What’s in a title?

Recently, a book with its title printed simply on a brown dust jacket went on display in the Treasures Gallery. Like many items in the Gallery, what makes it a treasured collection item may not be immediately obvious (I am reminded to not judge a book by its cover). It is a first edition of Henry Handel Richardson’s (1870–1946) novel The fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia felix (1917), which was among the author’s personal papers, now preserved in the Library’s Manuscripts Collection.

Looking for Lady O'Connell

As Alan Bennett wrote in his play, The History Boys:

“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”[1]

As we mark another International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017, and in the midst of #nastywomen hashtags and pink pussy hats, I decided to explore the Treasures Gallery to see who I might discover ‘following behind with the bucket’.

The rise of the cookbook

Before Masterchef, foodtrucks and celebrity chefs, the eating and cooking habits of Australians were limited to the knowledge of recipes passed down to them by their family or shared by their friends. Eating out was an infrequent activity and cooking to a certain degree was a means of providing fuel for the family rather than providing a ‘dining experience’. The influx of immigrants after the Second World War and increasing wealth meant that Australians had access to a wider range of food and more leisure time to cook new and interesting meals.

Finding 'The Cornfield'

The process of creating exhibitions is in some ways similar to that of writing a book. We investigate a wide range of material and then over time edit the content down. This also means that sometimes fascinating items never make it into the exhibition. ‘The Cornfield’, Originally considered for our 2014-2015 exhibition, Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War, was one such item. Fortunately the latest Treasures Gallery changeover has given us the opportunity to display this special map.

Louis Jules Matras and his lost dog

The National Library’s new exhibition The Sell showcases the Library’s rich collections of Australian advertising, not just with the beautifully produced posters from big companies (like the biscuit manufacturer Swallow and Ariell), or more utilitarian government messages (like a wanted poster for the bushranger Ben Hall), but also with the advertising created for ordinary people.


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