We live surrounded by material things. Some are mundane and utilitarian, others exotic objects of desire, but all our belongings have something to say about who we are and how we live. Objects reflect both culture and history. Individually and collectively, they shape our lives, link us to others and connect us to the past. Yet objects are often strangely absent from accounts of past lives. This seminar series aims to unpack some of the stories that objects can tell about the present and about the past.  We also hope to provide a forum for discussion for those of us interested in material histories. We aim to cast the net widely, with no limitations on either time or space.

In presenting this series the Old Treasury Building is working in partnership with colleagues from the Australian Catholic University. We have chosen a lunchtime slot (1-1.50PM AEST), to keep presentations concise and focused, but still allow audience participation. This is a free digital seminar series, with recordings available after each seminar for anyone who cannot join us on the day. Access information will be provided on registration. To register for the next seminar in the series please click on the link below.

Each seminar will present two researchers who will speak for 12-15 minutes each on objects that are linked by a common theme. If you are engaged in research on any aspect of material history and interested in presenting in the series, please contact the convenors via the MHSS contact form.

View recordings of previous presentations here.

Fashion in Black and White

Friday 1 March, 2024 at 1pm


From the ‘little black dress’ to the ‘classic white shirt’, it seems as if black and white have been staples of fashionable wardrobes for ever. But was it always so? In this seminar, historians and curators Lorinda Cramer and Margaret Anderson take us on a journey through time. Their discussion spans the rise of the ‘white wedding’ and the demise of ‘mourning dress’, not to mention what went underneath! Along the way they consider the cultural, emotional, and even sexual meanings of black and white in fashion.

More details to come.

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