Harris-Pearce Family Collection

A collection relating to Ballarat’s Harris and Pearce family has been lovingly donated to the Sovereign Hill Museums Association.

The family lived in Ballarat through the turbulent times the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. They were a family of butchers, shop keepers, labourers and factory workers and this collection gives insight to the working and middle classes of Ballarat.

The Harris and Pearce families were prominent in Ballarat and Buninyong, the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. In 1868, James and Ann Harris moved to Ballarat where James worked as a butcher. Ann ran tea rooms with her step-daughter in 63 Humffray Street from 1893.

William Pearce was a gold mine manager for many years, while his wife Ada Harriet was a member of the well-known Daniel family.

The collection includes photographs albums, costume accessories and documents.

Poetry in Emma Pearce’s scrapbook (Gold Museum collection, 2019.1674)

A highlight of this collection is a scrapbook belonging to Emma Pearce (nee Harris) compiled between 1881 and 1888. The scrapbook contains newspaper clippings, coloured pictures, handwritten poems, hand-cut silver foil fern leaves and pressed flowers.

The scrapbook has themes of romantic love with several poems coinciding with societal views on courtship, marriage, widowhood and death. It also explores the wider Australian society views of the links to Britain within the age of Empire alongside the growing patriotism of pre –federation.

Emma’s scrapbook is a product of the Victorian era. Scrapbooks from this period highlight social attitudes, Scrapbooking was deemed a suitable pastime for young unmarried women. This combined with the readily new supply of cheap newspapers, greeting cards, mementos and Christmas cards gave an abundance of material for selecting and creating scrapbooks.

Newspaper clippings in Emma Pearce’s scrapbook                                                     (Gold Museum collection, 2019.1674)

The personal significance of a scrapbook is that it created a space where a young woman could follow her interests in science, the natural world or highlight their cultural awareness. It also preserves memories, achievements and events meaningful to that person.

A great way of thinking about scrapbooking is it was the Pinterest or Instagram of the Victorian era, and Emma’s scrapbook is a true reflection of the interests of a young woman navigating her life during this period.

Written by Bronwyn Akers, Sovereign Hill Museums Association Exhibit Cleaner and graduate of Deakin University’s Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage program

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