An insight into the value of Belongings

An insight into the value of Belongings
Jack Hayes

We live in a material world. We’re surrounded by objects, but have you thought about how important these things are in your life? Do you have a few favourite things you absolutely can’t live without?

Are objects important for what they do, or what they represent?

A new exhibition at the Old Treasury Building looks at the stories behind some of the objects that have actively shaped the family in Australia over the decades. Perhaps the greatest difference between belongings in the past and the present is the sheer volume of things most of us now own.

When Joseph Elliott sat down to write to his mother in 1860, he was able to describe every single object in “Our home in Australia” in a single letter – admittedly, a long one.

Even allowing for the (significant) gap between rich and poor households, we simply own more stuff now than in any previous generation.



This vibrant and colourful exhibition space is divided into various rooms in the home. Examine objects from the mid-19th century to the present day, a period that has seen many changes in the idea, size, and shape of the family.

Thousands of objects have come and gone at the same time, and this exhibition can feature only a few.

Discover the stories behind the phone, television, the indoor toilet, and the home itself, long considered a key part of the Australian Dream. Enter the kitchen and the whitegoods revolution brought to us by refrigeration or consider a cuppa over the teapot.

Ponder the freedom of the open road and the family car! Or the expectations of children based on the toys they play with.

In addition to discussing the objects themselves, the exhibition examines how families make and preserve cultural traditions, through craft, food, and belief.

Share your own ideas about your own favourite objects in Belongings: Objects and Family Life at the Old Treasury Building.

Belongings: Objects and Family Life was researched and curated by the Old Treasury Building in partnership with Public Record Office Victoria. 

This free exhibition is on display at the Old Treasury Building, 20 Spring St, Melbourne, until 2025. •

Giuseppe Buzzi and his fried fish shop

Giuseppe Buzzi and his fried fish shop

February 20th, 2024 - Julie Bevan
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