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Oscar's sketchbook

Oscar's sketchbook is a rare record of life in the 19th century as drawn by a young Aboriginal man in Queensland.

When staff from the National Museum of Australia began cataloguing its collections in the early 1980s, they came across a cardboard box containing items once owned by the Institute of Anatomy. At the bottom of this box lay an old exercise book labelled 'Drawn by Oscar'.

The sketches found inside were depictions of a young Aboriginal man's memories of growing up in far north Queensland. Oscar's pencil drawings depict a variety of scenes from traditional ceremonies to interactions with Europeans, to places he visited in the surrounding area − a rare record of life in the late 1800s from an Aboriginal person's perspective.

Property manager and Oscar's overseer, Augustus Henry Glissan, gave Oscar the exercise book in 1898. Glissan also wrote an index interpreting the drawings and sent the completed book, with an accompanying letter, to Dr Charles Bage in 1899.

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