Napoleon’s artists and their new views of Australia

Lesueur made detailed sketches of Sydney. This view was made looking across Sydney Cove from where the Sydney Opera House now stands. Museum d’histoire naturelle, Le Havre.

Lesueur made detailed sketches of Sydney. This view was made looking across Sydney Cove from where the Sydney Opera House now stands. Museum d’histoire naturelle, Le Havre.

In April 1802 when the lookout station situated on the southern headland at the entrance to Port Jackson reported the sighting of a French naval vessel approaching, the news spread quickly through the streets of Sydney. Isolated on the far side of the world from England, it was normal for news of the arrival of a ship to cause excitement at the prospect of news from Europe and the hope of fresh supplies. The armed corvette Le Naturaliste however, was an unusual arrival and unlikely to bring much comfort to the town.

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Forgotten stories of Indian servants heard 200 years on

Woman voice recording at sound studio

Voice recording at the sound studio.

I recently had the privilege of meeting a group of talented voice actors, some professional others amateur, but all great performers. They were hard at work in a recording studio for an audio component of our East of India – Forgotten trade with Australia exhibition. I approached actors from two Sydney based Indian theatre groups Nautanki Theatre and Abhinay School of Performing Arts, along with Roanna Gonsalves and Craig Menadue, and asked them if they would be happy to read some testimonies given by Indian servants working in Australia in 1819. Most of the actors were intrigued, keen to find out more and fortunately happy to participate. You can listen to the actors who effectively dramatised the statements in our exhibition that opens this Saturday, 1 June. Continue reading

A gudgeon’s life – from ocean floor to exhibition

Artefacts from shipwrecks have often travelled far and undergone much before being exhibited. This is true of the gudgeon was selected for display in our upcoming exhibition East of India – Forgotten trade with Australia.  It’s believed to come from the wreck of the Cato, a merchant vessel built in Stockton, Britain in 1799. Cato was carrying a shipment of coal destined for India – possibly Australia’s first coal export. Coal blocks were found at the wreck site, one of which is displayed in the East of India exhibition.

East of India curator and maritime archaeologist Nigel Erskine examines the gudgeon at the wreck site

East of India curator and maritime archaeologist Nigel Erskine examines the gudgeon at the wreck site. Image courtesy Xanthe Rivett.

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