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Seaweed album appeal

8 Apr 17

Can you help us find more about our seaweed collector?

The National Museum is searching for more information on an album of exquisite seaweed specimens collected in the late 19th century. We believe the specimens were collected by Charles Morrison, an amateur Scottish seaweed collector who arrived in Melbourne from Ireland around 1854. We'd like to know more.

Woman with wavy red hair viewing an open book on a large table
Artist Julie Ryder with the seaweed album believed to have been compiled in Australia by Charles Morrison. Courtesy Julie Ryder.

The album contains about 200 specimens from Ireland, the Cape of Good Hope and the Port Phillip area around Melbourne.

The earliest specimen – from Ireland – dates from 1851. Most of the Australian specimens were collected between 1859 and 1882.

Charles Morrison

We have little information about Charles Morrison and his life in Australia.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 31 May 1817. He married Margaret Bell of Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1847 and they had six children.

The family lived in the Melbourne suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy. The specimens in the album suggest Morrison emigrated to Australia with his family around 1854.

Charles died in Essendon on 31 March 1911.

Detail of a page depicting seaweed specimens
A page from the album of pressed seaweed specimens (detail). Photo: George Serras.

Album with ornate cover
Front cover of the album of pressed seaweed specimens collected around Port Phillip Bay, 1859–1882. Photo: George Serras.

Contact us

If you have any information about Charles Morrison we would love to hear from you.

Please contact our Duty Curator by email curator@nma.gov.au or phone 02 6208 5019.

Handwritten clues

The National Museum purchased the Port Phillip seaweed album in 2013.

Handwritten notes tell us where and when the seaweed specimens were collected. Some specimens also have scientific names. Until recently we did not know the identity of the collector.

In 2016 Canberra artist Julie Ryder spent six months at the Museum researching the album.

Julie was determined to track down the identity of the collector and set about comparing the handwriting in our album with similar albums in herbarium collections in Melbourne and Sydney.

She noticed similarities between the handwriting in albums at various institutions as well as similarities in the collecting locations, which pointed to Charles Morrison.

Album events

The seaweed album will be on public display at the Museum for the first time from 8–25 April 2017 in our Landmarks gallery.

Artists Julie Ryder and Mary Kayser are working with the Museum in the April 2017 school holidays on Discovery Space: The nature collector, a children's activity inspired by the album.

Julie is presenting her seaweed research findings at the Australian National University on 20 April 2017.

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