National Wool Museum displays rare collection of Australian heritage quilts and waggas

The National Wool Museum is custodian to one of Australia’s largest and most significant collections of heritage quilts and waggas.

A selection of these pieces, along with objects that tell the story of making do, will be on display for the first time in over 25 years during the exhibition ‘Necessity: waggas and the art of making do’ – on display until 5 December.

Born of necessity and the desperate times of the 1890s to 1930s, the wagga was the bushman’s blanket, made by pioneering men from old jute wheat sacks and wool bales. As it evolved, women replaced the rough jute sacks with calico flour bags, fabric swatches and bits of old clothes. The wagga embodies the ‘make-do’ Aussie spirit,

Taking inspiration from the wagga, the exhibition presents a range of creations borne of necessity and making do. These additional objects include a wool fragment recovered from the 1797 Sydney Cove shipwreck, a maid’s dress from 1840, two rare Jimmy Possum chairs, contraband objects from the Geelong Gaol and even an upcycled cardboard sleeping bag.

The art of making do is still with us today and continues to thrive. Today’s makers foster experimentation, invention and exploration to make and remake the possibilities of production. Choosing to use less material and energy sources has taken hold with contemporary makers with a desire to reduce environmental impacts.

Councillor Stephanie Asher – Mayor

The exhibition tells the stories of these treasured family pieces and the people they are connected to.

Council is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Australian heritage quilts and waggas as part of cultural programming at the National Wool Museum. Through ongoing programs such as the National Quilt Register and The Wagga Project along with exhibitions like ‘Necessity: waggas and the art of making do’, we continue to support this commitment and help tell the deeper stories of these treasured pieces..

Padraic Fisher – National Wool Museum Director

‘Necessity: waggas and the art of making do’ shows us that even in challenging times our designs can be quite extraordinary. In Australia, this art of making do has a long and rich history.

As we marvel at furniture, dresses and waggas cobbled together from scarce materials available at the time it is vital we recognise the ingenuity and skills of ‘making do’. Exhibitions like this are important because they help connect us – like a handshake across time – they bring us closer to those who made and used these objects and the lives they lived,” said Padraic Fisher.

‘Necessity: waggas and the art of making do’ is an ode to the beauty that emerges in desperate times – the extraordinary human capacity of making do.

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