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CDU Event

Capturing Nature: early photography at the Australian Museum 1857-1893

Presenter CDU Art Gallery
Contact person
Eileen Lim
T: 08 8946 6621 E:
Location Chancellery, Building Orange 12, ground floor, Casuarina campus, NT
Open to Agents (International), All International audience, CDU staff and students, Early career researcher, Government (International), Partners (International), Staff only, Students only, University partners (International)

Taken from the Australian Museum’s extensive archival collection of glass plate negatives, 67 large-format photographic prints showcase the scientific discoveries of Australian Museum scientists between the 1850s and 1890s, while also telling the story of the advent of photography in the young colony, less than 10 years after the birth of photography in Europe.

The images range from the initial tentative experiments in the 1850s to the time when photography was becoming an indispensable part of museum practice in the early 1890s. The subjects vary from a large sunfish and the flipper of a sperm whale to a gorilla and the fragile bones of a flamingo. Most of the specimens photographed at the museum are by taxidermist, Henry Barnes and his son, Henry Barnes Jnr with the help of the AM’s pioneering Curator Gerard Krefft.

Australian Museum Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, said some of the earliest adopters of photography were scientists.

“They were quick to see its enormous potential for capturing the process of discovery and describing new species which are the foundation of scientific practice,” she said.

“In the Victorian era, museums were the public face of science. At the Australian Museum, the arrival of curator and scientist Gerard Krefft in 1864 marked a fortuitous coming together of skills, experience and technology.”

Gallery opening hours:
Wednesday - Friday: 10 am - 4 pm
Saturday: 10 am - 2 pm

 Image: Humpbacked whale flipper, Megaptera novaeangliae. Photographer © Australian Museum
Image: Humpbacked whale flipper, Megaptera novaeangliae. Photographer © Australian Museum


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