Senior curator Martha Sear, National Museum of Australia, 8 October 2008
JUDY KEAN: Welcome everybody. This is a great day. We come to a bit of a punctuation mark in this series of talks. For those of you who have not been here before, what we have done over the last 12 months or so is introduce you to a number of objects that will find their way into the Australian Journeys gallery either at opening or subsequently. What Martha Sear, who is the senior curator on Australian Journeys, is doing today is telling us about the journey and story. Martha, I think you talked about giving a sense of the final list of themes and objects that will make their way to the gallery because that is pretty much locked down now.
MARTHA SEAR: Yes.
JUDY KEAN: Some of you will have seen that we are planning a behind-the-scenes tour of the gallery in November which is a work in progress. This is a great opportunity to have an overview. Welcome Martha and off we go.
MARTHA SEAR: Thank you, Judy. Thank you everybody for coming along today and welcome to a momentous behind the scenes talk for Australian Journeys. Today I will be presenting to you an overview of the new Australian Journeys gallery. The gallery explores Australia’s connections to the world from ancient times to now. Australian Journeys is due to open in the mezzanine space above the Eternity and Old New Land galleries at the end of this year. Those of you who know the Museum well will recall that the mezzanine space previously was the location of the Horizons gallery. If you can imagine that space, we have completely removed the showcases and contents of the old gallery and everything is completely different. An entirely new gallery will fill that space now.
Before I begin, can I acknowledge the large team of people that are working behind the scenes to bring this gallery to fruition. There are at the moment hundreds of people both within the Museum and beyond its walls who are involved in making this gallery come to life. With three months to go, everyone is working with maximum effort and dedication. I want to thank all of those people. There are a number of them in the room today, including the curators, Judy [Kean] from Friends, people like Polly [from Multimedia and Web team], Media Ops and everybody from Friends. It is a massive undertaking to produce a gallery like this. It is hard to underestimate how many people are involved and how significant their contributions individually are. I want to thank all of those people many of whom can’t be here today because they are busily working on building showcases, doing conservation treatments and packing objects whilst I am here speaking.
I also want to thank all of you in the Friends because you have played a part in bringing the gallery to life as well. Over the last 12 to 18 months we have been joining you roughly every month to bring you the latest research from the curatorial team developing the gallery. You have come along to hear curators talk about the objects that you might see: the convict love tokens, the bamboo musical instrument, the Latvian national dress or John Gore’s telescope. You might have been to those talks. The questions, the feedback, the comments and the suggestions that you made during those presentations have helped shape the gallery as it has evolved. So I also want to thank all of you for contributing to the creation of Australian Journeys.
Where in previous talks we have chosen to look at individual objects or collections, today I would like to give you a view of the gallery as a whole by taking you on a walk through the exhibits from one end of the gallery to another. At the end of the presentation I would like to open the floor to all of you to ask any questions that you might have, either about the specific exhibits that we are featuring in the gallery or perhaps about the way that museums put galleries like this together. It is obviously a huge logistical exercise. You may be curious about how the exhibit that you see finally in the gallery - what happens to make that happen. If you would like to ask you of those questions, please feel free to ask them at the end of my part of the presentation today.
To start with, let me give you a few of the facts about Australian Journeys that might help you get your head around what we are talking about here. Australian Journeys is the first new exhibition in the permanent galleries of the National Museum since the Museum opened. It’s the first of the galleries to be renewed and it is part of an ongoing program of development at the Museum called the Museum Enhancement Program. Many of you will have seen the new Circa rotating theatre, which was first cab off the rank in terms of the renewal program here at the Museum, and Australian Journeys is the first of the permanent galleries to be renewed. It is quite a milestone in the life of the Museum to have begun the process of renewing the galleries that were installed seven years ago now and bringing fresh new approaches to our permanent gallery program. The gallery that will follow Australian Journeys, Creating a Country, opens in the Nation space in about two years time. There is a staged program of trying to renew the galleries, and this is the first gallery off the rank.
