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Album of pressed seaweed specimens collected around Port Phillip Bay, 1859 -1882


Album of pressed seaweed specimens collected around Port Phillip Bay, 1859 -1882

Object information


This nineteenth century Australian album of pressed seaweeds contains algae specimens from the north of Ireland, the Cape of Good Hope and the Port Phillip area around Melbourne, including St Kilda and Queenscliff. The album was created by Charles Morrison, an amateur Scottish seaweed collector, who arrived in Melbourne in 1854. It is one of several albums which Morrison made as gifts for his grand-daughters and nieces.Many of the samples have handwritten notes detailing the place and date of collection. The earliest specimen from Ireland dates from 1851 and the majority of Australian specimens were collected between 1859 and 1882. The title page includes a verse titled 'Flowers of the ocean' which appeared in E L Aveline's 'The Mother's Fables; and Tales and Fables in Verse'.

From the mid-1800s the scientific study of seaweeds, phycology, gained increasing attention and seaweed collecting became a popular recreational and educational activity for the middle and upper class. Algae specimens were collected, floated onto paper and presented in albums like these. Some albums included scientific details - dates, locations and latin names - while others took a more decorative interest in the specimens. Seaweed inspired designs on textiles, china and wallpaper were fashionable throughout the 19th century.

Physical description

An album with a decorated leather binding housing pressed botanical specimens, and with the word 'ALBUM' embossed across the front cover. The verso side of the front page has a decorative collage of numerous specimens on a mounted sheet, and in the centre of it is a label printed in pink ink which reads, 'CALL us not Weeds - we are Flowers of the Sea, / For lovely, and bright, and gay tinted are we; / And quite independent of culture or showers - / Then call us not Weeds, we are Ocean's gay Flowers'. All interleaving in the album is intact, with over two hundred seaweed specimens on paper sheets mounted recto and verso on each sheet with paper hinges at each corner. Each specimen has an annotation in ink. Adhesive tape is featured in a few places as well as a few loose sheets. Sparse foxing and toning is also visible to the leaves and sheets.

Statement of significance

The Port Phillip seaweed album collection comprises a tooled and decorated leather album of 36 card leaves holding approximately 200 marine macroalgae (seaweed) specimens and a small number of moss, lichen and fern specimens.The seaweeds were primarily collected, according to hand-written annotations on the specimens, between the 1850s and 1880s from sites around Port Phillip, Victoria. The creator of the album is unknown, however, the earliest specimens originate from the north of Ireland and the Cape of Good Hope, suggesting that he or she may have migrated from Great Britain to Melbourne in the 1850s.

During the 19th century, natural history developed in Australia, and Western society more broadly, as a significant interest of the middle-classes. Men and women collected botanical, zoological and geological specimens, using them in scientific investigation and aesthetic expression. Phycological collections documenting Australian seaweeds expanded rapidly, and seaweed collecting became a popular amateur pastime as the seaside was re-conceptualised as a site of physical exercise and spiritual growth. Port Phillip became renowned during this period as a prime site for seaweed diversity, with the growth of Melbourne's rail networks enabling public access to collecting locations such as the seaside resorts of St Kilda, Brighton and Queenscliff.

Object information


  • Date collected

  • 1959
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  • Two later specimens from Port Fairy and Port Campbell were added to the album in 1959.



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