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Caring for Alfred North's original pictorial material

By: Patricia Egan, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 01 Feb 2012

Archives volunteer, Ada Klinkhamer writes of her experience rehousing and documenting photographs and illustrations prepared for use in publications by Australian Museum ornithologist, Alfred John North.

Photo of the nest and eggs of a Keartland Honey-eater

Henry Barnes, Junior © Courtesy of the Australian Museum

How did North use these pictures?


For the last few weeks my mind has been well and truly stuck on birds. I have been working on rehousing and documenting original pictorial material used in the book Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania, by Alfred North.

This book, first published in 1901, was the greatest achievement of Alfred North, an ornithologist with the Australian Museum from 1886 til his death in 1917. It is an incredibly comprehensive guide to the species of birds found in Australia and Tasmania at that time, and includes photographs and drawings of the birds, their nests and their eggs.


What was involved with the project

 

It has been my job to sort through all the original drawings and photographs we keep in Archives so that they can be re-housed in special archival storage boxes. As well as doing this I have created a spread sheet of information on each individual item. Doing this means that someone can easily locate a drawing or photograph and have all the information on that item at hand.


Showcasing my favourite pictures

 

There are almost 300 items associated with this project and I have picked out just three of my favourites to accompany this blog post.

The photograph of the nest and eggs of a Keartlands’ Honey-eater is my favourite of the nest photographs. The bird collected feathers to decorate the nest and then precariously perched it on the end of an upright tree branch.

The next item shows the great lengths that collectors went to. Here a man has climbed up to the nesting place of a Blue-bellied Lorikeet. There is no mention of exactly how high the tree is but I think it is a fine example of the serious dedication of ornithologists.

The drawing of a White-throated Nightjar is just one of the incredible drawings in this book. I especially like this one as the bird seems to have a serious, contemplative expression.