Poster, 1935 National Museum of Australia

Battles with Morpheus: Hubert Opperman and the 1931 Paris-Brest-Paris

In early September 1931, the cyclist Hubert Opperman developed a sore throat. This somewhat unremarkable fact might have otherwise passed unnoticed among the array of domestic and international issues that demanded the attention of Australian journalists. And yet, newspapers from the Melbourne Age to the Murrumbidgee Irrigator all commented earnestly the on the state of Opperman’s upper respiratory tract as he prepared for yet another gruelling endurance contest on the other side of world that most Australians had never heard of. The event in question was a non-stop race covering 1,200 kilometres from Paris to the west coast town of Brest and back again. It was then the longest race in the world and the winner was expected to complete the journey, without sleep, in a little over 50 hours. 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

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Women on wheels – blazing the trail

When Australian track cyclist Anna Meares collected her 11th world championship medal a week ago in Paris it was another remarkable victory in a stellar career. On International Women’s Day, it is worth remembering that Meares’ remarkable achievements rest on the shoulders of giants. Her success and international prominence would be unlikely had it not been for the courageous and pioneering work of thousands of female cyclists who battled prejudice and discrimination in their fight to race on Australian roads and velodromes. Continue reading

Family Feud

Is Cycling Normal?

A month ago, the television game show Family Feud, set fire to the Twitterverse with this question: ‘What is something annoying cyclists do?’ The highest scoring categories, which the contests had to predict, including such gems as ‘Riding in the driving lane’, ‘wearing lycra’, and, my personal favourite, ‘everything’. You might argue with me about the extent that Family Feud is an barometer of social values in this country, but I fear that it might not be too wide of the mark! Continue reading

NMA Freewheeling (5)

“An outbreak of civility”: Freewheeling exhibition opens in Brisbane

Last week, while we were installing the NMA’s Freewheeling cycling exhibition at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, a massive hailstorm struck the city. Hitting just before 5pm, the city stopped moving. The roads became car parks, the train stations flooded and the buses were caught in traffic gridlock. The only people who made it home on time that day were those on two wheels, or two legs. Although they did have to jump a few fallen trees! Continue reading

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Freewheelin’ through Australia’s cycling history

Cadel Evans, Anna Meares, Simon Gerrans, Nathan Hass, Caroline Buchanan, Kathy Watt, Sue Powell and Michael Milton are just a few of the cycling stars you will encounter in a new National Museum of Australia travelling  exhibition due to open at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane this weekend.

Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia explores the story of Australian cycling, from our elite champions through to the role bikes have played in all our lives.

Read more below about what’s on display and how the show came about.

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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