The colonial heritage of Norfolk Island is little known to most Australians. National Library Fellow Alisa Bunbury’s recent research comprises a careful and structured examination of visual imagery created during the various stages of its settlement during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

These images show the difficulties of contact and communication with its steep cliffs and dangerous reef; the clearing of the land for agricultural purposes; the indigenous flora and fauna, including rare documentation of species driven to extinction; and the built environment, including the long-demolished first settlement and the later penitentiary buildings, the ruins of which are now World Heritage listed. Written records and recollections complement the visual material, ranging from diaries, letters and naval journals to published accounts of visits, official appointments and the horrendous treatment endured by convicts imprisoned there.

Bunbury's research aims to bring to light the numerous stories of this tiny island in time for the 250th anniversary of the sighting of Norfolk Island by the crew of HMS Resolution, which will occur in 2024.  

Alisa Bunbury is the Grimwade Collection Curator at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, where she is responsible for researching, acquiring for, presenting and publishing on the Australiana collection gathered by Sir Russell Grimwade and bequeathed to the University by Sir Russell and Lady Mab Grimwade. Between 2002 and 2017,  she was Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Victoria, and prior to that Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Art Gallery of South Australia (1999–2002). Her specialisation is in the art of early colonial Australia, in particular works on paper: drawings, watercolours, prints and illustrated books.   

Alisa Bunbury is the 2020 National Library of Australia Fellow for Curatorial Research, supported by the Patrons and Supporters of the Library’s Treasures Gallery Access Program.