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Last week, Massey University’s MATTER research cluster and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa held the ‘ Material Histories’ symposium that brought together historians, curators and a few keen amateur collectors.  Participants were treated to a range of interesting speakers such as Beverly Lemire, University of Alberta and Founding Director of the Material Culture Institute who highlighted the histories of tobacco products and washing over the last few centuries.  Indeed if anyone is looking for a project, Beverly suggested that there is an international history of laundry begging to be published.

Local speakers Kate Hunter, Victoria University and Kirstie Ross, Te Papa outlined their current research into New Zealand’s World War I effort through examples of material culture. Objects such as soldier dolls and fragments of military uniforms serve as reminders of lost lives. In addition, a number of soldiers recovering from their injuries took up creative activities from basket making to embroidery.  An example by soldier Fred Hansen can be viewed on Te Papa’s website at  Indeed this apron caught the eye of Queen Mary who was keen to acquire it but according to family history, it had been promised to Fred’s mother and was not given to the Royal Family.

Unfortunately I don’t have any examples of World War I objects but the following two pieces are examples of World War II pieces made by soldiers who were injuried in the conflict.  The earrings were purchased by my grandmother shortly after World War II and the decorated wooden object was a recent find.

Earrings and a wooden tray made by World War II soldiers

Freelance historian Bronwyn Dalley examined the popularity of historic material objects.  From retro to cooking shows, granny-hunting to granny-chic, New Zealanders are keenly acquiring items from the past.  During the course of her talk, Bronwyn introduced family pieces from linen table cloths to wooden cake stands that has been passed down the generations. Representing different eras, the family connection unifies them and shows how we engage with the personal and material past in both the real and digital worlds.  The following tea towels were purchased at a vintage fair the very next day confirming that the acquisition of historic material objects is a regular activity for many including myself.

Two tea towels

Another enjoyable session saw a panel of post-graduate students providing a brief overview of their research.  Debbie Noon completed a MA thesis in the rise and rise of op shops. Debbie spoke of the many reasons for the increasing popularity of op shops – the chance to purchase unique items at affordable prices definitely resonated with me.  Megan Watson’s MA thesis examined afternoon tea practices in the Manawatu region during the 1930s and 1950s.  We learnt that there is difference between afternoon tea and Afternoon Tea (and it’s not just capitals).

Dinah Vincent is embarking upon a PhD on  the meanings of girls’ sewing in the 1950s and 1960s and provided a fascinating introduction to the school curriculum which promoted the role of girls as future wives and home makers.  It will be interesting to see what information Dinah uncovers over the course of her research.  Certainly my family benefitted from my mother’s sewing skills which saw an array of dolls clothes made for us as well as christening gowns.Examples of home-made dolls clothes

Christening gown made from wedding dress material








You can also read more about this conference on a Te Ara blog at and thanks to the organisers for a lively and affordable symposium.  As I run around the op shops tomorrow, I now feel that I’m participating in the world of history as well as feeding my less noble consumerism habits.


There are a few events coming up soon that Glorybox readers may be interested in.

First, the Knack craft market is on at Berhampore School in Wellington this Saturday 26 March from 9:30 to 2:30. It will be jam-packed with a range of beautiful hand-made crafts. I’ve found this a great place to buy gifts and just hang out!

The Adelaide Early Childhood Centre in Newtown (where my son goes) is holding a fund-raiser the same day. There’ll be heaps of fun things for the kids to do while you rummage through the white elephant stall, eat cakes and biscuits made by the parents and sip your professionally-made coffee. I brought down a load of my Nan’s old plates, cups and knick-knacks for the stall, so I know there will be some vintage goodies there! Adelaide is at 28 Colombo Street (between Rintoul Street and Adelaide Road) and the gala runs from 10 till 1.

The Dowse in Lower Hutt has some great exhibitions opening soon. Yield is about making clothing without waste and includes designs by Zandra Rhodes, founder of the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, which I blogged about last year. Saturday’s busy – this opens then as well.  Following on 9 April is High Tea which, as the name suggests, is about afternoon tea-related ceramics and the charming accessories which accompany this fine tradition. It features works by leading ceramicists. I’m very excited about this one!

Fabric-a-brac is on once again – at the St Anne’s Hall in Emmett Street in Newtown on Saturday 13 November from 9am to 1pm. This must surely be the number 1 event for vintage fabric lovers in Wellington. It’s your chance to buy those bits and pieces that someone else has taken the time to find, only to realise they’re probably never going to get round to using them.

This time round some knowledgeable speakers will give tips on what to make with your booty and share their collections. Mindy from the Juniper Gallery in Newtown will give a talk on Christmas present ideas while textile expert and writer Ann’s Packers session is entitled ‘Look what I found! Textile treasure finds’. Sounds right up our collective alleys. Mindy is on from 10-11 and 12-1 and Ann is from 11-11.20. There’s a $5 charge for these, which goes to the Mary Potter Hospice. Entry to the market is free.

As well as fabric there’s food, coffee and the chance to meet like-minded people. Not to be missed.

Other fabricy/crafty events coming up include:

  • A fabric auction at Juniper Gallery in Newtown on Sunday 14 November from 7 – 8pm. $2 entry and all proceeds go to Newtown Plunket. Fabrics for these events have been donated by a host of local designers, including Voon, Alexandra Owen and 27 names.
  • A craft market is on at Pataka Museum in Porirua on Saturday 20 November from 10 am to 3pm.
  • Craft 2.0’s Christmas edition rolls around on Saturday December 18. As per usual, it’s on at the NewDowse in Lower Hutt from 9.30am to 3pm.
  • I think the awesome Knack market in my very own Berhampore is also on for the Christmas season, though just when, I cannot ascertain. Look out for posters or check a bit later in the month STOP PRESS: have just been informed that the Knack is on 27 November at Berhampore School in Britomart Street. It runs from 9.30 to 2.30.

Happy shopping! Add a comment if you know of any others events that will interest Gloryboxers.

May 2018
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