The gallery space is around 600 square metres. It’s been enlarged thanks to some major primary works over the last two months. I am not sure if any of you have visited the Museum in the last two months, but the galleries have been shrouded in black plastic and there has been the not so distant sound of drilling as the gallery space was expanded. The floor has changed shape. We had to introduce new formwork and actually pour new concrete to make the floors work. It was a very exciting day when the concrete was poured in through the roof of the Museum into the gallery space. So it will be a different gallery when you go up there because the floor space will have changed. We have increased the floor space.
In the gallery there are 42 separate exhibits housed in 34 individual showcases. All those showcases are just being completed down in Melbourne and will be shipped up to us in about ten days time.
All up there are, I think at last count, 744 objects in the Australian Journeys gallery. That is about double the number that you would have seen in Horizons. Horizons had about 350 objects. It is a large number of objects. We are quite proud of the fact that the gallery will be very rich and full of fascinating items for you to look at. It is also a source of pleasure in the Museum that a significant proportion of those objects will be drawn from the Museum’s own collection, the National Historical Collection. We have undertaken a considerable amount of research into the Museum’s collection to find those little jewels that will be the heart of the exhibits in Australian Journeys.
We have also borrowed a large number of objects from private lenders and from other collecting institutions both within Australia and internationally. When you visit the gallery at the end of December you will find objects that we have borrowed from the British Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, the National Library of Ireland and the Museum of Ethnography in Leiden, amongst other collections here and abroad that we will be bringing to the Museum for you to look at.
To give you a sense of the time span, this gallery has been in development for around four years. So the end of this year will be the culmination of a long period of work particularly for the curatorial team, the project management team, the conservators and the registrars who have been working pretty solidly for three to four years on the content.
What is the gallery about? We have talked in brief about what the gallery is about but to give you a little more detail: Australian Journeys explores the passages of people to and from Australia and examines how these journeys connect Australia to the rest of the world. The gallery traces the ways in which migrants and travellers have made places in Australia and overseas, and how they have built and maintained connections between places here and places abroad. It also considers how these connections between places have shaped Australian life more broadly.
The gallery’s aims are: to represent the migrations, sojourns and travels of people to and from Australia, and the social, economic and political impacts of those journeys; and to reveal the transnational character of Australian experience through the connections of Australian places to places overseas.
The gallery is broadly chronological in structure, beginning in the period before European settlement and concluding in the twenty-first century. It is comprised of a series of relatively autonomous exhibits. When I say there are 38 exhibits, there are 38 separate self-contained sets of objects that tell an individual story. Each exhibit invites visitors to engage with often very individual and personal stories of travel to or from Australia and to explore how travellers have built and maintained connections between places in Australia and places overseas. Through those stories visitors are invited to contemplate broader questions about how Australia has shaped and been shaped by global forces and conditions.
This is really the part of the Museum where we open out to the world. We look at how the world has affected Australia’s history and the experiences of people who have lived here; and, equally, how Australia and Australians by their travels and movements around the world have changed and shaped international history.
I am now going to walk you from one end of the gallery to the other, from the end of the gallery that deals with the past through to the present day. I am going to do that with the help of some Powerpoint slides. I have also printed out some copies of the floor plan of the gallery which might help you visualise what I am talking about as I go through. [Shows diagram]
Based on our visitor surveys and feedback from the hosts we know that most visitors enter the gallery from the boab tree end, the cubbies end of the gallery. When people walk up those stars – they look very different, and I would encourage you to take a stroll up into the gallery after this because there has been quite a transformation up there – and get to the landing they will see a replica of Martin Behaim’s 1541 terrestrial globe, which is one of the earliest physical representations of the idea of the earth as a sphere. The creation of a globe forces people to confront that they don’t know a lot about the bits at the bottom. They know a lot about the bits at the top where Europe and Asia is, but when they actually make a globe they have to put something at the bottom so they put stuff there that they think might be there. They put monsters and strange creatures as they imagine what might be living in the south part of the world.
We put the globe there so that people could begin the journey by thinking about how the place that we live in now was once an imaginary place. It was once somewhere that was the home of monsters, people with feet on their heads and all sorts of crazy antipodean things.
