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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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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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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

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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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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

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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.

Continue reading