Cook’s Sites exhibition presents a different view of history

Cook’s Sites exhibition presents a different view of history
15 March 2006

Cook’s Sites , a touring exhibition presented by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, opens at the National Library of Australia on Thursday 16 March.

The exhibition goes beyond the conventional study of Captain James Cook’s three historic voyages of discovery in the Pacific, presenting a different view of the people he encountered and the places he visited. This is expressed through the strategic juxtaposition of contemporary and original material.

Featuring highly colourful large-format and panoramic photographs by New Zealand photographer Mark Adams, it captures much of today’s Cook commemoration in the form of statues, monuments and signposts.

Locations such as Cooktown in North Queensland , Kurnell at Botany Bay in Sydney , Dusky Bay in New Zealand, Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii where Cook met his untimely death, as well as the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in London are sites that will strike a familiar chord with travellers.

The photographs are complemented by the work of contemporary Indigenous artists including Gordon Bennett, Brenda L. Croft and Kylie Kemarre. They bring diversity to the exhibition and encourage reflection on the making of history and how it is depicted in modern Australia .

Cook’s Sites is curated by former Canberran, Australian National University scholar Nicholas Thomas, now a London-based historian and anthropologist, who has explored colonial histories, cross-cultural exchanges, art and sacred sites for many years.

“The photographic images help us reflect on 18th century events—moments of friendship and exploitation, curiosity and brutality, wonder and tragedy. They also help us think about how these happenings became ‘history’,” Nicholas Thomas commented.

Rarely seen original items from the National Library’s collections complement the exhibition. These include Hawaiian tapa or hand-beaten barkcloth, likely to have been collected in Hawaii in 1778–79 during Cook’s third voyage, watercolours from the Rex Nan Kivell Collection, and engravings depicting scenes from New Zealand and Australia .

On display also are botanical specimens collected in Botany Bay in 1770 on loan from the National Herbarium at the Botanic Gardens Trust in Sydney and original material collected on Cook’s voyages lent by the Australian Museum in Sydney . These items are supported by texts, documents and original ethnographic and scientific specimens.

Cook’s Sites can be viewed at the National Library of Australia, Exhibition Gallery from Thursday 16 March to Sunday 18 June 2006 . The Library will be closed on Friday 14 April for Good Friday.

Cook’s Sites events

Wednesday 22 March
Contemporary Aboriginal Artists in Cook’s Sites
Brenda L. Croft, Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, NGA reflects on her own and other contemporary Aboriginal artworks in the exhibition and their impact on today’s view of history.
Exhibition Gallery, 12.30 pm , free

Wednesday 29 March
Sites of Encounter: Cook and Oceanian People
Bronwen Douglas , Senior Fellow, Division of Pacific and Asian History, ANU looks at how personal encounters shaped representations of Indigenous people by James Cook, and the naturalists and artists who accompanied him on his voyages.
Conference Room, 12.30 pm , free

Wednesday 17 May
A Look at Cook
Martin Terry , Exhibitions Curator at the National Library, presents a ‘walk and talk’ through the Cook’s Sites exhibition.
Exhibition Gallery, 12.30 pm , free


Media contact:

Yvonne Kennedy
Director Communications and Marketing
Telephone: 02 6262 1353 or 0411 753 891
Email: ykennedy@nla.gov.au

Susan Grigson
Communications and Marketing Coordinator
Telephone: 02 6262 1571 or 0410 627 684
Email: sgrigson@nla.gov.au