Collections Under COVID 4

Collections Under COVID 4

We’re at the end of another day, at the start of another working week so I thought it was time for another Collections Under COVID.

The highlight of last week was our first ever virtual trivia night, we had 60 people attending which was absolutely fantastic. Congratulations to our winner, Helen, who got to claim the kudos (no prizes unfortunately), but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves which was the main thing. I had fun as quizmaster, it’s always great to have the chance to talk history, and putting together the trivia quiz (working from easy to evil) was an interesting exercise as well. We will be running future online events, so keep an eye on your email and our social media. We’ll also be posting some of the questions from the trivia on Facebook this week, if you’d like to follow along.

Today though, I’m going to talk about some of the books I’ve been cataloguing, both new and donated. As usual the idea is to give you a snapshot of some of what will be available for loan, or examining, once we’re open again in the hopefully not too distant future.

So to begin with a bit of a mystery….

Australasia 1Australasia 6

This book was donated to us some time ago anonymously. It hasn’t been in the collection because it was damaged, and one of our volunteers had just finished repairing it before this most recent lockdown. It came across my cataloguing desk today because of its size, I needed the space to store more catalogued books, but it is a book that has always had a bit of a puzzle to it. The book itself is beautiful and is a general history of Australasia written in 1879, it is very much of its time with the inherent biases and racial attitudes that comes with that. Though it is an excellent example of what thinking was like in the time and some of the images of early Australasia are stupendous. In this case though, what is most interesting about this particular book is the family tree inscribed in the opening pages. You can see it below.

Australaisa 2Australasia 3Now this is a family tree of the Cooke Family. We have no idea why it was inscribed in this particular book- using a bible for this sort of thing was much more common. Nor do we know which Cooke family it was. There are only two other clues. The book was presented to someone by a Mrs Hooper.

Australasia 5

And it was given as a present in 1912 in Benalla. Possibly to a member of the Cooke Family- but no surnames are used. Australasia 4

I love finding these sorts of things in books (though we did know about this one before I catalogued it today) and even if we never discover which Cooke Family this belonged to, I just like that the Cooke Family are indelibly a part of this book’s history. Though if someone out there does know, we’d love for you to get in touch at

So, putting the mystery aside for a little. I thought I’d briefly highlight some of the new books I’ve been working on. There’s a bit of a mixture today, this is by no means everything I’ve catalogued, but it does illustrate the variety of subject matters we handle. I’m going to start with Madame Weigel. Madame Weigel was a dressmaker who ran a fashion journal from Melbourne and was the first person to make and sell paper patterns in Australia. These patterns enabled women to make their own clothes in far wider varieties, and she adapted European fashion to the much warmer Australian climate. We already had the book on the life of Madame Weigel you can see it in the catalogue here: so when the author, Veronica, got in touch to say she’d put out books of the patterns themselves, I was delighted. You can see the two new books below.

Weigel 1Weigel 2

These patterns are the small scale history that can and should be essential to telling broader narratives and they are a lynchpin of women’s history. They can also be practically useful if you ever wanted to make some of your own clothes.

So now to something not totally different, but in a different area. The Lithographs of Charles Troedel


Like Madame Weigel Charles Troedel was part of the fabric of 19th century Melbourne and Australia. He was a professional lithographer and his work could be seen on a massive variety of 19th century printed material from posters to product labels. This book looks at Troedel’s work and places it in the context of the time it was printed. These lithographs are a fascinating social snapshot into the era, illustrating what people were seeing, using and experiencing in 19th century Australia. The lithographs are also reproduced in beautiful full colour. Just flicking through the book is a treasure trove; everything from advertising posters for the Druid’s Friendly Society, to wedding gowns from Robertson and Moffat, to quackery like Ralph Potts Well Known Magic Balm: Sure Pain Relief. You can see some examples below.

Tro4Tro3tro 2Tro1

I wanted to finish with one of the our local histories, or histories about a local area anyway. Kangaroo Grassland to Geelong Botanic Gardens and Eastern Park is a chronological pictorial history of the Geelong Botanic Gardens. It takes us right through the history of the gardens which were first gazetted in 1876. The book takes you through the development of the gardens, from the very first plans of the area and garden layout, right up to the introduction of Uki the Giant Blowfly for White Night in 2017. It is a fascinating history of the gardens, but it is also an excellent portrait of Geelong as you can see the city developing alongside the gardens. You can see the book in the photo below.

Geelong Bot

And that brings me to the end of today’s Collections Under COVID. I hope everyone is doing OK, and if you’ve got any questions about any of today’s books feel free to email me at



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