As visitors ascend the stairs they will find an exhibit that deals with the imagining of the Great South Land in the period prior to European voyaging to Australia. There we will see a series of medieval maps that depict different versions of what might be living in the area of the globe to the south. It is full of some really beautiful maps. The opportunity to see those medieval maps is going to be quite remarkable.
As visitors get to this area they will find an orientation marker. There are three orientation markers in the gallery: one here, there and another one that is there but not shown in the drawing [indicates]. They are like little jewel cases where we introduce the gallery to the visitors. The one at this end has a magnifier that was used by Captain James Cook. It will be in a little beautiful case and will be the starting point for people to get a feel for what they are going to see.
They will then find an exhibit that deals with Indigenous journeys, the journeys of Indigenous people across the Australian continent over many thousands of years. We have chosen to focus on two particular journeys of Indigenous people, the first of the Torres Strait Islanders whose journeys of trade with Papua New Guinea and with mainland Australia saw them create astonishing and beautiful head-dresses and trade shell and cassowary feathers so that they could create these beautiful head-dresses. We will also be exploring a trade route that connected Cape York in Queensland all the way through to the Lake Eyre area in South Australia - a very long trade route that connects the north of Australia to the south of Australia. Indigenous journeys across the continent is the first exhibit that people will find after the Great South Land exhibit.
After visitors reach the centre of that mezzanine space they will find a large case dedicated to European voyages to Australia. There they will find a large collection of material - 35 to 40 objects that are almost all from the Museum’s own collection, I am happy to say - that explore the voyages of the Dutch, the Spanish, the French and the English to the Australian continent. So the first real landfall on Australia in Western Australia and on the east coast as well. That is where you will find the French bust of Captain Cook; Captain Cook’s plane table, the surveying tool that he used to do a running survey of the coast of eastern Australia during his first Pacific journey; his teacup; and John Gore’s telescope. Some of you may have heard the talk by Michelle [Hetherington] on the telescope, an achromatic lense telescope that Gore used on his voyages with Cook to the Pacific.
Then there will be material related to the scientific aspects of Cook’s voyaging and Joseph Banks’ creation of the Florilegium. The museum recently purchased a set of the Florilegium prints they will be on display as well. We will also be showing material related to Dutch shipwrecks on the western coast of Australia, and some of the embroidered maps that were created by English school girls to record the voyages of Cook and other British sailors during this period. It will be quite a remarkable collection of material associated with European voyages to Australia. You will also be able to touch a piece of ballast that was thrown overboard from Endeavour when it struck the reef in Queensland in 1770. That will be in a separate little section where you can actually feel the surface of the ballast, which is quite special.
After that you will find a series of cases that deal with eighteenth and nineteenth century journeys to and from Australia. You will find cases that deal with the First Fleet and the experience of transported convicts. I am not sure if any of you went to the furniture history conference last year. We presented some research there related to the First Fleet table, which is a table made from Botany Bay beef wood. Beef wood is a kind of wood that was found in the Botany Bay Lane Cove area of Australia. A particular piece of it was sent back to Britain by John White, who was the surgeon of the First Fleet. He sent a piece of the wood back to his patron in England, Sir Andrew Snape Hammond, and the wood was turned into this table [shows image]. It was recently acquired by the Museum at an auction in Britain after more than 200 years in Andrew Snape Hammond’s family. That exhibit will allow you to trace the journey of the piece of wood from the moment it was cut down, through all of the tools that would have been required to make the table - from the first cutting of the wood through to the final veneering on the top. It will be really fascinating to see how the table is actually made. We also have John White’s own personal copy of the journal that he published during his time in New South Wales, and that will be on display as well. That will be quite a precious object that is finally out on the floor.
In this area we will also be exploring exhibits relating to the Irish convict and political prisoner William Smith O’Brien. If you went to the Staffordshire figurine talk you would have heard how we have developed an exhibit around the figurines of O’Brien, a British parliamentarian who was convicted high treason in the late 1840s for his leading a rebellion against British rule in Ireland and was sent to Tasmania. We have been able to borrow the journal that he kept whilst he was here and an address that was given to him when he left. They are prestigious loans that we have been able to get from the National Library in Ireland.
