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FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETIES INC
e-BULLETIN No. 118 – 30 November 2013
Hon Editor, Dr Ruth S. Kerr
1) Mapping Our World exhibition at National Library of Australia
The exhibition, ‘Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia’ is currently on at the National Library of Australia. The exhibition ends on 10 March 2014.
It examines the history of cartography from ancient Greek days and medieval times through to European explorations and the voyages of Flinders and Cook.
It features 135 maps, wall charts, atlases, paintings, clocks, cartography and navigational instruments, many of which have never before been seen in the southern hemisphere. Some of the priceless treasures are on loan from the British Library, the Vatican, and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.
Curator Nat Williams stated that ‘Captain Cook had a great role in documenting New Holland, the east coast of Australia, but in fact we know the Dutch had been here since 1606, and there is speculation of Portuguese exploration of the area.‘
The exhibition's centrepiece is a fragile encyclopaedic and secular view of the world in 1450 created by Venetian monk Fra Mauro. The two-metre hand-painted disc depicts the world oriented to the south, meaning the world appears upside down to viewers. Mr Williams says it took five years to create and was before Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese Indian Ocean discoveries. Considered the greatest medieval map in the world, the Fra Mauro features over 3,000 inscriptions drawn from the voyaging and discoveries of Marco Polo. It was created ahead of the voyages to America by Christopher Columbus and was the first of its kind to show Africa as a separate continent from the then great southern land mass. It is the first time the Fra Mauro map has left Italy in its 563-year history, and transporting the fragile piece from its home in Venice to the National Library has been no easy feat.
The exhibition begins with ancient mapping and navigation used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years. Curator Martin Woods stated that "We have real, spiritual ... and celestial mapping of Indigenous people, alongside the imaginary mapping of the southern hemisphere."
A 17th century copy of the first map of the world, the atlas of Ptolemy of Alexandria, is also on show, along with the 'great history' from the bedchamber of Henry III, the Psalter World Map.
James Cook's original east coast of Australia map, Abel Tasman's original journal and map of New Holland, and the secret mapping of Australia by the Dutch East India Company are also on display.
This was the sole item in our E-Bulletin 117 and is repeated here to remind historical societies to lodge a submission on the proposed strategy to assist the Commonwealth Department of Environment to compile the heritage strategy.
The Federation is very pleased that on 4 November 2013 the Government announced its commitment to completing the Australian Heritage Strategy as one of Australia’s key heritage priorities. This has been one of the Federation’s key desires for many years.
The Minister for Environment, Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced in his press release that ‘Heritage is central to the Government’s Plan for a Cleaner Environment and is a fundamental pillar for the Government’s vision for Australia – clean air, clean water, clean land and heritage.’
He said that ‘The Australian Heritage Strategy will provide a common framework and priorities for Australia’s heritage to help ensure our heritage is recognised and protected for future generations.’
The Press Release is available at: www.environment.gov.au/minister/hunt/2013/pubs/mr20131104.pdf
A draft Strategy is to be released for public comment during Australian Heritage Week in April 2014.
Submissions may be lodged to contribute to the development of the strategy. Please visit the department’s website and complete the submission form www.environment.gov.au/topics/heritage/australian-heritage-strategy/getting-involved
(Source: Email to FAHS from Mr Nigel Routh, Department of the Environment – 8 November 2013)
On 28 November the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, launched the City of Melbourne Heritage Strategy.
Details are available at
(Source: Royal Historical Society of Victoria – 29 November 2013)
Expressions of Interest: Contract Oral Historian
Oral histories of Australian Geoscience project
(Only Australian residents may apply)
The National Library of Australia, in partnership with Geoscience Australia, is seeking interviewers with extensive experience and understanding of history, oral history methodology and a science, geoscience or science history background, to conduct oral history interviews.
The project will document key developments in Australia’s national geoscience knowledge and activities over the period 1960 – 2012, through oral history recordings with individuals who were active in furthering Australian geoscience over this period. In particular, the recordings will capture the technical, political and social contexts for the changing nature of geoscience in Australia, and the evolving role of the national geoscience and geospatial research agencies and their relationship with geospatial industry. Although professional life within Australian geoscience will be the focus, the interviews will cover the whole-of-life of the individual being interviewed and will seek to understand motivations and personal and shared aspirations.
The contract interviewers will be guided by the Project Advisory Committee to reflect the key aspects of the history it seeks to capture. The contract interviewers will be expected to record up to 80 whole-of-life interviews of around five hours duration each over a two year period.
