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This month we’re delving into some of the weird, wacky and wonderful objects and stories in our collection.

Australian Institute of Anatomy

Prominent Melbourne orthopaedic surgeon Colin MacKenzie believed that Australia’s unique fauna was destined for extinction. In 1924 he wrote, ‘Unfortunately these animals are fast disappearing, and, in less than 20 years it is computed, will, in the absence of rigid protective measures, be all extinct.’

A man of considerable wealth and extensive political connections, MacKenzie devoted much of his professional life to building an extensive collection of Australian animal specimens. This collection was later to become the National Museum of Australia’s first collection.

Preserved thylacine, 1930s
Preserved thylacine

Sadly, MacKenzie’s dire prediction of extinction proved to be true for many Australian animals. Environmental historian Libby Robin said, 'As a scientist on a mission, MacKenzie probably did not pause to consider the weird reaction that his specimens arouse in many 21st century viewers; they were simply wonderful for science in his day.'

MacKenzie's collection includes examples of both rare and endangered species. Perhaps one of the most significant specimens is a whole carcass of a thylacine. This is believed to be the only complete adult thylacine carcass preserved in the world.

Leisure time in 1913

In this audio on demand program, historian Jill Julius Matthews surveys magazines and movies from 1913 to look at how people in Australia spent their leisure time a century ago.

Through 100-year-old magazines such as Australian Variety, Footlights and Splashes Weekly, Matthews explores the popular Tango Teas at the Tivoli Theatre, silent films, dancing and the Crystal Palace Amusement Centre in George Street, Sydney.

This wonderful look at the past is sure to excite and inspire.

Leisure time, 1913

Historian Jill Julius Matthews surveys magazines and movies from 1913 to look at how people in Australia spent their leisure time a century ago.
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Presenters: Jill Julius Matthews
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We’ll keep bringing objects, collections, exhibitions and programs from the vault as part of the Museum from Home experience. Stay tuned!

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In our collection

Phar Lap's HeartPhar Lap was a late foal, born on 4 October 1926. He had been bred in New Zealand and sold for 160 pounds as Lot 41 at the annual Trentham Yearling Sales in 1927. Harry Telford, a down-on-his-luck Sydney trainer, had spotted the chestnut colt in the sale catalogue and thought that, with the horse's pedigree, it had the potential...
On display
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