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More than Magpies: Tasmanian Convict Clothing in Public Collections


Clark, L and Clark, J and Wishart, E and Simpson, K and Terry, I, More than Magpies: Tasmanian Convict Clothing in Public Collections, Historic Environment, 24, (3) pp. 50-57. ISSN 0726-6715 (2012) [Refereed Article]

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Convict clothing has been written about by most historians of the convict period, but their research has largely been confined to the written records. As museum professionals, we were concerned that the surviving material had received little attention. At a workshop in 2006 we brought together and studied intensively the large body of material held in three public Tasmanian collections in an attempt to document the material culture and assess it against the archival records.

These items were special in their rarity and particularly poignant in their meaning. Unlike many of the other items that we knew had been issued to convicts, these woollen garments marked the wearer as ‘convict’ for all to see, perhaps most particularly for himself, in the most vivid way. The men for whom these garments were intended wore them as a badge of their indelible shame.

With one or two exceptions, all such clothing in public collections appears to have a Tasmanian provenance. Amongst the collection items, there are no obvious regional differences in the style, construction or fabric of clothing, and it is only the exterior markings that indicate where garments were issued or used. These items exhibit little change in design from the 1820s to the late 1890s. Very few extant garments show evidence of wear or have known provenance and we conclude that they were probably obtained by collectors from warehouses of surplus stock in the later 19th century.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Clark, J (Ms Julia Clark)
ID Code:85186
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2013-06-18
Last Modified:2013-12-02

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