Posts Tagged ‘National Museum of Australia’

Irish Professionals in Australia: Connecting CAN Partners

Richard Reid is curating the much-anticipated Irish in Australia exhibition for the National Museum of Australia. It cuts across a wide range of themes but the Collections Australia Network (CAN) has decided to focus on the success stories of Irish professionals to showcase the collections of its CAN Partners. From notorious bushranger Ned Kelly in Victoria to celebrated South Australian mineowner Charles Hervey Bagot, this story travels across the country from first settlement until the end of WWII. Our CAN Partners have provided the Outreach Blog with some fascinating and inspiring stories about Irish settlers. Australia boasts the world’s largest population of Irish descendants per capita outside Ireland, offering many more stories that can be found in collections across the country. CAN has worked in partnership with the National Museum to assist in collection research, as well as help promote our Partners’ collections and the national exhibition which opens on St Patrick’s Day 2011.

Google Earth image mapping organisations holding material relating to Irish professionals in Australia.

Western Australia
Durack Collection / State Library of Western Australia collection on CAN
Durack 6
The Durack family surveyed land across the Kimberley, Western Australia in 1882-83 that would be fit for cattle. Michael Patrick Durack, the eldest of four sons was sent in 1886 to the head-station, Argyle Downs, arriving just in time for the Halls Creek goldrush. As a pastoral entrepeneur, Durack developed overseas markets for his cattle from the Philippines and Brazil. He became a leader of his community as justice of the peace and in 1917 entered State parliament as a Nationalist member of the Legislative Assembly for Kimberley. Under his guidance, Argyle Downs was known for looking after its Aboriginal employees.

This passport was issued to Tommy Chrongen 4 August 1904 by Michael Patrick Durack stating the bearer was returning to his native country for two moons holiday and for anyone on the way to assist with food and transport if required and bill to Argyle Downs Station.

South Australia
Kapunda Historical Society collection on CAN
Kapunda has the distinction of being the oldest copper mining town in Australia – the birthplace of Australia’s commercial mining history and key to the early development of South Australia. In 1842, Charles Hervey Bagot’s youngest son discovered an outcrop of copper ore in Kapunda. Bagot’s management of the mine hauled South Australia back from the brink of bankruptcy and helped finance the construction of some of the most impressive buildings in the State. The town gave the Captain Bagot a sterling silver cup on his retirement and departure back to England for his role in the mine’s success, known as Bagot’s Cup.

Doctor Matthew Blood was the first official doctor at the mines and first resident general practitioner in the district. He also became renowned as an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Blood was mayor of Kapunda when the Duke of Edinburgh visited the town and the mines in 1867. In 1859, the Reverend William Oldham took over the management of the Kapunda mine from his retiring friend of many years and ran Mine Rifles Company.

Discover Eumundi collection on CAN
Samuel Kelly left Ballydrain in Northern Ireland in 1871 with his family when he was just five years old and developed a taste for the working the land in Geelong. When Samuel was sixteen his family decided to return to Northern Ireland and he stayed on to forge his future in becoming a pioneer in the Eumundi area. fire in his belly and a sparkle in his eye, the young twenty year old man started his career by transporting felled trees by bullock and by water to Pettigrew’s Mill at Maroochydore. The timber industry was flourishing and within a short period of time he purchased 20 acres of land for herding his bullocks. Kelly turned his attention to grazing and dairying, leaving the operation of the bullock teams to his three sons. Over the next forty years was an active member of Caboolture Divisional Board, now known as the Maroochy Shire, the dairy industry, school, farmers’ co-operative, community hall. He even set up a butcher shop. The Eumundi Discovery Centre has an extensive collection of settler stories like this one of Irishman Samuel Kelly.

Central Highlands Regional Library Corporation collection on CAN
Francis Wilson Niven left Dublin for Victoria with his wife Elizabeth Close in search of gold in the 1850s. After limited success, Niven purchased a small lithographic plant for £40, and despite having no practical knowledge of the art, taught himself lithography. Soon he was able to import one of the earliest known commercial steam lithographic presses into Australia. He produced the beautiful History of Ballarat by W. B. Withers and The Cyclopedia of Victoria which provides an extraordinary resource of historical and biographical information, now in the Central Highlands Regional Library collection. Niven & Co also produced mining plans, maps and panoramas of Ballarat that contributed to extension of the mining industry. This is the first issue of the first edition of the History of Ballarat published in 1870, with the coloured title page and colophon F.W. Niven Steam Litho.

Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery collection collection on CAN
Martin Edwards was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment on 17th August 1819, and transported to Van Diemen’s Land, when he was 19 years old. His crime is not certain, but it was possibly forgery. He is listed in convict records as an assistant teacher in a school in Dublin but he was also described as a labourer. He became a fairly prominent landowner and businessman in Launceston, Tasmania, within two years of the expiry of his sentence, and was regarded as a ‘gentleman’. The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery have photographs of his premises taken by Frank Hurley and the original land grants.

This map of Launceston, Tasmania 1856 is a land survey map showing the land grants for Martin Edwards at the corner of Wellman and Arthur streets and on the corner of Brisbane and Charles Streets.

National Gallery of Australia collection online
Sidney Nolan, Death of Constable Scanlon, 1946, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, gift of Sunday Reed 1977

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series is a significant part of the National Gallery of Australia’s collection. It can be accessed through the gallery’s own collection search, on the CAN database and through Picture Australia on CAN.

Ned Kelly won the hearts of the common people by reacting against the unscrupulous squatter practices of forcing small selectors off their land. He justified the thievery by playing up to his Irish heritage and claiming that he, and others like him, were victims of their establishment and anti-Irish police – even though 80% of police were Irish at the time. and his brothers were forced to resort to stock stealing and other unlawful activities just to survive. Glenrowan, the hometown of the Kelly family and the place where most notorious bushranger had his last shoot-out, boasts a striking seven metre high statue of Ned Kelly with his rifle. At Stringbark Creek, Kelly shot two of the four policemen dead including Constable Scanlon which became the subject of one of Sidney Nolan’s paintings began his best known series of works based on Ned Kelly and the bushranger legend in 1945, which were exhibited in Paris in 1948. These two artworks are part in the National Gallery of Australia.

Northern Territory
Katherine Museum (secondary material not online)
In 1909, Timothy and Catherine (O’Keefe) O’Shea arrived in Port Darwin ready to start prospecting for gold. They found their way to Pine Creek where they built a home and pegged down the rights to the Enterprise Mine. O’Shea then went on to build a billiard saloon, a hotel and worked on the railway line from Pine Creek to Emungalan from 1917 to 1926.

Timothy O’Shea is pictured standing beside his wife on their wedding day with very dusty shoes. They had walked from Tralee to Killarney in Ireland to the ceremony in 1907. He hired his suit, hat and gloves for the occasion. They went on to have six children.


Pioneer Wendy Hucker celebrating domestic life

Wendy Hucker has carved a place in Australia’s cultural heritage to celebrate ordinary women’s domestic objects. When she moved to Tumburumba, near the Snowy Mountains, in the 1980s she was appalled to see women discarding their old aprons and wash tubs, preferring to have everything new. Mrs Hucker started the movement to celebrate domesticity through the setting up of the Pioneer Women’s Hut, National Quilt Register and several consultancy projects, including with the National Museum of Australia. From her home in Goulburn, she talks about the influences on her life and her involvement in preserving and celebrating domestic objects.

Listen to interview

Edited transcript
I became really interested in ordinary women’s domestic life and the more you looked at it, the more you saw that the written history was about important women or women who made a contribution during the war. Often they were rich, but not always. But it was never their ordinary life that was even touched upon.

Domestic objects historian Wendy Hucker
Domestic objects historian Wendy Hucker

I think the interest came when I moved to the Tumbarumba district and I went to the tip. The tip was actually at Rosewood and I was so appalled at what families were throwing out like an old sugar bag apron and rough mended quilts and kitchen utensils made from tins that I went away and thought about it a lot. It was almost as though they were saying that these things were not worth saving and you could go down the main street of Tumbarumba and buy a really nice patterned apron in a sort of Liberty print very cheaply. So a lot of stuff was being discarded and when I spoke with local women they confirmed this, ‘new is best’. So after lots of discussion a group of us realised that ordinary rural domestic life was a neglected area of history. This was probably about 1983 or ‘84 and the Pioneer Women’s Hut emerged from this period.

