Category Archives: Collection

A piece of our early solar system

By Dr Andrew Christy, Senior Curator, Mineralogy, Queensland Museum Network.

When I started work at Queensland Museum Network two years ago, little did I know that a newly acquired object in a safe at Hendra, would trigger research into a new area, one that has fascinated me for many years.

Georgetown Meteorite 2, QMD20041

The object, a mass with a flaky, rusty crust, about 20 centimetres across and weighing more than 15 kilograms, had been brought in for study by a couple who had been fossicking for gold in North Queensland, near Georgetown. Using a metal detector, they had found a substantial piece of metal buried more than a metre beneath the surface. It was not gold. They wondered if it was a meteorite.

The first clue occurred during retrieval when hammering had broken off some rust and showed a grainy, crystalline texture in the metal underneath. Slow cooling over millions of years creates large metal crystals in many iron meteorites, something not found in a man-made artefact. True identification of a meteorite requires a petrological microscope or an electron microprobe that examines its characteristics. The only hitch was that the meteorite needs fresh material to be exposed. I asked the discoverers if they could saw off an end piece and also a thin “bread slice” for further research, which they did.

Georgetown Meteorite, QMD20041

The freshly cut surface showed not only that this was certainly a meteorite, but an unusual one. Most iron meteorites are composed almost entirely of steely metal alloys and related minerals. Almost a third of this meteorite was made up of a brittle, bronzy iron sulfide mineral called troilite. Encased in the troilite was a silvery metal which formed dendritic crystals, similar in shape to a staghorn coral. The large amount of troilite is unusual in a meteorite, suggesting it may have come from the very edge of the metal core of a former asteroid. Its significance was important in the research field because it could provide important information about the distribution of chemical elements during the formation of planetary bodies. Only half a dozen sulfide-rich meteorites like this are well described in scientific literature.

Meteorite - CEO, Senator Mitch Fifield, Australian Government,Mr Trevor Evans MP, Member for Brisbane, Assistant Minister Jennifer Howard, Qld Gov, Rob Adlard

In the meantime, I have collected data which will soon be collated into a scientific paper, once I have bulk average trace element concentrations, essential for classifying the meteorite properly and possibly matching it up with one of the known groups that have originated from various distinct parent bodies.

The announcement of our purchase has stimulated interest amongst other fossickers, and a few other meteorites have since been found in the area and may be of the same type. In fact, they may all be parts of a single large incoming object that exploded in mid-air, and a small portion of one of these meteorites has been donated for that comparison. I am looking forward to obtaining the results soon – stay tuned for the findings!

Meteorite - CEO

Did you know?

Meteorites are pieces of other planets or minor planets (parent bodies) that have landed here on Earth after being detached through impacts in outer space. Most come from asteroids that circle the Sun between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter, although a small number have arrived from the Moon and from Mars.

Some of the parent bodies became hot enough during formation that their metallic components melted and concentrated inward to form a dense core of nickel-iron alloy surrounded by a ‘mantle’ of rocky silicate minerals, similar to the internal structure of the Earth. Others did not do this and retain the particles that formed them at the dawn of the Solar System. Those are the oldest known solid materials, condensed forms of the hot dust and gas of the early Solar Nebula before the Earth formed 4.54 billion years ago.

Studying meteorites through comparison with other planetary bodies that hold different histories gives us stories from further back in time than we could otherwise reach and allows us to better understand the development of the Earth.

Find a micrometeorite in your backyard

Chances are your house has been hit by a few thousand micrometeorites, and you’ll be able to find a few if you know the secret place to look, here’s what you need:

Materials

  • a strong magnet
  • two Ziploc bags
  • a small vial or third bag
  • a spoon or small spade

Method
1. Go outside and find the spillway of one of your house gutters. (There is normally a patch of dirt and somewhat rocky-looking debris.)

2. Use the spoon to scoop a small sample of this into the first Ziploc bag.

3. Take the sample to a good work area and empty it onto a paper plate. If the sample is wet, allow it to dry for a few minutes. Take the magnet and place it in the second Ziploc bag. This will stop small magnetic particles from sticking permanently to the magnet. Pass the bagged magnet over the dry sample.

4. Keep a look out for small rock-like particles “leaping” onto the bagged magnet. These little rocks contain metallic iron, not normally found in the soil, but a primary ingredient in most micrometeorites. Congratulations! You have discovered out-of-this-world rocks.

