This month we’re celebrating 25 years of digitising at the Library. We’ve been speaking with some of our Collection Digitisation team to ask them about surprising finds or favourite items. Here, Genevieve Pergl shares an unexpected link to the Geelong Cats.
“What I really like about my job in the Collection Digitisation Unit are the unexpected links and avenues our work can take us.
We have catalogued and digitised a lot of the works on paper in the Pictures Collection and one real surprise was when opening the boxes of Samuel Wells (1885-1972), who made theatre masks for an actor Joseph Thomas (Bland) Holt. These masks were a bit scary really, made with porcelain eyes and human hair, and real scarves and hats etc. One in particular was Bill Sikes (or Sykes), whose eyes were crossed with Bull’s Eye, teeth bared, at his side ( not a real dog, just a painting of one… )
Researching the actor found some interesting details. This extremely popular character once rode his horse up Bourke Street to the Theatre Royal (where Target is now), and right onto the stage for a performance.
The artist, too is interesting. He was a member of the Permanent Garrison Army at Port Nepean in 1914, when the first shot of the First World War against Germany was fired, when a German ship was attempting to leave Port Phillip Bay after the declaration of war. A water colour painting of his, depicting the incident, hangs in the National Library of Australia collection, Canberra.
Samuel Wells was also instrumental in the Geelong Football Club adopting the ‘cats’ as their logo. He was a very keen Geelong supporter and in June 1923 he suggested in one of his drawings that a black cat would give the team a better chance against a match with Carlton – Geelong won and they’ve been the cats ever since.
Quite often we find these unexpected stories and connections and it makes our work very interesting.
I’ve been at the Library for over 20 years and so far I’ve never had anything to do with a book.”
Genevieve Pergl is an Image Access Technician in our Collection Digitisation Unit.