Inside the Collection

Timber Courts at the early Museum

Watercolour, botanical drawing, ' Eugenia ventenatii' 1887
P1223 Botanical illustration, ‘ Eugenia ventenatii (Large leaved water gum/ Drooping Myrtle)’, painted by Agard Hagman, Sydney, 1887

This lovely botanical illustration was painted by Agard Hagman in 1887. It was one of many illustrations included in an extensive display of Australian timbers in the Timber Courts at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (the former Powerhouse Museum). Indeed, when the museum opened in 1893, the whole first floor was given over to the vegetable kingdom. Subjects included timber, food, drugs, oil and many others.

The Museum did not limit itself to just exhibitions and advice, it actively promoted the commercial potential of Australian plants, particularly Eucalypts and Wattles. The display of Australian timbers included drawings, jars filled with leaves and seeds, sections through tree trunks, examples of raw and polished timbers and furniture and fittings made from different timbers.

This painting shows the species Eugenia ventenatii which is currently named Waterhousea floribunda or the Weeping Lilly Pilly (as many gardeners complain botanists are in the habit of renaming species). The 1887 painting is titled Timber and Food. It’s use today appears to be primarily as an ornamental garden tree.

The image below shows this painting on display in the Timber Court in about 1900.

Photograph of Timber Courts at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, about 1900
Timber Courts at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, c 1900

Post by Lynne McNairn, Digital Services

Reference: Yesterday’s tomorrows: the Powerhouse Museum and its precursors 1880-2005 by Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber (eds)

One response to “Timber Courts at the early Museum

  • I still like the old-skool timber displays at your Castle Hill facility. They’re unfashionable but not something which can be easily found anywhere else.

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