5. You can remove your micrometeorites from the outside of the magnet bag and store them in another bag or vial.

Vive la république!

By Judith Hickon, Curator, Social History, Queensland Museum

To commemorate Bastille Day we delved into the Museum’s collections to see what objects we could find which relate to this momentous event in French history.

The storming of the military fortress prison, the Bastille, on July 14, 1789, was a violent uprising against the monarchy that helped usher in the French Revolution. These coins and banknote from the numismatics collection combine to tell the story of the historic reign of Louis XVI from 1774 to his fateful end by beheading in Place de la Révolution in 1793.

French coin, 1 dram, 1774.  Collection: Queensland Museum. N2660.

The last King of France before the fall of the monarchy in the French Revolution, Louis XVI (1754 – 1793) ascended the throne of France in 1774 following the death of his grandfather, assuming the title ‘King of France and Navarre’. The coin above depicting a crowned shield on its obverse and an effigy of Louis XV on its reverse was minted in 1774. The words ‘France’ and ‘Navarre’ and 1774 are clearly visible along the outer edge of the coin.

Only nineteen years of age when he succeeded to the throne, Louis’ initial goodwill and attempts at reform during his rule were tempered by his indecisiveness and conservatism.  These traits later became seen as a symbol of the oppression and domination of the Ancien Régime (the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the late 1400s until 1789) and led to a rapid decline in his popularity.

By 1789, despite looming economic disaster fuelled by enormous national debt (according to finance minister, Jacques Necker, over fifty-six million pounds) and disastrous crop yields in 1788 and 1789 leading to widespread famine and unemployment, Louis and his Queen, Marie Antoinette, refused to curb their extravagant spending. Following a series of violent food riots which erupted throughout France, unrest and protests continued to grow until July 14 when angry crowds gathered on the streets of Paris and stormed the Bastille, itself a symbol of the tyranny and cold-heartedness of the French aristocracy.

Assignats, inflation and the road to Revolution

Assignats were first issued in 1790 as a form of printed currency representing the value of church properties confiscated by the French government in an effort to overcome bankruptcy. As befitting his status as reigning monarch, a ‘portrait royale’ of Louis XVI was portrayed on the first assignats. Unfortunately for Louis, this royal portrait was instrumental in his final undoing.

From 1789 Louis’s authority steadily declined until, after an attack in October 1791, the family was forced to leave the Palace of Versailles and move to the Tuilleries Palace in Paris where they became virtual prisoners and experienced increasing hostility.  A fateful decision to flee with his family, ended in their capture. A chance encounter with Jean-Baptiste Drouet, postmaster of Sainte-Menehoulde, who recognised Louis from his portrait on an assignat, led to the family’s arrest in Varrennes and their return to imprisonment in Paris.

Devaluing the King

Louis XVI’s portrait soon disappeared from bank notes to be replaced by revolutionary symbols including  on France’s bank notes was soon replaced by a new series of notes containing Republican symbols and slogans propagandizing the new regime.

On the assignat (above, also from the Museum’s collections) Demeter, Greek goddess of agriculture, is seated upon a central plinth with a spade and rooster, holding a laurel wreath in her outstretched hand. Two bundles of bound wooden rods, or fasces, and a Phrygian, or Liberty, cap is featured on the plinth above the words ‘Liberté Égalité’.  Though difficult to see from this image, an embossed seal on lower left of note depicts Hercules killing the Hydra. Epitomising strength and power, the symbol of the Greek hero, Hercules, was first adopted by the Ancien Régime to represent the sovereign authority of the French Monarchy and later appropriated by the Republican movement to symbolise the overthrow of the monarchy.

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French Revolutionary assignat de cinquante livres (50 pounds) 1792. Collection: Queensland Museum. N600.

As history has shown, printing more money has never solved an economic crisis …

Inevitably, a lack of government oversight led to the value of printed assignats exceeding that of the confiscated properties.  Following a devastating economic period caused by massive hyperinflation and further exacerbated by continuing food shortages, the abolition of the monarchy and Louis’ reign came to an end on 22 September 1792. The two sols coin, below, is dated 1792, the final year of Louis XVI’s reign. The coin obverse depicts a Liberty cap above a fasces surrounded by an oak wreath. On the reverse the ‘portrait royale’ of Louis XVI is still visible.

