4 AUSTRALIAN MUSEUMS I GET LOST IN
Caroline Simpson Library
10 Macquarie St
The collection, which contains things such as journals, guides, wallpaper and fabric, seems so personal: a real importance is placed on the hand touched, the individual – handwritten notes in a margin or personal references are embraced.
For Bowerbird research, I spent an afternoon here poring over women’s works: pressed fern albums, scrapbooks and handmade albums containing cursive handwritten poems, sketches, portraits, watercolour flowers, pressed flowers and other musings. I love the treasures that unfold with the help of librarians Matthew and Michael.
Gosper Lane off Science Road
The University of Sydney
I have frequented this gem for many years, greeted every time at the top of the glass-fronted stairs by a large pelican. The main room is lined with drawers and glass-fronted cabinets holding everything from mounted finches on turned posts to birdskins and pinned butterflies (the cards attached to the exhibits are often as interesting as the objects themselves). The museum houses the Macleay collection that once belonged to the well-known family of collectors of the same name, some of whom lived at Elizabeth bay House. For explorers, missionaries & naturalists travelling in the Antipodes this was a must – an absolute treat!
Melbourne Museum (pictured above)
11 Nicholson St
A little while ago, when I was horse riding, I stayed at the White family’s Belltrees estate outside Scone, NSW, and was fortunate enough to have a tour of the still-inhabited main house. In the corridor I noticed a handsome cabinets, which turned out to be for H.L. White’s huge collection of Australian birdskins & eggs. The collection was bullocked down to Melbourne in the 1920s after a run-in with the Australian Museum in Sydney.
I flew to Melbourne to have a look and couldn’t get over the beauty of the egg clusters; the huge variety of parrots, lyrebirds and bowerbirds, kingfishers and pigeons; the birdskins, lying flat, stuffed with cotton wool and quietly stitched.
Each specimen is labelled – for consistency, White had labels made approximately 10cm in length and 3cm in width, with room for details. I love the romance of the handwritten notes in ink, the different papers used for labels, as well as their size & shape.
Museum of Old and New Art
655 Main Road
MONA is a very amusing curation, dictated and moulded by its creator’s desires and sense of humour. We need more eccentrics in the world! As artworks are unlabelled, you are supplied with an ‘O’ device on entry, which gives you descriptions, interviews, artwank & ideas. The space is fitted out with honest materials and is full of old & new art. It is beautifully dark & ambient with a labyrinth of mezzanines and enclosed steel staircases, heightening your sense of curiosity. The journey, discovery and sense of lost & found defines this space cut out of sandstone. There is no given or dictated path – it’s choose your own adventure, so every time is different & unique!
Did you catch my 4 favourite international museums to get lost in?