State Library and Tasmanian Archives Blog

Sewing for freedom: clothes production at the Cascades Female Factory

Piece of paper that detailing the work capacity of different classes of female convicts. Text reads: "Van Diemen's land. Convict department. Revised scale of task = Work. adapted to the capacity of the several classes of female convicts proportioned for the various seasons of the year"
Tasmanian Archives:Plan/Map – Oversize Chart of Convict Department Revised Scale of Task Work Adapted to the Capacity of the several Classes of Female Convicts and proportioned to the various Seasons of the Year (1852), GO33-1-100

This blog is one of a series that explores in greater depth some of the fascinating stories that we uncovered while researching Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of fabrics and clothing in Tasmania, an exhibition currently on display in the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room in Hobart. These blogs are designed to complement the exhibition, expanding some elements of the exhibition story walls to provide more context and different perspectives.

Female Factories in colonial Van Diemen’s Land were arrival and hiring depots, as well as somewhere to house those who were unfit for service outside, whether ill, rebellious, or pregnant with nowhere else to go. They were also the instrument of systematic and severe punishment of convict women for often minor offences and were also known as a ‘Female House of Correction’.  Thanks to the Convict Department’s aims of strict discipline, control and reform through hard labour, which it was hoped would earn enough money to help to cover costs, women worked long hours at tasks including standing for hours in the cold at outdoor laundry tubs, picking apart old tar-laden ropes, spinning wool, and sewing and clothes-making.

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Recently Digitised Material 2023

A black and white photo of a group of men in an old newsroom with tables of equipment on them.

Read more to explore some of the newly digitised highlights from the Tasmanian Archives and State Library Heritage collections. To discover even more, you can also search our catalogue and Tasmanian Names Index or visit us on Flickr, YouTube and Instagram.

In this blog:

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Tasmanian Textiles and Clothing in Film

A still from a film titled: More than apples. 3 Women standing next to a brick wall
Tasmanian Archives: a still taken from Film – The Other Face Of The Island (1970), AB869/1/2002

For the moving visual addition to the Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey exhibition now showing in the State Library Reading Room, we were able to find a few gems from the late Tasmanian Film Corporation. The Tasmanian Film Corporation was the last incarnation of the Tasmanian Government film unit, which was established in 1946 by the Lands and Surveys Department. It would evolve into the Department of Film Production in 1960 to oversee the full range of film production in the state before being transformed into the government owned commercial business model in the guise of The Tasmanian Film Corporation in 1977. If it moves, we’ll shoot it was a witty commercial made in 1968 by the Department of Film Production about their services.

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Conservation of a tastevin

Tastevin. A silver cup with a red and yellow braided ribbon attached
Tasmanian Archives: Tastevin cup NS3483/1/1

The Conservation team was recently tasked with the treatment of a silver cup that belonged to a prominent Tasmanian, with links to a historic French fraternity. Read on to find out more about this unusual item and how it has been conserved.

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The Race to a Thousand Pounds: Unravelling Tasmania’s Woollen Industry (Part Three: Success or Misfortune?)

A photograph of a farmer and his flock
Tasmanian Archives: A farmer and his flock. NS392-1-131

This blog is one in a series published by the State Library and Archive team that explores in greater depth some of the fascinating stories that we uncovered while researching our current exhibition, Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of fabrics and clothing in Tasmania. These blogs are designed to complement the exhibition, expanding information presented on the story walls to provide more context and other perspectives.  This blog is the last of three blogs that extends the research presented on the “Tale of two Woollen Mills” story wall.

Continue reading “The Race to a Thousand Pounds: Unravelling Tasmania’s Woollen Industry (Part Three: Success or Misfortune?)”

The Race to a Thousand Pounds: Unravelling Tasmania’s Woollen Industry (Part Two: To the South)

A photograph of a farmer and his flock
Tasmanian Archives: A farmer and his flock. NS392-1-131

This blog is one in a series published by the State Library and Archive team that explores in greater depth some of the fascinating stories that we uncovered while researching our current exhibition, Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of fabrics and clothing in Tasmania. These blogs are designed to complement the exhibition, expanding information presented on the story walls to provide more context and other perspectives.  This blog is the second of three blogs that extends the research presented on the “Tale of two Woollen Mills” story wall.

Continue reading “The Race to a Thousand Pounds: Unravelling Tasmania’s Woollen Industry (Part Two: To the South)”

The Race to a Thousand Pounds: Unravelling Tasmania’s Woollen Industry (Part One: In the North)

A photograph of a farmer and his flock
Tasmanian Archives: A farmer and his flock. NS392-1-131

This blog is one in a series published by the State Library and Archive team that explores in greater depth some of the fascinating stories that we uncovered while researching our current exhibition, Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of fabrics and clothing in Tasmania. These blogs are designed to complement the exhibition, expanding information presented on the story walls to provide more context and other perspectives. This blog, which will be published in three parts, extends the research presented on the “Tale of two Woollen Mills” story wall.

Continue reading “The Race to a Thousand Pounds: Unravelling Tasmania’s Woollen Industry (Part One: In the North)”

Manufacturing Reform: Female Convicts and Straw Bonnets

Plans for the ship HMS Anson. lower & orlop decks fitted out for a female convict ship
Tasmanian Archives: Plan-Ship Anson-lower & orlop decks-fitted out for a female convict ship. Architect, Chatham Yard, U.K. PWD266/1/679

This blog is one of a series that explores in greater depth some of the fascinating stories that we uncovered while researching Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of fabrics and clothing in Tasmania, an exhibition currently on display in the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room in Hobart. These blogs are designed to complement the exhibition, expanding some elements of the exhibition story walls to provide more context and different perspectives.

Continue reading “Manufacturing Reform: Female Convicts and Straw Bonnets”

Introducing our new exhibition: Duck Trousers, Straw Bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of Fabrics and Clothing in Tasmania

An old photograph of Bishop's Bark Mill (off York Street) in Launceston. 1890's
Tasmanian Archives: Photograph – Launceston – Bishop’s Bark Mill (off York Street) LPIC22/1/93

Duck trousers, straw bonnets, and bluey: the history of Tasmanian textiles and clothing is filled with colourful and unique garments, characters, and stories. Stories like that of Joseph Bidencope, a skilful tailor and milliner from Poland, whose popular hats made in Battery Point were exhibited to great success at the Philadelphia International Exhibition in 1876. Or the many stories of the female convicts housed in the factories at Cascades and Ross – some of whom were imprisoned for stealing aprons, bonnets, and jackets – who made, embroidered, and laundered clothing.

These stories- and many more- are at the heart of a new free exhibition Duck Trousers, straw bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of Fabrics and Clothing in Tasmania currently on display in the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room in Hobart. The exhibition has original records and heritage books from the Tasmanian Archive and State Library collection on display, along with information and images in our new exhibition space.

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Tasmania Reads: An Application to the Orphan School (Part Two: The Answer and Historical Background)

A row of old Ledger books on a shelf
Image credit: Tasmanian Archives.

The State Library is issuing a challenge to Tasmanians to read five different examples of nineteenth century handwriting from our Heritage Collections, each featuring a different set of records held in the State Archives.

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