In 1984, a chair used by former Prime Minister Ben Chifley at Hotel Kurrajong, in Canberra, was donated to the National Museum by the Australian Labor Party. It is now installed in Landmarks, as part of an exhibit about Provisional Parliament House.
While Prime Minister from 1945 to 1949, Chifley chose to stay at Hotel Kurrajong rather than in the Prime Minister’s official residence, the Lodge, believing it would save the taxpayers’ money. The leather armchair was probably part of the common area lounge furnishings, and is thought to have been favoured by Chifley (and even reserved for him); most likely for the time he was known to spend relaxing with a good book and of course his ever-present tobacco pipe.
While its significance as ‘Chifley’s chair’ was never forgotten, the chair arrived at the Museum in poor condition, having been moved many times and kept in storage.
When the chair was selected for display in Landmarks, it was decided to carry out some conservation work to restore the chair’s appearance and stabilise some of the past damage.
Getting it into the exhibition was a great moment for the whole team – and we needed the whole team to get it there! Eight people lifted the chair into place, and then everyone stood back for a moment to admire the chair and the years of work now complete.