Crockers. Tunbridges. The Red Shop Tea Rooms. Ewins. Moran & Cato. Coltmans. Bracks Bros. Milledge Bros. Valpied the Fruiterer. Stansfield & Smith. Branston’s Vinegar. Sirdar Packing Company. Dawson’s Ironmongery. TG Skewes Dispensing Chemist. ‘Shu-Glaze’ boot polish.
Some of these Ballarat businesses are still trading today; some have long disappeared. Many of them graced the main shopping strip of Sturt Street in years past; a bare few still ply their wares from the place they originally started.
A new exhibition of photographs and memorabilia opening in the New Year at the Ballaarat Mechanic’s Institute will provide a glimpse into the world of retail that was Ballarat, from the late 19th Century until the 1960s, contrasted with contemporary images.
Drawing on the BMI heritage archives and private collections Talking Shop displays historic photographs, advertisements and ephemera, exploring the shops and businesses of Ballarat’s past, and via contemporary photographs from The Ballarat Life.
Curator Amy Tsilemanis has unearthed promotional material used by stores and shops to promote their businesses in the past, alongside a wealth of images. David Moyle and Co. sold their clothing with good quality wooden coathangers bearing the business name. Tunbridge’s furniture came with beautifully embroidered ribbons. Stansfield & Smith (decorators, sign writers, picture framers, oil, colour and glass merchants of 119 Sturt Street) handed out thermometers announcing the latest wallpaper patterns – ‘Nothing like them in Ballarat!’
L.G. Valpied, across the road at 204 Sturt, offered a wooden ruler with the adjuration that ‘it’s a good rule to deal at’ the fruiterer’s business. Bracks Bros of 26 Bridge Street offered wrapping tape printed with the suggestion ‘It pays!’ to shop with the grocers.
Insight into local businesses of the past is found in two key ways: how they advertised themselves and the living memories of peopleAmy Tsilemanis
Amy Tsilemanis says the exhibition continues the BMI’s series of projects telling Ballarat’s stories via relevant themes and imagery, such Gardens in Spring, the 1938 Floral Festival, Beers through the Years, Storytelling the City and Motoring through Time.
Making use of the Max Harris Photographic Collection, a donated gift of the Haymes family to the BMI last year, Ms Tsilemanis is finding new angles and views of the history of the city.
“Along with audio-visual history and surviving buildings, insight into local businesses of the past is found in two key ways: how they advertised themselves (and how this presents the roles they have played in the community), and the living memories of people,” says Ms Tsilemanis.
“This exhibition celebrates these different ways of knowing – the visual and printed, and the remembered, the physical traces and the human voice, talking and remembering.”
The photographs are also a reminder of the architecture of Ballarat that has disappeared, along with the businesses and staff. The glorious Carlyon’s Hotel on the corner of Sturt and Albert streets, long since replaced by a dull brown brick facade, its cast iron balconies destroyed, is just one. Harry Davies & Co. department store is now a soulless single-storey bank.
“The exhibition will take a generative approach – not a complete 'show' from the start, but evolving as more content and stories are contributed, and artwork is created, inspiring further inspiration and involvement with these significant objects and stories, made of the everyday people of Ballarat,” says Ms Tsilemanis.
TALKING SHOP: BALLARAT IN BUSINESS AND CITY LIFE runs from January until April 2019 at the Ballaarat Mechanic’s Institute in Sturt Street. Entry is by gold coin donation.
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