Tuesday 8 May 2012

Safe Keeping Exhibition at the Perth Town Hall

An old Coolgardie Safe from Carnamah has made its way down to Perth to briefly reside at the Perth Town Hall. The safe is one of 30 from around WA included in the Safe Keeping exhibition, which celebrates the ingenuity and diversity of the WA-invented Coolgardie Safe. Each safe is accompanied by an inspired artwork.

Coolgardie Safes were used to keep meat and other food cool in the days before refrigerators. They worked by having a bucket at the top that slowly dripped water which would dampen the hessian sides. The safe would be kept where it could catch the breeze, which was often on a verandah. The breeze would pass through the hessian and evaporate the water resulting in cool air inside the safe (which then kept the food inside cool).

Mullewa artist Rachel Mckenzie took up the challenge to take part using our Coolgardie Safe, pictured above. This safe was used in the Carnamah townsite by the family of Dick and Lily Power from the 1940s until the early 1950s - when they purchased their first refrigerator. Rachel's artwork is a number of nicely crafted locks and keys hanging above our safe. To quote her apt words... "the simple combination of the safety of hessian and the key to making it all work, wind and water."

Pictured above is a photograph of two of Rachel's pieces which are hanging above the safe in the exhibition. The lock is of hessian texture and the key symbolises the wind and water. "The invite to be art of this exhibition was a lovely surprise and has brought about a wonderful series of conversations with my grandfather about Coolgardie safes and his time in Kalgoorlie! It has indeed been a wonderful journey!" - artist Rachel Mckenzie, 30 March 2012.

Cool Jute Warm Jute
Artworks by Anne Duff and mixed media assemblage by Jane King (The Fringe Collective)
Safe courtesy of the WA Museum

Patchwork of Memories by Caroline Telfer
Safe courtesy of Ken and Wendy Solly of York

Safe Keeping: An Exhibition of Art and Artifacts Inspired by a WA Invention was at the Perth Town Hall 10am to 4pm every day except Monday until Thursday 17 May 2012. We'd love to hear of any stories or memories you have about Coolgardie Safes.

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