Schoolboys learning about rabbit fur felt hat-making at the Akubra stand at the Australian Manufacturers' Exhibition in Sydney, December 1927. Sam Hood collection, State Library of New South Wales hood_06299

From paddock to pate: ‘good Australian felt’

In time for Australia Day, January 26, dig into the story behind that peculiarly Australian icon of headwear: the rabbit fur felt hat.

This post is the third in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

Infamous here as pests on the land, Australia’s wild rabbits achieved international fame for their contribution to fashion. From the late nineteenth century many millions of rabbits took on new identities as coats and hats, a furry and felty invasion welcomed in cities and towns around Australia and overseas. Continue reading

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A local adventure

As part of the Food Stories project, we’ve been working with Moonah Primary School in Hobart, and with Reuben Parker-Greer from the Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA. Reuben runs a scheme that supports kitchen garden initiatives at schools located near MONA, including Moonah Primary. As the National Museum and MONA share an interest in the amazing work that Moonah Primary has achieved in their school kitchen and garden, we decided to combine forces and embark on a unique learning journey that explored the dynamic food culture of the Moonah area. Continue reading

Lane's Ace brand rabbit trap. CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology collection. Photo by Jason McCarthy, National Museum of Australia.

‘Round the traps

This post is the second in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

Rabbit trapping helped sustain many Australians through tough times of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, providing livelihoods, extra income or food. Rabbits were plentiful and trapping looked on as a simple way to convert a problem into something useful: money, a hot dinner or furred garment. Besides potential victims, prospective trappers had only a few basic needs: Continue reading

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a river story…

Last weekend, as the sun dropped behind the Murrumbidgee River at Narrandera in southern New South Wales, hundreds of people gathered to watch Haunting, a major projection artwork developed by the Museum’s artist-in-residence Vic McEwanHaunting considers the dramatic transformation of the Murrumbidgee region and much of southern Australia from grassland and bush into a modern agricultural landscape, and the still unfurling consequences of past actions for people, other species, places and climate. The performance was part of the On Common Ground arts festival, an initiative of Vic and Sarah McEwan’s The Cad Factory and the local community. Continue reading

The Museum’s section of Fence No.2 installed in the Old New Land gallery, with wire netting set into the ‘earth’ of the display case. Burying netting into the ground to prevent rabbits passing underneath was an important step in the process of fence-building. 
Photo by George Serras, National Museum of Australia.

Rabbit-proofing the West

The National Museum of Australia holds many different objects that together record the ecological and social significance of the feral European wild rabbit. Recently, curators in the People and the Environment team have looked again at these rabbit items and the fascinating stories they hold. This post is the first in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

The European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has been a particularly successful, damaging and enduring coloniser of Australia’s landscapes. Purposefully released, most notably – though not exclusively – by Thomas Austin on his Victorian property in late 1859, rabbits quickly proved problematic and came to be recognised as a pest. Even with well over a century of attempts at Continue reading

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Experimenting with Place

What meanings arise when we return historic objects to the active terrains that marked and shaped them? Over the past couple of weeks, during one of the coldest Canberra winters in a decade or more, I’ve been working at night with Vic McEwan on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, where pioneering wheat breeder William Farrer undertook experiments that helped transform the grassy woodlands of southern Australia into modern farmland.  Continue reading

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Trees & Time

National Tree Day, on Sunday the 26th of July, is an opportunity to celebrate the value of trees in our lives, a value that arises from the historical and ecological networks to which trees, and people, are inextricably bound. A range of collections held here at the National Museum of Australia record the respect and love felt by generations of Australians towards trees and their varied qualities. On display in the Landmarks gallery is a well-worn tree planting device and a specimen of the original timber panelling installed into Old Parliament House. Inside the Journeys gallery is a finely crafted table with a veneer of beefwood (Grevillea sp.), harvested near Continue reading

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Phar Lap was a horse

Isa Menzies is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, where she is examining how museums in Australia and New Zealand have interpreted horse remains, particularly in relation to narratives of national identity. Before becoming a student again, Isa spent almost a decade working in museums across a variety of roles, including as the curator responsible for Phar Lap’s heart at the National Museum of Australia.

In this guest blog, Isa reflects on the recent rediscovery of tissue cut long ago from the heart of Phar Lap, and the potential offered by these two containers of organ parts and preserving fluid to reimagine the great Australian race horse.

The name ‘Phar Lap’ conjures all sorts of imagery: the Melbourne Cup, perhaps, or the nobly-posed figure on display in the Melbourne Museum, or the abnormally large heart, which inspired the phrase ‘a heart as big as Phar Lap’s’. While the name evokes all those things and more, it is unlikely that when people think of Phar Lap, they will call to mind Continue reading

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Machinery for Ecological Thinking

How might the particular features of a piece of agricultural machinery record profound ecological ideas? At the National Landcare Awards in September, former prime minister Bob Hawke presented farmer Colin Seis with the prestigious 2014 Bob Hawke Landcare Award. The award celebrates Colin’s revisioning of agriculture as an ecological activity, and recognises the significance of ‘pasture cropping’, a revolutionary new method of grain and pasture production developed by Colin on ‘Winona’, his farm on the central tablelands of New South Wales. Continue reading

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Riverina Rabbits: volunteers digging the dirt

Today, December 5, is International Volunteer Day. At the National Museum of Australia, curators collaborate with a wide range of people, including many volunteers, to research and develop collections and exhibitions. In People and the Environment team, we recently came across a wonderful example of the contribution volunteers made to a previous project at the National Museum, and we thought that effort deserved sharing. Continue reading