Gould and the Australian Museum

The Australian Museum had been in existence for barely a decade when John Gould arrived in Sydney in February 1839. The Museum welcomed the British ornithologist warmly - its Curator, George Bennett (1804-1892) considered the Museum a colonial outpost of the British scientific establishment.

George Bennett's House Illustration

Australian Museum Photography © Australian Museum Archives

Gould stayed with Bennett whenever he visited Sydney and used the Museum's collection to familiarise himself with the native fauna before going into the field to locate his own specimens. A number of the Museum's birds are mentioned in the text of Gould's Birds of Australia and one species, Bourke's Grass-Parrakeet, was so difficult to obtain that Gould resorted to describing and illustrating the Museum's two specimens.

Bennett remained closely tied to the Australian Museum for most of his life and his friendship with Gould ensured an ongoing relationship with the institution. Most of the Curators over time exchanged correspondence and specimens with Gould, as well as purchasing the bulk of his publications for the Museum Library. The strong representation of Gould works in the Museum's Research Library may also reflect George Bennett's role as Gould's Sydney publishing agent over a period of many years.

The Australian Museum, 1838-1840

The Museum was situated on the ground floor of the old Chief Justice's house, in Macquarie Place.

An Upland Plover in Australia

In 1848 an Upland Plover (Bartramia longicauda) was shot in what is now Centennial Park, Sydney. This unfortunate bird had clearly lost its way, having travelled approximately 13,000 kilometres from its usual habitat in the Americas. The mounted specimen was sent to Gould by the Australian Museum, which he illustrated in his supplementary volume of The Birds of Australia. Gould returned the specimen in 1861. This is the only recorded instance of an Upland Plover found in Australia.


Matthew Stephens
Ms Leone Lemmer
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Tags John Gould, taxonomy, taxonomist, illustrator, illustration, Upland Plover, George Bennett,