One of my favourite parts of working on exhibitions is undertaking research and having the opportunity to find out the stories behind the items in our collection.
In preparation for display in the Library’s current exhibition Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505–1510 from the Kerry Stokes Collection, Preservation Services was very excited to receive into its care a fourteenth-century English Psalter MS 1172. The Latin text is dated to 1330–1350 AD and features annotations and drawings by a sixteenth-century Welsh school boy. The manuscript remains in what appears to be its original monastic binding.
It’s not often that Australian conservators get the chance to work with fragments from the Medieval era. However, this year the whole conservation team at the National Library had the privilege of working with 108 fragments of medieval manuscripts collected by Rex Nan Kivell. The fragments, all in much need of some conservation attention and time, was the focus of this year’s Tax Time Appeal project. The parchment fragments arrived in the Preservation Services laboratory in varying states of disrepair due to their use and re-use as paste- in’s for books produced in later eras.
As a child my favourite animal was the polar bear. It may have been because it exemplified the polar opposite of my experience growing up in steamy, tropical Brisbane. It may have also been the not-so-subliminal connection to ice-cream through the image of the frosty Paul’s polar bear. Whatever it was, it has persisted. Although, a love of animals in all forms has grown throughout my life as I’ve become more aware of the depredations humans enforce on the animal kingdom.
Since our last blog post, digitisation of the Library’s medieval manuscripts has been advancing apace, with more than 65 per cent of the collection now captured and stored in our digital object storage system.
As you may recall I wrote some time ago about the Hairy Wild Man from Botany Bay who is currently residing in the Treasures Gallery—see also the December NLA Magazine. You may also have seen publicity connected with the ambitious recent acquisition, for a record price of the Rothschild Prayer Book by Australian businessman and collector extraordinaire Kerry Stokes AC.
The National Library’s Gallipoli Letter written by journalist Keith Murdoch in 1915 has just been inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register. The acknowledgment of this key item from the Library’s collection by the UNESCO program is very significant. Being included on the Register is the highest level of recognition for archival material and is part of UNESCO’s global effort to enhance awareness and support for the preservation of documentary heritage collections.
Among the National Library’s treasures are some 228 rare and significant medieval manuscripts. These little known items were acquired as part of our earliest and foundation collections, including the Clifford, Nan Kivell and Petherick Collections.
One of my favourite objects in the National Library of Australia’s Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War exhibition is a caricature of Australia’s war time Prime Minister, Billy Hughes. Drawn by cartoonist David Low during his time at the Bulletin, it depicts a fictional advertisement for children’s toy known as the ‘Billywog’. The instructions read: ‘Blow up with wind until head expands, then release hole in face, whereupon Billy will emit loud noises until he goes flat …’. The kicker is found at the bottom of the cartoon: ‘No war is complete without one.’