Behind The Scenes – The Dolly Washer

Environmentally Friendly Washing Machine

The “Dolly” Washing Machine. Queensland Museum

Ever wondered how to reduce your impact on the environment and reduce your electricity bill as the same time?  Well look no further than the past!  Re-introducing the “Dolly Washer” from 1879.

 The “Dolly” washer features a central wooden spiked agitator in the wash bowl to help remove the most stubborn stains and ergonomic 3 gear reduction hand crank to allow easy rotation of the handle.

 The water recycler is located directly above the wash basin allowing you to remove all the excess water from your washed clothes and reuse it for the next load. We recommend washing whites before colours when using this reclaimer feature.

 The “Dolly” washer also has two handy fold away work benches on either side and comes fitted with wheels as standard, so you can wheel the washing machine out next to the clothes line and wash your clothes next to your environmentally friendly solar dryer. Once you have finished, use the handy tilt feature on the left hand side to empty the wash bowl and water your lawn at the same time (We advise using a low phosphorous detergent when using this feature). The environment will thank you every time you wash your clothes.

Built by Taylor and Wilson and dated 1879, this washing machine would have been state of the art at the time.  To wash clothes, water would have to be collected, (often in buckets by hand) and heated on a wood stove or over and open fire.  The hot water would then be bucketed into the wash trough. Clothes would be sorted not only into colours, but into levels of dirtiness.  As the water was used, and re-used again, the cleanest clothes would be washed first and the most soiled last. Each item would then be passed through the wringer to remove excess water before being hung on the line to dry.

Reflecting on the time and effort involved in using this washing machine makes me appreciate how little effort is required in washing clothes today, yet how much of a chore we still consider it to be. I cannot argue that the housekeepers and domestic helpers of the past had an easy job to do.

This behind the scenes artefact from QueenslandMuseum’s collection also highlights the nature of the progress made with technology,  our demand for helpful household appliances, and our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels to power the convenient tools we have created.

Have we as a society become too dependant on power and convenience through work/life pressure or just laziness? Is the constant push for the latest in technology and convenience also a push towards environmental degradation? I’m not suggesting that we all go back to hand washing our clothes but maybe we could find solutions to our current problems by looking into our past?

For more ideas and resources to teach science and technology in the classroom, and even looking for possible solutions to Global Warming and Climate Change visit QM Loans. Loans kits include, Early Queensland Living and Australian Inventions.

Behind the Scenes – Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup

Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup

 I have noticed that the overdosing of paracetamol to young children has hit the headlines again.  Jane Hanson of  The Sunday Telegraph wrote “half of all parents give their children paracetamol when they don’t need it – and many get the dose wrong.”

Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup Bottle: Queensland Museum

Well I am glad these overdosed children and their parents didn’t live in Brisbane in the late 1800s and early 1900s, or the outcome may have been far worse.  At this time, chemists sold a medicine called Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. The syrup was the invention of Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow and first marketed by her son-in-law Jeremiah Curtis and Benjamin A. Perkins in Bangor, Maine, USA in 1849. Their advertising said “it is perfectly harmless and pleasant to taste, it produces natural quiet sleep by relieving the child from pain”.  However, often parents were “relieved of all further care of their infants” through its use. ” (American Medical Times 1860)

The formula consists of Morphine Sulfate (An opiate analgesic related to heroin), sodium carbonate (water softener), spirits foeniculi (an alcohol that seems to be only associated with this product), and aqua ammonia (a cleaning agent). I find it had to believe that it was “pleasant to taste”.

Courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine, here’s an 1885 advertising image produced by Meyer, Merkell & Ottmann in New York.

The product was widely marketed through newspapers, parenting information and even postcards and found favour with solders returning from the battlefields of World War I.

It was eventually withdrawn from sale here in Queensland after State Government investigation into child deaths associated with the medicine.

The results eventually contributed to the strict controls we have in our pharmacies today and the process drug companies must complete before their products are certified.

Sea Spiders – from the South Pole to the Tropics

Dr Claudia Arango, a research fellow at Queensland Museum, is one of the few world specialists on pycnogonids (or sea spiders). She has been working on Australian fauna since 1998.

Dr Claudia Arango

Claudia studies these spiders to work out how they evolved; their ecology; relationships among the families and species; and to help understand their position in the arthropod Tree of Life.

Claudia is currently leading a three-year project with an international team of researchers studying the diversification and evolutionary history of sea spiders in Antarctica. She is interested in the connections Australasian species have to Antarctic and deep-sea species.

Antarctic sea spiders tend to be bigger, more abundant, and more diverse than their relatives from warmer locations, particularly the tropics.

