One of the joys of working at a museum is the variety of stories you uncover when researching objects. Another is the pleasure of meeting people who can illuminate and elaborate on those stories and objects.
Recently, when developing a display for our Journeys gallery, I was fortunate enough to work with both a wonderful collection and an engaged and very connected individual. The story relates to the experiences of James Taylor, a farrier with the 9th Light Horse stationed in the Middle East during World War One. The collection of material includes Taylor’s ‘coming home’ tunic, slouch hat, kit bag and pay book. The individual is Fran Kirby, Taylor’s grand daughter.
After six months on show, the Spirited horses are returning to their stables and paddocks for a well-earned rest. From 11 September 2014 to 9 March 2015, over 52,000 people visited the Spirited exhibiton, enjoying a stream of associated tours, talks, holiday programs and events. If you missed the exhibition, National Museum photographers George Serras and Jason McCarthy captured Spirited from every angle so that we can continue to explore, share and reflect on Australia’s horse story.
At the heart of the Spirited: Australia’s horse story exhibition is the question ‘how has the connection between horses and humans shaped life this country?’
Our research into Australia’s horse history has revealed many complex and profound human responses to horses. We also want visitors to consider the other side of that connection – how do horses think and feel about us?
At the centre of the exhibition is a meditation in steel on the horse/human bond – artist Harrie Fasher’s sculpture ‘Silent Conversation’.
Isa Menzies is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, where she is examining how museums in Australia and New Zealand have interpreted horse remains, particularly in relation to narratives of national identity. Before becoming a student again, Isa spent almost a decade working in museums across a variety of roles, including as the curator responsible for Phar Lap’s heart at the National Museum of Australia.
In this guest blog, Isa reflects on the recent rediscovery of tissue cut long ago from the heart of Phar Lap, and the potential offered by these two containers of organ parts and preserving fluid to reimagine the great Australian race horse.
The name ‘Phar Lap’ conjures all sorts of imagery: the Melbourne Cup, perhaps, or the nobly-posed figure on display in the Melbourne Museum, or the abnormally large heart, which inspired the phrase ‘a heart as big as Phar Lap’s’. While the name evokes all those things and more, it is unlikely that when people think of Phar Lap, they will call to mind Continue reading
Olympic rider Neale Lavis, 84, sits ‘like a king on his throne’ as he rides Wattle Grove in the hills above Braidwood. I met Neale through my farrier, who told me the 1960 Rome three-day event champion was ‘one of the best blokes’ I was likely to meet. He was right.
Neale still breeds, rides and trains horses. The image of the king on the throne is one Neale used about riding his champion three-day event mount, Mirrabooka.
You can experience Neale’s great victory in Rome, his deep love of horses and their shaping of his long and successful life in our new film and web feature, A bush rider’s Olympic story, introduced by Diego Zambrano’s beautiful photo of Neale riding one of Continue reading
Christmas Day – before the daylight saving – it would be daylight at half past four in the morning and there’d be kids out on bikes and scooters and they’d all come to show the milkman what they’d got for Christmas …
Conway Tighe, owner of the Lincoln Park Dairy until 1987, remembers the excitement of the children early on Christmas morning, as he went about his daily business of delivering milk to homes in the Melbourne suburb of Essendon. The milkman and his horse and cart were a familiar sight in the suburb, at one stage delivering milk to over a thousand households. Continue reading
Chloe Bussenschutt works as an objects conservator at the National Museum of Australia. One of her recent tasks has been the stabilisation and revitalisation of a horse mannequin from a saddlery business in Cooma, a town on the high, windswept Monaro plains of southern New South Wales. The mannequin features in Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story, the Museum’s latest exhibition. In her writings below, Chloe reveals the artful, philosophical and technical dimensions of this particular conservation project, and her personal fascination in the object now called Winnie.
Harold Fife was born in 1919 at Wagga Wagga, a busy town among the wheat and sheep farms of southern New South Wales, and died in 2011. During his long life, Fife witnessed a dramatic transformation in methods of generating food and fibre. As a young man, he worked in his family’s chaff-cutting business, which operated across inland New South Continue reading
It’s sixty years since New Zealand gelding Rising Fast won the Melbourne Cup.
Every Australian family wanted one of these. With room for the whole clan on two bench seats, the sleek and robust double Abbott buggy was the FJ Holden of the late 19th century. I like to imagine the Victorian equivalent of the barbecue where ladies chatted about the Abbott’s silky smooth ride and the convenience of its rain hood. Men might have debated their buggy’s top speed with a decent pair of horses on the front. Continue reading