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 Lady Conductor and the Score of ‘The Toreador’

A single item, sitting on a library shelf, can be the thread of a story that weaves through locations and generations. This one is a ‘musical score’ – the sheets of music notes used for a performance – owned by a notable (but little known) Tasmanian woman.

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An International Woman: Emily Dobson (nee Lempriere)

Community Archives recently purchased a studio portrait of Emily Dobson (nee Lempriere) (1842-1934) as a young woman. It provides a rare window on the early life of a woman who entered the public sphere in her 50’s and was a prominent activist until her death at 91.

Emily Dobson was a wealthy, nineteenth-century woman who used her position in society to organise and influence her community into action. Mrs Dobson is known for creating, and being the driving force in at least nineteen philanthropic societies. She was endlessly curious and had a wide range of interests that evolved throughout her life. Her interests ranged from alleviating poverty through health, sanitation, food and housing, and caring for the needs of the sick and people with disabilities, through to social and educational organisations for women and girls, such as the Girl Guides, Victoria League, Alliance Francaise and Lyceum Club. Although Emily did not agitate politically or challenge the establishment, she worked hard to improve society in the ways she felt were proper.

Emily Dobson, ca. 1866, Tasmanian Archives: PH40/1/363
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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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Esther’s Story, Part Three: The Cascades Female Factory and Brickfields Invalid Depot, 1870-1877

In 1870, a horrific assault took place at the Cascades Female Factory. At eight o’clock in the morning on the 13th of July, a woman named Eliza Osborne beat an elderly woman named Ellen Conway with the iron dinner bell. She hit her in the head so hard that the bell cracked. Ellen Conway was a 73 year old ex-convict who had been sent to the depot for begging. One of the people who rushed to her side to help her was the nurse, Mrs Cecilia Eliza Paul. A few kilometers away (about 25 minutes’ walk), the nurse’s daughter ten year old Esther Mary Paul was also a witness – to her uncle George’s marriage at the family home at Cross Street, Sandy Bay.

This week in Esther’s story, we break away from the whaling logbook where we first found her as a five year old girl. Now we’ll trace her and her parents through two institutions which housed the most vulnerable people in Hobart in the 1870s – the Brickfields Invalid Depot and the Cascades Establishment. To piece that story together, we have to jump forward and backward in time a little bit, but I promise it is worth the journey!

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Esther’s Story, Part Two: Getting By in Hobart, 1860-1870

“Cross Street, Sandy Bay Road,” “Be a good girl, Esther,” “Esther shall not go out again,” “Bombay is in Asia, ABC,” “Evil communication corrupts,” “Love your grandmother Esther” – each of these were written over and over again in a whaler’s logbook, and signed “Esther Mary Paul” in November or December, 1865. What was little Esther doing writing these lines, in -between and alongside the records of her uncle and aunt’s adventures at sea long before she was born? Was she being educated or punished, or both? Where was she living and why was she there? In this continuing story of little Esther Mary Paul and the whaling logbook in the Crowther Collection, we’ll try to piece together Esther’s young life. It’s a tale of sorrow, struggle, and abandonment, but also of strength, resilience, and love.

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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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Collecting history as it happens – COVID-19 Stories campaigns across Australia

A Libraries Tasmania and TMAG partnership, COVID-19 Stories, is reaching out to Tasmanians to capture their stories and records of the pandemic. COVID-19 Stories is just one of many projects across Australia aiming to preserve memories of this historic time. Stories – big and small – are needed to fully record this story. With enough public input these wide-ranging projects will allow us to capture the diverse experiences of our community as we faced, and carried on through, a life-changing, worldwide pandemic.

COVID-19 STORIES Submission – J Davidson
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Teaching in Tasmania: three teachers’ lives, 1868-1945

We can only imagine what it must have been like to be the first teacher in Tasmania. Jane Noel was a Sydney schoolmistress who began a private school in a hut in a lane off the lower end of Collins Street in Hobart Town in 1806. What follows is a brief look at the lives of three of Jane’s successors between 1868 and 1945.  It is also a research journey, investigating the sometimes dark nooks and crannies of the collections of the Tasmanian State Library and Archives.  What you think you will find on these journeys is sometimes very different than what you begin looking for, but it is always illuminating.

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From “Dangerously Foul Air” to Free School Milk: A Brief History of Public Health in Tasmanian Public Schools, 1900-1975

Schools with no toilets and no sinks to wash your hands. Sick children labelled as “mentally deficient” because of their swollen adenoids and tonsils. Adolescents with a full set of dentures, little children cleaning their teeth with the corner of a sooty towel. A generation of teenagers with curved spines and poor eyesight from bending over their school desks in poorly lit and freezing cold classrooms. This was the picture of public health in Tasmanian schools in 1906. Over the next 75 years, schools found themselves on the front lines of the battle against contagious disease, poor nutrition and poor health. Over time, Tasmanian public schools became a crucial part of the Tasmanian public health system, and transformed the lives of thousands of Tasmanian children. Read on to find out more about this fascinating story.

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