Affective Aprons

Object Biographies from the Ladies’ Cottage, Royal Derwent Hospital New Norfolk, Tasmania

Danica Auld, Tracy Ireland, Heather Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores a collection of embroidered aprons retrieved from under the floor of the Ladies’ Cottage, a building at the Royal Derwent Hospital in New Norfolk, Tasmania — Australia’s oldest continuously operating psychiatric institution (1826–2000). Taking an object biography approach, close study of the aprons draws out many stories illuminating the everyday life of the patients in the past and enriching the narratives of these institutionalised women. Promoting a more nuanced understanding of the breadth of experiences encapsulated in this contentious heritage place, we consider the collection from the perspective of “object-mediated empathy”—the affective capacity of these remarkable textiles to trigger an experience of the humanity of others and to potentially alter ingrained community perceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-379
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
Issue number2
Early online date7 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2019


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