Training in the use of the National Library recording equipment will be provided; and the interviewer must use Library Rights Agreement forms and follow Library procedure and protocols. Interviews will be documented using established Library standards and interviewers will be required to make timed summaries. The interviewer must adhere to the conditions outlined in the Library’s Oral History Interviewer Contract and apply the appropriate ethical practices expected of a professional oral historian in all other circumstances.
Your EOI must include:
· Your name and current position
· Your Curriculum Vitae including a statement of your skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the position
Expressions of interest are to be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications close at 5:00pm on Friday 6 December 2013.
Any queries can be directed to
Marian Hanley, Senior Librarian, (ph) (02) 6262 1545, email@example.com or
Shelly Grant, Acting Curator, Oral History and Folklore, 02 6262 1636, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Source: Australian Historical Association - email 21 November 2013)
26-27 June 2014, Melbourne Australia, Two-Day International Symposium, LIMS (La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science), La Trobe University.
Convenors: Dr Tarryn Phillips (legal studies), Dr Michael O’Keefe (politics), Dr Ingrid Sykes (history)
Funded by Understanding Disease Research Focus Area, La Trobe University.
This symposium will bring together leading international scholars from the social sciences, politics, legal studies, health sciences, medicine, anthropology, history and cultural studies, to explore the critical issues relating to global disease today.
The aim of the symposium is to address the fissures that occur between knowledge relating to disease control and cure, and the application of that knowledge to human behaviour, spaces and places. Rather than focus on a particular geographical area or disease, there will be 5 different areas of discussion framed by a keynote, which might be applicable to a variety of different global environments and diseases.
CALL FOR PAPERS:
Deadline 28 February 2014. Please send 300 word abstract and short CV for consideration to
(Source: Australian Historical Association – email 21 November 2013)
Work is nearing completion on the new Basra museum relocated from a wrecked and squatted historic building in the centre of Basra. The new museum is in Saddam Hussein’s resort on the banks of the Shatt-al-Arab River. The plan is for it to be a cultural centre - a museum island, similar to the one in Berlin. British army engineers have done the transformation. The Director of British Museum, Neil MacGregor, and John Curtis, a curator, advised on the project. UK Blue Shield organisation is now training the British military to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones. The new museum will tell the long story about Iraq’s diverse riches of Assyrian, Babylonian, Sasanian and Arabic heritage. The Mesopotamian ideas and culture which pre-date the pyramids are being affirmed through the museum. Although Baghdad Museum was looted in 2003 and archaeological sites robbed, antiquities are grading being returned. In recent years 133,000 antiquities including 88,000 coins have been returned.
(Source: The Guardian 1 November 2013 p.29 including photograph)
On 2nd November 2013 JMW Turner’s painting of Brighton from the Sea was exhibited for the first time in 150 years. The exhibition is in the Brighton Pavilion. The painting shows the hotels rising along the front framing the onion domes of the Royal Pavilion. Turner rotated the fantasy oriental palace to fit in the Prince Regent’s seaside resort. In the 1830s art lovers could view the painting by visiting the library of Benjamin Godfrey Windus, an early patron of Turner. The painting went into private collections and resurfaced recently in a New York auction. The Brighton Council has managed to purchase at auction a number of Turner’s oil sketches and drawings of the scene.
(Source: The Guardian 1 November 2013 p.22 including photograph of the Turner painting)
Archaeologists have unearthed what is stated to be the finest Romano-British sculpture ever unearthed in London. The 65cms limestone sculpture of a Roman eagle with a snake in its beak was located at the base of a Roman ditch just south of Aldgate Underground station. It is believed that the eagle would have adorned the interior or the roof of a grandiose tomb of a prosperous Londoner in the first or second century AD. The burial plot is 50 metres outside the probable city boundary and beside a main road. The eagle and snake imagery would have reflected the person’s position in society. Archaeologists also found the base of a mausoleum which was probably demolished when the wall was built. Roman art specialist Professor Martin Henig of Oxford University’s Institute of Archaeology stated that the sculpture ‘is the finest by a Romano-British artist ever found in London and among the very best surviving from Roman Britain.’ The eagle has been displayed at the Museum of London from 30th October 2013.
(Source: The Independent 30 October 2013 p.29 including a photograph of the sculpture and of the Minories site at Aldgate and a map)
The creator of the British Engineerium at Hove, Jonathan Minns, died on 13 October 2013. He championed the spirit of Isambard Brunel. He trained as an engineer and worked for Gulf Oil. Restoring and operating steam engines engrossed him. In 1971 he with a few friends and £350 saved the Goldstone pumping station at Hove, restored it and opened it as the British Engineerium in 1976. He collected road, rail, marine and stationary steam engines and exhibited them in British Engineerium, one of the most important collections of its kind in Britain. He held the view that ‘the past informs the present’, a view which he said few engineers accept. He believed that people in a ‘post-industrial age should keep in touch with moving parts, pure interpretation is not enough.’ British Engineerium closed in 2006 and was saved from auction by a local businessman investing £3 million. It is presently being restored and is expected to reopen in 2016.
