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.
Continue reading “Esther’s Story, Part One: The Whaler’s Log”
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!
Continue reading “The Conservation Treatment of CRO5/1/33”
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.
Continue reading “Tales of the Unexpected”
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.
Continue reading “Two forgotten bushranger plays”
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.
Continue reading “A convict portrayal: The Lewis family portraits by Thomas Bock”
A stop at The Steppes was once essential for every traveller in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. On our list of recently digitised materials is a sketchbook of birds and plants by Marjorie (Madge) Wilson, who was the last resident of the house at The Steppes.
Continue reading “Life at The Steppes”
If you’ve been through the Allport gallery recently, you will have noticed the birds. They are familiar birds, with all of the endemic Tasmanian species represented – many visitors will recognise them from their own backyard. And they are lovely. But the thing that convinced us that it was worth getting these prints out for display is the controversy – whose hand created them?
Continue reading “Bird Woman: Elizabeth Gould and the Birds of Australia”
Morton Allport (1830-1878) was an avid naturalist. You may have seen his collection of bird’s eggs on display as part of our exhibition Bird Woman. The eggs are on loan from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, where they form part of their natural history specimen collection.
So how did Morton’s collection of shells end up at the library? Continue reading “The many collections of Morton Allport”