Inside the Collection

Collection: celebrating culture

Rover Thomas' Australian Flag Artwork 1996
Artwork, proposed Australian flag, ochre/acrylic binder on paper, Rover ‘Joolama’ Thomas, 1996. Museum of Applied Art and Sciences, Sydney. 98/101/10

During 2017, we reflect on two key milestones in the journey of reconciliation – 50 years since the 1967 Referendum, and 25 years since the historic Mabo Decision. Held in the first week of July every year, NAIDOC week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia.

MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them, to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week provides us with a good opportunity to take a look inside the Museum’s vast collection – where objects mark and substantiate Indigenous Australian history, art, life and culture, science and knowledge.

A significant number of objects are currently on display across the Museum’s venues – at the Museums Discovery Centre in Castle Hill, in the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and at the Sydney Observatory (where the Museum currently has an installation to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mabo Decision which includes two of Uncle Eddie Koiki Mabo’s shirts). The 50th Anniversary of the Referendum installation at the Powerhouse Museum also features important objects – Sally Morgan’s ‘Citizenship’ silkscreen print of 1988, Rover ‘Joolama’ Thomas’s artwork for an Australian flag of 1996 (illustrated above), and Jane Alimankinni, Immaculata Tipiloura and Tessie Tipungwuti’s ‘Bima’ figure of 1990. Here too the Merrepen textile display highlights contemporary Top End design inspired by the natural environment. Up at the Museums Discovery Centre, a broad sweep of objects highlight the diversity, scope and significance of MAAS’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections.

Ceramic figure, 'Bima and Purukapali with the Spirit of their Dead Son Jinani'
Ceramic figure, ‘Bima and Purukapali with the Spirit of their Dead Son Jinani’, decorated by Mark Puautjimi, made by Jock Puautjimi, Tiwi Design, Nguiu, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory, 1999. Museum of Applied Art and Sciences, Sydney. 99/103/1

The remaining collection is either on loan or in storage, but it’s now easy to navigate online. A search under the word ‘Indigenous’ for example, shows posters, badges, ceramics, stone tools, breastplates, textiles, carved animals, boomerangs, breastplates and other objects. Other key word searches can provide more specific collection data sets.

As new information comes to light and cultural histories broaden out and expand, existing collection documentation occasionally needs revision or updating (sometimes it even needs correcting). The Museum welcomes feedback, so if you spot anything that requires attention please contact us. We appreciate your feedback as the collection is meant to be a living, breathing historical and contemporary repository of Australian history and culture. Your input and engagement help bring it to life!

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