Sailing with Cook

I encountered the private journal of James Burney (1750–1821), which forms the basis of Sailing with Cook: Inside the Private Journal of James Burney RN, in 2011 when I was introduced to his youthful work by Susan Hall, the National Library's publisher. Susan advised that the Library wanted to bring his eighteenth-century journal to prominence as one of the treasures of the national collection.

Royal visits to Australia

I almost didn't open the envelope. It had been 10 years since I had moved on from Radio National's Social History Unit but I was still on the subscription list for magazines from many of our cultural institutions. I still loved reading them when I had time but, more often than I should have, I slipped them into the bin.

Selling the dream in colonial Australia

It is always interesting to try and work out where an idea came from, and I know exactly when and where I got the idea for Emporium. It was in the National Library of Australia a couple of years ago, and I was reading through old newspapers trying to find out exactly which paintings went up in flames when Sydney's Garden Palace burned down in 1882.

Leech-wrangling, a granddaughter's mantis, and vacuumed trees

Writing a book has its fun bits, mostly when I am planning the chapters. This is followed, for me, anyhow, by exhilarating bits like banging out the first draft. Then the drudgery starts, working through, double-checking the text, cleaning up sloppy wording, eliminating the bits that only got in because I was brimming over with bubbliness when I wrote that chapter, not to mention the safety aspects that come into suggesting projects that involve sharp tools and live things.

An Indigenous perspective of Joseph Lycett's art

An invitation from the National Library of Australia to undertake a study of convict artist Joseph Lycett and his artwork did not take me long to ponder over. Lycett and his work have long held great fascination for me, particularly as someone born in Newcastle, one of the areas most strongly connected to his work. The result of this study is True Light and Shade: An Aboriginal Perspective of Joseph Lycett's Art.

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