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Heysen Range from Walkandi Peak, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

©2013-15 Grant Da Costa


Canberra and Surrounds - October 2015 - Page 13


National Library of Australia and Reconciliation Place


Another place that surprised a long way on the upside was the National Library. Full of books, you say, so what. True. The manuscript collection alone contains more than 25 million separate items covering more than 10 km of shelf space. But it is the treasures that the Library holds that make it worth the visit. The display area is not large but the contents are totally gripping. The library also has its own portrait collection and a gallery area hosting special displays. We were lucky to be there for the exhibition “Heroes and Villains: Strutt’s Australia”.

Right: the National Library building sits opposite the end of Reconciliation Place. This strange sculpture, “Fire and Water”, emits weird sounds from the slug-like object. Beyond me I am afraid.

Below: Reconciliation Place contains a range of Aboriginal sculptures relating to reconciliation.

In the Treasures collection it is hard to go past items from the early exploration of the world by sea. Here are a few of my favourites:

Below: “A new mapp of the world”, 1715, by English engraver, print seller and globe maker Sutton Nichols. Insets around the map cover a wide range of topics: the Moon, the planets, and how great philosophers Ptolemy, Copernicus and others had conceived the universe. The map brings into stark relief the fact that by 1715 much was known about the workings of the solar system yet the east coast of Australia was still uncharted.

Below & below right: this magnificent display houses James Cook’s Endeavour journal 1768-1771 (the book in the glass case). Above it is George Carter’s 1781 painting “Death of Captain Cook”.

Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay, Hawai’i, on 14 February 1779. He had impatiently gone ashore to retrieve a stolen ship’s boat. On Cook’s first visit the local people had venerated him as an incarnation of the god Lono. Now they turned on him.

Right: the first Australian pound notes. These one pound notes represent two landmark moments in the history of Australian currency. The Australian Notes Act (1910) gave the Commonwealth the exclusive right to issue Australian notes. Before this, banks and the Queensland government had issued their own.

At the top (front and back) is the first pound note issued by the Australian Government (1910). It has been overprinted on a Bank of Victoria note as a temporary measure until a new note could be designed. Below that (front and back) is the first official purpose-designed Australian one pound note, the first pound note with Australia’s coat of arms. Issued 1913.

Much of the Library’s superb portrait collection is from the Rex Nan Kivell collection acquired in 1959. Van Kivell (1898-1977) was a New Zealand-born, London-based collector.

Far left: part of the Library’s portrait collection.

Left: Kalaimanokaho'owaha (1834).