Object Stories by ACTHP Staff

Object Stories by ACTHP Staff

Life-long learning beginning at Mugga-Mugga Cottage.

Curious about Canberra’s heritage architecture? Perplexed to discover hospital doors at a pioneer-era stone cottage? Well here’s all the information you need to know the when, why, how and whom about this little mystery!

Celebrated local identity Miss Sylvia Curley was a can-do, make-do sort of woman who made use of her 100-year long life – as a career spanning almost 50 years working as a nurse, then opening a business training school for women, and during her final decades she championed her family’s cottage and farm to heritage authorities such that we now have the much loved Mugga-Mugga Cottage house museum. Listen to our Object Story to find out about the seemingly strange feature of hospital doors that are part of farm cottage, and hear about some of Miss Curley’s achievements during her career in nursing.

During the recent shutdown period and challenging times across the world during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, we pay tribute to the medical staff in the ACT helping to keep us safe.

Created by Kate Gardiner, Programs and Partnerships Officer

The Calthorpes and the Electric Servant

When the Calthorpes moved into their new house on Mugga way in 1927 they acquired the best in the new domestic technology of the time. The latest in modern innovation, this Hotpoint toaster combined functional design with aesthetic elegance and made domestic life more efficient with the magic of electricity. This freed up time for the maid and the lady of the house.

At the time in order to make their products stand out against the competitors, manufacturers like General Electric would use art and design to give their products the edge. This Hotpoint toaster combines form and function using geometric shapes, forms and patterns which are iconic of the Art Deco design period and reflects the optimism of the modernist era. The sides of the toaster fold down to insert the bread and back up again to toast. You had to watch it constantly otherwise you could easily burn the toast.

This beautiful ‘electric servant’ lived on in the Calthorpe’s kitchen for decades to service the family with the provision of delicious hot toast. It bears witness to the daily lives of the Calthorpe family through the Great Depression, the Second World War; and the development of Canberra from a country town into a city.

During the recent 2020 Covid 19 shutdown toasters around the world are getting a workout, providing endless snacks to families at home. What’s your favourite ‘Electric Servant’ in these times?


Written by Assistant Director Jodie Cunningham

Jodie Cunningham brings a background in museums, education and visual art to her role as assistant director. She came to ACTHP because of her love of historic house museums and their potential to provide immersive contextual cultural experiences. She has a particular interest in how objects, pattern and design shape and trigger individual and collective memory.