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Trove's Treasures: Arts

Trove's Treasures: Arts
Week Two of Trove's 50 Objects Project
13 June 2018

Please note: Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised this page and links may contain names and images of deceased people.

We're featuring 50 of the most interesting and important records in Trove, in a 10-part blog series, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Australia's building.

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

This week, we're continuing our journey with items 6 to 10. These highlight some of the art that can be discovered in Trove, from the origin of Australia's most famous bush ballad to the architectural breakthrough behind the shells of the Sydney Opera House.

50th anniversary library logo

6. Waltzing Matilda Manuscript

Original manuscript of Waltzing Matilda and lyrics. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-224076484

In 1891, striking shearers at Dagworth Station in Queensland burnt down a shearing shed, with one of the culprits later found dead at the Combo Waterhole. These events at Dagworth may have inspired Australia's most famous folk song, Waltzing Matilda.

Banjo Paterson was staying at Dagworth Station in 1895 when he heard a traditional Scottish song played on the zither. The tune was played by Christina Rutherford Macpherson, who had heard the song The Craigielee March played by a military band at the Warrnambool steeplechase. Perhaps inspired by the shearer's strike at Dagworth, Paterson began to compose the story of a swagman who steals a jumbuck and drowns in a billabong.

Macpherson recorded the song and lyrics for Waltzing Matilda, and this original manuscript is held by the Library. The Library explores the collaboration between Paterson and Macpherson in a Digital Classroom on the origin of the Waltzing Matilda manuscript.

7. Stan Cross Artist Smock

Painting smock belonging to Stan Cross. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-158795248

Stan Cross was a strip and political cartoonist for Smith's Weekly and The Herald and Weekly Times, best known for his creations The Potts and Wally and the Major. Cross is known for sketching the ‘The Funniest Drawing In The World’, and the Australian Cartoonists' Association holds the annual 'Stanley' awards in honour of his achievements.

This smock used by Cross is decorated with signatures and illustrations by many of Cross' Australian cartoonist colleagues including George Sprod, Jim Russell, Tony Rafty, and Syd Nicholls. The Library holds the smock in the Stan Cross Archive of cartoons and drawings, a large collection of original art, photos, and objects from Cross' career.

8. Architect's Model of the Sydney Opera House

Architects model for the geometry of the Sydney Opera House shells. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-139591596

In 1957, Danish architect Jørn Utzon won the contest to design Australia's 'national opera house'. Next, he had to work out how to build it.

Over the next five years, Utzon and his engineering team experimented with several designs for the Sydney Opera House's iconic shells, before finally developing the 'spherical solution'.

As this architect's model demonstrates, the shells of the Opera House are all derived from a single sphere. This was not only an elegant design, it was cost-effective: the repetitive design of the shells enabled to builders to reuse one set of concrete moulds, rather than needing different moulds each shell.

The story of how the roof design evolved is told by the The Sydney Opera House Trust.

9. Canberra's Calling To You

Lumsdaine, Jack. Canberra (Canberra's Calling To You) 1938. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-173134686

Does Canberra call to you? This 1938 song by Jack Lumsdaine promises 'a jewel so rare in a setting so fair', with 'gardens of blooms and its rare perfumes'.

Lumsdaine was a composer who often celebrated Australian culture, writing songs on topics as diverse as Phar Lap, Donald Bradman, and Queanbeyan. In 2013, this song about the lure of Canberra was used as the anthem of the Canberra Centenary.  The sheet music for this ode to Canberra is digitised in Trove.

Before the gramaphone and radio, songs were often sold as sheet music to be played at home. Trove user plumber unveiled Australia's hidden music heritage by recording some of these songs, and they can now be heard on YouTube and Soundcloud.

10. Joseph Lycett's Drawings of Aborigines and Scenery

Lycett, Joseph. Corroboree Around A Camp Fire 1817. https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/46247559

This 1817 painting of an Indigenous corroboree is the work of convict artist Joseph Lycett. Lycett had been transported to Australia for forgery and was employed by the commandant of the burgeoning Newcastle Coal River settlement to document life in the early colony.

While at Newcastle, Lycett painted the daily life of Awabakal, Worimi and Eora people, with 20 paintings collected in the album Drawings of Aborigines and Scenery. Lycett captured scenes from the daily life of Aboriginal people with extraordinary attention to detail. The importance of this album and the interesting story of its rediscovery are the subject of a National Library of Australia Digital Classroom.  

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 trove@nla.gov.au.

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

Australia’s collections online