On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was tried for high treason and executed by guillotine, under the name of ‘Citizen Louis Capet’. Nine months later, Marie Antoinette was also convicted of treason, and was beheaded on 16 October.

French coin, 2 sols, 1992. Collection: Queensland Museum. N2628.

NAIDOC WEEK

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.

The 7-14 July marks the 2019 NAIDOC Week. Each year, NAIDOC Week celebrates the culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week is commemorated by both Indigenous communities and all other Australians. Annual NAIDOC events and activities are held across Australia to encourage people to participate in the celebrations, and support local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.[1]

Understanding NAIDOC Week

Some might not know, but the boycott of Australia Day – often now referred to as Invasion Day – is not a new event, and connects directly to the origins of NAIDOC Week.[2]

Aboriginal rights groups have been boycotting Australia Day since the beginning of the 20th century. By the 1920s, many of these groups were becoming more active and organised, protesting the day in an effort to highlight the mistreatment of Aboriginal people in Australia. The Australian Aborigines Progressive Association (AAPA) and the Australian Aborigines League (AAL) rallied hard throughout the 1920s-1930s to make the broader population aware of these boycotts and the reasons behind them, however their efforts went almost entirely unnoticed.

By the late 1930s, the situation had not changed. Protests continued, so much so that after a large demonstration in Sydney’s CBD on Australia Day, 1938, the anniversary became known as the Day of Mourning. This event in particular is recognised as one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world.  At the time, William Cooper, founder of the AAL, proposed the concept of a national policy for Aboriginal people to then Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected, as the Australian Government did not at this time hold constitutional powers when it came to Aboriginal people, a fact that would not change until the 1967 Referendum in Australia.[3]

The impact of the 1938 demonstration was felt around the country, and the Day of Mourning became an annual event. Between 1940 and 1955, the Day of Mourning was held every Sunday before Australia Day, known as Aborigines’ Day. The date of Aborigines’ Day was moved to the first Sunday in July in 1955, in an effort to use the day as both a day of protest, and also a day which promoted the celebration of Aboriginal culture and heritage.[4]

National Aborigines Day Poster, 1972.
National Aborigines Day Poster, 1972.

Soon after, the National Aborigines’ Day Observance Committee (NADOC) was formed, and in 1975, the Committee decided to extend the event to cover an entire week, from the first Sunday of July – Aborigines’ Day – to the second Sunday of July, a day that also became a commemorative day of remembrance for Aboriginal people.[5]

In the early 1990s, NADOC recognised the inclusion of Torres Strait Islander people in the Committee, changing their name to the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observation Committee (NAIDOC).[6]

NAIDOC Poster
1990 National NAIDOC Poster.

Every year, the NAIDOC week theme is chosen to reflect a significant issue or event that is relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year’s theme – Voice Treaty Truth – recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s place in Australian history and society, and promotes the reforms outlined in the Uluru Statement of the Heart.[7]

The Uluru Statement represents the unified position of Australia’s First Nations people. The Statement was developed as a result of the First Nations National Constitutional Convention, which ran over four days in May, 2017. The Convention brought together over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to Uluru (on the lands of the Anangu people), to discuss constitutional reforms, and agree on how to approach the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution.[8]

Reforms highlighted in the Statement involve enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Constitution to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and a Makarrata Commission to supervise treaty processes and truth-telling about the history of Australia and colonisation, and its continuing effects (Makarrata is from the language of the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land; the word means ‘coming together after a struggle’. Makarrata encapsulates concepts of conflict resolution and peacemaking, and seeks to acknowledge and right past wrongs).[9]

2019 National NAIDOC Poster.
2019 National NAIDOC Poster.

The 2019 National NAIDOC Poster was designed by Charmaine Mumbulla, a Kaurna/Narungga woman. The artwork is titled ‘Awaken’. Charmaine depicts in her artwork the early dawn light rising over Uluru, which symbolises the unbroken connection between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the land. The circles at the base of Uluru are representative of the historic gathering in 2017 which resulted in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Of the work, Charmaine wrote: “Our message, developed through generations, is echoed throughout the land: hear our voice and recognise our truth. We call for a new beginning, marked by a formal process of agreement and truth-telling, that will allow us to move forward together”.[10]

NAIDOC in the collections

There are certain objects within our collection at the Museum of Tropical Queensland that link directly to NAIDOC Week.