In the centre of this space is a case that deals with how the gold rushes enmeshed Australia with the world. This case includes a gold-washing cradle from our collection that allows us to tell the story of Hargraves, the man who is credited with the discovery gold near Ophir in 1851. He had been in California at the gold rushes there and he recognised similarities in the landscape between where he had been living near Bathurst and where he was digging for gold in California. He thought, ‘Maybe I should rush back and see if there is gold in them there hills too’. So he rushed back and he was right: there was gold there. We have been able to borrow the letter that he wrote to the government identifying that he had found gold near Ophir - he doesn’t say where he found it; I found gold at ‘blank’ - and also the compounded nugget that he used to prove that he had actually found the gold. That will be quite special too.
We have also got exhibits relating to a Canadian gold miner who came to Australia as well as material relating to the Chinese use of kiln technology in Bendigo. The gold exhibit will be quite substantial. We also have exhibits relating to convict love tokens - you may have heard the talk on those – which are engraved pennies left behind by convicts in Britain when they were transported to Australia.
We also have an exhibit about Macassan traders who came down from Indonesia and brought the equipment to gather sea cucumber in the north part of Australia and eventually, having prepared that cucumber in gigantic cauldrons on the north coast, sent it to China. Was anyone here for the talk by Alison [Mercieca] about the sea cucumber. Do you remember the smell? You will be able to enjoy it again, because that exhibit will have a smellorama where you can smell the sea cucumber. Perhaps don’t schedule lunch either before or after that. It might be a bit gruesome.
Following around there are some exhibits about Welsh music in Australia and also one about Adelaide Ironside who was the native-born artist to study art abroad.
Then we get to an exhibit that looks at the invention of mechanical shearing in Australia in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s, two very large exhibits relating to the history of wool and how the wool industry has connected Australia to the world. Frederick Wolseley and his team’s invention of mechanical shearing in the late nineteenth century revolutionised how wool could be harvested from sheep. For 4000 years people had used hand blades, but the particular environmental and economic conditions in Australia were able to spur Wolseley on to the invention and application of mechanical devices to shearing. He was able to adapt some technologies from horse clippers and essentially revolutionise the shearing industry by inventing the shearing machine. In the exhibit you will be able to track the evolution of Wolseley’s invention from the earliest experimental pieces that he developed right through to the final patterns and designs. With thanks to the generosity of a number of private lenders and the Walgett Historical Society, we will be able to show a sequence of handpieces that Wolseley was using to experiment with. So they contain all sorts of crazy ideas about how you might be able to improve handpiece, but together they are a remarkable testament to Wolseley and his team’s ingenuity and inventiveness in rural Australia in the late nineteenth century.
There is also an exhibit next to it that deals with the pink woollen dress that comes from the Springfield collection. Many of you will have heard of the Springfield collection, a major acquisition for the Museum in the last two years of colonial material associated with a very significant merino stud in the Goulburn area. We are focussing this exhibit around the 1880s - it is even more pink than it looks on that slide [shows image] - musk pink dress which we think was worn by Lillian Faithfull, one of the Faithfull family daughters.
The dress was made by David Jones and Company. The firm David Jones that we know began in the mid-nineteenth century, and by the 1880s it had establishments in London as well as Sydney. The company was buying large amounts of woollen cloth, often made from the very wool that you would expect to have been produced on a property like Springfield. The wool was being harvested, sent to England, prepared and spun at the woollen mills of northern England, and then sent back to Australia by clothing manufacturers like David Jones, so we track that whole loop from beginning to end. There are some wonderful loans from the David Jones archive that we have been able to use there.
As visitors re-enter the main circulation route through the gallery, they then encounter three cases along the left-hand side of the balustrade. The first is the Macassan case that I told you about. The second is a case that displays mementos of the travels of the Aboriginal boys who left the New Norcia monastic settlement in Western Australia and travelled to a monastery in Cava in Italy where they trained to be monks in the 1850s. The story of those little boys is told in a showcase there, thanks to another generous loan from the New Norcia settlement itself.