Domestic objects, photography by Sarah Rhodes

The Powerhouse has certainly led the way in highlighting domestic life and they had for one wonderful short period a domestic history section. Out of that came a seminal exhibition called … never done …, that really had a huge influence. I think that city women’s things somehow were often kept, maybe, more than the country women’s. In the country there were many domestic and farm processes that needed to be recorded while they still existed or were at least in living memory. Many of these were pre electricity like sewing with a treadle machine, making butter by hand, cooking on a fuel stove and hadn’t existed in the city for a long time. Wash day was another one, because until not so very long ago, women improvised with coppers and did the washing outside. Sometimes the pegs were even handmade. That thing of washing just didn’t apply in the city, or not at that period, anyway. You had the tyranny of distance in the country, and that led to in the early days, of course, horse drawn vehicles. So there were whole areas that didn’t apply in the city.

At the Pioneer Women’s Hut we were always interested in informal ways of tapping into women’s history, though that’s just a grand term for women’s lives. As time went on we promoted a policy we called our NON acquisition policy as we realised how important it was for families to retain their own things and hand them on in the family and regard a museum as a second best option. Even if the things were just milk jug covers or hand made toys or copper sticks. These represented their personal past not that grand thing of ‘the’ past.

So in line with our non-acquisition policy we decided we would ask women to record details of their quilts. We only selected quilts as they were something that was fairly universal and covered a wide range that were hand made. The National Quilt Register is the result. So it’s a way of women sharing information but retaining their own heritage and I think it has been fairly successful. This way is more common now of course of sharing information but not putting an object in a museum and the National Dress Register is another example. A bonus is that the cost of looking after any sort of object, even the most simple domestic one is now getting huge. By the time we make sure it is very simply conserved and it’s catalogued and it’s stored its all become really expensive and it is much better for families to care for their own things and hand them on in the family.

(I also worked on) ‘The Material Culture of Backyards’ , a consultancy for the National Museum. So I was looking at the role of backyards within a family and gender issues such as who used the space most and for what. This included things like why men cooked the barbecue and never cooked anything else, which is very true. I think women like it that way. Despite the ever popular men’s shed I found backyards were much more women’s and children’s space despite being traditionally regarded as the men’s domain.

When I was a child, my parents had one of the radio licenses, commercial licenses, in New South Wales. It was about 1932 and the Depression was on and they had both been school teachers in Narrandera and gave it up to start a radio station. They couldn’t afford to employ anyone so everything on air in those first years was by my Mother or my Father or later on I helped too. So when it was decided to start a children’s session and I was about 5 by then, I couldn’t go on air because I couldn’t read without stumbling occasionally and my Father was absolutely pedantic. He had been a school teacher and there was no way I was to go on air until I could read properly.

As soon as I could read fluently I was an essential part of the children’s session and I used to read Enid Blyton’s ‘Sunny Stories’ of which I still have some. I was also trying to teach our dog, we had 3 Fox Terriers and Gay was one, to bark on command on air but she wasn’t so good at that.

And we used to send birthday presents out. That was a big part of the children’s session. So it would be little Jamie’s birthday and you’d say ‘Jamie, if you look behind the lounge, you might find something there’ and Jamie would look behind the lounge and there would be the present. So all that was good fun.

I think that early period stood me in good stead for a lot of things, one of which was seeing my Mother combine domestic life and an exacting job without making any real distinctions. The radio station was on air from early morning until about 10 pm Monday to Sunday so her two roles had to be juggled in terms of priorities at the time. Most of my long working life I have followed that and not made clear divisions between work and leisure.

Interestingly, in those early days of radio there was no soundproofing of studios so when I was on air I loved opening the window so you could hear the swans on the lagoon. It was quite a different way of looking at radio. It wasn’t that sort of ‘no background noise at all costs’ but rather that radio was a part of people’s lives then much more than it is now and everyday sounds were part of that. Anyway, it was also good fun.

To learn more about the importance of ordinary domestic objects, email Wendy Hucker.

Music with thanks to Miriam Venus for The Flight with a Goddess.


Where is the Indigenous cultural material around Australia?: AIATSIS

As the Collections Australia Network (CAN) has travelled around the country offering outreach support, it has found many small organisations are the custodians of Indigenous cultural material. The caretakers are not always sure whether the photographs or objects are culturally sensitive so they have decided not to exhibit them or put them on CAN. This is a respectful approach but there is something else that can be done to make sure the material is safe.

