Hughenden, Queensland. Rob and Stephanie Levy: Wikimedia Commons

Dinosaurs, whiteboards and curators: Making the ‘Life in Australia’ environmental history gallery

Museum and gallery curators have not been served well by popular representations of their craft. There are two primary archetypes. The first is an introverted, nerdy, lab coat-wearing boffin who prowls corridors of specimens, guarding them with singular and obsessive diligence. The second is a hyper-extrovert who petulantly and arrogantly pursues the realisation of their unimpeachable curatorial vision. Continue reading

Giant Clam Tridacna Gigas. Photographed by Rick Hankinson. Wikimedia Commons.

World Oceans Day, 8 June 2016

It is hard not to be impressed by giant clams. In the wild, their size and unique color patterns make them one of the most captivating of sea creatures. Even the shells from dead clams have a powerful impact, one that speaks to their prominent place in the popular imagination about our oceans and the place of humans in them. Sadly, the beauty and cultural power inherent in these animals has helped bring them close to extinction from their natural habitat. Continue reading

Wikimedia Commons: Bluedawe

“If a tree falls in a forest…”: International Mother Earth Day

Friday 22nd April is International Mother Earth Day and the theme for this year is ‘Trees for the Earth’. Earth Day has been around since the 1970s, but since 2009 the day has been reconnected — somewhat quaintly — with the idea that planet earth is feminine. Interesting, but let’s leave that for another blog post. For this year’s Earth Day I decided to conduct an experiment, running a very simple search on the National Museum’s collection explorer, just to see what might pop up in relation to trees and forests. Continue reading

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Cool it! The Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change, Hong Kong

The first thing I noticed about the Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change was the noise. When I arrived, a class of school students had just been released from formal proceedings for some “unstructured time” in the exhibition space, which prompted laughter, squealing and generally excitable tones from otherwise impeccably behaved students. My host and one of the creators of the museum, Dr Matthew Pang, paused at the cacophony. “That is my favorite sound to hear in the Museum…It always brings a smile to my face”. Continue reading

Poster, 1935 National Museum of Australia

Battles with Morpheus: Hubert Opperman and the 1931 Paris-Brest-Paris

In early September 1931, the cyclist Hubert Opperman developed a sore throat. This somewhat unremarkable fact might have otherwise passed unnoticed among the array of domestic and international issues that demanded the attention of Australian journalists. And yet, newspapers from the Melbourne Age to the Murrumbidgee Irrigator all commented earnestly the on the state of Opperman’s upper respiratory tract as he prepared for yet another gruelling endurance contest on the other side of world that most Australians had never heard of. The event in question was a non-stop race covering 1,200 kilometres from Paris to the west coast town of Brest and back again. It was then the longest race in the world and the winner was expected to complete the journey, without sleep, in a little over 50 hours. Continue reading

fleming blog

Museums as Places for Imagining the Future of Cities

Dr Steven Fleming has been poking the hornets nest that is urban planning for over a decade, with his mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, politicians, designers and academics. Together with his colleague Professor Angelina Russo, he has been holding a series of provocative workshops around the country to get people thinking about the potential for bicycles to change the shape of our cities and the way we live.  What’s different about these workshops is that they are being hosted by museums and will be run in conjunction with the National Museum’s Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia exhibition.

So why are Museum’s the best place to re-imagine the physical and cultural fabric of our cities? I’ll hand over to Dr Fleming, for his point of view…….. Continue reading

Petrologist Dr Germaine Joplin on a visit to Outokumpo copper mine, Finland. 
Image courtesy the Joplin Family.

Women in science – Dr Germaine Joplin

This International Women’s Day (March 8) we’re reflecting on the remarkable achievements of little-known yet talented Australian petrologist Dr Germaine Joplin (1903-1989).

50 years ago women were particularly prominent in the field of geology, yet they struggled to gain recognition and acceptance among their male counterparts. Today, the gender gap is still a concern for Australian science. Leading Australian scientists explored the reasons for this in 2011 in The Conversation. Despite outstanding talent and hard work women scientists experienced prejudice and discrimination in the workplace, if they were lucky enough to gain employment. Determination and a thick skin were prerequisite for any woman then aspiring to a profession in the sciences.

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Women on wheels – blazing the trail

When Australian track cyclist Anna Meares collected her 11th world championship medal a week ago in Paris it was another remarkable victory in a stellar career. On International Women’s Day, it is worth remembering that Meares’ remarkable achievements rest on the shoulders of giants. Her success and international prominence would be unlikely had it not been for the courageous and pioneering work of thousands of female cyclists who battled prejudice and discrimination in their fight to race on Australian roads and velodromes. 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