Painting horses

Horses have fascinated Australian artists for just on two centuries. The first locally produced work to feature a horse is thought to be a watercolour by an unknown artist who, in 1804, depicted mounted troopers confronting rebels at the Castle Hill uprising near Sydney. Since then, hundreds of painters, sketchers, illustrators, photographers and sculptors have set out to capture the character and charisma of horses and the meaning and nature of their relationships with people.

After hearing about the Museum’s Horses in Australia project, Hunter Valley artist and equestrian Margrete Erling wrote to me recently to tell me about a series of paintings she is  currently developing exploring horses’ roles in our national history. In this guest post, Margrete shares why she was inspired to take on this subject, and how it’s an integral part of her and her family’s life with horses.

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What bird (egg) is that?

How many species of birds can you identify just by looking at the size, shape and colour of their eggs? For me, the answer is probably one or two, so I recently asked collection donor Bill Gibbs and ornithologist Dick Schodde to visit the Museum to help describe the species represented in some 276 bird eggs. For me, engaging with these beautiful eggs provoked complicated thoughts of loss and appreciation.

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Horses and horsepower

In a few weeks time, on the 25th February, the Royal Automobile Club of Australia will be celebrating the Year of the Horse with its inaugural Horsepower Dinner. The club is generously donating to the National Museum $30 for each person booked for the event to help support our Horses in Australia project, and especially our exhibition which opens in September. You can find more details about the dinner, and how to purchase tickets, here.

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Under the tree this Christmas

The Museum’s People and the Environment team is heading off on holidays, but we’ve left you a few ‘gifts’ to enjoy over the summer holidays.

To help you pass those lovely lazy days we’ve just launched new pages on our People and the Environment website. If you’re following the Horses in Australia project, you’ll enjoy a glimpse of our forthcoming exhibition, opening in Canberra in September 2014. We’ve included some of our first ideas about what the show will look like, but we still need your help deciding on the exhibition’s title. If you’ve a few minutes to spare please do complete the name survey, open until the end of January.

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Equine CSI

In every curator, there’s surely a bit of the forensic investigator and I’m currently playing sleuth in an excellent mystery – an equine ‘who-is-it’.

When the National Museum’s Horses in Australia curatorial team started work on the project earlier this year, one of our first tasks was to discover what the Museum already held in its collection’s relating to equine and equestrian history. We searched through our online collection database, read through some thick paper files and asked the curatorial ‘hive-mind’ – that is, our colleagues – what they knew about our horse related holdings.

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The reef

How do we imagine the Great Barrier Reef? Does how we see this amazing marine environment decide whether or how we care for it?

The Great Barrier Reef stretches along the Queensland coast for over 3,000 kilometres, an intricate ecosystem including hundreds of kinds of corals, sponges, molluscs, rays, fish, birds, turtles, whales, dugongs, dolphins, plants, microscopic organisms, sea-water flows, sunshine and, of course, people.

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A visit with the ancestors

This afternoon, Australians around the country have once again take a few minutes to join in our nation’s annual bout of horseracing hijinks, known as the Melbourne Cup, and the winning owners have just happily taken possession of the elegant gold trophy. Here at the National Museum, Cup season has already been in full swing for a few weeks, kicked off in September when this year’s trophy stopped in for a brief visit with the 1866 and 1867 Melbourne Cups.

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