Spring has come to Sydney, and the Scott sisters and their delicate, detailed, extraordinary butterfly and moth paintings are on show at the Australian Museum.
It's great to see how beautiful the collection looks -- and to see visitors enjoying the exhibition in our elegant new exhibition space.
It has been great fun and a real privilege work on the exhibition, to get to know the paintings and the rest of the archival collection (notebooks, drawings, botanical specimens and listings, manuscripts and correspondence) in more detail and set them in their time and place within a story about the individual talent and struggle of Harriet and Helena Scott as well as colonial Sydney and the Hunter, early Australian science and of course, the Australian Museum.
What I love about this collection is how much this is a story about family, about a book (Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations) that was imagined and begun by the father AW Scott, and passed on to his daughters to finally complete, more than 50 years later. But of course the project was never really finished, as only 21 of the beautiful paintings were lithographed and published at the time. The exhibition features 60 of the butterfly and moth paintings, some on public view for the first time -- only 40 more to go to make the complete set!
The story of the Scotts is a GREAT story for an archivist with a very long term view of archival collections and why we keep them. The Scott collections have been held in the Australian Museum since 1884 gathering contexts, meanings and histories. Once (and still) a story about the description of Australian butterflies, this is now a story about colonial art, natural history art and science, individuals, institutions and ecologies ... with much more to discover about this fascinating collection.