ACU researcher wins prestigious National Library of Australia fellowship

ACU humanities researcher Dr Lorinda Cramer has received a prestigious National Library of Australia Fellowship.

Dr Cramer is one of just nine researchers across Australia to receive the Fellowship, which includes a 12-week residency at the NLA in Canberra. She will explore the material history of Australian wool – part of her broader research on the history of fashion.

“It’s such a privilege - the NLA has supported many exciting projects through its fellowship program over the years and I'm thrilled that mine will now be one of them,” Dr Cramer said.

“I see this as a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in the collections of the National Library of Australia and to focus on a truly exciting project.

“The NLA's collection is so rich that I know I'll find something new and exciting every day as I explore further and dig deeper.”

Dr Cramer is a research fellow in ACU’s Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences. She is a social and cultural historian whose work explores the gendered dimensions of dress and textiles. Dr Cramer has worked as a museum curator and collection manager, but her interest in the wool industry was sparked by an intensely personal connection.

“Growing up on a farm in Victoria’s Wimmera district, the whirring of shears, the smell of lanolin and the bite of a sweet slice carried to the shearing shed for morning tea were sounds, smells and tastes that shaped my childhood,” she said.

“They form a background to this project, but so too did standing by the roadside waiting for the school bus in a woollen winter uniform that felt both warm and itchy against the skin.

“The idea for this project might have been planted long ago, but it’s only more recently that I’ve thought about the real potential for extending on the rich history of Australian wool by focusing in on how it was worn, how it felt and what it meant for its wearers.”

Dr Cramer began her 'Wearing Wool' project as this year’s Redmond Barry Fellow, part of the State Library of Victoria's Fellowships Program.

Her research has focused on the experiences of wearing woollen clothes by Victorian manufacturers and retailers Foy & Gibson (whose flagship Collingwood store and 'three miles of mills' were close to ACU’s Fitzroy campus) and Fletcher Jones.

“With this NLA fellowship, 'From Shoddy to Superfine', I'll consider how shoddy - woollen waste reconditioned into cheap cloth - posed a challenge for Australia's celebrated soft, fine wool,” she said.

“Produced from the nineteenth century, shoddy was sometimes sold to unsuspecting customers in the guise of pure new wool.

“Through my NLA research I hope to capture the ways in which consumers came to understand the benefits of wearing wool - and to feel fine merino to counter inferior products.”

Funded through philanthropic support, the National Australian Library’s Fellowships and Scholarships program has supported more than 200 emerging and established Australian and international scholars since 1986, encouraging innovative research across a range of disciplines.

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