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.Continue reading “91 Stories: Cabinet of Curiosities”
Research is not a straight path. It is a trail that twists through mountains and valleys. There are forks in the road and enticing sights that lay off the beaten track. These distractions can be the most treacherous aspects of the journey. Often they can be so alluring that one can forget where one was going in the first place. I stumbled across one of these tangents recently while researching the life and work of Charles Gould (1834-1893), a journey that took me from Tasmania’s wild west coast to mainland China, from giant freshwater crayfish to dragons, and from natural history to the realms of myth.Continue reading “Charles Gould’s Mythical Monsters”
What would you have learned at a Tasmanian public school in 1869? Mostly, just reading, writing and arithmetic, from a teacher not much older than yourself, in a class of 40-60 students, and in a textbook that your grandfather might have read in Ireland thirty years earlier. The texts might have been boring and out of date, but the reasons why are fascinating. That’s because the public school curriculum in 1869 was deliberately designed to be bland and uninteresting, in order to avoid social conflict. What follows is the story of a journey – from the idea that education needed to reform and contain children, to the radical idea that children in public schools should be inspired to learn, and to become curious and informed citizens. Read on to discover more!
For an audio introduction to this story, check out our interview with ABC Radio!
At the end of National Volunteers Week, we wanted to take a moment both to thank our volunteers, and to highlight a new collection that tells stories of volunteering in Tasmania’s historic and wild places. These are the photograph albums of Trauti and David Reynolds, which document their volunteer and conservation work around Tasmania over many years. Thanks to their generous donation, these albums are now digitized and available to everyone.
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?
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”