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August 09, 2018 11:04:53

The Queensland Museum is trying to find the descendants of the proprietor of a uncommon 100-year-old mourning robe present in its Brisbane collections.

Made by Janet Walker, a well-liked Brisbane dressmaker on the time, the black gown was owned by a Mrs Christina Massey (nee Woolridge).

It was donated to the museum in 2008 and has been painstakingly recreated regardless of the unique’s fragile situation.

The gown is to be the centrepiece of a brand new Anzac legacy gallery, but the museum is stumped about who Mrs Massey was, who she was mourning, and the way the household got here to be in Brisbane.

Mourning robes have been worn on the finish of the 19th century and have been adopted as trend in Australia after Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861.

Museum curator Liz Bissel stated the distinctive robe was made predominately from silk with velvet and different supplies mixed.

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“We might love to seek out the descendants of the Massey household to allow them to inform us extra in regards to the robe and see the unique and the gorgeous replica,” she stated.

“All we actually know is that Christina was born in Scotland in 1865 and emigrated to Queensland and married Thomas Massey in Roma in 1888.”

Ms Bissell stated the couple had three youngsters — Haywood, Helen and Thomas — but the museum had struggled to seek out any of their descendants.

“We all know that Helen Massey married a person named Ernest John Ruck and she or he studied music at All Hallows in Brisbane,” she stated.

“We additionally know that Haywood Massey served with the 31st Battalion in France in World Warfare I when his father died in Brisbane in 1918.

“Sadly, he could not make it again for the funeral, however we predict that Christina may have had the robe made for his funeral.”

An essential ladies’s story

Ms Bissell stated the type of the mourning robe mirrored the time and place in Queensland because the robes grew to become less complicated throughout World Warfare I.

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“As a result of unprecedented quantity of loss of life throughout WWI, the over-the-top mourning robe modified and it grew to become customized to mourning extra privately.

“This noticed a way more modest and clean-lined gown shifting away from Victorian customs.”

Christina Massey’s story was essential to seek out, Ms Bissel stated.

“It is an instance of the tales of many ladies, together with the various aunts, moms and sisters, that misplaced folks throughout WWI.

“We actually need to perceive extra in regards to the household and their story.”

Stitching reproduction of 100-year-old gown

Textile conservator Solitaire Osei started recreating the mourning robe final October.

“Usually you begin with folks’s measurements to make a gown, however I needed to go the opposite manner as I had no concept what dimension or form she was,” she stated.

“Attempting to decipher it was tough and sourcing supplies was simply as arduous.

“The unique was in such unhealthy situation that we could not put it on show — each time we touched it, it might shed fibres.”

After documenting the measurements, Ms Osei made sample items from the gown to protect the type for years to come back.

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“I checked out each single cloth and each single thread on the garment earlier than documenting it.

“Though I am an skilled dressmaker, placing this collectively was arduous; it is not day by day you are placing a mourning robe collectively.”

Every bit of the gown was made precisely as the unique, together with the fabric-covered buttons and the distinctive braid on the again.

“The braid wasn’t accessible wherever because it was made greater than 100 years in the past, so I needed to break down the elements of the braid and supply the fabric,” Ms Osei stated.

“I ended up discovering it at a army retailer within the UK and I then needed to train myself braid it and constructed a reproduction of it.”

Ms Osei stated she hoped the household’s descendants come ahead so they may see the finished reproduction.

“Everybody that has come and seen the gown has been amazed — it has been an enormous venture however I am pleased with the consequence.”

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