Tshirt

This t-shirt is from NAIDOC Week 1998, and promotes the 1998 theme ‘Bringing them home’. The theme reflected on the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families (April, 1997).[11]

The report addressed the wrongs done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the removal of Aboriginal children from their homes and families, and contained recommendations for redressing these wrongs. One of the key recommendations in the ‘Bringing them home’ report focused on an official acknowledgment of, and apology for, the removal of the Stolen Generations – those Aboriginal children who were forced from their families and communities by governments and churches to be raised in institutions, or fostered by white families.[12]

The impact of the ‘Bringing them home’ report resulted in all State and Territory Parliaments officially apologising to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities between the years 1997-1999. National Sorry Day was established in 1998, and is celebrated every year on May 26.[13]

This t-shirt was acquired by a Queensland Museum curator in October 1998, to add to the State Collection held at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. The item is a significant object within the collections, and is representative of the ongoing NAIDOC Week celebrations, and the nature in which the Week is celebrated with a range of activities and events for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians to participate in.

These two objects are children’s toys, woven from blades of coconut leaves. They were made by Kate James at the Museum of Tropical Queensland during NAIDOC week in 2000. Kate is a Murray (Mer) Islander woman from the Margaram people. She was born and raised on Mer and came to Townsville in the 1960s.

Scarf

This scarf was made and donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2012, by 14-year-old artist Chern’ee Sutton. Titled, ‘History of Australia: Ajarku Muruu’, Sutton created this hand-painted scarf as an interpretation of Ajarku Muruu, which means ‘All One Country’ in Kalkadoon language.

Sutton detailed that each of the 5 large circles represent approximately 14,000 years of life in Australia, totalling nearly 70,000 years. The red and orange circle represent the beginning of art, the green circle represents the beginning of a country, and the blue circle represents the beginning of a nation. The Southern Cross at the top represents a common unity of two worlds combined, and the small dots represent the spirit trails that link all Australians together through acceptance and understanding of each other. This scarf was painted by Sutton after Rob Messenger, Member for Burnett, commissioned her to paint a tie for him to wear in Parliament House for NAIDOC Week 2012.

Each of these items are representative of the culture and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

National Reconciliation Week

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.

National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) celebrates the shared histories, cultures and accomplishments of Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders and the broader Australian community. It urges all Australians to learn how we each can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. National Reconciliation Week commemorates two significant milestones: the date of the successful 1967 Referendum, and the date of the Mabo decision.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week in 2019 – GROUNDED IN TRUTH – recognises that to strengthen Australia’s race relations, the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and all other Australians must be built on truth. The theme encourages all Australians to come to terms with our shared history, to unify the country and continue to create a culture of respect and understanding.

THE 1967 REFERENDUM

The 27th of May, 1967, marks the date of the Australian Referendum, in which over 90% of Australian voters said ‘YES’ to amending the 1901 Constitution in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The overwhelmingly successful vote meant that Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders would now be included in the census, and allowed the Commonwealth, rather than each individual state government, to create laws for them. This addressed the inequalities within the legal system from state to state. The Referendum became a key symbol for the equal rights movement of the 1970s.

THE MABO DECISION

Eddie Koiki Mabo was from Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. Mabo famously challenged the Australian legal system and won his people’s case for land ownership. The case, Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992) made its landmark decision on 3 June 1992, granting recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as traditional owners of the land of their ancestors. The Mabo decision was a turning point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the fight for native title.

The Mabo decision abolished the doctrine of terra nullius, which was put in place by British invaders in 1788, meaning the land belonged to nobody. The Mabo decision identified that terra nullius should never have been applied to Australian land, instead recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had occupied the land for 40 000 – 60 000 years before the British arrived.

In honour of National Reconciliation Week, have a look below at a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts from the Townsville region, that represent the Aboriginal communities from this part of the state.

Shield

This shield was made by the Rainforest people situated between the Townsville and Mossman Regions. This community is best known for their swords and shields, which distinguish them from other Indigenous language groups. Shields such as this one were shaped and then painted with rich ochre colours, creating abstract designs that represented both animal and plant totems.

Axe

A hafted stone axe, made by Russell Butler in 1998.

Digging Stick

This digging stick was found by the Environmental Protection Agency during field work at Ross Creek, Townsville in 1998.

