Wooden trunk brought out to Australia by Robert Salter, a Jewish refugee who migrated to Australia from Austria, in 1938, just before the German annexation of Austria. Robert had used the trunk in Vienna to carry samples from his father's sportswear manufacturing business, which he managed. In Australia Robert established women's fashion label Elegance and again used the trunk to carry samples of his work while establishing his business.

When Robert arrived in Brisbane on the 'New Zealand' he found that his application for residency had been rejected. However with the help of William Maloney, an MP who befriended him, Robert was finally able to obtain permits for himself, his parents and fiancee. This trunk along along with a coat, is the only surviving item of his migrant belongings.

Physical Description

Painted canvas over timber frame and sides; wooden hoops circling vertical circumference; leather handles and straps; metal clips down two side edges release at two hinge points to enable front to fold down to reveal interior. The interior is lined with striped fabric; metal clothes hanging bar running length of interior with hanging curtain.


This collection provides a potent symbol of the Jewish refugee experience just prior to the Second World War. The trunk itself contains a number of stories, from its use in Austria to showcase samples by Robert and his father as commercial travellers, to its use as a container for personal items which followed Robert on his enforced flight from Vienna, to its continued use in Victoria for commercial travelling. Consequently, the trunk is a symbol of migration, refugeeism, and industry. The collection currently holds no examples of large luggage and this trunk also challenges the assumption that all refugees migrate with few or no belongings. The museum also has few examples of luggage from the 20th century pre WW2 period. Furthermore the trunk also represents an important Melbourne story, that of the Flinders Lane tailoring industry.

More Information