Details and pictures of more than 1000 quilts from around the country are already available. Some are in museums, some privately kept but, as the blurb on the website says, the quilts stay where they are and the stories are shared.

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Wednesday 30 January 2002

More manhole covers

German photographer Roland Mühler’s website includes a gallery of fine photographs of street manhole covers. Remember my snapshot of the one in Chandigarh? Roland’s are much nicer (and there are 45 of them).

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Sunday 30 December 2001

Ratbag of note: Erik von Sneidern

Erik runs the Disstonian Institute, a website full of arcane information about Disston saws. Henry Disston started making saws in 1840 and for the next hundred years Disston saws were the best in America.

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Friday 21 December 2001

The Fritz collection

In 1993 in a bric-a-brac store the Viennese artist Oliver Croy discovered somebody’s oeuvre packed away in rubbish bags: 387 model buildings and a collection of ca. 3,000 slides. He bought them all for about 500 Euro. The slides document the period from 1965 to 1975, often showing an obese man, a bald-headed person of regular habits, orderly dressed, wearing old fashioned glasses. The slides are also showing several travels together with his female collegue and his wife, on the trip with their VW beetle. The destinations were, with few exceptions, the Austrian Alps.

See the article at designboom.com.

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Monday 17 December 2001

Planespotting

If you pick up Stanley planes in junk shops and wonder how old they are, I have a suggestion. Print out this web page and carry it with you. It’s a dichotomous key: Answer a few yes/no questions about the tool to discover its date. You might find a Type 1 (1867-1869), worth a lot of money to an obsessed Stanley collector.

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Saturday 15 December 2001

Virtual museum: HistoryWired

New from the Smithsonian Institution is HistoryWired: a few of our favourite things, a showcase of objects and stories. You can navigate the collection of objects with a very clever map that shows thematic connections between them. The site design builds on the experimental Revealing things website I wrote about in the Ironic column.

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Friday 14 December 2001

Object of obsession: the clutch pencil

Dennis B Smith runs a website he calls leadholder.com, subtitled the online drafting pencil museum. This seriously obsessive site catalogues all known makes and models of clutch pencils (which Americans call leadholders). The site is very nicely designed and written.

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Search marquis-kyle.com.au

On this page
What Alex Symons did next
An atlas of photographic processes
More about the heliograph
The purser of the steam yacht ‘Merrie England’
A severe blow
Olga Nethersole woodburytype zoomified
Piggyback princess
A well-executed likeness
After the flood
Daniel Marquis in Scotland
Carte-de-visite or visiting card?
Object of obsession: the lead pencil
Another Daniel Marquis photo
Where is this?
At last, a Daniel Marquis photograph
Shovel collection
circusmuseum.nl
LibraryThing
Radioactive tools of trade
Fruit crate labels
Materialism: the drawing cure
Collecting Airstream caravans
Doggy-do bags
Cabinets of curiosities
Guitar and banjo museum
Denis O'Donovan's library
Looted treasures
stoveburner.com
A Lewis Hine scandal
Tool patents online
Another toaster museum
Collecting saw handles
A collection of cartes-de-visite
The wooden library
Conserving photographs
Japanese manhole covers
Toaster museum
Letterpress museum
Collecting bread tags
The Russian avant-garde book 1910-34
Musee Mechanique reprieved
Musee Mechanique to close
Museum of Jurassic technology
National Quilt Register
More manhole covers
Ratbag of note: Erik von Sneidern
The Fritz collection
Planespotting
Virtual museum: HistoryWired
Object of obsession: the clutch pencil

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