National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries, an exhibition which tells the great Australian story, opens at the National Library of Australia on 3 December 2005.

The exhibition, four years in development, will tour 175 iconic objects drawn from the magnificent collections of Australia’s national, state and territory libraries to every capital city over the next two years.

Director-General Jan Fullerton said this is the most ambitious exhibition ever undertaken by an Australian library. “National Treasures is unparalleled for its scale, significance of content and for the scope of its touring schedule.

“After the huge success of Treasures from the World’s Great Libraries, the Council of Australian State Libraries (CASL) wanted to show the superb collections held in the nation’s major public research libraries which reflect our past as well as contemporary Australia.

“It is a joint venture between the National Library as manager and the state and territory libraries in lending their treasured items and providing curatorial and conservation assistance. We are also most grateful for the unprecedented support of our corporate sponsors and the Australian Government.”

The exhibition includes manuscripts, maps, books, paintings and objects which have been brought together for the first time. Each item has been carefully chosen for its narrative power and how it relates to the people, places and events that have made the nation what it is today.

Divided into eight themes, National Treasures spans the earliest European depiction of the Southern Cross drawn in the 16 th century, through our convict and colonial era, two world wars, recent innovations, our cultural life and our obsessions with sport, food and wine.

Exhibition curator Margaret Dent said the exhibition’s strength is about seeing the real thing. “Original material is enormously powerful because it links you to the actual event. National Treasures presents personal accounts of perseverance, good and bad luck, and success and failure, which are at times awe-inspiring, at other times saddening, but always illuminating.

“Some stories we know well but knowledge of others has diminished over time. Through National Treasures, Australians will see their history with new eyes.”

Every object describes a moment of significance in our changing society:

  • Captain Cook’s handwritten Endeavour Journal (1768–1771) records the voyage of the Endeavour to the South Seas to observe the transit of Venus and to search for a southern continent. Also on board was the botanist Joseph Banks. Cook and Banks each kept a personal journal. This exhibition brings them together for the first time since that voyage ended. Cook’s Endeavour Journal was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in 2001 together with Eddie Mabo’s papers, also in the exhibition
  • Donald Bradman’s favourite bat which he used to make the world record test cricket score of 334 against England at Leeds in July 1930
  • The helmet worn by Ned Kelly at the siege of Glenrowan on 28 June 1880. The siege was the Kelly Gang’s last stand
  • Azaria Chamberlain’s hospital identification bracelet and birth details record, as well as Lindy Chamberlain’s strike statement written while in gaol in Darwin
  • P.L. Travers, the Australian creator of the well-known nanny Mary Poppins, documents her strong dislike of the proposed Walt Disney version of the character and her story
  • A game, ‘Dugouts and Trenches’, celebrating Australia’s role fighting in World War I sits alongside a tally book from Gallipoli showing the horrendous casualties
  • Olympic swimmer, Shane Gould’s travel diary kept during the 1972 Munich Olympics which would be marred by a terrorist attack. Gould describes her first gold medal and the aftermath of the attack
  • Henry Lawson, one of Australia ’s most-loved but tragic literary figures, is reconstructed through items from several libraries including his pen (1916–1917), his shirt and collar, a cast of his hand and death mask, and an illuminated version of The Lights of Cobb and Co
  • Other items featured relate to Burke and Wills, the first Hills Hoist, The Magic Pudding, aviators Kingsford Smith and Ulm, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, Harold Lasseter and serial killer Frederick Deeming.

National Treasures from Australia ’s Great Libraries
National Library of Australia 3 December 200512 February 2006
Open daily 9am – 5pm (Closed Christmas Day)
Free entry

The exhibition is complemented by an extensive catalogue for sale in the National Library Bookshop, RRP $34.95, or online at Online exhibition and education kit available at

National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries is travelling to every capital city until late 2007. See for full tour details.

National Treasures is part of Canberra 's From the Vault exhibitions. For more information

Media contact:

Yvonne Kennedy
Director Communications and Marketing
Telephone: 02 6262 1353 or 0411 753 891

Susan Grigson
Telephone: 02 6262 1571

This exhibition was made possible by Art Indemnity Australia, an Australian Government program through which the Commonwealth acts as insurer in case of any loss or damage to an indemnified exhibition. Without Art Indemnity Australia, the high cost of insuring significant cultural items would prohibit the touring of this major exhibition. For this exhibition the managing organisation for indemnity is the National Gallery of Australia.

This exhibition is supported by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government Program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of cultural material across Australia.