Objects as story: Some of the Heritage Centre Manager’s favourite thingsPrint
As a Curator, it’s often difficult to discuss favourite objects. In a museum context, objects embody unique stories and so each item, even the seemingly benign, resonates with a narrative and significance of its own. As such, I thought perhaps instead of favourites, I might focus on the quiet achievers. The unassuming objects throughout the exhibition and in our temporary showcase that do not scream for your attention, they wait simply for your notice, but when the time comes, they have a splendid narrative to share.
One such object is a fundraising booklet titled, A Brief History of the Pious Congregation called the Sisters of Charity, created in August, 1853. It’s telling of the efforts of the early Sisters, of their determination and vision. It also reflects some of the language and customs of the period in which it was produced.
A second telling object is displayed within the temporary showcase in the Meet and Greet area, in a exhibit pertaining to the life and spiritual guidance of Mother Mary Aikenhead. Within the exhibit is small unassuming book titled Spiritual Sayings of Mary Aikenhead. It contains the wisdom and reflections of the foundress, reflecting her vision and laying bare her capacity with the written word, both inspiring and simple.
‘May we keep our lamps ever filled and ready lighted. Humility must be the vessel. Charity the spark’ – Mary Aikenhead, for January 28
The third object waiting quietly in the wings is a booklet containing the address delivered by Fr Paul Cullen, C.M. at the opening of new classrooms at Bethlehem Ladies College, on August 30, 1916. Founded in modest surroundings in 1881, the College established a reputation for excellence. Sydney publication The Freeman’s Journal reported the following, December 24, 1908: “The programme submitted by the students of Bethlehem College, Ashfield, at the annual distribution of prizes, which was held in the College School-hall on Dec. 15, evinced careful training by the Sisters of Charity. Their artistic abilities were in conformity with the success which the students attained in the Public examinations” (Trove).
The booklet highlights the work of the Sisters in education, particularly in establishing exceptional institutions of learning that withstand the rigours of time.