20 October 2010

raising a toast to heritage

For regular readers of this blog, you'll know that our conservators work hard, often on painstakingly repetitive tasks.  And so at the end of the week, there is often cause to celebrate in the timeworn Australian tradition.  With a cold beer or a glass of wine.

But for the past couple of years, we have actually been working with one of Australia's iconic beverage businesses to help them manage their heritage collections.  This blog is about our work with Foster's Group.  

When you hear the name Foster's, you almost certainly think of “beer” or “wine” – you probably don’t think “heritage collection”.  However, Foster’s has an impressive heritage collection, built up over the years by its various brands, some of which trace their history back nearly 200 years.

Foster’s is proud of its heritage and its heritage collection, and is keen to see the collection survive well into the future. With this in mind, we have been working with Foster’s over the past two years to progressively document and catalogue their collection. This is an ongoing process, as Foster's operate from many sites across Australia (and the US).

There are a number of reasons behind Foster’s decision to go through this process, including their desire to ensure that their heritage collection is managed appropriately, and that measures are in place to keep track of heritage material. Another driving factor behind this process is Foster’s desire to capture information relating to their brand portfolio, including brands which are no longer owned by them, and brands which no longer exist. This information is an important part of the history of any organisation, as an understanding of the past provides a blueprint for the future.

Fire extinguisher from Penfolds collection, SA

Timber hand cart from Wynns Coonawarra collection, SA

Painted mirror from the Seppelts Great Western collection, VIC

But despite what you may think, the Foster’s heritage collection does not just contain wine bottles and beer cans (although there are quite a lot of them!). The collection includes wine and beer making equipment, documents, advertising and promotional material, photographs, artworks, furniture, trophies and awards, old ledgers, vehicles, barrels and kegs ... and of course, bottles and cans.

Cataloguing and documenting a collection is an important step in the care and management of any collection, and Foster’s, although not a “traditional” collecting institution, is no exception to this.  At each site we visit, we issue an accession (or catalogue) number for each item identified as belonging to their heritage collection, and record details such as name, accession number, description, measurements, condition, significance and brands. We also photograph (3D objects) and/or scan  (2D objects) each item.

Ensuring you have a well-documented and catalogued collection is important, as it allows you to have a thorough understanding of what is in your collection and where it is. It also helps to you to keep track of your collection, and makes it easier to discover any losses or thefts from your collection which may unfortunately occur. As each organisation and institution is different, and so is each heritage collection, the type of data captured during the cataloguing process will differ. Each cataloguing project we undertake is definitely a unique experience!

Court Oakes
from the Cascade Brewery collection, TAS
The team working with Foster’s on this exciting project has found it to be both fascinating and enjoyable.  Each site we have visited brings us new stories and anecdotes about the collection and items within it. We’ve learnt quite a bit! One of the stories we were told at the Cascade Brewery involved a young Errol Flynn, prior to his swashbuckling days, who used to trespass on the forest land owned by the Brewery, and was often marched back home by Cascade’s ground ranger, former boxer Court Oakes. There is a photograph of Errol as a boy on display in the Museum. Another story from Cascade tells the tale of Fatty Appleton, a worker at Cascade in the early 1900s, who became famous for being able to lift two barrels of beer at the same time. Quite a feat!
Fatty Appleton
from the Cascade Brewery collection, TAS

Erin Watson
Collection Manager

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