Richard's Theodolite

Repaired by Franchesca Cubillo

This theodolite, a surveying tool, has had a full life in service, documenting sites for the government in coastal NSW and in the Pilbara. It now has calibration issues and foreign debris gumming up its internal mechanism. Its owner, Richard, is a passionate archaeologist interested in the possibility of this theodolite having a second life. Perhaps, he thought, it could be fixed and used to teach surveying principles to university students?

Unfortunately, the Object Therapy team discovered repair is prohibitively expensive and unwarranted. Newer, better and more sophisticated theodolites can be bought for less. Similar working versions are common in university storerooms. There might be just one person in Canberra able to repair it, but he is retired and has health issues. And yet, the value of even very technical objects should not be limited to their functional capacities. The past life of this theodolite suggests a reimagining. In deference to its history unearthing Indigenous artefacts, we invited Franchesca Cubillo, Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia, to ‘repair’ this machine with words.

Read an essay by Franchesca Cubillo about The Re-CONstructed Theodolite here

Design Repairer: Franchesca Cubillo

Franchesca is the Senior Curator Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia and has worked in the museum and art gallery sector for the last 25 years. She was employed in several state and national institutions throughout Australia, including the South Australia Museum, the National Museum of Australia, and the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and more recently the National Gallery of Australia. She is a Churchill Fellow, has a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Anthropology and is a PhD candidate with the Australian National University. Cubillo has written extensively, presented lectures and keynote addresses on subjects such as the repatriation of Australian Indigenous Ancestral Remains, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art and Culture, an Australian Indigenous Museology and Curatorship. Originating from Darwin, she is a Yanuwa, Larrakia, Bardi, and Wardaman woman from the ‘Top End’ region of Australia and is the Inaugural Chair of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation since 2010.


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Richard's Theodolite. Repaired by Franchesca Cubillo. Photos by Lee Grant. Image copyright Hotel Hotel.