We also have an exhibit along the balustrade that looks at Charles Darwin’s voyage to Australia in the 1830s when he was travelling around the world on HMS Beagle. The loan material in that case is highly significant. The case focuses on Darwin’s observations of a lion ant in the Blue Mountains. Does everyone know the lion ant? It’s a creature that makes a cone in the sand and then it sits at the bottom of the cone and waits for something to fall in. Then it leaps up, grabs it and sucks all the juice out of it. Darwin, observing the behaviour of this insect, realised that it displayed very similar behaviours and very similar shape, form and characteristics as the lion ants that had been observed in Europe. That moment was one of those moments on the Beaglevoyage that helped to crystallise for him some of his ideas about evolution and how creatures that lived in different continents separated by vast amounts of ocean could somehow have grown to look and behave in a similar way.
That case includes a loan from the British Museum of the Beagle’s chronometer, one of its many chronometers, and also insects that Darwin collected in Hobart and Sydney on that voyage from the Oxford Museum of Natural History. We have been lucky and blessed to have been able to have lent that highly significant material, particularly in a period from here on in which represents quite significant anniversaries in terms of the publication of the On the Origin of the Species and of Darwin’s own life. It is going to be quite special.
We then move through the period from Federation to World War II. Here you will find exhibits relating to George Reid, the Australian parliamentarian who you may have heard me speak about last time. We also have a large case that focuses on World War I. [shows image] - George Reid’s stick and walking stick, exploring his journey to Britain in 1897 to obtain secret instructions relating to the development of the Australian constitution. We also have an exhibit relating to an Australian serviceman, Thomas Rutledge, who served overseas during World War I, and another exhibit that looks at the trousseau of an Australian woman who made her trousseau whilst waiting for her fiancé who had gone to the Great War. Sadly he was killed in Belgium and she packed away her trousseau forever. The exhibit looks at her experiences.
We also have material relating to the 1929-1931 Banzare Antarctic expedition led by [Douglas] Mawson. The museum holds the Debrie camera that Frank Hurley used to make the film Siege of the South. The exhibit includes the camera, Mawson’s proclamation claiming parts of the Antarctic continent and also amazing scientific material gathered on the voyage including – I think this is our favourite named object in the gallery - assorted sea gunk. It is stuff that was trawled up from the bottom of the ocean by the expedition and put in a jar. We have the jar, and you can see the little shrimps and strange creatures that were found under the sea.
Then at this point - we are now here [indicates] - visitors can choose to have a bit of a rest because they have already seen an awful lot of stuff. This triangular area is a rest area. There you will be able to sit down and maybe read a book, read some material associated with the exhibits in the gallery and learn a little bit more. But also watch and look at this rather amazing object - the little Red Riding Hood wall hanging. Karen [Schamberger] you will have to correct me if I am wrong. This is a wall hanging made in a displaced persons camp just after World War II by a Ukrainian displaced person named Olga Basylewycz who made the wall hanging out of scraps of material that she could gather together by trading - what did she trade?
KAREN SCHAMBERGER: She traded cigarettes.
MARTHA SEAR: She was able to pull together scraps of fur, felt and wool to make the hanging and applied those to a woollen blanket from the camp. The quilt was eventually given to an Australian aid worker who was running the camp at that stage, Valerie Paling. She brought it back to Australia and donated it to the Forest Hill Kindergarten where it hung for about 40 years. This quilt is quite a remarkable testament to life in those displayed persons camps in Europe in that post-war period and how intimately Australia’s histories are connected to those camps not only through the migrants who they brought to Australia but also through the Australians who worked in them. You will be able to see this quilt come to life, but I am not going to tell you how yet. You will have to come and see.
As visitors re-enter the gallery they will then pass a couple of exhibits relating to World War II. A large screen shows Damien Parer’s award winning film Kokoda Frontline. We are also able to display Parer’s camera which he used to film that amongst other World War II documentary films. We also have an exhibit that relates to an Australian war bride who married an American GI and moved to America and lived on Alcatraz.
