Alexander Morrison

Alexander Morrison was an avid collector of Indigenous Australian artefacts. Many of the artefacts that he collected can now be found in the collections of the Australian Museum in Sydney and National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Alexander Morrison portrait

Unknown © Australian Museum

Alexander Morrison was born in Singleton in 1871 where his father owned a general hardware business. In 1894, at the age of 23, Alexander Morrison established a newspaper, The Budget, which was circulated throughout the Hunter Valley. Morrison was an avid collector of many things including Tasmanian convict artefacts, obsolete uniforms, antique guns, stamps, books and postcards.

In the late 19th century, there was a reawakening of interest in Indigenous peoples throughout the world. New theories about the evolution of mankind were developed and notions of social Darwinism were popularised. Around this time, Alexander Morrison, perhaps influenced by this interest in Indigenous peoples, began collecting Aboriginal wooden artefacts.

Morrison occasionally employed people in his printing works from nearby St Clair Mission. This involvement with the people at St Clair resulted in a large number of objects in the collection being sourced from that Mission. However, there are a number of objects in the collection that are from other areas of Australia.
The majority of Morrison’s collection is thought to date from before 1910. It is also around this time that Alexander Morrison became district coroner of Singleton, a position he held for the next thirty years. During this time Morrison retained his printing business and continued to produce The Budget newspaper.
In February 1955 a major flood of the Hunter River caused Morrison to close down The Budget. It is possible this flood also caused damage to the collection as many objects appear to have stains that may have been caused by water damage.

Alexander Morrison died on 31 May 1955, leaving the collection to his wife and son. Alexander’s son, Don Morrison, retained the collection until his decision to sell the artefacts to antique dealer John Magers between 1974 and 1980. Magers had apparently intended on setting up his own museum, however this never eventuated and Magers sold the artefacts to the National Ethnographic Collection and the Australian Museum.

References

  • Mulvaney, Richard. 1983. Bachlor of Letters Thesis From Curio to Curation: The Morrison collection of Aboriginal wooden Artefacts. Australian National University: Canberra. Australian Capital Territory

 


Anna Gray , Collection Officer
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