MV Blog


Sir David drops in

by Kate C
Publish date
21 August 2012
Comments (8)

Sir David Attenborough, in Melbourne for a speaking tour, visited Melbourne Museum unannounced last Wednesday with his daughter. Although he's best known for his natural history work, Sir David is fascinated by anthropology. He has collected Australian Aboriginal shields for many years, including rainforest shields from Queensland, and was keen to see local examples from the MV Indigenous Cultures Collection.

The seemingly unfortunate timing of his visit – Bunjilaka's permanent exhibitions are temporarily closed for redevelopment – actually turned out to be very good timing. Sir David mentioned to Kim Kaal in customer service that he had hoped to see Aboriginal shields on display. Quick-thinking Kim grabbed Bunjilaka's John Patten as he was walking past. Within a few minutes, John and colleague Kimberly Moulton arranged a tour of the collection store where the Bunjilaka Redevelopment Team has been working on the object-rich Many Nations section of the new exhibition, First Peoples.

David Attenborough with museum staff Sir David Attenborough with members of the Bunjilaka Redevelopment Team, looking at objects selected for display in First Peoples.
Source: Museum Victoria

Sir David spent almost an hour talking with curators and collection staff about the objects selected for the exhibition. Rosemary Wrench, the curator of Many Nations, says that he was fascinated by the objects and asked detailed questions about their provenance, designs, creation and use. He was especially pleased to hear that First Peoples will have such a strong focus on the people and cultures of south-eastern Australia. His considerable knowledge about artefacts was apparent, but he was still wonderfully surprised by unfamiliar items, such as possum jaws used to engrave designs into tools and objects.

David Attenborough with museum staff Curator Rosemary Wrench talking with Sir David Attenborough about objects selected for First Peoples.
Source: Museum Victoria

Sir David's favourite object was an etched shield from New South Wales. He examined it for some time and said, "That is magnificent, and worth a trip all the way to Australia just to see this." He was also particularly interested in a Victorian spear thrower and its ornate designs; he studied it very closely and described it as "remarkable and intriguing." He was very glad to hear that these and other treasures will be on display in First Peoples.

Aboriginal shield front and back Aboriginal shield from New South Wales, showing the elaborately carved front and the handle at the back. (X1047)
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Detail of Aboriginal shield Detail of the exquisite carving on the front of the NSW shield.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

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