Parkinson’s Fish

Garfish from 1770 by Sydney Parkinson

On 3 July 1770, a fish like this jumped into Joseph Banks’ small boat as he crossed the harbour at Cooktown, north Queensland. Banks was naturalist aboard the Endeavour voyage (1768–1771). The Library recently acquired this very rare painting by Sydney Parkinson, the voyage’s young natural history artist. The fish is likely a barred longtom, which is found in Australian waters, including northern Queensland.

The World after Endeavour

Map of South Pacific, and surrounding countries and continents.

William Whitchurch’s landmark map followed the Endeavour voyage. It appeared in the voyage’s official account and includes Cook’s mapping of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. The map traces all three British Pacific expeditions in the 1760s: the two voyages of the Dolphin and that of the Endeavour. Some Endeavour voyagers, and its goat, also sailed on one or more of the Dolphin voyages.

Phillip at Botany Bay

Captain Arthur Phillip R.N.

This famous portrait was taken around the time Arthur Phillip (1738–1814) was appointed governor of New South Wales in 1786. Phillip was a highly experienced sea captain with a varied background. This prepared him well for commanding the 11 vessels of the First Fleet, which arrived in Sydney in January 1788. The portrait places him in an imagined landscape of Botany Bay. It is based on an original oil painting held by the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Kookaburra by Sarah Stone

Kookaburra by Sarah Stone

This watercolour of a kookaburra is among the earliest European images of an Australian bird. The artist was Sarah Stone, aged about 30 when she made this from a specimen sent to England by First Fleet surgeon John White. Engravings based on Sarah Stone’s watercolours illustrated John White’s important 1790 account. In his journal, White reports seeing a kookaburra in April 1788, the day he saw a black swan. He calls it ‘the great brown King’s Fisher’.

Sir Thomas Mitchell’s Sextant

Sir Thomas Mitchell's Sextant

These surveying instruments belonged to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell (1792–1855) who was appointed Surveyor-General for New South Wales in 1828. At the time, the expansion of settlement had been hampered by the Survey Department’s inadequate equipment and by its failure to coordinate small surveys. Mitchell argued for importing better equipment and conducting a general survey of the colony. He also oversaw the creation of the colony’s first road network. Mitchell’s explorations led to the discovery of rich pastoral land, dubbed ‘Australia Felix’ (Latin for ‘Happy Australia’), in central and western Victoria.

The Don

Donald Bradman

Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest batsman to play test cricket, by some margin. He has been called aloof, conservative and obstinate, not the characteristics of a great folk hero, but his exploits helped Australia see itself as a country of significance, one capable of producing world-beaters, not just a colonial outpost. On display are a signed photograph, a letter where he describes one his greatest innings and rare programs from the notorious Bodyline series. 

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

Tasmanian-born actor Errol Flynn was one of the most famous film stars of the 1930s. He made the part of swashbuckling hero his own in films such as Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Flynn’s good looks, charm and athleticism made him famous. Today he is just as well known for the scandals of his later years. On display are rare photographs, an autograph letter and a copy of his popular memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959).

Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark was one of the last of the great British clipper ships. Built in 1869 to transport tea back from China, it became the fastest ship transporting wool from Australia to Britain in the 1880s. In the 1890s steamships began to dominate the wool trade, and Cutty Sark did its last wool run from Australia in 1895. It is now preserved as a museum ship and is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich in London. This image of the famous clipper was believed to be painted by one of the crew on a piece of sailcloth from the ship. 

Henry Lawson's fobwatch

Henry Lawson's watch

Henry Lawson (1867–1922) was one of Australia’s most influential poets and short story writers of the late nineteenth century. Angus and Robertson published a number of collections of his works, including While the Billy Boils (1896) and In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses (1896). Lawson purchased this watch in 1896 as a memento, using a payment from Angus and Robertson for the publication of his first book.

Queen of the World?

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, was arguably the most powerful person in the world. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees, in 1887 and 1897 respectively, provided opportunities for public celebration across her vast empire. Through portraits, such as this bust, Australians got a glimpse of the Queen who never visited their shores.

Two hundred years after her birth in 1819, her legacy remains visible through the numerous places named in her honour, including the states of Queensland and Victoria.

Fanny Durack's Olympic medal

Gold medal on white background

The 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden was the first Olympics to feature women's swimming. Fanny Durack and her close friend and competitor Mina Wylie were initially refused permission to compete, but were eventually allowed so long as they paid their own way. Durack went on to win the final of the 100-metre freestyle, setting a new world record and becoming the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal for swimming.

Map of Australia

The discovery and exploration of Australia, 1519 to 1901 by sea and land

This large, detailed map brings together information about the European exploration of Australia. Published by one of the great Australian twentieth-century map companies, it draws on The Discovery of Australia (1922) by
G. Arnold Wood, Professor of History at the University of Sydney. It acknowledges some Indigenous presence, such as in the use of ‘Humpy Bong’, an Indigenous name for abandoned buildings at Redcliffe, Queensland.

Sievers in the Snowy Mountains

Tunnel under construction at the Snowy Mountains Scheme

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was an important project in Australia’s economic and cultural development. This enormous system of power stations, dams and tunnels spreads across the high country to harvest the Snowy River for electricity generation and irrigation. Over 100,000 people worked on the project, many newly-arrived migrants. In July 1957 and 1960, Berlin-born Wolfgang Sievers photographed the scheme for the Australian Government.

The Kid from Kogarah

Clive James

Clive James (1939–2019) was a prolific essayist, critic, broadcaster and poet. He left Sydney for London in the early 1960s, studied at Cambridge and from 1972 worked as television critic for the Observer newspaper. He hosted several popular television programs, worked in radio and toured live shows. In total, James published 40 books, including five bestselling and acclaimed memoirs. On display are two volumes of his memoirs, a program and this portrait. 

Bridge Walk Anniversary

Huge crowd on Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, Corroboree 2000

On 28 May 2000, about 250,000 Australians walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of Reconciliation. It was the final day of Corroboree 2000, a two-day event for Reconciliation held in Sydney. 2020 marks 20 years since that event. The bridge walk has come to be seen as a critical and constructive step in Australia’s Reconciliation history. The National Library of Australia’s Loui Seselja took this photograph on the day.