The Black Swan: A Western Australian Icon

In developing a new environmental history gallery, the National Museum of Australia is keen to explore how human societies connect with the natural world, including other species, weather systems and the deep geological past. There are many non-human species that shape the way human societies are organised and function, but occasionally species capture a much larger space within the collective imagination. Continue reading

An epic journey revisited

On the 19th of December 1982, ‘The Quiet Achiever’, a solar powered car driven by Hans Tholstrup, departed Perth’s Scarborough Beach on a journey across the country. It arrived at the Sydney Opera House on the 7th of January 1983, becoming the first vehicle to be driven across a continent using nothing more than solar energy. Now, a Japanese team has begun a project to build a ‘Quiet Achiever II’. Continue reading

A passionate pursuit: The Lady Helen Blackburn collection

“Since the earliest times, man has collected shells for food, for adornment, for domestic utensils and for their beauty.” Lady Helen Blackburn (1918–2005).[1]

As part of the background work for the development of a new environmental history gallery, we’ve been searching the Museum’s holdings for collections that will help illustrate some of the themes we hope to explore. The Lady Helen Blackburn collection features more than five hundred seashells from Australian beaches, reefs and islands, making it a perfect fit for a gallery on environmental history. The significance of this collection, however, resides not just in its breadth and the beauty of the shells themselves, but in the stories it tells of how, where and by whom they were collected, and the insights it offers into a truly remarkable Australian woman: Lady Helen Blackburn. Continue reading