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Lord Howe Island connections

By: Vanessa Finney, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 30 Mar 2011

This week I have been bringing together some research on the Museum's scientific links with Lord Howe Island.

The first Museum expedition to the island was as far back as 1869 when energetic Assistant Curator George Masters visited and brought back more than 630 specimens of over 100 species.

Curator's Assistant Alexander Morton followed in 1882 and Assistant Edgar Waite in 1902.

Curator and plaeontologist Robert Etheridge made several trips to the island. He made his first 3-week trip to study its geology and zoology in 1889, only 3 months after his arrival at the Museum. He went again in 1908, this time accompanied by young cadet Alan McCulloch who was also to have a long association with the island.

Diorama research

In 1923 a team of artists, taxidermists and scientists from the Museum went to Lord Howe to research, document and collect for the new Lord Howe Island dioramas that were installed in the Museum later that year. They brought back animal and plant specimens, sketches, photographs and descriptions for the diorams depicting Red-Tailed Tropic birds, the Admiralty Islets (nesting seabirds) and coral reefs.

As part of the newly invigorated educational and entertainment mission of the Museum in the 1920s, descriptions and photos of this expedition were published in a series of articles in the new Australian Museum Magazine.

Lord Howe Island photographic collection

The photographs Allan McCullcoh took on this expedition are a key part of a wonderful collection of early photographs of the island held in the Australian Museum Archives. The collection also includes an album of photographs taken by Robert Etheridge in 1908 and a collection taken by Anthony Musgrave in 1923. See my recent blog post on Asparagus fern for a surprising re-use of one of Musgrave's photos.

Continuing links

As far as I have been able to research, many, many more Museum scientists have visited and studied the island since the 1920s.

My preliminary list of other Museum scientists who have done field work on the island (excluding those mentioned above) includes: Gilbert Whitley, Tom Iredale, Roy Bell, Des Griffin, Tim Flannery, Joyce Allan, Winston Ponder, Alex Ritchie, Elizabeth Pope, Ellis Troughton, Anthony Musgrave and Ralph Lossin. I am sure there are many more (particulary in more recent years).