The Biography of a German Chair: an object revealing trans-national connections and stories

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Video of the presentation by Chris Schoepf from the 2018 German-Australian History and Heritage Conference in Adelaide.

The biography of the Mayoral chair of Port Pirie, South Australia, can tell the history of that locality. Through further examination of the people and events that have shared this biography, many stories can be told: German migration to the state; trans-national shipping; Hanseatic ship building; German forestry and timber movements; and, even legends of the Teutonic people. How? This chair was crafted from the remnants of the German barque Saturn by a German who had made a new life in South Australia. Beginning life as an acorn in a German forest, it grew to adulthood, and was felled and floated to Stralsund. In its next life, this oak became a ship that sailed the world with cargo but then burned in 1888. The chair then has lived multiple lives. This presentation will reveal how one object biography can add fresh layers to the German-Australian story.

About the Speaker

Christeen Schoepf is a Historical Archaeologist and Community Historian with a keen interest in German migration to South Australia, particularly the mid-north. Her work is focussed on the objects, extant and not, that can tell the stories of this process and the subsequent lives of those who made the journey. The research is multidisciplinary and uses: historical sources; oral history; genealogies and biography. She has presented her work on object biography throughout Australia and internationally including Abu Dhabi, London, Christchurch and Buenos Aries and was awarded South Australian Emerging Historian of 2014.

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55 minutes

The Biography of a German Chair: an object revealing trans-national connections and stories

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