One of the museum’s most-requested paintings for public viewing is a dramatic watercolour by Sydney landscape artist Samuel Elyard (1817–1910) titled Burning of the Barque India (c 1841). Recently we arranged a viewing for cousins Catherine Bell and John Grant. Their great-great-grandparents John Scott Grant and Ann Grant (née Kilpatrick) were survivors of the ill-fated migrant ship, which caught fire and sank in the South Atlantic Ocean on 19 July 1841.
Last Sunday, 7 May 2017, saw 364 new names unveiled on our Welcome Wall in honour of all those who have migrated from around the world by sea or air to live in Australia. The museum unveils new names on the Welcome Wall twice a year. The new names now bring the total number of names on the wall to 28,657. Of these 9,330 are from England, 3,526 from Italy, 1,627 from The Netherlands, 1,630 from Germany and 1,317 from Greece. In all, more than 200 countries are represented.
Inspired by our new exhibition East of India – Forgotten trade with Australia and the traditional art of block printing, we have created step by step instructions for you to make a ‘block print’ at home, using simple house-hold materials, like potatoes! A perfect activity for the upcoming school holidays.
Wooden block printing has a long tradition in India where a design is carved into a printing block, the surface of the block is placed in dye and then printed onto the cloth. We found a great video on Youtube that shows more of the detailed process involved.
Important note: This is a great activity for children, but please make sure an adult does all of the cutting work.
‘“Make us laugh or you starve—Give us fresh fun; we have eaten up the old and are hungry”’
~ William Makepeace Thackeray, 1840
In his work, An essay on the genius of George Cruikshank, the English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in admiration for one of the most famous illustrators of his day. Thackeray was trying to convey how a ‘greedy public’ has ‘bought, borrowed or stole’ a ‘heap of personal kindnesses from George Cruikshank’ and therefore owed a great deal to the caricaturist. In a way, one of Cruikshank’s ‘kindnesses’, an engraving from the museum’s collection, portrays the essence of what Thackeray was trying to say. The themes of greed, fickleness and arrogance highlighted by Thackeray, are illustrated brilliantly in Cruikshank’s caricature which is currently on display in the museum’s latest exhibition, East of India – Forgotten trade with Australia. Continue reading
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
Over the next few months there will be some Indian-Australian visitors who will have the opportunity to see themselves in our exhibition East of India – Forgotten trade with Australia exhibition. No, we haven’t commissioned portraits – they are participants in a short film called Indian Aussies: Terms and Conditions Apply commissioned by the museum especially for our exhibition. The film has been produced and directed by Anupam Sharma of Film and Casting Temple, you might remember him as a judge on the SBS reality TV show Bollywood Star. Continue reading
The small village of Rockley, 35km south of Bathurst in NSW, has a heritage that echoes of both England and India. The three locations are linked by the adventurous life of one man; soldier settler Watson Augustus Steel, whose life I began to look into in the lead up to the museum’s East of India exhibition.
Steel was born in 1789 in Wiltshire, England, the son of Colonel Thomas Steel of the 117th Regiment and the youngest of four sons – all of whom were soldiers. Following in the family tradition of military careers, Watson Augustus Steel was one of the original foundation cadets of the Royal Military College Marlow (Sandhurst) when it was inaugurated by the Duke of York on 17 May, 1802. Upon his graduation in 1806, Steel was posted to the 89th Regiment of Foot where he remained for most of his army service.
Today is the birthday of all Australian horses and to celebrate I decided to write about shipping horses from Australia to India. Yes a rather unusual topic, but nevertheless a key story in our upcoming exhibition East of India: Power, Trade and Australia 1788-1857. I have been spending my days trawling through historic newspapers, government records and diaries to find reports of shipping activities between Australia and India during the early years of European settlement.
Imports from India to Australia included flour, rice, muslin, chintz, shoes, furniture and rum. Unfortunately for the ship owners there were few goods available for export back out of Sydney. While John Macarthur is famous for introducing the merino sheep to Australia, he also bred horses and established the largest stud in the colony. In 1822 he sent the Governor General of India a stallion as a specimen of a ‘fine New South Wales horse’. Captain Collins was sent to Sydney from Madras in 1834, his mission was to purchase horses for the Madras artillery and dragoons. By the end of the year he had sent three shipments of horses to India. Independent agents and ship owners were also keen to make money and they began shipping horses direct, hoping to sell for a higher price.
Offloading horses in Madras was particularly hazardous as shown in this dramatic painting from the collection of the Mitchell Library.
There was an absence of natural deep waters in the Madras region, so small country boats were sent out to meet the larger sailing ships. The horses were swung into the boats, and they were then taken to shallow waters, where the boats were capsized and the horses forced to leap out and somehow reach the shore. Daniel Wilson was responsible for looking after the horses onboard the Henrietta on a journey from Sydney to Calcutta and an excerpt from his fascinating diary held in the Mitchell Library illustrates one of the difficulties the horses faced on the journey.
‘Sunday 18th Feby. 1844-1845
We have now a great deal of trouble with the horses, they are quite worn out with standing so long on their legs that they are falling down every morning, especially Bowmans horses which are in very bad condition, being so when shipped.’
We are still working out how to tell the story of the horse trade in an effective and dynamic way for visitors. We could display paintings and reproduce historic advertisements or perhaps record dramatised accounts of diary entries with sound effects of loading horses onboard ship in the background. Another approach might be to interview a vet involved in shipping horses in the twenty-first century to reflect on the challenges involved.
While life onboard was difficult for all the crew and passengers, I feel especially sorry for the poor horses.
East of India: Power, Trade and Australia 1788-1857 opens in June 2013 and we will be posting regular updates on various aspects of its development over the next twelve months.