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A photo finish…

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.

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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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Riding horses – it’s good for the soul, and for a long and fit life!

Olympic rider Neale Lavis, 84, sits ‘like a king on his throne’ as he rides Wattle Grove in the hills above Braidwood. I met Neale through my farrier, who told me the 1960 Rome three-day event champion was ‘one of the best blokes’ I was likely to meet. He was right.

Neale still breeds, rides and trains horses. The image of the king on the throne is one Neale used about riding his champion three-day event mount, Mirrabooka.

You can experience Neale’s great victory in Rome, his deep love of horses and their shaping of his long and successful life in our new film and web feature, A bush rider’s Olympic story, introduced by Diego Zambrano’s beautiful photo of Neale riding one of Continue reading

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A milkman’s Christmas memories

Christmas Day – before the daylight saving – it would be daylight at half past four in the morning and there’d be kids out on bikes and scooters and they’d all come to show the milkman what they’d got for Christmas …

Conway Tighe, owner of the Lincoln Park Dairy until 1987, remembers the excitement of the children early on Christmas morning, as he went about his daily business of delivering milk to homes in the Melbourne suburb of Essendon. The milkman and his horse and cart were a familiar sight in the suburb, at one stage delivering milk to over a thousand households. Continue reading

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“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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The scandalous Mr Wakefield

Imagine yourself, for a minute, as a 15-year-old girl at boarding school in England in 1826. An urgent message arrives to inform you that your mother has taken ill and you must come to her at once.  The concern for your mother’s condition weighs heavily on your mind as you rush off in an awaiting carriage. When your carriage stops to change horses, you are informed by a charming gentleman that your mother is not actually ill at all, but you are to travel with him to meet your father in Kendal. You agree to travel with this man, who you had never met prior to this evening, and on arrival in Kendal there
is no sign of your father. The charming gentleman explains to you that your father is
on the verge of financial ruin and convinces you to marry him in order to save your family’s fortune. What choice do you have? It is a proposal you cannot refuse. Your journey continues to Gretna Green, Scotland where you are married by the blacksmith and become the wife of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. 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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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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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 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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