Post-traumatic stress and the long Shadow of Ebola

After 42 days without a new case of Ebola, Liberia is officially now ‘free’ of the disease, as of 9 May 2015, according to the World Health Organization. On-going vigilance is urged; there are still new cases in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea, and diseases do not respect national jurisdictions. Continue reading

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To the curious observers of natural phenomena

One of the Museum’s latest acquisitions is this late 18th century halfpenny token which features images of three exotic animals, ‘The Kanguroo, The Armadillo and
The Rhinoceros’. Thomas Hall, a taxidermist and curiosity dealer, produced these tokens to advertise his ‘house of curiosity’, otherwise known as the Finsbury Museum, which he operated from his home at 10 City Road, London. The token illustrates the fascination and curiosity shown by the British public in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to view exhibits of exotic animals, in particular the kangaroo from New
South Wales. Continue reading

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Moving to still

One characteristic of water is that it is always moving, albeit at very different rates.  Even ice moves.  Alice Outwater in her book Water: A Natural History, says that ‘A single water molecule making its way through a stream and forest ecosystem is on a biological Ferris wheel.  A raindrop may hit a leaf, trickle down to the bark of a branch, evaporate to come back down again as rain that flows into soil and is sucked up by a root hair and is transpired from a leaf – to become yet again a raindrop that comes down in a storm and runs overland into a stream.’(Outwater, p64) Continue reading

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Strange Objects for Strange Times

We live in strange times. Strange weather, strange financial markets, strange technologies are all about us, and anxiety is at high levels. The Great Acceleration of global change can leave humans stranded, feeling stressed and out of time. One of the ways we can respond to this is to slow down, rather than speed up, for survival.

Slow Media are increasingly important in strange and fast times. Museums are places where visitors physically spend slow time with special objects, perhaps with friends or grandchildren, perhaps in serendipitous conversation with other people whose curiosity has been stimulated by the same object in the cabinet. They are an important part of a Continue reading

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Museums as Places for Imagining the Future of Cities

Dr Steven Fleming has been poking the hornets nest that is urban planning for over a decade, with his mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, politicians, designers and academics. Together with his colleague Professor Angelina Russo, he has been holding a series of provocative workshops around the country to get people thinking about the potential for bicycles to change the shape of our cities and the way we live.  What’s different about these workshops is that they are being hosted by museums and will be run in conjunction with the National Museum’s Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia exhibition.

So why are Museum’s the best place to re-imagine the physical and cultural fabric of our cities? I’ll hand over to Dr Fleming, for his point of view…….. Continue reading

An artistic interpretation

One of the most interesting aspects of working as a curator is observing how different people interpret objects in different ways. Some people may look at a writing box and see a functional object made to serve a specific purpose, others may view it as an object which tells the story of a person, place or event, and some may even experience an emotional response. Last week, I was privileged to gain an insight into how a contemporary artist is interpreting some of our collection through his camera lens. Continue reading

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Helpful to harmful

Remember Goldilocks? She was the girl who liked her porridge not too hot, not too cold but just right. When it comes to water, humans are just like her. Too much water is just as bad as too little, and it has to be just right.

Water is so essential to human endeavour that it is hard to keep this brief. On the helpful side of the equation, water is essential to maintain physical health, it’s an amazing solvent and cleaner, it provides beautiful places to recreate and extinguishes fire. On the harmful side, lives and livelihoods are destroyed in floods, damp conditions can affect crops and water can provide the right breeding grounds for organisms that impair human health.  In this blog post I use two Continue reading


A tale of extremes

There are few substances on the planet more changeable than water.  As ice, water, and gas, water impacts almost every aspect of our lives. This blog post looks at places in Australia which have very distinct climates because of water’s ability to change form, from gas, to water, to ice.  In particular, it looks at places where the extremes are reached.  Welcome to the watery edge. Continue reading