It is tiring to talk about this. There is a lot in it, and we are only half way through. As we turn the corner back through the central axis - this is where the World War II material is [indicates] - we are then walking towards the Visions Theatre down the final axis of the gallery. There we will find exhibits relating to post-war migration to Australia. British migration is explored in relation to how settlers from Britain - ten pound Poms and others - adapted to the Australian environment by growing British gardens in Australia.
There is a case that deals with the story of Indonesian political prisoners who were displaced to Australia in World War II and further exhibits relating to displaced people, including Mrs Kinne’s dress - you may have attended Karen’s talk about the Kinne dress.
Then we get to a wonderful exhibit about Australians living abroad during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. We are very honoured that Rolf Harris has agreed to donate to us his second wobble board. The first one is still in his hands. He used the second wobble board throughout the 1960s right up to the period of his ‘rediscovery’ almost by the world when he covered Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. This is the ‘stairway to heaven’ wobble board, as we call it [shows image].
We also have an exhibit that deals with the experiences of the Australian authors Charmian Clift and George Johnston who lived in Greece during the 1950s. That exhibit also explores the experiences of the Kalymnian divers who came to Australia and worked in Darwin during that same post-war period.
There are another couple of exhibits following that that explore the role of migrants in the Australian agricultural industry. There is a collection of timber-cutting equipment and make-do furniture that evokes the experience of British migrants in Denmark, Western Australia, so they were group settlers.
The second case explores the work of the Italian migrant Carmello Mirabelli, another exhibit developed by Karen [Schamberger] sitting up the back. Carmello travelled to Australia from Sicily in the immediate post-war period and spent eight years travelling around cutting cane, picking grapes and picking fruit through Victoria and Queensland. Karen has put together a really strong and emotional collection of material relating to his journey and his photography. He took his camera with him everywhere and documented his life and the life of those people around him and then sent those photos back to his mother in Sicily along with remittance money to keep his family at home. It’s a big collection and it’s a very poignant story. It epitomises the kind of connections that we are trying to create in this gallery: the idea that a boy who learns to pick fruit in Sicily during World War II is then applying his special Sicilian fruit-picking technique in Shepparton in the 1950s and 1960s and teaching those Aussies a little bit about how you can become the fastest fruit picker in Shepparton by trying the Italian method of picking rather than the one that was already in Australia. That’s a great exhibit.
Then there is an exhibit that deals with Australia’s participation in the international scientific community. It brings together specimens, lantern slides and a diary that were created the Australian ornithologists Hall and Trebilcock who undertook a groundbreaking study of birds that migrate between Siberia and Australia. So the gallery is not just about the migrations of people but also includes the migrations of animals. I am not sure how many of you are aware that the shore birds of Australia migrate to Siberia to breed. Hall and Trebilcock were Australian ornithologists who travelled to Siberia in 1903 to collect the first specimens in Siberia. We have been able to borrow those specimens, which are now in the American Museum of Natural History, and pair those up with material relating to the contemporary work of scientists who are continuing to explore those migratory bird paths and what they mean to the ecological health of the planet.
Now visitors are approaching the Visions Theatre end of the gallery and they will find exhibits that relate to the more recent history of Australia’s interconnections with the rest of the world. There is a very long case, which you can see just near the bulkhead, which explores how the arts have sustained connections across the oceans. There are exhibits relating to Irish dancing, a Moroccan artist who works in Australia using techniques and designs from her homeland, and the musical practices of Vietnamese migrant Minh Tam Nguyen, whose bamboo musical instrument was extensively researched by Jen [Wilson] who is sitting up the back. The exhibit includes his story of the invention of the instrument in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam War, and then his arrival in Australia as a refugee. They are a group that really look at cultural connections.
