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Hope Black honoured

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by Rebecca Carland
Publish date
7 March 2012
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Bec is working on the history of Museum Victoria's Science Collections and all the people who have been part of them since the museum's origin in 1854.

Last night, twenty extraordinary women were inducted into the Victorian Women's Honour Roll at a ceremony in Parliament House. I was lucky enough to be invited to witness Curator Emeritus Hope Black join this group.

Hope Macpherson receiving award Hope Macpherson receiving her award at the Victorian Women's Honour Roll ceremony on 6 March 2012.
Image: R. Carland
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Each year, the Honour Roll recognises and celebrates inspirational women across Victoria who, through their vision, leadership, commitment and hard work, have made an exceptional contribution to their communities or areas of expertise.

Minister for Women’s Affairs the Hon Mary Wooldridge opened the events with this quote: "If your dreams do not scare you they are not big enough." These women, without exception, had big dreams.

Hope says she wasn't sure what she wanted to do "but it had to be zoology". In 1937, then 18-year-old Hope Macpherson successfully applied for a job at the museum. Initially, her role was to make biology cases and dioramas. Driven to progress further, she studied science part-time at Melbourne University. Shortly after she graduated in 1946, was promoted to Curator of Shells and, simultaneously, the museum's first female curator.

Hope Macpherson identifying shells Hope Macpherson identifying shells at the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, 1948 (MM 118931).
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Her fieldwork as curator took her to remote parts of the Australian coast and she was part of the first group of female scientists permitted to research in the sub-Antarctic.

Hope also led ground-breaking surveys of Port Phillip Bay from 1957-1963. That data is still used today by environmental scientists, managers and planners, providing a benchmark against which to monitor change.

MM 118931 Hope Macpherson and Dan Lynch sorting material on the jetty at yjr Quarantine Station, Port Phillip Survey, Victoria, 1959 (MM 118931).
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In addition to her scientific pursuits, Hope also pioneered specialist education programs by establishing a biology course for blind children held at the museum, using collection material.

Hope was required to resign from the Public Service when she married in 1965, as married women were excluded from employment in the service at that time. The forced change did not quell her drive. She retrained as a science teacher, passing on her passion for science to girls for 13 years.

Hope Macpherson running Photograph that captures Hope Macpherson mid-air while running, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, 1950. (MM 118929)
Image: Charles Brazenor
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I have been privileged to work with Hope over the past couple of years, recording her history and acquiring personal working papers and images for the museum collection. After hearing her story and that of the other inductees I can only hope to be as fearless.

Links:

Victorian Women's Honour Roll

Hope Black nee Macpherson, Curator of Molluscs (1919 - )

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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