Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

Gold and silver plated brass handbuilt model of the Fokker tri-motor monoplane 'Southern Cross', flown by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith

1986.0009.0023

Gold and silver plated brass handbuilt model of the Fokker tri-motor monoplane 'Southern Cross', flown by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith

Object information

Physical description

Gold and silver plated, partially-operable scale model of the Fokker tri-motor monoplane aircraft VH-USU 'Southern Cross'.

Statement of significance

The Austin Byrne collection no.1 consists of approximately 900 items, primarily components of, design materials and completed artworks for the 'Southern Cross' Memorial, created by Austin Byrne between 1930 and 1993. The artworks are comprised of metal, marble, glass and wood, with the main works being: a scale model of the 'Southern Cross' on a tiered marble pedestal; a silver plated world globe with the 'Southern Cross' flights marked in lines of precious stones; plaque inscribed with the mileages of each flight presented on the world globe; portraits of Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm framed in gilded brass; a hand-written history of the 'Southern Cross' inside a 'Shrine of Remembrance' made from marble and studded with opals; a 'Book of Remembrance' including 38 testimonial letters from leading international aviators in a receptacle of three world globes marked with different 'Southern Cross' flights; and a pictorial history of the 'Southern Cross' featuring 200 photographs. The rest of the collection consists of Byrne's research, records, and supporting display and advertising materials for the memorial as exhibited his work around Australia and internationally, and components created by Byrne for his proposed memorial building.

Born in Newcastle, New South Wales, in 1902, Austin Byrne was interested in aviation from a young age. On 10 June 1928, Byrne was one of thousands of people who greeted the 'Southern Cross' and its crew on arrival at Mascot aerodrome. In 1930, responding to that event and his admiration for the aviators, Byrne decided to construct a scale model of the 'Southern Cross' as a gift for Charles Kingsford Smith. After the disappearance of Kingsford Smith during a flight from England to Australia in 1935, Byrne began to construct further tributes and seek contributions from leading aviators of the period for the creation of a 'Southern Cross' Memorial. Byrne's memorial grew as he spent more than 100,000 hours across thirty-seven years of his life creating the artworks, mostly by hand in his spare time, using techniques he taught himself as an unskilled labourer. Using his own money and raising funds to assist, Byrne travelled with his memorial on invitation to New Zealand, the United States of America and Holland, as he paid tribute to the international cooperation and assistance behind the flights of the 'Southern Cross'. When retiring from his work in 1967, Byrne increased his lobbying to the Federal Government to accept the 'Southern Cross' Memorial as a gift to the nation. In 1970, the government accepted Byrne's offer and in 1984 transferred the collection to the National Museum. Until his death in 1993, Byrne continued to create material for the memorial and also compiled a history of his efforts, donated to the National Museum posthumously.

Object information

Back to top