One of the most significant, fragile, and haunting objects held in the National Historical Collection is an entire skinned carcass of a thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger. No records exist of where or how the specimen was collected. It is part of the MacKenzie collection of wet specimens, which includes various other thylacine organs and parts. Orthopaedic surgeon Sir Colin MacKenzie was the director of the Australian Institute of Anatomy, where this specimen was previously held. In this blog post, Nicki Smith, one of the Museum’s senior conservators, describes the latest efforts to understand and conserve the creature’s delicate remains.
Yesterday I visited MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, on the banks of the Derwent River in Hobart, to meet with Reuben Parker-Greer. Reuben is employed by MONA to manage an inspiring initiative that helps local schools develop and maintain kitchen garden projects. MONA sits on the edge of a long established industrial and residential area, where fast-food outlets well outnumber community and school gardens. Moonah Primary School is one of the nearby schools that MONA supports, and also Continue reading
It’s been a brutal Australian summer. Record temperatures, unprecedented heatwaves, fires. Those people who draw their living from the land, and the livestock and crops they tend, have suffered most. In the years to come, as the chaotic ecological effects of global warming and climate change intensify, one of our greatest challenges will be to ensure the Continue reading
Museums enable the drawing of meaning and understanding from the material world. Visitors to the National Museum of Australia encounter objects strategically grouped by curators and designers, beside text carefully written and edited, near images selected for their relevance to the objects on display and processed for maximum visual effect.
But of course, visitors have their own, particular capacities to make sense of things they find in exhibitions or inside museum storage repositories, and objects have their own Continue reading
Yesterday a fellow curator alerted me to a sign that she’d driven past that morning in the Australian National University, ‘CAUTION: Bees in Lavender’. Today on the way to work I stopped to have a look. University staff had erected no less than five warning signs beside the buzzing, fragrant swathe of blossoming lavender. I started keeping bees Continue reading
‘North Taylors’ is the name of a paddock on the relatively fertile southwest slopes of New South Wales, south of the Murrumbidgee River, between the farming towns of Narrandera and Boree Creek.
The sixty-hectare paddock is part of ‘Oakvale,’ a farm owned by the Strong family. Over the past ten years or so, the Strong family has bolstered the resilience and productivity of Continue reading
‘Eating is an ecological act’, wise farmer and writer Wendell Berry famously wrote in his 1989 essay ‘The Pleasures of Eating’. Ecological thinking reveals connections, enacts relationships. At the National Museum of American History, one branch of the great Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, a new exhibition titled ‘Food: transforming the American table 1950-2000′ contains a fascinating array of historical objects that enable understanding about the embeddedness of our bodies, through eating, in material and cultural patterns of exchange. ‘Beyond Agriculture: Australian food flows’ is one of four research areas within the People and the Environment program at the National Museum of Australia, so I was keen to see how the National Museum of American History had explored the topic of food. Continue reading
Cultural institutions like the National Museum of Australia specialise in storytelling. We use collections to engage people in conversations about the meanings and the emotional aspects of environmental and social change. The Diana Boyer collection, for example, contains remarkable artworks, some of which creatively link one Australian farmer’s detailed knowledge of local plant and animal species with the globalised dynamics of climate change. Continue reading