A partially auto-biographical text by Christine Lopez, nee Twycross, recollecting on growing up as a child with objects from the fine and decorative art collection of her great grandfather, John Twycross.

John and Mary's daughter Christine pays tribute to her parents' faith in the value of the collection and family memory, especially in the post-war era when anything old fashioned was discarded.

As busy young parents, mum and dad faced some unique challenges in preserving this collection. Over several interstate moves with the Bank of NSW, they continued to have faith in the value of keeping, displaying and caring for these objects that are now recognized as historic works of art. As Dad said, his grandmother, Charlotte, 'had kept her favourites'. Of necessity due to limited space, many things were stored carefully under our weatherboard house.

To my father, these objects represented a treasured connection with the family legend of 'The Great Exhibition'. My mother - always loyal and intuitive - did as much personal research as she could in those days of scarce information and took responsibility for looking after the collection of 'things she had never seen before' but had grown to love.

Christine's memories of the home she grew up in are populated with images of collection objects. Treasures were mounted on the walls of the front hallway or placed into one of the built-in flower recesses. There, one of my mother's elegant Japanese styled flower arrangements stood in a vase made of Italian majolica decorated with a parrot and wisteria pattern. At the end of the hallway hung a small and delicate landscape of Eilean Donan castle in the highlands of Scotland. Hanging on the wall in a room just off the hallway was a cloisonné dish of cranes against an exquisitely coloured turquoise background: birds were intertwined in an Escher-like pattern: a treasure from Meiji Japan, which Great Grandfather had acquired as part of a glorious collection at the Great Exhibition some 70 years earlier. It was wildly beautiful and I often studied its intricate patterns.

As I look back I realise that I lived in two worlds, but I got a good look at what Federation Australia had been all about, and I remember the feeling of being a small child visiting the old houses with the shaky dark brown floors, high door knobs, aspidistras and old ladies with kind blue eyes serving tea and scones, and the timeless feeling there was back then in the sleepy hot days. Late Victorian and Federation Australia lived on the walls and in the cupboards of my modern childhood home and I was so fortunate to experience it vicariously every day.

Christine Twycross

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