Necklace

This necklace was made using echidna quills and red sandalwood seeds, threaded onto a nylon line with a gold plated catch. It was made in Townsville by Dot Prior in 1998.

Basket

This woven Pandanus basket was made by Sarah Wapau in 1990. Ms Wapau was born on Thursday Island, and was a prominent member of the Torres Strait Island community in Townsville when this item was purchased by the Museum in 1991.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

Celebrating women’s history

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.

At the Museum of Tropical Queensland, we have a team of incredible women who look after our collections, our research, our visitors, and our galleries. Behind closed doors, much of our collection was also built on the travels and research of women in both the past and present.

This hidden gem has been pulled from the collections to highlight the input of two women who have helped make our collections what they are today, and who are representative of the many women who have made valuable contributions to our collections over the years. In a sense, this object is but one that represents a tribute to women as makers, as creators, as artists, and as collectors.

This beautiful cushion cover was collected in the Torres Strait Islands by Pamela Brodie. During mid-1979, Pamela travelled around the Islands, collecting over 180 items such as this for the James Cook University Material Culture unit, which was later donated to the Queensland Museum Network. Some of the objects collected by Brodie are now stored in Brisbane at the Queensland Museum, and the rest are kept here in Townsville, at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

QE25290 Cushion cover PS

This particular item was collected from Medigee Village on Erub (Darnley) Island, and was made by an artist by the name of Pamela Gela. The cushion cover was displayed at the Museum of Tropical Queensland from 2000-2005. Pamela Gela’s artistic design and innovative use of materials and colour has given us an insight into the diversity of Torres Strait material culture.

The input of both Pamela Gela and Pamela Brodie to the Museum’s collection has assisted us in building a diverse, valuable collection of material culture from the Torres Strait, and helps us to further understand, appreciate and showcase the significant heritage of Torres Strait Islander people through our work at the Museum. These two women represent some of the many incredible contributors that have helped shape the Queensland Museum’s collection today.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

GEORGE RANDALL’S SOUVENIR UMBRELLA

Have you ever stopped to appreciate the craftsmanship of a good quality umbrella?  In Queensland where the weather is usually fine and sunny, most of us these days tend to wear hats to keep the sun off our heads which leaves our beloved umbrellas safely tucked away for those occasional – yet not uncommon – heavy rainfall seasons.

The Queensland Museum recently acquired this old umbrella which was manufactured in c. 1901 by Reid & Todd; a travel and leather goods store located in Glasgow, Scotland. It is an earlier example of what we today regard as a ‘modern day’ umbrella. Prior to the mid nineteenth century, ‘brollies’ were traditionally crafted from whalebone and/or wood, and silk was commonly used for the canopy. This resulted in them being a tad on the heavy side and somewhat delicate – probably a bit of a nuisance if you’re getting about in heavy rain all the time.

364531_dg0113
Image of H49762, George Randall’s souvenir umbrella, c.1901.

The clever design of the modern day umbrella frame is owed to Mr Samuel Fox who was an industrialist and steelworker from Sheffield, England.  In 1851, he developed “U-shaped” stainless steel ribs which gave form to the famous ‘Paragon’ frame – that lovely rounded “U” shape we are all familiar with when we think of umbrellas.  The design became superior to anything available on the market resulting in a unique, stronger and lighter umbrella.  During the turn of the nineteenth century, Samuel Fox became the largest umbrella frame maker in the world.

364531_dg0111
Image of H49762, George Randall’s souvenir umbrella – open, c.1901.

This particular umbrella in the museum’s collection belonged to Mr George Randall who was Immigration Officer for the Queensland government from 1881 until 1902. Mr Randall frequently travelled abroad on long stints to Britain on recruiting campaigns with a view to attracting new settlers to the colony. He became very well known for his lectures which promoted Queensland.  In 1901, towards the end of his career, he took up the position of Court Manager for the Queensland section of the Glasgow International Exhibition. The umbrella was either purchased or given to Mr Randall as a souvenir while he was in Glasgow for this momentous event. The umbrella is made of a wood stick, a rounded ivory handle and dons the famous ‘Paragon’ steel frame. It has a brass collar fixed to the stick with ‘Reid & Todd Glasgow’ engraved onto it. The ivory handle contains George Randall’s initials inscribed in black indicating the personal aspect of the object.

