Backstage access to our collections – ceramics

Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s exhibition Beyond the bowl features ten renowned artists who are pushing the boundaries as to what can be achieved when working with glass or clay.

When looking into the history of these mediums, humans have utilised ceramic materials over a long period of time. Clay has proven to be a useful resource that, when fired, could be used to make pottery, sculptures and bricks. Remnants of hand-made ceramic items have been discovered in archaeological digs with the oldest dating to approximately 28,000 BC. The oldest ceramic piece being the Venus of Dolni Vestonice discovered in 1925 in what is today known as the Czech Republic. This ceramic figure was scanned with a 3D microscope in 2016 which revealed the material makeup of the clay. It was discovered that it included contaminants of mammoth ivory, charcoal and bone fragments which led researchers to believe that the figure was made of clay from the site in which it was discovered.

Ceramics have continually proven to be a useful material even in the modern age, being heat resistant, durable and insulating.  It is due to these characteristics that ceramic materials are used in electrical and electronic equipment. Ceramic materials are used extensively by NASA as they use ceramic tiles for their space shuttles to withstand the high temperatures that occur on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Ceramic fibres have also been used to create heat resistant fabric for NASA uniforms, protective blankets, heat shields and other protective equipment.

In Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s collection we hold a number of interesting ceramic items:


[1] 1980.2364 – Miniature collectable jug featuring the crest of London.

[2] 1980.2361 – Small ceramic cup featuring the crest of Brighton.

[3] 1980.746 – The coronation of Edward VIII was expected to take place on 12 May 1937. Souvenirs such as this ceramic milk jug were already for sale when he abdicated on 11 December 1936.



1980.746 – Coronation souvenir milk jug.


[4] 1980.334 – Ceramic jar, manufactured by R Fowler Ltd, Ultimo, Sydney, 1837.

Visit our latest exhibition Beyond the bowl to discover how the artists have used such wonderfully malleable materials, exhibition on until 18 April 2019.


‘A brief history of ceramics and glass’, The American Ceramic Society, [accessed 20 February 2019].

‘Shapely Czech Venus reveals secrets’, Radio Prague, [accessed 21 March 2019].

‘Space shuttle tiles’, NASA – website, [accessed 20 February 2019].

‘Superhero ceramics’, NASA – website, [accessed 20 February 2019].



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