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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer



  • Edmund Milne collection(917)

    Wooden club made by Jack Shepherd
    Top grinding stone [stone implement]
    Aboriginal breastplate for Timothy, Chief of Merricumbene
    Weapon - Tasmanian Aboriginal club - wooden
  • Nettie McColive collection(189)


    Needlework has been an important creative outlet for women throughout Australian history. This work has often been denigrated due to the (gendered) divide between high and low culture which regards domestic work as trivial, feminine and unworthy of the title "Art". A reassessment of history informed by womens' history and feminism has led to domestic needlework being acknowledged as more than simply functional labour. The social role of this type of work is now better appreciated making it a vital aspect of domestic material culture.

    This collection consists of objects relating to the life of Minetta (Nettie) McColive (nee Huppatz). Mrs McColive's quilts form the centre piece of the collection. Three of these were made in the 1930's, the Farm Life Quilt, Wildflowers Quilt and the International Quilt. Also featured in the collection are certificates, photographs and d'oyleys. This collection helps to document issues such as women in rural Australia, quilting and needlework, education in the outback, community or commemorative quilting, shows and competitions.

    Mrs McColive's work has been the subject of considerable interest both in South Australia as well as in the general quilting community. Her work is featured in two books, Jennifer Isaac's The Gentle Arts and Margaret Rolfe's Patchwork Quilts in Australia. Her work has also featured in exhibitions such as the Quilt Australia '88 exhibition as well as an exhibition held in Prospect showcasing the work of local artists.

  • South Eastern Australian Shields and Club collection(4)

    Incised wooden narrow shield
    Incised wooden narrow shield
    Incised wooden broad shield
    Wooden club

    This collection comprises a club and three shields all provenanced stylistically to southeastern Australia. These objects were made and decorated using stone and or animal tooth tools which indicates they were made in the early nineteenth century before the widespread availability of steel tools. The shields are of the two major types used in southeast Australia, a broad, thin shield used to defend against spears, and two narrow, solid shields used in individual fights with clubs. The broad shield would once have had a cane handle inserted between two holes at its centre, but like many other old weapons of this type, the handle is now missing. The club displays a particularly complex linear design along its shaft to the tip of its head, with a band of fine cross hatching at the handle end.

    The art of woodcarving, especially of men's weapons, was particularly strong in southeastern Australia. The National Museum is fortunate to hold a representative collection from this region including nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century material. However the older nineteenth century objects are definitley rarer. Many were collected in the first years of colonisation and were taken away from Australia, travelling to England, Europe and America when Australian immigrants, or their families, returned to their homelands. By acquiring demonstratably older objects the National Museum is able to extend the time depth of it's existing collection and more fully engage with Aboriginal source communities who are themselves rediscovering this highly significant heritage resource.

  • Josef Lebovic Gallery collection no. 1(7550)

    A Wrecked Cottage. North Sydney Tornado'
    Melbourne train climbing Bourne Creek Bank, Kilcunda
    William Adams & Company Ltd
    Up The Straight
  • Spastic Centre collection(16)

    The Spastic Centre 'Audrie doll' collection box
    Miss Australia robe
    Miss Australia robe
    Wooden travel case

    The Spastic Centre collection comprises sixteen (16) objects associated with cerebral palsy fundraising in New South Wales, and the Miss Australia Quest/ Awards. It includes an 'Audrie doll' collection box, a gold lamè robe worn by Miss Australia 1978 Gloria Krope, and a pair of footmen's costumes worn by Miss Australia's attendants at the 1965 Coronation Ball in Sydney Town Hall.

    The Miss Australia Quest (from 1992 known as the Miss Australia Awards) ran continuously from 1953 to 2000 and was arguably the longest running, most popular and most successful charitable enterprise in Australia's history. The first documented nationwide contest to identify Australia's ideal woman was held in 1907, however the first official use of the title 'Miss Australia' is more generally thought to have been used in relation to 'Miss Australia 1926' - Beryl Mills from Western Australia. Further contests were held in 1927, 1937, and from 1945 until 1950. It was in 1953 when Bernard Dowd (manufacturer of Hickory USA lingerie in Australia) and his company Dowd Associates took over running of the competition that the Quest became a registered business enterprise, and the 'search for Miss Australia' gained momentum. From 1954 until 2000 the Quest ran primarily as a fundraising event for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association (ACPA). Co-founded in 1945 by Audrie and Neil McLeod, The Spastic Centre was responsible for coordinating running of the Quest throughout NSW (and the ACT until 1984). In 1954 Audrie McLeod became the inaugural president of the ACPA, and remained closely involved with the Quest for almost forty years. When it closed in 2000, the competition was estimated to have raised over $90 million for people with cerebral palsy. Over its lifetime, the Miss Australia competition reflected many of the changes that took place in Australian society: the changing role and perceptions of women; changing perceptions of people with disabilities; the influence of migrants and 'New Australians'; and the presentation of Australia and Australians overseas.

  • Herbert E Read collection(20)

    Piece of a turtle shell
    Piece of a turtle shell with spiral patterns on it
    Piece of a turtle shell
    Piece of a turtle shell

    The Herbert E Read collection of 386 Indigenous and historical objects includes baskets, bags, mats, bark paintings, painted ornaments, clubs, spears, boomerangs and necklaces. These objects were all acquired by Read during his work at the Point McLeay mission (later known as Raukkan) in South Australia and the Warruwi (Warrawi) mission on South Goulburn Island, off the Arnhem Land coast, during the early twentieth century. The collection also includes some of the different types of glass slides which Read used in his missionay activities.

    Read (1875-1950) spent most of his adult life working on Aboriginal missions in different parts of Australia. He worked at the Point McLeay Mission from 1906 to 1911, 1914 to 1917, 1919 to 1925 and 1938 to 1945, and from 1925 to 1928 he worked at the Warruwi (Warrawi) Methodist mission. Read was also a keen photographer during these periods. Read's collection is significant as a rare assemblage of the diversity of Indigenous objects being made at the two missions in the early part of the twentieth century, including material made for sale. The significance of the collection is enhanced through it containing objects which are early examples of the coiled basketry technique introduced into Arnhem Land during the 1920s.

  • Springfield - Faithfull Family collection(3502)

    Christmas card from Mrs. and Miss Anderson
    Ladies dyed pink satin right tango shoe, with a clear cut bead at the centre top
    The Hospital, Narrandera
    Pair of lady's two-tone calf-length boots

    The Springfield Collection comprises about 1550 artefacts from Springfield station, south of Goulburn. It includes colonial era costume, a bushranger medal, surveying instruments, a late-19th century landau, firearms and edged weapons, wool samples and Joseph Foveaux's pocket watch and bible. The objects are complemented by over 400 photographs. This diverse collection reflects the growth and economic success of the property, responses to changes in the wool market and the daily lives of the people who have lived on Springfield.

    Springfield has grown from a 518-hectare land grant given to William Pitt Faithfull in 1828 to the current 3183 hectares with ownership remaining in the one family. William Pitt Faithfull established the Springfield Merino Stud in 1838 with ten rams selected from the Macarthur Camden Park stud. The stud evolved slowly over the years until the early 1950s when, under the management of Jim Maple-Brown, a scientific approach to wool-growing was adopted and the stud's name was changed to Fonthill to reflect this.

  • Dr Helen M Wurm collection no. 2(85)

    Painting depicts fourteen small rectangles between band of pigment rendered across the top and the bottom
    Painting is an abstract design of patterned & black horizontal bands
    Bark painting featuring an oval shape outlined in black & white
    Bark painting