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Emotional stories of epic emigrant journeys

6 APRIL 2006

An exhibition that captures the powerful and conflicting emotions of British emigration to Australia in the 19th century opens at the National Museum of Australia on 21 April.

The 55 paintings and 20 fascinating objects on show in Exiles and Emigrants: Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era arrive at the National Museum next week.

This is the last opportunity to see the Exiles and Emigrants exhibition. It tells the emotional stories of the greatest diaspora in Western history and is the first time art and objects produced in the reign of Queen Victoria have been used to tell the story of the unprecedented exodus of almost 15 million people from Britain between 1837 and 1901.

The show traces the reasons that drove people from their homeland, their long and difficult voyages and their struggle to settle in the harsh and often unforgiving Australian climate.

'The feelings of fear, pain and displacement at leaving one's homeland for a country so foreign and far away are revealed in these paintings,' National Museum director Craddock Morton said. 'This wonderful exhibition complements the many migration stories already told in the Museum and I'm sure many of our visitors - emigrants themselves at some stage - will relate to the emotions captured here.'

Media are invited to an exhibition preview with curator Patricia Tryon Macdonald at 11am on Friday, 21 April, in the National Museum's Temporary Exhibition Gallery.

A highlight of the exhibition is Ford Madox Brown's masterpiece, The Last of England, lent by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery outside of Britain for the first time. Other featured artists include Richard Redgrave, Elizabeth Butler, James Tissot, Charles Conder, Thomas Webster and Frederick McCubbin.

The evocative objects on show include a quilt made on a voyage to South Australia, a seashell engraved with an image of the emigrant ship SS Great Britain, letters sent at the time, and a copy of the 'Race to the Gold Diggings of Australia' board game.

Exiles and Emigrants: Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era is a National Gallery of Victoria touring exhibition on show in the National Museum of Australia's Temporary Exhibition Gallery from 21 April to 4 June. Entry: $8 adult, $6 concession, $3 children, $18 family. This exhibition has been generously supported by Tattersall's, Qantas is the support sponsor.

For interviews, images and more information please contact Leanda Kitchen on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or Ellen Peterson on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or media@nma.gov.au