Glorious Days – Australia 1913 is on show at the National Museum of Australia until 13 October. This exhibition is an opportunity to step back in time and be immersed in nostalgia from the period. 1913 is described as a ‘hinge year’ when people embraced the modern world of automobiles, aeroplanes, roller skating and cinema, although attitudes and prejudices from the past persisted.

The exhibition covers many aspects of Australian life – sport and leisure, Aussies at work, our homes, our health and how we defended and built our nation – seen through music, photographs, newsreels, artwork and ordinary and extraordinary objects. From Australia’s first postage stamps to luxury motor vehicles there are heaps of memorabilia and vintage items on show. Particularly impressive is the luxury Model T Ford with its shiny boa constrictor horn and kangaroo bonnet ornament. Horse-drawn vehicles were still commonplace in 1913 but motor vehicles soon outnumbered horses on the streets as vehicles and petrol became more affordable. I’ll bet the motorist of 1913 would never have guessed how much petrol would cost in 2013.

In 1913 the government of the day was keen to boost the birthrate. To reduce mother and infant mortality and to help pay for medical assistance a maternity allowance of ₤5 was provided. Mmm this is sounding familiar – I wonder if this is the 1913 version of today’s baby bonus.

How much has changed since 1913 and has anything stayed the same? Rapid advances did change our society, but some things were familiar to me. Posters throughout the exhibition advertise 1913 products Velvet soap, Penfolds, Dunlop tyres and Kodak, also well recognized today. Displayed memorabilia from legends Victor Trumper, Fanny Durack and Dally Messenger celebrates our sporting prowess, which is as much a part of our national identity today as it was then.

Gina at Glorious Days NMA exhibition, April 2013
The exhibition has a recreation of the famous paper moon novelty at Luna Park that was so popular with patrons in 1913 and can still be visited today. Don a vintage hat and take a photo as a memento.

May Gibbs first registered a copyright for her flannel flower babies. Rupert Bunny was in his heyday as an artist, Douglas Mawson was on the Antarctic expedition and HMAS Australia, the new modern battle cruiser, sailed into Sydney Harbour watched by a huge crowd of spectators. This era has so many stories and there is so much to see and learn about our early history – make sure you visit the Glorious Days exhibition. Check out the National Museum of Australia website for visitor information.

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