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The Compleat Archaeologist

Mike Smith, desert archaeology and museums

Friday 8 February 2013
National Museum of Australia

Mike SmithDr Mike Smith AM is a pioneering desert archaeologist, an author and a Senior Research Fellow at the Research Centre at the National Museum of Australia. His research and teachings have been inspirational throughout Australia and the world. Mike's career is virtually synonymous with the development of Australian desert archaeology as a field. Mike Smith's profile

Distinguished archaeologists, historians, artists and museum staff reflected on and celebrated Mike Smith’s 30 years of work in desert archaeology and museums. During the day we heard riveting stories of adventure and participated in lively discussions on contemporary archaeology and its contribution to museums.

View publications on display at the Compleat Archaeologist

A tribute to Dr Mike Smith AM

A tribute to Mike Smith's work, by Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia. Features an introduction by Peter Stanley and a poetry reading by Mark O'Connor.

Mark O'Connor's 'Poem about Mike' post

Audio and transcript available of the 'A tribute to Mike' session

Inventing Australia's desert archaeology

Speakers June Ross, John Mulvaney, Barry Cundy, Giles Hamm and Chris Turney reflect on their time teaching and working with Mike Smith, and the developing field of desert archaeology in Australia.

Audio and transcript available of 'Inventing Australia's desert archaeology' session 

A portrait of Mike Smith

Artist Jo Bertini talks about her portrait of her friend and colleague, Mike Smith. Jo also outlines Mike's great passion for desserts, and presents a book of dessert recipes compiled by his friends.

Audio and transcript available of 'A portrait of Mike Smith' session 

A stratigraphy of an archaeologist

Former colleagues and collaborators, Philip Jones, Peter Veth, Anne McConnell and Dick Kimber, investigate the layers of Mike Smith's career. They discuss some of the projects and digs through which Mike developed his knowledge of the human past in Australia, and how museums have contributed to mainstream knowledge of desert archaeology.

Audio and transcript available of the 'A stratigraphy of an archaeology' session

'The lost art of stratigraphy' lecture by Mike Smith - videos and transcripts

Paintings by Mandy Martin

Artist Mandy Martin reflects on her work with Mike Smith. Mandy and Mike worked together in multi-disciplinary teams studying the Puritjarra rock shelter in the Northern Territory and Paruku, or Lake Gregory, in north-eastern Australia.

Audio and transcript available of the 'paintings by Mandy Martin' session 

Museums, Mike and more

Libby Robin, Jay Arthur, Allan Whiting, Diana James and Tom Griffiths reflect on their travels and work with Mike Smith. Mike has worked in deserts and museums, has journeyed on camels and in four-wheel drives, formed partnerships with artists and Indigenous communities, and extended his reach and understanding. Those who travelled with Mike reflect on what he, and they, learned on the way.

Audio and transcript available of the 'Museums, Mike and more' session

Photographs by Peter Eve

Photographer Peter Eve reflects on an expedition into the remote southern Simpson Desert that he shared with Mike Smith. Peter praises Mike's ability to bring the buried landscapes and humanities of deep time to life. Includes a slideshow of Peter's photographs.

Audio and transcript available of the 'Photographs by Peter Eve' session 

View the 'Into the Desert' blog from Mike's Simpson Desert expedition

Open Mike

Peter Stanley chairs an open mike session at a tribute to Mike Smith. Includes contributions from Calogero Santoro and Isabel McBryde, with a response from Mike Smith.

Audio and transcript available of the 'Open Mike' session

Other memories and musings

In search of adventure

Manik Datar, 21 February 2013

Apparently VS Pritchett said of Edward Gibbon, ‘Sooner or later, great men turn out to be all alike...

Read In search of adventure

He was going on a long journey ...

Calogero Santoro, 20 February 2013

Mike impressed me the first time I met him, in Arica, Chile, back in 2002, as a very serious man, not only because of his...

Read He was going on a long journey ...

We always expected Mike to do a thing like that

Lolo Houbein, 15 February 2013

It is only 10 days ago that I received from a friend of archaeology days a copy of the ...

Read We always expected Mike to do a thing like that

Poem about Mike

Mark O'Connor, 11 February 2013

At the celebration of Mike's life at the National Museum last Friday, several people asked for copies of the ...

Read Poem about Mike

Eyes of the Earth

Diana James, 9 February 2013

Recently, in a conversation over coffee, Mike described his archaeological scoping trips ...

Read Eyes of the Earth

Desert Stories: Archaeology merges with Geology

Gifford and Midra Miller, 7 February 2013

I first spent time with Mike on an expedition to Lake Eyre in 1992, coordinated by John Magee and ...

Read Desert Stories: Archaeology merges with Geology

The Australian Von Rosen

Maria Isabel Hernandez Llosas, 8 February 2013

Who can imagine, coming from Down Under, that a Cactus can be taller than an Australian himself...

Read The Australian Von Rosen

Mike and friends in Licancabur

Maria Isabel Hernandez Llosas, 8 February 2013

Getting around the world Mike discovered de wonders of the Capricornio...

Read Mike and friends in Licancabur

A Twinkle In His Eye

Rob Paton, 7 February 2013

It takes a special way of thinking to come to grips with the central Australian landscape...

Read A Twinkle In His Eye

The Big Picture

Dr Elizabeth Williams, 6 February 2013

I'm a long-term friend and colleague, and we worked in the field together in the Strzelecki Desert...

Read The Big Picture

The Last Great Desert Explorer

Brett Galt-Smith, 6 February 2013

You're the last great desert explorer in my book. A wonderful example to...

Read The Last Great Desert Explorer

Hello Mike

Vicky, 31 Jan 2013

It was lovely to meet in Africa last January 2010 in the conference about Chichorro culture...

Read Hello Mike

Just another sand dune

Peter Veth, 29 Jan 2013

Since visiting Lake Gregory in 1980 as an undergraduate when the 'homelands' movement in the Great Sandy Desert was in swing and taking a natural and cultural...

Read Just another sand dune

Stimulating and happy memories

Jill, 21 Jan 2013

Dear Mike,
Thank you so much for the invitation to attend this wonderful symposium on 8 February. It sounds a delight, just the mix of thoughtful, creative, academic and fantastic stuff one would expect...

Read Stimulating and happy memories

Determination and vision

Stephen Foster, 16 Jan 2013

I first worked with Mike Smith in the year or so preceding the National Museum’s opening in 2001. Mike was chiefly responsible for the Tangled Destinies gallery, which was...

Read Determination and vision

The house that Mike built

Peter Stanley, 18 Dec 2012

These are the people who staffed the National Museum's Centre for Historical Research...

Read The house that Mike built