Dianne Finnegan

Dianne Finnegan has had a long and purposeful association with Sydney Living Museums. Her passion for the work we do is underscored by the fact that she’s a donor through the Governors’ Circle with her husband, Terry, as well as a member and a volunteer!

An expert in the field of textile art, Dianne has been making, researching and writing about quilts for nearly 30 years. Her work can be seen in the beautiful bespoke furnishings produced for our properties. SLM is delighted to announce that Dianne has recently been nominated for an award at the Museums & Galleries of NSW Imagine Awards 2017, in the category of ‘Individual Achievement: Volunteer’.

When did you first become involved with SLM?

As president of The Quilters’ Guild of NSW for Australia’s bicentenary in 1988 I oversaw the first national quilt exhibition, the exhibitions touring Australia for five years, and wrote the accompanying books. This led on to working closely with the team at the Historic Houses Trust of NSW [now SLM] to develop the exhibition Sydney Quilt Stories at Elizabeth Bay House in 1998. I realised then that here is an organisation that is showcasing ways of living over time in Australia. I became a member and participated in every symposium, course and tour that gave me an insight into the decorative arts and how people lived. Australian history, literature and arts are also my passions and SLM provides a framework, house museums, resources and expertise that encompass my interests.

What inspired you to support SLM? Terry and I attended a couple of SLM Foundation fundraising events. I’d been so impressed with the work and the properties, and after getting a greater understanding and appreciation of the need for funds, we decided to support SLM. We’ve since become regular Governors’ Circle members.

How did you become a volunteer?

Through my work on the Sydney Quilt Stories exhibition I became involved with the Soft Furnishings Volunteer Group. The work is constantly stimulating: there are examples and techniques to be researched and implemented, materials to be sourced.

The unexpected bonus for me was meeting and getting to know the Soft Furnishings Group volunteers. We’re a group of like-minded individuals, passionate about textiles, well informed and all with different interests to bring to bear. Workshops remind me of the 19th century when women would bring their handiwork when they visited, busily stitching while they conversed.

When I offered to volunteer for SLM ten years ago I offered a year or two. It soon became obvious the work was like the Magic Pudding! There is always more to do as we uncover layers of history and heritage.

Which SLM property would you describe as your favourite and why?

The Soft Furnishings Group meets at Elizabeth Bay House twice a month in the dining room. Visitors can see us at work, which deepens their understanding of the stories and people of the house. I visit all of the houses when investigating new sewing projects, but Elizabeth Bay House is my favourite, with its blazing log fire in winter, wonderful staff and glorious surrounds.

How would you finish this sentence – SLM is …

… an entry into people’s lives, past and present.

One woman standing and one woman seated at sewing frame on table in indoor setting.

Dianne Finnegan assisting Barbara Carnie, who is working on a Berlin wool work hassock for Elizabeth Farm. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums