This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories
Sometimes when working with the collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, you see an object that just makes you stop in your tracks. The object featured today is one that really made me stop and think. So what is it?
A bottle of pickled onions. Exciting, I know!
This bottle was manufactured by Nuttall & Co in Lancashire, England between 1873 and 1887. It was then transferred onto the Scottish Prince, where it would become part of the cargo travelling with passengers on the vessel from the United Kingdom to Australia in the late 19th century.
On the 2nd of February, 1887, the Scottish Prince was making the final stage of its journey under the command of William Little, sailing into Moreton Bay, Queensland. William Little left the ship that night, with a less-experienced Second Mate in charge of the vessel. Just before midnight, the Scottish Prince ran aground at the southern end of Stradbroke Island.
More than 60 years later in 1955, the ‘Under Water Research Group of Queensland’ discovered the wreck. The site was explored and, in many cases, pillaged by divers collecting souvenirs and scrap metal.
This bottle of pickled onions was uncovered from the Scottish Prince wreck in 1974, by Mr Elliott. He collected it before the implementation of the Historic Shipwreck Act in 1976, which enacted new regulations that protect historic shipwrecks in Commonwealth waters, and maintain their use for educational, recreational and scientific purposes. In 1993, an historic shipwreck amnesty was established which encouraged divers and other private collectors to declare their artefacts from shipwrecks older than 75 years, without charges being laid, in order for the Commonwealth to document and create a more complete understanding of the existing artefacts and heritage of Australian Maritime history.
Elliott declared this object at the time of the amnesty, and in 2017, donated the bottle of pickled onions to Museum of Tropical Queensland, where it became a valued addition to the Museum’s Maritime collection.
The bottle – with the lid still intact, and the onions inside still preserved – has lasted throughout its tumultuous history with almost no damage! Another interesting element is that the lid was made with a lead seal, which would have heavily contaminated the contents of the bottle had they ever been consumed. So no, even if we wanted to crack the bottle open, we couldn’t eat these pickled onions anymore! Created in the late 19th century in the United Kingdom, and then remaining – untouched and undamaged – underwater for almost 70 years in Australian waters, this object has lived a very interesting life, and seen things we can only imagine.
Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland
We celebrate the achievements of women, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, who have forged the way for those of us in science today, and to give an opportunity for children: girls and boys, to choose role models in science – Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite, BSc MSc MD PhD
This coming 11 February is International Day of Women and Girls in Science and to celebrate we’re featuring some of the incredible scientists and staff involved in the scientific field across the Queensland Museum Network. Their hard work and excellent contributions often help inspire women and young girls who are interested in following a path in science. We delve into why they chose to get involved in science and what they’ve found most rewarding.
Lab Manager and Collection Manager (marine for crustacea)
I work with preserved crabs, prawns, lobsters and other amazing creatures from around Australia, and I get to see the incredible diversity and beauty of life every day. I also help members of the public identify crustaceans they find (often on the beach or the reef), and it’s fantastic to see what people discover. I feel like I learn something new every day! As an added bonus, for Halloween I get to dress up and show off our ‘creepiest’ looking specimens!
Manager, SparkLab and Discovery Centre
It is really rewarding to create experiences that support visitor learning, hearing people share their memories, stories and connections with the Museum and the Sciencentre, and seeing how much it means to them, especially those who later go on to study or be involved with science.
Senior Fossil Preparator and Geosciences Volunteer Coordinator
At age 9 I asked for a Chemistry set for Christmas. That’s when my love of litmus paper and the test tubes began. Many years later, combining my interest in fossils and my love of test tubes and laboratories, I find myself Senior Fossil Preparator at Queensland Museum. The most rewarding part of working in the fossil scientific community is the discovery of new sites and new species which add to fossil record of Australia and ultimately to the fossil record of the planet.
Collection Manager, Terrestrial Environments (Entomology)
The best part of my job as a Collection Manager is that I get to help a wide range of people, from scientists to artists, to conduct fascinating (sometimes bizarre) research regarding insects, our collections and the people that contribute to them. I learn something new every day.
Learning Officer, Future Makers
The most rewarding part of my role is using our collections and research to develop resources that inspire and excite students, teachers and the community about science!
Christine Lambkin Curator of Entomology
I became an entomologist and evolutionary biologist because I am fascinated by the interaction between the incredible beauty and unbelievable diversity of insects, and our attempts to mathematically estimate the relationships between species based on morphology and genetics.
Rochelle Lawrence Research Assistant and Honorary, Vertebrate Palaeontology
I chose to get involved in science because of my fascination with the natural world, especially our unique fossil fauna and how they can help us better understand the present and impacts or future environmental change.
Collection Manager, Geosciences
I got into science because although there is too much to discover in one lifetime, I was certainly determined to try!
DAAD Professor and Honorary Research Fellow, Geosciences
I got hooked at around eight years old by reading a book on dinosaurs – the joy of finding the right mentor led me into vertebrate palaeontology in my twenties. Five decades on I still get excited knowing I am the first person to see a new fossil specimen, and sometimes have the joy of identifying and naming it for posterity.
Jessica Worthington Wilmer
Research Fellow and Molecular Identities Lab Manager
I became a biologist (evolutionary geneticist) to better understand the world I live in and to use that knowledge to help save threatened and endangered species.
Carole J Burrow
Honorary Research Fellow
The most rewarding aspect of my work in vertebrate palaeontology is working out new information about very old things (300 to 400 million year old fossils) to help our understanding of how the earliest back-boned animals with jaws are related to each other.
Amy Boulding Head, Lifelong Learning
I originally got into science because I loved that I could ask lots of questions and go find the answers by getting my hands dirty and exploring the natural world. I’m super proud of now leading the Lifelong Learning team, and seeing all of the ways that my team create and facilitate those life-changing, enlightening, inspiring moments with people on all different themes and stories within the Museum.
Making new discoveries is the most rewarding part of science. Being the first to know something is really exciting.
Barbara Baehr Arachnologist and “Australian Spider Lady”
I chose to get involved in science because it’s great to be at the forefront of discoveries and I love to be a role model for my daughters.
Jessica Johnson Learning Officer, SparkLab, and Forensic Scientist
I chose science when I held a real human brain in my hands and realised that this was a person, that 1.5kgs was everything that made someone them, and there’s nothing more rewarding then seeing the look on a child’s face when they understand something new and exciting about science.
Claire Chakrabarti Learning Officer, SparkLab
I was the child that always asked why and I chose to pursue a career in science as it provided the answers.
Susan Wightley Information Officer, Discovery Centre
I have always been fascinated by the huge variety of animals, the adaptations to their environment and how they interact with it and each other. I am in my dream job helping people understand and appreciate the complexity and awesomeness of the natural environment around them.
When it comes to growing the State Collection, objects find their path to the Queensland Museum Network in a variety of ways. Objects are often acquired, such as the purchasing of art works or other items of significance. Other times, we receive an object through a donation or cultural gift. But in some cases, an object is so old and so rare that we aren’t even sure exactly how we received it to begin with – perhaps even through chance.
Dr John Hooper has been an integral part of the Queensland Museum Network and has made a significant contribution during his 27 years here, 14 of which he has been Head of the Biodiversity and Geosciences program. Having retired in June 2018, John leaves a lasting legacy not only to the Queensland Museum Network but to the broader scientific community.
Written by Dr Stephen Beck, Honorary Officer (Volunteer) with the Cultures and History Program at Queensland Museum.
The wreck of the Foam provides amazing archaeological insights into the conduct of the Queensland labour trade, the process by which it operated and the effect of contact, trade and exchange between different cultures. The Foam has the unique status of being the only known wreck on the Great Barrier Reef of a Queensland labour vessel that was actively engaged in the labour trade at the time of its demise. Thus, the Foam, together with its wreck site, has provided archaeological insights into life on board a labour vessel, both for the returning Islanders and the European crew, at a specific time in the Queensland labour trade. Continue reading The Wreck of the Foam and the Queensland Labour Trade→
Many of the artefacts recovered from historical archaeology sites in Australia are essentially the same types of material. Any researcher investigating these sites will expect to handle a range of material including various metal fragments, spent munitions, lost buttons, broken slate pencil tips, fragments of tools, bits of bridles and horse gear, lost coins and tokens, pieces of fabric, discarded leather material and ceramics. Amongst the most common objects are those made of glass: either whole vessels or as fragments. In fact, so much glass material is recovered from sites, it could be easy to assume 19th century Australians lived on a diet of alcohol and salad dressing, simply from the kinds of bottles we find most often. Continue reading 19th century Australia: grog and salad dressing?→
We are custodian of Queensland's natural and cultural heritage, caring for more than a million items and specimens in collections that tell the changing story of Queensland.