Then if you were to turn left, you would find an exhibit about the Anglo-Australian telescope: the development of that remarkable instrument in Coonabarabran, and the journey of Hermann Wehner, who is sitting just there, who came to Australia in the 1950s to work at Mount Stromlo. We will be exploring the way in which the development of telescopes and Hermann’s work at Stromlo and on the Anglo-Australian telescope made Australia an important part of what is a broad international astronomical community throughout the 1950s, 1960, 1970s, 1980s and still today. It is thanks to lenders like Hermann that we are able to tell these stories. We are very glad you are here today, Hermann.
We are now getting to the end of the gallery and we will find an exhibit relating to Australia’s participation in cricket over 120 or so years - everything from WG Grace’s bat, Victor Trumper’s bat, material relating to bodyline, to women’s cricket in the 1930s and then to contemporary players like Shane Warne, Steve Waugh, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh - so a big exhibit about cricket. And then another about the development of the Kuta Lines surf brand, the way in which Australia’s surf culture is part of the international surfing scene.
Then we will finally be struck by a large showcase that looks at the Aurukun sculptures that were produced in Aurukun in the 1960s, entered the Museum’s collection in the 1970s and were then displayed in New York as part of the first major exhibit of Indigenous art overseas, the Dreamings exhibition in 1988. That exhibit really looks at how Indigenous art was taken to the world in the late 1980s and has become such a significant way in which Australia is thought about internationally since then.
So by then you will have been soaked in stories. You have had a really rushed tour of the gallery today. When you get to see it in real life you will have much more time to look, read, wonder and reflect. To me it seems like the kind of gallery that you might want to come back to: see something, read it and learn, and look, and then come back and look at something else the next time. I think it will reward multiple visits. That is the walk through.
I guess just to finish I want to give you a bit of a feel for when you will be able to make that walk. You will be able to walk through the gallery hopefully as part of a Friends event. You will be the first members of the public to see this gallery, which is a great opportunity. I hope you will be able to take part when we hold those tours.
Members of the public will be able to visit the gallery from the period just before Christmas. Between now and then a lot of things have to happen. We have finished the primary works which were the construction work, the recarpeting and repainting. Pop up and have a look and see what has happened.
Over the next three weeks the lighting track gets installed and the showcases are built on site. Conservation treatment on those 744 objects is almost complete.
Almost all of the objects have been assessed for their mounts. Each of those 744 objects has an individual mount, either a flat mount or a wire mount that holds it in the particular position it is supposed to be in. They are being built, and the objects are being packed ready to come to the Museum ready for install at the beginning of November. We have six weeks to install the 744 objects. Once we have closed the showcase doors, installed the graphics and the multimedia and adjusted the lighting, then we will throw open the doors and you will be able to come and see what we have done.
We will look forward to seeing you the Friends, the special group of people who have been journeying with us as we have been making Australian Journeys, over the next couple of months as we are able to show you the gallery in its next stages of life. But for now I would like to thank you for your patience and for listening and will throw open the floor for any questions you might have. Thank you. Does anyone have any questions, anything you are curious about or would like to know more about?
QUESTION: It is going to be absolutely wonderful. I am wondering how much you have touched on the Asian Australian population because there are the Chinese arrivals and journeys and their influence and that sort of stuff, and the Japanese as well. I am wondering how much this gallery will touch on and explore that area.
MARTHA SEAR: It is an important part of Australia’s interconnections with the world and particularly those migration stories. If you think about Asia and the Pacific as being an area, we have tried to explore the Maccassans, the Indonesian contact over many centuries associated with the trepang trade. And that exhibit opens out to explore the contact with the whole of South East Asia and China through that trading network. The European voyaging exhibit contains a lot of material associated with the European contact with Asia that ultimately brought Europeans to the west coast of Australia because, as they are trying to sail up to trade porcelain, tea and spices they run into the coast of Western Australia.
Perhaps more specifically we have exhibits relating to a Chinese brick kiln that was used in Bendigo in the 1850s and 1860s where a group of former Chinese miners grouped together to make bricks to build the local town. We have material associated with Indonesian Dutch prisoners who were sent to the Cowra POW camp in World War II. And then we explore the Vietnamese migration experience through the story of the bamboo musical instrument.
We have been developing a series of other stories associated with Asian migration and connections that will appear in subsequent versions of the gallery. A permanent gallery is never complete. So the minute we open the gallery in December we will be planning for the first changes that will happen. There are a number of exhibits that we have almost queued up that will further explore those Asian connections with Australia. So it is something we are extremely conscious of the significant of. Did I miss anything?
KAREN SCHAMBERGER: Kuta Lines.
MARTHA SEAR: Kuta Lines, which also deals with Indonesian and Chinese textiles – the whole ICAT tradition in Asia. The Kuta Lines surf brand picked up this particular weaving and dyeing technique and made it into a global surf brand.
QUESTION: Thank you once again for your animated talk. Your enthusiasm always comes right through. You said we are going to have a smellathon. Are you going to have audiovisual things that click on as you go past and that kind of thing?
MARTHA SEAR: Absolutely. There is a number of multimedia components to the gallery. There are a series of what you probably call interactives - if you can imagine walking up to a screen - particularly in front of European voyaging exhibit and the cricket exhibit where you will be able to delve into a number of layers of information about every object in the case. For example, we have a chronometer in the showcase for the European voyaging exhibit and we have been able to get the conservators to get it started and we filmed it. You will be able to watch the chronometer being wound, turning over and you will be able to see the insides. You will be able to watch a film about how the Florilegium was printed and be able to watch clips of great and not so great moments in Australian cricket. So there is a series of touch screen interactives.
There is also a number of audiovisual pieces. You will be able to watch segments from Frank Hurley’s film Siege of the South as well as being able to watch migratory birds in flight as they voyage from Australia to Siberia. Rolf Harris - you will be able watch some of Rolf’s greatest performance. You will be able to listen to the sound of the Gamelan that we have borrowed.
KAREN SCHAMBERGER: Also the sound chair.
MARTHA SEAR: Does everyone know the Expo 67 sound chair? It is like an individual personalised armchair with speakers in the headset part. You will be able to sit in there and listen to different songs from Wales, Scotland and Britain that were sung in Australia or sung in Britain to connect people who were imagining their loved ones in another country. There will be Welsh tunes like ‘My little Welsh home’, sea shanties and songs that were a source of sol ace to migrants to who have moved to Australia and that helped to connect them to their homeland.
There is an interactive so you can watch different instruments associated with the invention of the dàn tre. Have I missed anything important? There are many of them, so the answer is yes.
KAREN SCHAMBERGER: And also the use of the Visions Theatre.
MARTHA SEAR: That is right. We are hoping that, because of the proximity of the Visions Theatre to the gallery, we will be able to show some films at full length. We can’t show all of Siege of the South because it is over an hour long, but we can probably schedule times of the day where you could go and see the whole of the film. So we have used multimedia quite actively.
QUESTION: Is there anything on the outback and the cattle industry, such as the Duracks who moved from Goulburn to south-west Queensland and then over to the Kimberley?
MARTHA SEAR: In this gallery, no, but in the gallery that is being developed downstairs. Do you know where the Nation gallery is now? That whole area is the next gallery that we are developing, and it actually has an exhibit about the Duracks. So not in this gallery but in the next one.
QUESTION: What is that gallery called?
MARTHA SEAR: It is currently called Nation, but in two years time it will be called Creating a Country. It has a number of exhibits about the pastoral industries and there is one about the Duracks.
QUESTION: I presume that that second gallery will look at the cultural development of the country. I am conscious that there is an exhibition on the Irish in Australia coming up in two or three years time which will have some focus on the Catholic versus the Protestants et cetera, because the religious overlays and the intellectual overlays of Australia are quite significant.
MARTHA SEAR: That is a really good point, and the new [Creating a Country] gallery will explore those themes. It’s a very large, expansive gallery which will explore the major themes in Australian history, and those ones that you have identified are incorporated into that gallery.
Disclaimer and Copyright notice
This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy.
© National Museum of Australia 2007–22. This transcript is copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce it in unaltered form only for your personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) all other rights are reserved.
Date published: 01 January 2018