Today marks 114 years since the birth of famous Western Arrarnta artist Albert Namatjira. Born at Hermannsburg mission on 28 July 1902, Elea, later christened ‘Albert’, learnt to paint with watercolours during the early 1930s, and had his first solo exhibition in 1938. Within a decade, Namatjira had become famous and his sons and relatives also began painting watercolour landscapes, forming what became known as the Hermannsburg School of Art. He is now remembered as a grandfather, uncle, teacher, leader and founder of an art movement.
The landscape of Central Australia has attracted millions of visitors since the area was opened to tourism, most notably following the extension of the railway line to Alice Springs in 1929. Where the local Aboriginal communities were displaced and banned, they are now leading conversations about land management and tourism. The watercolour paintings of celebrated Western Arrarnta artist Albert Namatjira have transported generations of Australians into his country, west of Alice Springs across the West MacDonnell Ranges, and today Namatjira’s descendants and kin continue to use their art to create opportunities and keep their culture strong.
These stories are being remembered and shared in a new exhibit about Ntaria (Hermannsburg), as part of the Landmarks gallery at the National Museum of Australia, from 28 July 2016.
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.
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.
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.
In July 1934, Charles Ulm piloted his eighth crossing of the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia, and then delivered the first official airmail between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Firm in his resolution to establish regular air services between Australia, New Zealand and north America, Ulm then began planning his second flight across the Pacific Ocean – this time, with the aim of having the effort recognised as a commercial enterprise rather than an act of daring.
Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith ended their partnership after the final closure of Australian National Airways in 1933. Both men continued to promote the future possibilities of air services in separate ventures. Ulm purchased ANA’s ‘Southern Moon’ aircraft, rebuilding it and renaming it ‘Faith in Australia’, with a view to securing new airmail contracts. In 1933, he piloted ‘Faith in Australia’ from Sydney, with GU ‘Scotty’ Allan and PG ‘Bill’ Taylor as crew, with the intention of flying around the world.
As the crew of the ‘Southern Cross’ celebrated their trans-Pacific flight in June 1928, aviation was changing Australia’s environmental and political landscapes. On 15 June, they flew from Melbourne to Canberra, arriving at the recently established aerodrome during the early afternoon and receiving an enthusiastic reception by locals, government officials and returned servicemen. Riding the wave of their success and popularity, Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith had big plans, and this and their future visits to Canberra would be strategic.
When the ‘Southern Cross’ touched down at Eagle Farm aerodrome in Brisbane on 9 June 1928, tens of thousands of people turned out to greet the triumphant aviators after their trans-Pacific journey. Throughout the flight, the crew had maintained continuous radio contact with the world, assisting their safe passage, but also allowing the public to share in their endeavours. By the time they arrived in Australia, the feats of Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith were well-known and the nation celebrated their achievements. Challenges and criticisms came quickly, however, and some of the shine was soon taken off their glowing success.
At 12:17 pm on 1 June 1928, the ‘Southern Cross’ landed safely at Wheelers Field, Honolulu, with her crew – Charles Ulm, Charles Kingsford Smith, Harry Lyon and James Warner. They received a warm welcome and shared a sense of relief in completing only the fifth successful aerial crossing from California to Hawaii. Celebrations were short-lived as they prepared for the next leg of their journey across the Pacific Ocean.
Two objects celebrating the flights of Charles Ulm are now on display in the National Museum’s new acquisitions showcase. This is the first in a series of blog posts to come during June, remembering Ulm’s flights above oceans and continents from 1927 to 1934.