NotesThese objects are part of the Museum's 'Wunderlich' collection, which was acquired by the Museum in 1980.
Wunderlich Limited was one of Australia's most significant building companies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and created elements of many significant Sydney buildings, including the Centennial Hall ceiling in the Sydney Town Hall.
In 1969 the Wunderlich Company was taken over by Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited (CSR) and de-listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1970. In 1979 CSR sold Wunderlich's Redfern site, with all the original buildings to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre. In November, that same year, CSR gave the Museum $20,000 to rescue the collection of the Wunderlich Factory, before it was lost forever.
Most of the artefacts in the Wunderlich Collection came from the spectacular Art Deco showroom created by the company in 1929. The rectangular showroom had a clerestory supported by eight massive pillars in glazed architectural terracotta and capped with hammered bronze capitals. The ceilings and cornices were decorated with stamped metal and the wall panels around the room illustrated 15 historical styles from Classical to Art Deco. This showroom had then been renovated by Wunderlich some time in the 1950s.
The Museum employed the assistance of Industrial Archaeologists to help preserve and document the site before its demolition. The Curator in 1980, John Wade, thought it imperative to act quickly as demolition had already begun by the time Museum staff could get to the buildings, and numerous objects were being stolen from the demolition site on a nightly basis. The archaeologists were racing the bulldozers to preserve what was left of the site and worked quickly to preserve anything they could.
Even amidst the chaos of demolition the Museum staff described the hidden wonders of the site: "Under the walls and ceilings of the 1950s showroom, team members found a treasury of art deco, including tiled columns capped with copper, pressed metal ceilings above low slung acoustic ceilings and, outside the showroom almost hidden by a display of roofing tiles were walls ornamented with terracotta medallions and elegant brick work". Examples of all these architectural components were saved by the team, along with numerous catalogues and architectural plans, which were turned into an archive.
These particular objects were collected from the administration building on the Redfern site.
This collection is again being worked on in 2008, as part of the Total Asset Management Collections Project, to increase accessibility of documentation relating to the Wunderlich objects. This collection project has not only preserved some of its products, but has given an insight into the development, operation and impact of a great Australian company, which became an institution.
Susan Bures and Barry Groom, Wunderlich Project Report, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, 1980-1981
Memo from John Wade to acting director D. Walsh, Museum Archives
"Wunderlich story to be persevered", Sydney Morning Herald, 6th March 1980
John Wade, 'Rediscovering Wunderlich', Heritage Conservation News