The changemaker objects that left an impact on our curators

  • Written byMoAD
  • DateThu, 30 Jun 2022

During the lead up to an exhibition opening, museum workers spend countless hours with the objects destined for display. It’s only natural to pick a favourite!

Our latest exhibition, Changemakers, features over 50 different objects that tell the story of the fight for a more equal Australia, from former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s famous red shoes to a 1970s Girl Guides patch.  

We asked some of our Exhibitions and Collections staff if there was a particular Changemakers object that made an impact on them. For some, it was easy to point to one or two favourites. For others, it was the less tangible elements of the exhibition that came to mind. 

Amy chose shoes for kicking the door down 

MoAD Exhibitions Curator Amy:

'My favourite object in Changemakers is Natasha Stott-Despoja’s Doc Martens. To me, they speak to kicking the door down, and the power of unashamedly being yourself in an environment where decorum and conformity are expected. Wearing a pair of docs says ‘I’m here and I make no apologies for that.'

Doc Martens shoes owned by former politician Natasha Stott Despoja.

Laina loves this symbol of Louisa Lawson’s fight 

MoAD Content and Research Development Manager Laina:

'Businesswoman, writer, leading advocate for female suffrage – why don’t we know more about Louisa Lawson? I love that we have a copy of Lawson’s newspaper, The Dawn on display. Through its pages Lawson agitated for divorce law reform, a fair wage for women and access to education for girls. Even better, this was happening between 1888 and 1905!'

Photocopy of The Dawn newspaper, owned by businesswoman Louisa Lawson.

Natalie is fascinated by this historic medical kit 

MoAD Collections Management Officer Natalie: 

'As an objects conservator, I have encountered fascinating components in historic medical kits. The buttock dressing is a wonderful inclusion in this kit! 

As a childfree woman with several niblings, this entire showcase resonates. The long-standing fight for bodily autonomy, choice, and appropriate medical care is ongoing and profoundly important.'

A case containing obstetrics equipment, dating from 1935-45.

Janet is just relieved these objects are on display 

MoAD Exhibitions Coordinator Janet:

My favourite object is the one that is ready for display. Special mention for Changemakers goes to the 33 loan objects from 16 lenders. I love every one of them when the loan has been negotiated, transport arranged and the object is onsite and ready for install. That’s my favourite object right there! 

Paperweight used by Florrie Manton, first woman employee in Sydney of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, installed in Changemakers. On loan from Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Jennifer is taken by the Changemakers own words 

Changemakers Curator Jennifer:

I love all the objects. They are all wonderful both together as a collective story and each within their own individual stories. What I like in the exhibition though is that we got first person quotes in throughout all the stories. We have first person quotes that go to the heart of their motivation and their commitment to freedom and equality for women, from Lowitja O'Donoghue and Anne Summers to Stella Young and Muriel Heagney. In their words they tell us why they care. 

Changemakers features objects, images and quotes that tell the stories of transformation in women’s political, civil, and economic freedoms.

Nanette chose an object that gives her hope for the future 

MoAD Head of Exhibitions, Interpretation and Engagement Nanette:

My favourite object is less tangible than others. But no less powerful. Hidden Stories is an immersive soundscape in the exhibition showcasing voices of young, intersectional feminists and allies who’ve found ways to bring about positive change in their communities. These people give me a resounding sense that the future is in very good hands. 

See these remarkable objects in Changemakers open now. 

NSW Young Liberals President Deyi Wu, who features in Hidden Stories.