Not quite a day in Melbourne: first half

9.15am flight from SYD, such a nice & friendly time. I arrive by cab to Melbourne Museum at 11.30am to meet with the Manager of Collections (of birds, mammals & eggs), Wayne Longmore.

I had coordinated this appointment with some trouble to view the H. L. White collection that was donated by the Whites of Belltrees in the 1920s. Supposedly there was some break down of relationship with the Museum of Sydney & White had his purpose built cabinet bullock-ed to Victoria as a result of the dispute.

The H. L. White collection is made up of an impressive all Australian bird skin & egg cluster collection, all housed in custom built cabinetry. The egg clusters contained in oak cabinets about 1.4 metres high & perhaps the same across, are individually carved with the alphabet A - H. The letters are carved on a shield & surrounded by wings & feathers allowing White his classifying & cataloguing system. His collection was maintained by curator, Sid Jackson.

The eggs are kept in the cluster, as collected, protected in cotton wool & contained in open boxes. They are then nestled together by bird specimen in a pull out glass covered drawer. Look at the picture of the amazing Jacana eggs- stripey & squiggly they remind me of a Cy Twombley! The ledger, impressive & beautifully heavy in itself, is kept in the bottom drawer of H. L White's cabinet & indicates the whereabouts of where each egg was found.

The bird skins are no longer housed in the original black cabinets made for them. Other than difficulty with preservation, they were very cramped & needed airtight storage to maintain them (i.e. keep the bugs out!). They are now in large airtight black vaults (powder coated in black as a nod to White's original cabinets) and consist of drawers that are laid out with the bird skins by species.

A birdskin is not mounted. They are stuffed with cotton wool or tow and quietly stitched generally on their chest, but this can vary. They lie flat & display the name of collectors & collections they have belonged to & in.

White did not only obtain his skins & eggs personally climbing trees with his slingshot (he may not have done this), but bought from other collectors. Each specimen is labelled with where, when & who and then again when it reached the White collection. White had labels made for consistency that were approximately 10cm in length & 3cm in diameter, with room for details. I love the romance of the handwritten notes in ink, the different papers used for labels as well as their shape & size.

FILED 08, Sep 2011

  • SYDNEY SHOP & STUDIO 3.02 75 Mary Street St Peters NSW 2044
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  • 02 9516 5643
  • SYDNEY SHOP & STUDIO 3.02 75 Mary Street St Peters NSW 2044
  • 02 9516 5643
  • MONDAY - FRIDAY 10AM-4pm OR BY APPOINTMENT