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Detail view of H49762, souvenir umbrella, c.1901. Image shows George Randall’s initials inscribed into the ivory handle.

This umbrella is a great addition to the social history collection here at Queensland Museum. It allows us to explore the individual story of George Randall and to understand his contributions both personal and professional to building a colony of people who would come to work, live and love Queensland as he so did. George Randall was an avid lover of literature and took to poetry as a way of appealing to his fellow countrymen. In a pamphlet that he published titled The Emigrant: his Thoughts, Feelings and Aspirations, he writes in the very first verse:

I am going, I am going to a land beyond the sea,
And I ask my fellow-countrymen, “Will any follow me?”
I am going – not in search of gold, or buoyed by hopes of wealth,
But where maybe hard toil there’ll be, though toil that belongs to good health.
No fairy-dreams of fortune won to give luxurious ease,
No castles in the air are mine, I harbour none of these;
But what I long for is a home – my own, my own, and free –
And I feel that I shall gain it in in the land beyond the sea.

This poem which goes on for another seven pages demonstrates Randall’s enthusiasm and passion for newcomers to consider Queensland as their new home. The pamphlet is one of a small group of items held in the museum’s collection relating to George Randall. The other items include a business card for George Randall’s son, Richard Randall who was a painter, a black and white printed photographic portrait of George Randall taken by the world famous Lafayette Ltd. photographic studio, a copy of the ‘Scottish Trader’ Vol. V., No.34, September 21, 1901, Glasgow which was a registered Glasgow newspaper with a focus on grocery and allied trades, containing mostly advertisements for various foods as well as a feature article on page 11 about Queensland and it’s food products and a highlight on George Randall and his role as Manager of the Queensland Court at the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1901. Alongside these items are three small printed souvenir pictures showing exterior scenes of the Glasgow International Exhibition buildings and an official invitation to George Randall to attend the Reception of the same event.

364770_dg0106
H49763.2 Printed photographic portrait of Mr George Randall, taken by Lafayette Ltd. The world famous Lafayette photographic studio was founded in Dublin in 1880, by James Stack Lauder. The firm very quickly established itself as the premier portrait studio in Ireland and it wasn’t long until it began taking portraits for members of the Royal family including of Princess Alexandra to mark her visit to Ireland in 1885. During the 1890s, the business expanded with studios established in Glasgow, Manchester and London. It’s possible the portrait of Mr George Randall was taken while he was working in Glasgow for the International Exhibition in 1901.

 

Carmen Burton, Assistant Curator Queensland Stories

The Myth of the Mermaid

This blog post is the first in 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.

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Everyone knows the myth of the mermaid – the half woman, half fish, who is sometimes kind and at other times a source of evil who lures unassuming sailors to their deaths. But where did the legend come from?

The myth can be traced to cultures all over the world. One of the earliest versions of the tale speaks of the Sirens of Greek mythology, who show many similarities with the modern day mermaid. In Assyrian mythology, dating to c. 1000 BC, it is said that the goddess Atargatis took the form of the half woman, half fish creature during her life. Another legend speaks of Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessalonike, becoming a mermaid after her death.

In Irish mythology, there is the Merrow. In Scotland, the Ceasg or Selkie. In Western Europe, the Melusine, and in Slavic folklore, the Rusalka. Parts of Africa hold belief in Mami Wata, Cameroon calls their mermaid the Jengu, and in Maori culture, Pania of the reef. Chinese, Korean, and Thai cultures all have their own variations, and in many Western cultures, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid has immortalised the image of the mermaid that we know today.

In Papua New Guinea, there is a legend about the mythical Ri or Ilkai, sometimes known as a Pishmary (meaning fish woman): a human-like sea creature that resembles the European mermaid. The creature long thought to be this mythological being, with sightings stretching back several decades, has since been proven to be the Indo-Pacific dugong, ‘Dugong dugon’. Regardless of this, there are many locals who still believe that a mysterious being lives in the waters of Papua New Guinea, with the tail of a fish, and the features of a woman.

This sculpture was donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland by Peter Watt. Mr Watt worked as an engineer on the Melanesian Discovery tourist-ship which travelled around the Trobriand Islands and Sepik River regions of Papua New Guinea in 1990, during which time he collected several items that would later become part of the Museum’s collection. The sculpture allows us to see how different people experience and visually interpret certain myths, like that of the mermaid.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland