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Working on Winnie

Chloe Bussenschutt works as an objects conservator at the National Museum of Australia. One of her recent tasks has been the stabilisation and revitalisation of a horse mannequin from a saddlery business in Cooma, a town on the high, windswept Monaro plains of southern New South Wales. The mannequin features in Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story, the Museum’s latest exhibition. In her writings below, Chloe reveals the artful, philosophical and technical dimensions of this particular conservation project, and her personal fascination in the object now called Winnie.

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Qantas letterhead 1925

Getting the flying kangaroo off the ground

Amongst the National Museum’s initial list of 100 Defining Moments in Australian history is 16 November 1920, the establishment of Qantas. This date was the culmination of a series of defining moments – years of trial and error that got Qantas in the air. From partnerships formed on the First World War battlefields, a long drive, chasing government subsidies and public support, and finding suitable aircraft, the Qantas story is focussed on responses to the social, environmental and economic possibilities and needs for an aerial service across western Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Today, 94 years after the company’s inaugurating papers were signed in Brisbane, it seems appropriate to reflect on the circumstances, technologies, personalities, events and environments that gave rise to the flying kangaroo.

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Fuelling Horses, People & Futures

Harold Fife was born in 1919 at Wagga Wagga, a busy town among the wheat and sheep farms of southern New South Wales, and died in 2011. During his long life, Fife witnessed a dramatic transformation in methods of generating food and fibre. As a young man, he worked in his family’s chaff-cutting business, which operated across inland New South Continue reading

Double Abbott Buggy. Photography by Jason McCarthy, National Museum of Australia

Buggies, Bicycles and FJ Holdens

Every Australian family wanted one of these. With room for the whole clan on two bench seats, the sleek and robust double Abbott buggy was the FJ Holden of the late 19th century. I like to imagine the Victorian equivalent of the barbecue where ladies chatted about the Abbott’s silky smooth ride and the convenience of its rain hood. Men might have debated their buggy’s top speed with a decent pair of horses on the front. Continue reading

'Bennelong had a Point' 2012 by Black Douglas (Adam Hill) and Hugh Ramage.  Photo by Sam Birch.

Bennelong had a Point

‘Time flies’, the proverb proclaims, and indeed it seems a year could not possibly have passed since the Sydney Opera House celebrated its 40th birthday and we commemorated the occasion with a blog post highlighting the landmark and the Museum’s purchase of two very rare protest posters associated with Jørn Utzon’s dismissal from its construction.  Yet today, the iconic cultural centre yet again marks its birthday – this time with significantly less fanfare than last year’s milestone warranted – and we, with unexpectedly impeccable timing, are again able to announce an exciting development to mark the occasion. Continue reading

Bowen Downs Queensland

Captured: the art of photography

Last week I attended the opening of The Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibition at the South Australian Museum, in Adelaide. It was wonderful to be amongst the excitement as the competition winners were announced. Celebrating the landscapes and animals of the Australasian region, the competition attracts the amazing talents of thousands of photographers each year. I went to the exhibition opening with one of the finalists, Ruth Smith – a friend and contributor to the National Museum’s Landmarks gallery - and enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on her work and the art of photography.

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A Waler’s tail

During the development of the Spirited: Australia’s horse story exhibition, the National Museum has been in contact with numerous breed organisations and representatives from across Australia. Several weeks ago, I was contacted by Angela Tiede, a passionate supporter and owner of Waler horses. Angela sent the following stories of some of her horses for use in this guest blog post as part of her aspiration to help Walers “find their modern role in our community… Our pioneering horse meets our pioneering future, so to speak.”

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Our Rockhampton, an ex-racehorse now competing as a 3-day-eventer. Image supplied by Renée Geelen.

What happens to all those racehorses?

What happens to racehorses when they leave the track?

Last week I was contacted by a number of people critical of our decision to display of a can of ‘Horsielicious’, created by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR), in the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition. The can was used in 2014 protests aimed at raising awareness of the need for a ‘retirement plan’ for horses involved in racing.

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A Spirited opening event

The National Museum celebrated Australia’s horse story with the official launch of its new exhibition Spirited last week. The opening event mustered together horse enthusiasts from across the country, many of them having contributed their stories to the exhibition. Animal trainer Zelie Bullen opened the exhibiton by sharing her own horse stories, including those from the set of War Horse. Many more stories were shared as guests mingled and looked through the exhibition for the first time.

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