07 June 2023

A Stitch in Time

Bringing convict archives to life with embroidery

A new exhibition of research work from SensiLab’s Dr Monika Schwarz will be opening at the Hobart Penitentiary Historic Site on the 7th June. The Stitch in Time exhibition showcases a set of embroideries depicting events from the lives of convict women. Each is based on the archival records, processed using data analysis and materialised using computer embroidery. Focusing on acts of resilience or resourcefulness, the embroideries try to capture moments where the women’s personality shines through. Ultimately, they illustrate that convict women weren’t so different from us.


The exhibition will be opened by renowned Australian artist Fiona Hall at the Penitentiary Chapel in Hobart, Tasmania on 7 June 2023.

One of the embroideries from "A Stitch in Time"

In December 1830 Mary Lambert was fined for keeping an unlicensed dog. She had just lost her husband and given birth to a daughter, and with two more children under the age of four the charge was certainly an unwelcome distraction for the recently bereaved single mother. A record of this indiscretion survives because Mary had arrived in Hobart on a convict ship ten years before. The colonial administration recorded everything about each convict’s circumstances down to the most trivial transgression—including the non-payment of licence fees. Originally maintained to keep track of convict behaviour, these UNESCO World Heritage registered records have been scanned and digitised and can now be used to throw fresh light on the lives of convict men and women.

A fresh take on representing information, data physicalization transforms complex data sets into tangible experiences and engaging narratives. Rather than deciphering plots on a computer screen, data physicalization interprets the information gained from data into physical objects. By engaging your senses and spatial cognition, data physicalisation makes exploring data accessible and personal.

You can find out more at the Stitch in Time website.