The Social Life of Things – UQ centenary exhibition

18 April 2010 – 1 October 2010

Curated by Diana Young

Opened by Adrian Franklin from ABC’s Collectors program, 18th of April, 10am in the Anthropology Museum Gallery, level 2 Michie Building, St Lucia campus.

This exhibition that celebrates the centenary of the University of Queensland takes its inspiration from a highly influential collection of essays called ‘the Social Life of Things’. Things have pathways through the world. As they move they are re-contextualised and their meaning changes. The eclectic things in this exhibition from staff and post-graduates in the School of Social Science and treasures from the Anthropology Museum Collection are all presented through the lens of these ideas. The more humble an object the more everyday life it has. Supermarket trolleys, cars, canoes, letters and money all have hectic social lives. Land, buildings and trees tend also to have busy social lives.

The show includes surveying equipment used by explorer Augustus Gregory connected to the Leichardt expedition. The wine stopper made from a tree that was initialled by William Landsborough, later Surveyor General of Queensland, is next to his surveying equipment. There is a fluted wooden shield excavated when the Archerfield airport runway was made in Brisbane and a painting by Judy Watson inspired by the shield and its discovery.

Things used or collected by a soldier recently serving in Iraq include ‘Iraq’s Most Wanted’ playing cards. Recently rediscovered original letters written by two famous early anthropologists, Margaret Mead and Phyllis Karberry to Caroline Tennant- Kelly will be on public display for the first time.  There is part of a cache of Chinese coins some 1000 years old, buried by Chinese miners during a gold rush in Maytown in the 1870s and uncovered again in 1998 and a recent donation to the Museum, a snow leopard trim from the jacket of a Tibetan man who is now living in Brisbane. Fragments of china from William Effey’s famous Brisbane Rowes Café excavated in a Dutton Park rubbish dump are alongside items from Effey’s Collection now in the Anthropology Museum Collection - shell inlaid canoe prows made by unknown artists in the Solomon Islands over a century ago. Other works in the show include large bark paintings by Arnhem Land Indigenous artists David Malangi and Joe Djembangu, 2500 year old shells from a midden in Arnhem Land, a 2500 year old shell adze and a beaded curtain by Western Desert artist Nyukana Baker and much more including the well known TV character Sooty.


View full photo gallery on Flickr:  The Social Life of Things from the UQ Anthropology Museum


Exhibition curation: Diana Young
Curatorial assistant: Prisca Chant
Installation team: Jane Willcock, Diana Young, Kate Stanway and Janine Dunleavy
Photography: Carl Warner

With thanks to the UQ Centenary Committee and the School of Social Science.

Banner image: Kamaki Isaga, carving of udaga wawa c.1980, Waligi village, Western Province, Papua New Guinea, purchased from the Gogodala Cultural Centre 1980
Teaser image: Matthew Corbett Ltd 1948, Sooty Glove Puppet, Blackpool, Lancashire, England, collection of Michael Emmison