Di Hosking and David Jeffery, AIATSIS
AIATSIS Director of Audiovisual Archives Di Hosking and Collection Unit Manager David Jeffery

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is developing a national database that identifies where material is around the country for research and preservation. This will help identify the artefacts in need of care and items of national significance. Silverfish could be eating the possum skin cloak wrapped in a blanket under someone’s bed or original photographs could be pinned to a noticeboard in the sun. Both items are being damaged and are irreplacible. AIATSIS is asking all organisations to contact the peak body to let them know what material they have in their collection. AIATSIS can offer resources to help organisations establish what material they have, determine access rights and strategies on how to care for the material. If the item needs care that the organisation is not able to provide, alternative arrangements can be made to loan or donate works to AIATSIS or the National Museum of Australia (NMA). Please email David Jeffrey to start a conversation.


AIATSIS offers a free workshop and manual on how to store, document and record called Keeping History Alive. Group bookings are available and it runs from one to five days depending on the needs. They also offer outreach support when travel costs are paid. Please email Access Unit Manager Tasha Lamb for more information on this course.
Sarah Rhodes


‘Not So Innocent Objects’ bring new collections to CAN

The Collections Australia Network is successfully building its national collection database through the development of thematic online stories. The first project, Not So Innocent Objects, has been made into a two-part series and uploaded onto YouTube. The Not So Innocent Objects video was shown during the National Public Galleries Summit, in Townsville last month, to demonstrate how online collections can facilitate relationships across the sector. The connection between the glass plate negative of the crime scene where 12 year-old Alma Tirtschke was murdered, and Charles Blackman’s ‘Fleeing Schoolgirl’ is a perfect example of how galleries, libraries, archives and museums can work together to tell a story.

Forensic glass plate negative showing where 12-year-old Alma Tirtschke was murdered in Gun Alley, near Little Collins Street in 1921, Victoria Police Museum.

Charles Blackman, ‘Fleeing Schoolgirl’, Print, planographic, 1953, National Gallery of Australia. The ‘Schoolgirl’ series was inspired by the murder of Alma Tirtschke.

Goulburn Regional Art Gallery director Jane Cush approached Ingrid Mason immediately after the viewing asking how the gallery’s collection could be uploaded to CAN. Since then we have collected their catalogue and uploaded it to our database. More about that next week.

While the project inspired many collecting institutions to upload part of their collection to CAN for the first time, Zac Lambert uploaded the second stage of The Rocks Discovery Museum collection. It now has more than 4000 objects online and is only accessible through CAN. State Records NSW also built on its existing collection.

Please welcome the following collections to the CAN online database:
Mackay Regional Library, Queensland
Victoria Police Museum, Victoria
Justice and Police Museum, Sydney, New South Wales
Australian Federal Police Museum, Australian Capital Territory
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania
(These collections cannot be accessed online anywhere else except through CAN.)

Take a look at the CAN Partners who have built on their existing collections:
The Rocks Discovery Museum, Sydney, NSW
State Records NSW, Sydney, NSW

Email Sarah Rhodes if you would like to take part in a thematic story project.


Not So Innocent Objects: a digital story

Not So Innocent Objects is a five-minute video threading stories about seemingly ordinary objects together to reveal their dark and often emotionally-charged nature. The Collections Australia Network invited Victoria Police Museum Public Programs Curator Kate Spinks to develop a concept based on the theme of ‘crime and punishment’. She came up with the concept Not So Innocent Objects to illustrate that collections often comprise of unremarkable objects with intriguing stories.



CAN Outreach wanted to start a project that actively worked with institutions of all sizes to upload their collections to the national heritage collection database. Once Kate sent through the working concept and five objects from the Victoria Police Museum collection, CAN invited nine other institutions to submit material. This project enabled CAN to collaborate with galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The video showcases a small selection of the 50 items sourced from the ten organisations. A Google Earth tour will also be made over the next few days to explore the full collection of the not so innocent objects uploaded to CAN. It can be seen on the collectionsaustralia YouTube channel.


The participating institutions are the Justice and Police Museum (Sydney), State Records NSW (Sydney), The Rocks Discovery Museum (Sydney), Mackay Regional Library (Queensland), Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (Launceston), National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), Australian Federal Police Museum (Canberra), Museum of Old and New Art (Hobart), National Museum of Australia (Canberra) and the Victoria Police Museum (Melbourne).


