Pulling back the curtain

A RARE, almost 90-year-old cinema curtain has been dusted off and put on display for a limited time at The Q Performing Arts Centre.

The curtain, measuring eight by nine metres, is too large to be permanently displayed at the Queanbeyan Museum but the town's 175th birthday was considered a good occasion to bring it out for viewing.The curtain's unveiling is in conjunction with the council's Queanbeyan's Moving Memories film screening at the theatre.

The screening includes 14 film segments from 1925 - 1989 which show a diverse aspect of Queanbeyan's history as well as a screening of feature film Around the Boree Log. Queanbeyan Museum curator Gillian Kelly is encouraging everyone to come and have a look at the curtain as it rarely put on public exhibition.

The curtain will only be displayed for about a month as it can't be left hanging too long in too much light."To get the odd opportunity to hang the curtain is great," Ms Kelly said. "This is only the second time it's been hung. 

The first time was at the Queanbeyan Police Station because there was nowhere else to display it and it was up for about 10 minutes. 

"So to anybody who has had an interest in seeing the curtain, it best to go and have a look at it now."

Mrs Kelly said the curtain itself is a little bit special as it featured several hand painted advertisements compared to most theatre curtains which were traditionally made of plain fabric most commonly velvet.

"I've never seen anything like [this curtain] anywhere else," she said. 

"If it's not unique then it's definitely rare."

The curtain was used in the cinema, the Triumph, during the 1920s to protect a light-sensitive screen.

"The curtain ... featured advertising from local businesses just like the slides at the start of the movies these days. It was advertising in the same way just not on a screen but a curtain," she said.

"The curtain was on rollers rather than separating sideways. It went up and down, it had a pulley on either end and took a man on each side to roll up. It was hung before and after a movie was screened."

Mrs Kelly said the curtain provides a snapshot of many of the businesses that made up Queanbeyan's bustling CBD during that time. They include a mechanic, auctioneer, tobacconist, grocer, ironmonger, home furnisher and even a local expert in "wireless sets, radio sundries, grammophones and everything musical". 

The curtain was donated to Queanbeyan Museum by Charlie Hawes and its well-made construction has allowed it to stand the test of time.

"It wasn't properly stored until about 10 years ago, it was kicked about a bit before then and it's not too damaged so it's made from strong fabric. The fabric isn't canvas, it's not heavy like canvas. We think there might be some woven silk in it because it doesn't crush like plain cotton," she said. 

"We think they've used more of a dye than a paint, it seems to have absorbed into the fabric and there's no cracking."

Mrs Kelly said there are many more unanswered questions surrounding the curtain like the seemingly random central feature image.

"There's an odd picture of a European building in the centre, it has no relation to the businesses so we think it was put in that space so there was no one particular company in the centre," she said.

* The curtain is currently on display at The Q until Saturday, March 16.

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