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May Vale Timber Collection

Timber Sample - Coast Banksia, Banksia integrifolia, Victoria, 1885

Image: Timber Sample - Coast Banksia, Banksia integrifolia, Victoria, 1885

Source: Museum Victoria

The May Vale Timber Collection consists of 84 Victorian timber samples hand painted with representative flowers and foliage for each species. The samples were commissioned by the Industrial & Technological Museum director Cosmo Newbry in 1885 in accord with the Museum Board's role of overseeing preparations for the great exhibitions. As the Museum and Gallery School were in such close proximity it can be assumed this drove the selection of May Vale, a student at the time, as the artist. However, May's father was also a commissioner of the Exhibitions and there may have been a little nepotism involved. Her work was directed by the Government Botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller.

Like the wider Economic Botany Collection the timbers were chosen to inform and expose the glory and possibility of Industry in Victoria and Mueller's Work on Victorian Eucalyptus was ground breaking. It is presumed that May originally painted approximately 100 but a number of samples were discarded in 1952. As seen in the featured image, the timbers were part of a large display that toured first to the 1886 Indian & Colonial Exhibition in London and later to the 1887 Jubilee Exhibition, Adelaide, the 1888-89 Centennial Exhibition, Melbourne and the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Eventually the timbers formed part of the permanent display at the Museum, exhibited in a similar manner to their original intention on the balcony in Queen's Hall. When the Museum moved to its new location the timbers were removed from permanent display.

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