A new chapter

On Friday, the Namatjira Legacy Trust was officially launched at the National Museum of Australia. The Museum was pleased to host granddaughters of Albert Namatjira and trustees, Lenie Namatjira and Gloria Pannka, Clara Inkamala, musician Shelli Morris, and Big hART’s Director Scott Rankin and Producer Sophia Marinos, with other special guests to celebrate the occasion. The event also marked the official launch of the Museum’s Ntaria (Hermannsburg) exhibit in the Landmarks gallery.

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Art and science under the microscope

In 1910, Miss Gladys Roberts became one of the first employees of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine in Townsville, Queensland. She was employed to illustrate publications and research papers by the institute staff on a casual basis until 1930, depicting parasites and micro organisms as seen through a microscope. Colour plates of her illustrations were published in the ‘Report of the Institute for 1911′, and a copy of that report, open to show one of Gladys’ works, is now on display in the Landmarks gallery at the National Museum.

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Birth of an art movement

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.

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Introducing Julie Ryder, our artist-in-residence for 2016

I am excited to introduce Julie Ryder, our artist-in-residence for 2016. Julie is an accomplished textile artist who draws inspiration from the natural world, combining her scientific background and creativity to produce innovative artworks. Julie has started a six month residency at the National Museum of Australia and has received support for her project from the Australia Council for the Arts.

Our artist-in-residence program provides opportunities for artists to work with objects in the Museum’s National Historical Collection. This project will involve working with curators, accessing and researching our botanical collections and exploring the role played by women in early collecting practices in colonial Australia. Continue reading

Visitors to Ntaria

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.

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“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

Hunting Ground

The Museum acquired this triptych, Hunting Party (Barbeque Area), by Julie Gough in late 2014. The artwork was purchased along with an accompanying short film titled Hunting Ground incorporating Barbeque Area. Contemporary artworks like these challenge visitors to understand history from a different point of view, that of the artist’s perspective. Continue reading

What bird is that?

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.

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To the curious observers of natural phenomena

One of the Museum’s latest acquisitions is this late 18th century halfpenny token which features images of three exotic animals, ‘The Kanguroo, The Armadillo and
The Rhinoceros’. Thomas Hall, a taxidermist and curiosity dealer, produced these tokens to advertise his ‘house of curiosity’, otherwise known as the Finsbury Museum, which he operated from his home at 10 City Road, London. The token illustrates the fascination and curiosity shown by the British public in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to view exhibits of exotic animals, in particular the kangaroo from New
South Wales. Continue reading

An artistic interpretation

One of the most interesting aspects of working as a curator is observing how different people interpret objects in different ways. Some people may look at a writing box and see a functional object made to serve a specific purpose, others may view it as an object which tells the story of a person, place or event, and some may even experience an emotional response. Last week, I was privileged to gain an insight into how a contemporary artist is interpreting some of our collection through his camera lens. Continue reading