91 Stories: Cabinet of Curiosities

Natural history collections are not only useful to scientists. They also reflect the life of the collector, his or her family, their connections, and the worlds they inhabited – even the state of their digestion! Ruth Mollison’s story about Morton Allport’s shell collection is a piece of detective work, a personal history, and an insightful (and sometimes unnerving) exploration of how one Tasmanian family intertwined art, science, reputation and obsession.   

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The Lanney Pillar – Installation at the Allport Gallery

In January 1889 a bronze statue of William Lodewyk Crowther (1817-1885) was erected in Franklin Square where it stands today. Made in England by the sculptor Signor Racci and shipped to Hobart, it was placed on a locally designed plinth in the same civic square as the Franklin statue which commemorates the Governorship of Tasmania by the Arctic navigator Sir John Franklin.

The Hobart Mercury, Thursday morning, January 10, 1889 reported on the ceremony to unveil the Crowther statue. The Chairman of the committee said:

This memorial may remind future generations, that even monuments may perish, but deeds, good or bad, never die.

The Mercury 10/1/1889 p. 3

As it turns out – prescient words.

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Recently Digitised Material: October-December 2021

This blog features some of the recently digitised items from the Tasmanian Archives and the State Library of Tasmania.

Read on to find out more about our new additions to our digital collections! To discover even more, you can also search our catalogue and Tasmanian Names Index or visit us on FlickrYouTube and Instagram.

In this blog:

  • Photographs of Tasmanian Cricket Teams – Ref: PH40/1/3625-27
  • Photographs of Launceston and Perth– Ref: NS7193/1/5-8
  • Artwork of Launceston Mechanics Institute – Ref: LPIC41/1/1
  • Artwork of Hobart Town, on the River Derwent, Van Diemen’s Land by W.J. Huggins (Allport)
  • Photograph of Twin Ferry Kangaroo, Hobart – Ref: PH30/1/3269
  • Advertisement for Weaver and Co, Wellington Bridge Hobart by T Midwood – Ref: NS6760/1/7
  • Glass Plate Negatives by A Rollings of Sorell Area – Ref: NS1553/1/1010-1099
  • Register of Convicts B, M-Z 1835-47 – Ref: CON22/1/4
  • Register of payment of salaries to officers of the police, 1855-57 – Ref: AUD45/1/1-3
  • Journal of a voyage from Liverpool to VDL, 1833 – Ref: NS5739/1/1
  • Copies of Wills Recording Granting of Probate – Ref: AD960/1/6, AD960/1/7
  • Film of opening of Launceston library after refit – Ref: AG279/1/2
  • Film of the Launceston children’s library – Ref: AG279/1/1
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Recently Digitised Material: July-September 2021

This blog features some of the recently digitised items from the Tasmanian Archives and the State Library of Tasmania.

Read on to find out more about our new additions to our digital collections! To discover even more, you can also search our catalogue and Tasmanian Names Index or visit us on Flickr, YouTube and Instagram.

In this blog:

  • Richard Simson Photographic Collection – Ref: NS6351/1/1-95
  • Albums of Gladys Midwood – Ref: NS6759/1/2-3
  • Photographic Albums by Margaret Smithies, Ernest George Record and the McDowell family
  • Tasmanian Government Railways
  • 1920s aerial view of Hobart city block bounded by Murray, Harrington, Liverpool and Melville Street looking North from behind His Majesty’s Theatre and Hobart Rivulet – Ref: NS892/1/61
  • Artworks of Launceston
  • Emu Bay by Thomas Unwin
  • The Pests of the Prince by Henry Manly
  • TGR Williams glass plate negatives – Ref: NS1409/1/46-48
  • Judges notes on capital offences committed at Norfolk Island, 1846 – Ref: CSO20/1/449
  • Burial Plot Maps, Cornelian Bay Cemetery 1915-16 – Ref: AF86/1/1
  • Wills from AD960/1/5
  • 1829 journal written from London to Van Diemans Land by John Owen Lord – Ref: NS301/1/2
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Banks’ Florilegium Society Islands 1769

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts exhibition – closes 31 July 2021.

Leisha Owen – Curator

Banks’ Florilegium – Society Islands, 1769 comprises framed botanical prints individually colour-printed in the 1980s, from the 18th century copperplate engravings of Sydney Parkinson’s drawings. Parkinson was the artist who drew the fresh plants collected in the Society Islands by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, as part of Captain James Cook’s first voyage round the world.

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Esther’s Story, Part One: The Whaler’s Log

In November of 1865, a five year old girl named Esther sat in a house in Sandy Bay, writing lines in a small, leather-bound book. Some days, she had geography lessons. Some days, she was in trouble. Some days, she just needed to memorize her new address. Two months came and went, and the little girl wrote line after line. Her notebook had once belonged to her Uncle William, and recorded his whaling voyages to the Pacific Ocean and the Timor Sea. In the spaces in-between the stories of whales and gales, little Esther did her school work. So did her Aunt Charlotte, who copied out poems and ballads for the little girl to memorize. Aunt Charlotte knew that logbook well, for it was the record of her own honeymoon at sea, nine years earlier. Now it became a part of a different family story – of tragedy, loss, love, abandonment, and survival.

Esther’s Story is actually the story of three nineteenth-century women: Esther Mary Paul (Lithgow), her mother Cecilia Eliza (Rowland) Paul, and her aunt Charlotte Ann (Rowland) Jacobs. Over Family History Month, we’ll follow these women through three blogs and fifty years of their lives, using digital collections together with library and archival resources. It’s a tale of adventure, improvisation, and resilience, but it’s also something else. It’s a reminder – of how our own historical present can change how we think about the past. Read on to discover more.

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The Conservation Treatment of CRO5/1/33

About 170 years ago, a prominent Hobart doctor made a series of anatomical drawings for local medical students. Dr Edward Swarbreck Hall’s stunning illustrations later ended up in the hands of his fellow medical practitioner, Sir William Crowther, who donated them (with the rest of his considerable collection) to the State Library of Tasmania. But the drawings were in poor condition, neglected for well over a century, and they needed urgent conservation treatment before they could be displayed. What follows is the story of how our conservator, Stephanie McDonald, brought one of the drawings back to life for Lauren Black’s new exhibition, A Complex Beauty at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition will soon be available online as a ‘walk-through’ digital experience (in the meantime, you can check it out on Flickr). Read on to discover more!

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Tales of the Unexpected

We’ve just finished celebrating Family History Month, which offered us an opportunity to reflect on some of the unexpected connections to be found in Libraries Tasmania’s archival and heritage collections. In this post, we explore four ‘rare books’ that were not written here, not published here, not about Tasmania in any way, but which unfold extraordinary Tasmanian stories through the history of their ownership and use. From a 17th century Bible once held in royal hands, to a 19th century tanner’s technical manual, here are some tales of the unexpected uncovered in the State Library of Tasmania.

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Two forgotten bushranger plays

For more than 200 years, bushrangers have captured the imagination of storytellers and audiences alike.  Their exploits have inspired songs, books, and, of course, plays. Read on to find out more about two forgotten bushranger plays that span the centuries and the globe, from the floorboards of the Royal Coburg Theatre in London to the airwaves of Tasmanian radio.

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A convict portrayal: The Lewis family portraits by Thomas Bock

Nothing said ‘I’m important’ in 19th century Van Diemen’s Land more than having your portrait done.

The convict artist Thomas Bock was Hobart’s most fashionable portrait painter in the 1840s. The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts has possibly the largest collection of Bock’s works, and it has just expanded to include an extensive range of portraits of the Lewis family, made between 1835 and 1854.

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