The image below shows representative species from four different lineages of sea spiders (Pycnogonida). Nymphon unguiculatum (top left) and Decolopoda australis (top right), a spectacular ten-legged form, both from Antarctica. Endeis mollis is a common tropical species, here feeding on corals from the Great Barrier Reef (bottom left), and Eurycyde raphiaster mostly found in shallow tropical waters from the Caribbean to the Indo-Pacific (bottom right).

In her research, Claudia and her colleagues have found certain ‘hot spots’ of biodiversity in benthic organisms in the icy deep Antarctic waters. They are determining baseline measures so future studies can determine the effects of climate change on existing species abundance and distribution.

Sea spiders feed on a variety of sessile organisms, (or ones that are fixed in one place), particularly bryozoans, which are known to be very susceptible to climate change.

What will be the effect of ice melting and other climate changes on sea floor communities?

To learn more about Claudia’s research visit her Biography Page.

Behind the Scenes: The Mimeograph

What did teachers do before photocopiers?

Prior to the commercialisation of the photocopier, many schools used a duplicator.  There are two types of duplicator, a spirit duplicator which uses a multi layered, ink impregnated wax based master copy and a mimeograph which uses a single layered waxed paper master copy.

To prepare a spirit duplicator master a teacher would write or type onto the top sheet. The pressure applied would transfer some of the wax from the bottom sheet onto the back of the top sheet.  This wax, which was impregnated with ink, usually aniline purple, would form a “negative” image of the back of the original document.  The negative would then be wrapped around a drum. Spirits would then be applied to the paper which would dissolve a little of the ink in the wax as it came into contact with rotating negative.  This dissolved ink would dry on the paper, forming a copy of the original.

A Mimeograph uses a single sheet of waxed paper.  When the paper was typed or written on, the wax would be dislodged creating a stencil through which ink could be passed.  Once the stencil was complete, it was placed on an ink filled drum.  When paper was forced between the drum and a roller, ink was forced through the stencil onto the paper forming the copy.

So why would Queensland Museum keep an example of a mimeograph?  Prior to World War II, these sorts of duplicating machines were imported from the United States.  With wartime restrictions on shipping, the supply of these machines ceased, yet the demand grew. A Brisbane stationary company and importer of mimeograph machines, Jackson & O’Sullivan, saw this as an opportunity and started to produce their own version, “The NATIONAL” duplicator.  Different components were produced around Brisbane with the final assembly taking place on the fifth floor of the company’s Queen Street premises. The duplicator was a sales success with examples even purchased by the United States Navy for use in the Pacific theatre.

Unfortunately, like a lot of Australia’s wartime manufacturing industries, production of “the National” mimeograph ceased after the war as trade re-commenced and products from around the world came back onto the market.

For more ideas and resources to teach science and technology in the classroom visit QM Loans. Loans kits include Telecommunications, Early Queensland Living and Australian Inventions.

DNA Detective

Dr Jessica Worthington Wilmer is a research scientist in the Biodiversity and Geosciences program at Queensland Museum (QM). She’s also the Manager of QM’s Molecular Identities Laboratory and Frozen Tissue Collection.

Dr Jessica Worthington Wilmer

Jessica gets to work on some really cool things!

She’s used genetics to look at the population structure of tiny little aquatic snails living in Artesian springs in Australian deserts; used DNA to determine the influence of incubation temperature on the sex of Brush-turkey chicks and embryos; and also identified new species of fabulous things like leaf-tailed geckos and sea anemones.

Currently Jessica is working on the landscape genetics of SE Queensland mammals (specifically koalas, northern brown bandicoots, yellow-footed antechinus, sugar and squirrel gliders) with collaborators at the University of Queensland and with four of SE Queensland’s super-councils.

In the image on the left Jessica is working over the Trans-illuminator gel documentation system, preparing samples for DNA testing.

Next year, the Molecular Identities Laboratory (MIL) at Queensland Museum will celebrate its 10th birthday.  Since it was established in 2002, the lab has hosted research across a wide range of animal groups, always with the overarching aim of using DNA data to identify new and existing species.  The primary work of MIL is species-level discrimination using DNA tools. However, sequence data is used further to explore the evolutionary inter-relationships among groups and species.

Genetic Sequence Data

Note the A T G C letters in the DNA sequence data at the left. These represent the four nitrogen bases in the genetic code: namely adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.

Later this year Jessica and colleague, Dr Kathryn Hall, will be presenting posters at the International Bar Coding of Life conference in Adelaide, showcasing the role that the QM and the MIL have played in several international bar coding collaborations.

To find out more about the research that Jessica does, watch the video Applications of DNA technology or visit her Biography Page.

You may also like to look at an online learning resource where DNA techniques were used to determine the life cycle of a parasite that infects the Sydney rock oyster. The resource is called Disease Detectives.