After six months on show, the Spirited horses are returning to their stables and paddocks for a well-earned rest. From 11 September 2014 to 9 March 2015, over 52,000 people visited the Spirited exhibiton, enjoying a stream of associated tours, talks, holiday programs and events. If you missed the exhibition, National Museum photographers George Serras and Jason McCarthy captured Spirited from every angle so that we can continue to explore, share and reflect on Australia’s horse story.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
This week, the National Museum has launched a new website called ‘My Pony Club’, inviting all pony club participants from across Australia to contribute their stories. Check out the website ‘My Pony Club’ to read some great stories, and add yours to the site for a chance to win one of five double passes to our exhibition Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story, opening in September.
While visiting Australia during 1914, French aviator Maurice Guillaux flew his Bleriot monoplane to deliver Australia’s first official airmail, flying from Melbourne to Sydney on 16-18 July. Over this coming weekend, the The Aviation Historical Society of NSW, with the assistance of Australia Post, will lead the centenary celebrations for this significant event, through a re-enactment flight by Owen Zupp in his Jabiru and accompanying aviators and aircraft. Although the idea of carrying mail by aircraft these days seems very ordinary, in 1914 Guillaux’s flight was an exciting and inspiring moment for many Australians.
On a cold and windy day, the National Museum’s ‘Horse team’ were amongst thousands of people gathered to witness history in a paddock at ‘Willow Vale’, just outside of Yass, New South Wales. An initiative of the Yass Antique Farm Machinery Club Inc, ‘Woo back!’ hosted 28 horses and their humans to set a Guiness World Record for the most heavy horses ploughing in one field. It was an enthusiastic celebration of the contribution of equine muscle to Australia’s agricultural history, allowing a new generation to see horse drawn ploughs in action.
Today marks 150 years since the birth of Australian poet Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. Given that the talented horse rider took his pen name ‘Banjo’ after a racehorse owned by his family, it is not surprising that Paterson’s work was filled with lively descriptions of horses and riders in various settings, in particular the high country of New South Wales and Victoria. Paterson’s passion for his subjects can be found in each word of his poems, with a distinctive rhythm that brings their actions to life for his readers. It is perhaps those qualities that have given Paterson’s work its longevity, so that generations after his words were written, Banjo’s equestrian ballads are still a defining marker for the characters and lifestyles they have come to represent.
With Chinese New Year celebrations now underway around the world, 2014 is a year to consider the beauty and power of the horse. As 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse, it is particularly poignant for the Horses in Australia project team at the National Museum, and a good time to reflect on a few horse stories in the Museum’s collections.