CAN made this movie using the free software – iMovie and Google Earth. The Powerhouse Museum’s creative media training suite Thinkspace recorded the voiceover but this can be also done using the free software Audacity and the microphone on your computer.


CAN is now working with the National Museum of Australia senior curator Richard Reid in sourcing success stories about Irish professionals in Australia. This project will help the National Museum of Australia source material for its Irish in Australia exhibition to open on St Patrick’s Day 2010. More importantly, it will help institutions of all sizes to promote their own collections. Once the Irish professionals story has been posted on YouTube in early October, institutions participating in the project will be able to embed the video into their own websites or play it in their exhibition space alongside the items they have submitted to CAN.


For more information on how to be part of the CAN digital stories projects, email Sarah Rhodes.


Looking for the ‘Irish in Australia’

The word ‘transparency’ has been floating around recently as one way cultural institutions can connect with audiences. The National Museum of Australia is using Flickr as a window that enables us to watch the curatorial process. Curators Richard Reid, Cinnamon Van Reyk and Rebecca Nason are photographing the people they meet, places they visit and objects they see as they research the Irish in Australia exhibition to be opened at the end of the year in Canberra. The Flickr Irish in Australia group is not open to public contributions. This is a different approach from the Australian War Memorial who is using Flickr for exhibition research - inviting the public to upload their own images relating to the ‘Love and War’ exhibition. The NMA curators are scouring the countryside for material. On their travels they have taken pictures of the collection management staff who have shared their knowledge with them so we can watch how the NMA puts an exhibition together.

Frederick McCoy, Museum Victoria

‘Display case featuring material on Frederick McCoy, Museum Victoria’, photograph Rebecca Nason/Flickr

One of their most surprising trips was to Queensland where they were told they would have more success in finding Scottish rather than Irish material. But after visiting the State Library of Queensland, Sisters of Mercy Heritage Centre, Queensland Irish Association, Queensland University of Technology, and the Department of Land Use Mapping, the team struck success.  The public are able to see first-hand what goes in to making an exhibition. Here we can see their progress in Queensland. Moving state-by-state around the country, so far the other Irish in Australia sets are McCoy and Little Londsdale Street, in Victoria and Galong and Boorowa, in NSW.

Sarah Rhodes


Search the National Museum of Australia collection live on CAN

You can now search the National Museum of Australia collection on CAN’s online database. This is particularly exciting news because the searches are live using RSS feeds, otherwise known as OpenSearch. This means as the NMA add images into its collection management system EMU, they are immediately searchable on CAN. Curators and the public can feel safe in knowing that when records are updated in EMU, the changes are immediately available to the public.

The NMA has made 25,000 objects from 1003 collections accessible on its Online Public Access Catalogue. Several teams are working hard to make the other 90% of its collection available. They are using the Powerhouse Museum’s object thesaurus to facilitate an easier search for specific items. This thesaurus will be available on the CAN website. CAN already offers links to other thesaurus standards.

NMA collection information and digitisation manager Helen Ludellen stresses the importance of knowing how to search effectively and how to refine a search. She suggests people should use single quotes for two co-located words to pull-up both of their search terms.

CAN is participating in a Federated Open Search Project that aims to allow the public to search collection records from libraries, galleries, museums and archives all across Australia through a single search.
George Serras.
Captain James Cook’s magnifier from the Australian Journeys exhibition at the NMA. Photo: George Serras

CAN has been an early implementor of the OpenSearch. Our current strategy is to host collection data for smaller institutions on our central database, while supporting distributed search access to larger institutions using the OpenSearch protocol.

As a result of these developments, it is now possible for anyone to search across the central CAN database, the Powerhouse Museum, Museum Victoria, Picture Australia, Libraries Australia, State Records of NSW and now the NMA in a single search. Furthermore, as larger museums, archives, libraries and galleries implement the OpenSearch protocol in their collection management systems, it should progressively become possible for anyone to search across the entire community of Australian collecting institutions.

The OpenSearch protocol is relatively easy to implement and provides a simple keyword search that can be applied to discovery services in any sector including government and universities, as well as subject-related search services in a broad range of areas including health, scientific and statistical information.

CAN’s online collection database is a current and reliable resource for researchers, cultural institutions, curators and the general public.

Sarah Rhodes