Bunya Power

On Thursday morning, as my plane taxied across the tarmac of Canberra airport, thirsty jet engines warming themselves for the flight north, I began reading Ray Kerkhove’s extraordinary document, The Great Bunya Gathering: Early Accounts. This compilation of stories and memories of the bunya trees of southeast Queensland captures and conveys something of the power of these majestic rainforest beings, of their capacities to draw people towards their towering trunks and vast crowns, to feast regularly on their abundant offerings of nutritious and delicious nuts, to celebrate and Continue reading

A fur coat for Flora

One of the most beautiful objects in the National Museum’s rabbit collections is a woman’s fur coat from the 1940s. Made from the pelts of about sixty strikingly dark-furred rabbits caught near Robe in South Australia, this coat shows how a ‘noxious pest’ could also be valued. Whilst live rabbits continued to devastate the land, during the first half of the twentieth century their skins Continue reading

Bunnies by the boxful

Long before chocolate foiled-covered versions, the bunny was a familiar food to many Australians. Wild rabbits, the introduced European species Oryctolagus cuniculus, were plentiful and could be tastily cooked in a wide variety of ways. During peak periods of Australia’s ‘rabbit problem’ from the late 1800s through into the twentieth century, rabbit-dinners sustained many families, published recipes explained how cooks could get the best out of bunny, and associated Continue reading

From paddock to pate: ‘good Australian felt’

In time for Australia Day, January 26, dig into the story behind that peculiarly Australian icon of headwear: the rabbit fur felt hat.

This post is the third in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

Infamous here as pests on the land, Australia’s wild rabbits achieved international fame for their contribution to fashion. From the late nineteenth century many millions of rabbits took on new identities as coats and hats, a furry and felty invasion welcomed in cities and towns around Australia and overseas. Continue reading

A local adventure

As part of the Food Stories project, we’ve been working with Moonah Primary School in Hobart, and with Reuben Parker-Greer from the Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA. Reuben runs a scheme that supports kitchen garden initiatives at schools located near MONA, including Moonah Primary. As the National Museum and MONA share an interest in the amazing work that Moonah Primary has achieved in their school kitchen and garden, we decided to combine forces and embark on a unique learning journey that explored the dynamic food culture of the Moonah area. Continue reading

‘Round the traps

This post is the second in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

Rabbit trapping helped sustain many Australians through tough times of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, providing livelihoods, extra income or food. Rabbits were plentiful and trapping looked on as a simple way to convert a problem into something useful: money, a hot dinner or furred garment. Besides potential victims, prospective trappers had only a few basic needs: 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

Rabbit-proofing the West

The National Museum of Australia holds many different objects that together record the ecological and social significance of the feral European wild rabbit. Recently, curators in the People and the Environment team have looked again at these rabbit items and the fascinating stories they hold. This post is the first in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

The European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has been a particularly successful, damaging and enduring coloniser of Australia’s landscapes. Purposefully released, most notably – though not exclusively – by Thomas Austin on his Victorian property in late 1859, rabbits quickly proved problematic and came to be recognised as a pest. Even with well over a century of attempts at Continue reading

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

Trees & Time

National Tree Day, on Sunday the 26th of July, is an opportunity to celebrate the value of trees in our lives, a value that arises from the historical and ecological networks to which trees, and people, are inextricably bound. A range of collections held here at the National Museum of Australia record the respect and love felt by generations of Australians towards trees and their varied qualities. On display in the Landmarks gallery is a well-worn tree planting device and a specimen of the original timber panelling installed into Old Parliament House. Inside the Journeys gallery is a finely crafted table with a veneer of beefwood (Grevillea sp.), harvested near Continue reading