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Trove's Treasures: Surprises

Trove's Treasures: Surprises
Week seven of Trove's 50 Objects project
3 August 2018

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Our 10-part blog series is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Australia's building with 50 interesting and important records in Trove. This week we're exploring items 31 to 35, with the theme ‘Surprises’.

Read the other Trove's Treasures blog posts:
Week One: Print to Digital
Week Two: Arts
Week Three: Sports
Week Four: Adventure 
Week Five: Family history
Week Six: Politics

50th anniversary library logo

Many of Trove's popular resources are part of digitised, full-text collections such as historical newspapers, journals and books. However, the collections shared with Trove represent a dizzying array of material types - including clothing, artworks, advertising material and even living objects. In this week's post, we cover some favourites that can be explored as a digital record in Trove, but also push the boundaries of what might you might expect to find in our collections, in surprising and delightful ways.

31. Gregory's Tree

Gregory's Tree
Gregory's Tree. Monument Australia:

This photograph of a carved boab tree, contributed to Trove by Monument Australia, is part of a record of a living object. The tree stands on a registered Sacred Site, which holds significance for the Ngaringman people, and as part of Gregory's Tree Reserve, also marks the heritage-listed area of explorer A.C Gregory's camp during his North Australian expedition of 1855-56.

Gregory sailed from Moreton Bay around the coast of Queensland and the Northern Territory and wrecked his vessel near the site of Timber Creek - said to be named for the timber Gregory used for repairs. The boab tree marks the area of the expedition's camp from October 1855 to July 1856 and still bears inscriptions noting their date of arrival and departure. The Library also holds lantern slides and paintings from the Gregory expedition, created by artist and expedition member John Thomas Baines.

32. The 'Rose' dress

Rose dress
'Rose' coloured dress worn by Rosemary Dobson Bolton. H. Evans & Co., Rowe Street, Sydney.

The gorgeous 'Rose' dress represents one part of a set of items all held within the Library's collections, relating to Australian poet and editor Rosemary Dobson Bolton. The dress was worn by Dobson in a 1950 portrait painted by Norman Lindsay, and as well as being a celebrated painting, the portrait represents a meeting between two Australian artists of different mediums.

After moving to Canberra in 1971, Dobson continued to write, publish and teach poetry there for the rest of her career. An oral history interview, recorded by the Library in 1975, also contains discussion of her friendship and correspondence with Lindsay.

33. Meiji woodblock prints

Clough collection of woodblock prints
Takeuchi, Keishū, 1861-1942. Koinobori. From the Richard Clough Collection of kuchie (frontispiece prints).

The Clough Collection of Kuchi-e, donated to the Library by Professor Richard Clough, is a significant collection of Japanese frontispiece art. Created to illustrate the subject matter of popular Japanese novels and literary magazines, kuchi-e were widely used in Japan's Meiji Period (1868-1912).There are over 430 prints in the Clough Collection and many have been digitised and can be viewed on Trove.

The Clough Collection also formed part of a blockbuster 2017 exhibition at the Library, Melodrama in Meiji. Selected items related to Melodrama in Meiji also be viewed in an online exhibition put together by the Library and Trove.

34. Early convict uniform

Early convict uniform

Convict uniform and two caps, (between 1830 and 1849).

This convict uniform was typical of those issued to British subjects in the mid-1800s being transported to what was then known as Van Dieman's Land, or Tasmania. While the style of the coat and trousers is certainly very striking, and might even appear stylish to a contemporary eye, the original intention of the design was quite different.

The parti-coloured clothes, also known as 'magpie uniforms' (as they were originally black and white) were introduced by Governor Macquarie in 1814. They were designed to humiliate convicts by setting them apart from ordinary Australians and to deter escape, since the colours were easy to spot. The arrow stamps indicating government ownership, the scratchy woolen fabric, and trouser buttons to accomodate leg irons also all point to this outfit being designed very much as an additional punishment to the wearer.

35. Cartonographer

Cartongrapher collection

Glen Boughton Bananas (Visy). From Sean Rafferty's Cartonographer collection via eHive.

What could be more Australian than a box of Queensland bananas? One of the more unusual collections in Trove is Cartonographer, curated by Sean Rafferty who collects and maps cartons use to pack and store fruit. There are approximately 800 cartons in the collection at present, which have been documented and shared with Trove through the online collection manager eHive.

One of the aims of Cartonography, as described by Sean Rafferty is to 'map Australia's fruit cartons using traditional cartographic techniques (plotting each farm's location on a map), and also as a data map; a map that can be viewed in macro scale (the entire collection as one image/installation), and in a micro scale (each carton and its story, told through various mediums)'. The collection also provides a fascinating look into the iconography of Australian packaging, and has already been the subject of research by design students using Trove.

What are your favourite objects in Trove?

What are your favourite Trove objects? We are still seeking suggestions for our People's Choice week in August. These can be any objects in Trove - they just have to be available online, and loved by you! Send your suggestions to

Learn more about other activities planned for the Library's 50th Anniversary celebrations.

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