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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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


A prickly invasion

The act of nurturing a single pot plant would appear to be a fairly benign activity. However, when Navy surgeon, Dr William Bell Carlyle, entrusted a prickly pear cutting to the care and protection of his servant, Mary Sutton, no one could have predicted the devastation which would result. In a period of less than 100 years the prickly pear multiplied and occupied over 60 million acres of Queensland and New South Wales, equivalent to the whole land area of the United Kingdom or New Zealand. 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


A fur coat for Flora

One of the most beautiful objects in the National Museum’s rabbit collections is a woman’s fur coat from the 1940s. Made from the pelts of about sixty strikingly dark-furred rabbits caught near Robe in South Australia, this coat shows how a ‘noxious pest’ could also be valued. Whilst live rabbits continued to devastate the land, during the first half of the twentieth century their skins 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

Detail of panel from rabbit packing case, National Museum of Australia

Bunnies by the boxful

Long before chocolate foiled-covered versions, the bunny was a familiar food to many Australians. Wild rabbits, the introduced European species Oryctolagus cuniculus, were plentiful and could be tastily cooked in a wide variety of ways. During peak periods of Australia’s ‘rabbit problem’ from the late 1800s through into the twentieth century, rabbit-dinners sustained many families, published recipes explained how cooks could get the best out of bunny, and associated Continue reading

Hunting Party (Barbeque area) 2014

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

Schoolboys learning about rabbit fur felt hat-making at the Akubra stand at the Australian Manufacturers' Exhibition in Sydney, December 1927. Sam Hood collection, State Library of New South Wales hood_06299

From paddock to pate: ‘good Australian felt’

In time for Australia Day, January 26, dig into the story behind that peculiarly Australian icon of headwear: the rabbit fur felt hat.

This post is the third in a series co-developed by Jono Lineen and other curators that explores Australians’ experiences with rabbits through objects in the National Museum’s collections.   

Infamous here as pests on the land, Australia’s wild rabbits achieved international fame for their contribution to fashion. From the late nineteenth century many millions of rabbits took on new identities as coats and hats, a furry and felty invasion welcomed in cities and towns around Australia and overseas. Continue reading