“Since the earliest times, man has collected shells for food, for adornment, for domestic utensils and for their beauty.” Lady Helen Blackburn (1918–2005).
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
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.
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
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
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
Why is it that most Australian scientists are men? It may be, as University of NSW professor of engineering Veena Sahajwalla argued last year in The Australian, because people tend to think of science as ‘male’ rather than ‘female’. Continue reading
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
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
I’ve never really been all that keen on seaweed. At least, not until recently, when a nineteenth century album of pressed seaweed specimens began to open my eyes to the wonderful world of marine macroalgae. Now I find seaweed changing how I see and think about Australia. Continue reading
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.