LADY BUSHRANGE 2

Coffee and bushrangers in gold country

Anyone unlucky enough to have encountered me sans my morning coffee knows that this is when I’m at my most desperate, perhaps my most murderous.  I feel deprived, entitled to what I believe is my just deserts, and I’ll stop at nothing to get it.  By ‘it’ I mean coffee and I know I’m not alone out there.

So it was no surprise to learn that the popularisation of coffee drinking in Australia, way back in colonial days, closely aligned with the proliferation of that other breed of 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

Considering the horse form, 2014.
Photograph by Margaret Hogan, Red Moon Creative 
National Museum of Australia

Making ‘Silent Conversation’

At the heart of the Spirited: Australia’s horse story exhibition is the question ‘how has the connection between horses and humans shaped life this country?’

Our research into Australia’s horse history has revealed many complex and profound human responses to horses. We also want visitors to consider the other side of that connection – how do horses think and feel about us?

At the centre of the exhibition is a meditation in steel on the horse/human bond – artist Harrie Fasher’s sculpture ‘Silent Conversation’.

Continue reading

wizardess of the plains

Discoveries in January

As January makes way for February, I take a moment to reflect on my first month as an artist-in-residence at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

It has been a fascinating journey so far, understanding how the Museum functions, what motivates the people that work there, and exploring what is the role that a Museum can play.  I have been encountering the endless stories that are contained within the entire National Historical Collection and thinking about how I might go about traversing some of these things during my time here. Continue reading

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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

Uncovered : Uncovered  A performace at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery

My 2015 residency begins

My name is Vic McEwan.  I am an artist based in the Riverina region of southern NSW, the inaugural Arts NSW Regional Fellow, and Artistic Director of The Cad Factory. This week, as part of my fellowship, I have started as an artist in residence at the National Museum, which will run until the end of 2015.

I began my residency this week, excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. As I walked to the entrance, I was greeted by this sight: an abandoned pink bra. And I thought, how wonderful that Continue reading

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Machinery for Ecological Thinking

How might the particular features of a piece of agricultural machinery record profound ecological ideas? At the National Landcare Awards in September, former prime minister Bob Hawke presented farmer Colin Seis with the prestigious 2014 Bob Hawke Landcare Award. The award celebrates Colin’s revisioning of agriculture as an ecological activity, and recognises the significance of ‘pasture cropping’, a revolutionary new method of grain and pasture production developed by Colin on ‘Winona’, his farm on the central tablelands of New South Wales. 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

Rabbits in Riverina_1024crop

Riverina Rabbits: volunteers digging the dirt

Today, December 5, is International Volunteer Day. At the National Museum of Australia, curators collaborate with a wide range of people, including many volunteers, to research and develop collections and exhibitions. In People and the Environment team, we recently came across a wonderful example of the contribution volunteers made to a previous project at the National Museum, and we thought that effort deserved sharing. Continue reading

wakefield crop 2

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