(Source: The Daily Telegraph (London) 2 November 2013 p.31 including two photographs)
George Stubbs’ painting (1772) of a kangaroo has been sold to a British museum. Stubbs painted ‘The Kongouro of New Holland’ using a kangaroo skin brought to Britain by Captain Cook. After some years of negotiations with descendants of Sir Joseph Banks’ sister, the National Gallery of Australia had agreed, in late 2012, to buy the painting, together with his painting of a dingo entitled “A Portrait of a Large Dog from New Holland”, but when this became known, the two paintings were placed under an official export bar to allow United Kingdom museums to seek to buy them. An appeal backed by Sir David Attenborough helped the National Maritime Museum raise the money and the paintings will now reside permanently in the Museum at Greenwich. A £1.5million donation from shipping magnate Eyal Ofer enabled the National Maritime Museum to make the purchase. The sale price is unclear, but appears to have been about £5.5million (slightly less than A$10million).
The National Gallery of Australia first identified the paintings for acquisition more than 40 years ago, when the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board (the National Gallery of Australia’s founding governing body) noted at its February 1972 meeting that the works were desirable for the new National Gallery. In 1978, the works were placed at the top of the Gallery’s Acquisition Strategy and the paintings were actively sought for loan in time to be prominently displayed at the 1982 opening of the Gallery by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. They were unavailable for the event. However, the Gallery has been actively seeking to acquire these works since this time because they are so vital to our history.
The National Gallery of Australia stated on 6 November 2013 that it is extremely disappointed with the outcome of this British process. The Gallery described the two Stubbs works as representing the beginning of Australia’s rich visual culture and the Gallery believes they have much greater relevance to the development of Australian imagery and art than to Britain’s maritime history. The Gallery press release on 6 November stated that the result of this export ban forever deprives Australian audiences of permanent access to two of the most historically significant works of art in the story of our nation’s visual heritage.
Fairfax Arts Reporter Andrew Taylor, in an article on 7 November, quoted the former Director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Edmund Capon, as follows: ''I can't feel it's a huge loss to be honest. I'm really six of one, half dozen of the other.''
Readers wishing to explore in more detail the various viewpoints on this matter may wish to click on some of the links below. Many of these sources contain images of one or both of the paintings.
National Gallery of Australia Media Releases 15 August 2013 and 6 November 2013
Scottish Daily Mail 7 November 2013 p.34
A 250 year old ‘moon flask’ brought to the United Kingdom a century ago has been sold at Bonhams Auction in London for more than £1 million. It had been bought in China by Scottish shipping Captain Charles Oswald Liddell who lived in Shanghai between 1877 and 1913. He was an avid collector of Chinese porcelain and ceramics. The ‘moon flask’ with an intricate dragon design was created for the Qianlong Emperor who reigned from 1736 to 1795. Liddell and his wife, Bessie, brought the ‘moon flask’ back to their country home, Shirenewton Hall near Chepstow, Monmouthshire.
Flasks of this type are sought after by the world’s museums because they combine underglaze painting in cobalt-blue and copper-red minerals and further enhanced by a fine translucent turquoise glaze. These items are now sought after by wealthy Chinese collectors seeking pieces of Chinese Imperial history. The ‘moon flask’ was bought by a Hong Kong bidder for £1,482,500 to ‘take it home’.
(Source: Scottish Daily Mail 8 November 2013 p.43 including colour photograph)
The Eden Biomes at Bodelva near St Austell in Cornwall have won acclaim as a top tourism visitor site and as a modern engineering heritage site. They were opened on an old china clay pit in March 2001. They were designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw who also designed Waterloo Eurostar terminal, France’s national library and Berlin’s Stock Exchange. The Eden Biomes have been listed as one of the United Kingdom’s eight ‘modern engineering wonders’.
(Source: Western Morning News 14 November 2013 p.19 including photograph)
The National Maritime Museum has bought an archive of 1,700 original shipwreck photographs around the Scilly and other islands and the coast of Cornwall. From 1869 the Gibson family photographers systematically recorded most of the more than 200 shipwrecks. Four generations of the family have also recorded family reactions and the digging of graves for the deceased. In the nineteenth century the Illustrated London News transformed some of the photographs into engravings. Royal Museums Greenwich, of which the National Maritime Museum is a part, purchased the archive from Gibsons of Scilly Photography at Sotherby’s auction in London on 12th November 2013 for £122,500.
(Source: The Independent 14 November 2013 pp.24-25 including four photographs)