A personal diary about life in a country town, Bungendore NSW Australia

  Saturday 19 April 2003  

Visiting the National Museum of Australia in Canberra (again), an echidna, the 1950's kitchen and a famous boxing kangaroo.
Potted history. 

When I was at the RMIT Photography School I did some student work for the then National Museum of Victoria, in the same building as the State Library and the Science Museum just across LaTrobe Street from RMIT, (it's now Museum Victoria). I was working in the basement where the bulk of the collections were stored, and copying images from old prints, glass plates and documents. My main task was the Baldwin Spencer & Frank Gillen expedition of (I think) 1901-1902 but I remember photographing some aboriginal objects as well, painted stones and message sticks. I was free to wander the collections and I remember the shock one day of opening a drawer in a cabinet that was full of shrunken heads. They were in various configurations with mouths stitched shut, eye balls painted over eyelids, short hair, long braided hair. I think I managed to sneak a few images for myself of those, still probably on a roll of 35mm film somewhere in a shoebox.

I came across the work of Spencer later with the ethnographic films he made with one of Australia's first movie cameras. I've also read how he was inspired by the work of Sir James Frazer whose 1890 book on the universal myths and rituals, The Golden Bough helped form much of my youthful (ir)religious belief. It's a book I still enjoy reading for the unintended poetry.

Which doesn't have much to do with revisiting the National Museum of Australia on a cold sunny autumn day with my daughter and her school friend up from Melbourne. Except it was her suggestion and after I recovered from the surprise at the choice, I enjoyed accompanying their exploration. The NMA is a young museum, and  there's no chance of finding a dusty cupboard of shrunken heads. I had felt disappointed in it on my first visits, finding the displays a bit too pop and trivial (such as information labels on rotating stands that you had to spin to read -hey interactive! Why?)  but there's a nice aesthetic developing and I'm starting to like it a lot.


Aurore and Amanda recording their contribution for the archives, about the pleasures of being friends, at the National Museum of Australia.



I found the National Museum of Victoria negatives in October '04 and hope it's not too disturbing an image to add here.

  Fred Harden 2003 <thinktag> After a few days, these entries are added to the Archive Menu

Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden