A plaque, with historical information on the union, artist, funding and production date, was made for each banner displayed in the exhibition. To help unions retain this information, regardless of staff turnover or union changes, banners were returned together with their plaques.
Visitors also filled in gaps in our knowledge of banners and their making. Following the exhibition, contacts were followed up and more information obtained. Relevant plaques were then updated and reissued to unions.
Exhibition information panels and a poster have been given to SA Unions for ongoing display, including to trainees and affiliated unions.
Prior to the exhibition, it was understood that several Art & Working Life sculptures, the front of the UTLC Banner and the Women’s Peace Banner, made by artist Cath Cantlon, had been destroyed in the firebombing of Trades Hall, South Terrace, Adelaide in 1989-90. However, preparation for the exhibition prompted unions to search their store rooms. In one, the Women’s Peace Banner was found, although a bit worse for wear after so many years and minus its frame.
Steps are now being taken to assess and enable restoration of the Women’s Peace Banner. Assessment and preservation of the fragile Actors Equity Banner is also being investigated, in conjunction with the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
Discussions have begun with History Trust curators for the ‘restoration’ of the original 8 Hours Banner, held in the State Heritage Collection. This very large banner requires a great deal of highly skilled, labour intensive work. First steps are being taken to obtain an assessment for this work and potential cost, with an ultimate goal of it being fit for display in 2023, the centenary of securing the first eight hour working day in South Australia. Also being explored are ideas for a 2023 exhibition of nineteenth century banners held in state collections and display of other objects in museum collections relating to the 8 Hour Day.
During the exhibition a number of visitors requested that it be recorded and made more broadly available via some form of publication. A website on which the exhibition could be viewed, and a small printed publication for the public and archives, are now being investigated.
It is also proposed that any website showing the exhibition include the inventory as an updatable register of union banners made in and relating to unions in South Australia. Museum curators and researchers would also welcome this initiative.
Finally, during the exhibition, previous State Historian Brian Samuels noted the name Lykke & Co on two of the oldest banners. The name of this Adelaide signwriting firm also appears on banners in state collections. The intrepid and ever curious Brian made contact with previous Lykke staff and, with Jude Elton, has initiated conversations with them on the company and banner making.
These are all very positive outcomes from 2021 May Day celebrations and the Trade Union Banner exhibition. We hope there is more to come.