Dent marine chronometer 53862 as it appears today, 2007.
Image: National Museum of Australia.

A ‘most wonderful piece of mechanism’: Dent Marine Chronometer No 53862

Friday 17 August 1906. The Galilee, once the fastest clipper on the Pacific Ocean and now a research vessel for the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) on its second scientific voyage, lies on its side in Yokohama Harbour, the victim of a savage typhoon. On board is some of the latest scientific and navigational equipment, including four marine chronometers. By Saturday evening, the vessel was righted and all the equipment saved. One of the chronometers – Dent two-day marine chronometer No 53862 – is now in the collection of the National Museum of Australia. How did it get there? Continue reading

What bird is that?

Bird Week 2015, 19-23 October, is an initiative of BirdLife Australia, with the aim of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts. This week, as many people take part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, they’re likely to ask: ‘What bird is that?’ Generations of Australians have answered that question with a copy of the book What bird is that? in hand, inspired and guided by the work of Neville W Cayley.

Continue reading


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

Camel train with equipment for Edward Kidson's magnetic survey work in Western Australia, mid-1914.
His instruments included a theodolite-magnetometer similar to those now in the National Historical Collection.
Image: Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism

The ‘Magnetic Crusade’. An international scientific endeavour represented in Australia’s National Historical Collection


Almost 100 years ago, at the height of the First World War, a small party of scientists from the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) in Washington, led by Wilfred Charles Parkinson and William Fisher Wallis, travelled across south-west Australia seeking a suitable location for a magnetic observatory. They finally settled on a site at Watheroo, about 225 kilometres north of Perth. The instrument they used in their search – theodolite-magnetometer CIW-18 – is now in Australia’s National Historical Collection (NHC), where it represents a significant part of Australia’s, and the world’s, scientific heritage. Continue reading


World Mosquito Day: microscopes and wedding dresses

World Mosquito Day commemorates the discovery that female Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans, made by British medical researcher Sir Ronald Ross on 20 August 1897. Since that day, researchers across the world have sought to understand mosquitoes and their role as vectors, developing methods to prevent and control the spread of disease. The material culture created in response to the mosquito reflects the wide ranging interests of scientific endeavour, environmental adaptations and social paradigms in Australia and across the world.

Continue reading

gilmore river smoke_cropped

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

Annie and the Bomb feature image

‘Annie’ and The Bomb. An Australian contribution to monitoring nuclear weapons testing.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the commencement of a nuclear arms race that profoundly shaped the political and economic trajectory of the twentieth century. While the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States dominated the headlines, it is worth remembering Australia’s role in controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.  Continue reading

A small car with a big story

Since the introduction of motor vehicles during the early twentieth century, exploring the Australian landscape by car has become a national pastime for locals and tourists alike. This week, the National Museum has hosted Citroën Australia, as it launches its new C4 model and celebrates the 90th anniversary of the first drive around Australia, completed by Nevill Westwood in a Citroën 5CV. Westwood left Perth on 4 August 1925, returning after 148 days of driving on 30 December. His 1923 Citroën 5CV, affectionately known as ‘Bubsie’, was acquired by the National Museum in 2005 and is on display in the Hall.

Continue reading

gilmore on bank

Projections & the Past

On Sunday 9th August at 3 pm, National Museum curator George Main and I will be giving a free public presentation at Hotel Hotel in Canberra, exploring my role as an artist-in-residence at the Museum and how our common interest in people and place is leading to fascinating collaborations unfolding through 2015.

I have just delivered the second public outcome of my residency, as part of an event called ‘Night at the Museum‘. For this adults-only event I created an installation, ‘Tunnel of Anatomy’. Having explored the Australian Institute of Anatomy collection (which is part of the Museum’s National Continue reading