A day to myself in Hobart

A day to oneself in Hobart, before the Transnational Masterclass,  so what to do?  I know that I could do MONA, (the Museum of Old and New Art)  but I decided to save that for our next trip to Tasmania, when Mr Resident Judge would be with me.

So, instead, a little browse around the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.  I was impressed.  It was free, for a start.  I find Melbourne Museum’s $12.00 entry fee discouraging, especially for a museum that I feel has little depth.  It may be doing good work behind the scenes, but there’s little evidence of it in its focus on ‘entertainment’.  So- a big tick for free entry to the TMAG  and a well-placed donation box to which I was happy to contribute.

The museum has a long connection with the Royal Society of Tasmania which was established by Sir John Franklin in 1845, the first Royal Society established outside Britain.  It is located in a number of gallery buildings attached to the commissariat and original bond store which was  on the water’s edge prior to reclamation of the wharf area.  The museum has had a lot of work done on it recently, and only re-opened last year.  I suspect that, like the Melbourne Museum, it has been decluttered, which, in my opinion tends to streamline the experience too much and remove the serendipity- I feel as if I have been ‘evented’ or ‘managed’ through the museum.  Nonetheless, the displays were good, complete with a whole room devoted to the thylacine.   I remembered seeing  the thylacine in a glass case the last time I visited.

I think that the silent, black-and-white video of the last thylacine is so very sad. It played on a loop, over and over.


I very much enjoyed one of the two aboriginal galleries which told the contact story from both settler and Palawa perspectives.   You sit the middle of a long gallery as the same event, with a different narrative, is projected on the walls to the left and to the right of you.  I suppose that you could watch one, then the other, but I preferred to turn my head from one side to the other (risking a sore neck!)  It was very well done.

Then, because I was feeling all colonial-y, I went of to see Narranya House museum.  It was built between 1837-40 by Andrew Haig, who had purchased the land on an earlier sojourn in Van Diemens Land as a maritime trader, plying the route between Calcutta, Canton and Valparaiso. Retiring from the sea, he built his house and warehouses facing onto the Salamanca Wharf.  The Georgian-style house echoes the respectability and stolidity of similar houses back in England. Alas, all was lost during the depression of the 1840s- the same financial downturn that Judge Willis campaigned against, seeing it as the outcome of individual financial impropriety rather than a structural commercial inevitably, fueled by larger economic forces.

The house was threatened with demolition during the 1950s and saved by local pressure.  It was a folk museum for some time, with contributions from many local Hobart families, before being taken over by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.  The gardens were beautiful.

Then, finally a walk to my accommodation. Ye Gods- Napoleon Street was STEEP. It was very windy and I had visions of tumbling down the hill, Jack-and-Jill like.  Hobart is a very pretty city- I love it.

And finally, after all this walking, I reached my accommodation.  I’d been upgraded- how nice!

13 responses to “A day to myself in Hobart

  1. artandarchitecturemainly

    Narranya House museum and gardens, 1837-40, are really gorgeous. Imagine some morons pulling down this Georgian treasure to build concrete carparks? or fish and chips shops?

    • Yes, it’s impossible to think of what you could possibly build there that would justify losing such a beautiful house.

  2. What’s the name of that B&B? I’m sure I’ve stayed there:)

    • It’s called Amberley House. It’s on Sandy Bay Rd, right opposite Wrest Point casino. I had booked to stay at another B&B, not realizing that it was part of a chain that has several properties. Perhaps I was the only one booked at the more economical (okay- cheaper) place, but they rang me and asked if I’d like to be upgraded. My own criterion was that it be within walking distance of the Uni. I’m glad that I said yes!

      • No, that’s not it then, because we’ve never stayed that close to the casino. I guess there must be quite a few places with similar designs. BTW I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about the Melbourne Museum, it has lost its soul, and (with the possible exception of the Aboriginal display which I haven’t seen yet) IMO it has nothing to say.
        It isn’t even particularly entertaining, if you ask me, so it fails on that score too. And there is so much wasted space, tiring out little legs before they can get anywhere with something to see!
        What people seem to have forgotten is that a museum is a place for collections, education and for research. Everything I know about coins, mining, rocks, insects etc., I learned from visiting the old Melbourne Museum with my father. Cabinets were organised at child height, properly labelled, properly organised with explanations about why it was so.
        I wish someone would do a PhD on the educational value of the McMuseums. Find out what people know before they go in, what they know when they come out, and what they remember 6 months later. I bet I know what the answer would be.
        BTW#2 Has the Hobart museum still got that piece of Joseph Conrad’s ship on display?

      • I didn’t see (or at least don’t remember) anything about Joseph Conrad’s ship. I’m sure that there’s a PhD somewhere about the educational value of -as you so aptly call it ‘McMuseums’. There seem to be several Museum Studies courses around now- perhaps THEY’RE responsible for this emphasis on ‘entertainment’!!

      • This discussion is fascinating. Having worked in an archive and having a museum curator as a brother, I don’t think really that museum curators have “forgotten … that a museum is a place for collections, education and for research” but I do think that the emphasis has changed from the display of lots of objects – albeit ones related by type or chronology or theme – to telling a story. The latter style tends to focus less on displaying a lot of objects to making connections between a smaller number of objects, and incorporating into that interactive technologies which often include oral histories, film footage, etc. This latter comprises more overt interpretation/intervention by the curators, but isn’t that what written histories are about, i.e. a bunch of information/objects/documents, whatever, interpreted by someone else? Curators spend a lot of time thinking about how to present their museum’s collection in a meaningful and engaging way. And they want (need, in fact, to survive) to reach and engage more people – not just the elite. This is, I think, a good thing. Get more people wanting to go to museums.

        I think the question to ask is not so much what people “know” when they come out of a museum as what they “understand”.

        I did say in an earlier comment that I don’t particularly like cabinets full of lots of little things with lots of little labels. But, I have seen some done well – like those museums that have “cabinet of curiosity” like displays amongst other different presentations. The National Museum of Australia incorporates the display of objects into a more modern story-telling ethos well too (most of the time).

        Oh dear, I have rambled, but museums/libraries/archives – where they are similar, where they differ – has been the critical discussion of much of my career.

  3. Hobart is a great town. We hope to revisit it next year. We will have to see MONA though, by ferry perhaps. There is one exhibit there I have heard about so many times that I won’t bother seeing.

  4. I think that Aboriginal Gallery is the one my brother co-curated – is it the one that includes interviews with current residents of various ages and backgrounds about what the contact history means to them? If so, that is my brother’s, and his son, my nephew, was one of the people interviewed. I haven’t seen this exhibition yet – tho have seen the other indigenous gallery there.

    I must say that I rather like decluttered museums. I groan inwardly when I walk into one full of stuff. Lead me through I say, tell me a story, don’t confront me with lots of things with itty-bitty labels!

    I’ve been to the Melbourne Museum and understand what you are saying though we did find some interesting things there. All our national museums/galleries here are free – except of course for the travelling exhibition components.

    • Yes- that was it. I didn’t look at all the interview clips- I was running out of time after having spent a good 2.5 hours there. That gallery was terrific. I noticed that they had a list of the contributors, which gave it credibility and gravitas. Don’t get me wrong- I like a story in a museum too, but I also like corners and little corridors that aren’t part of some larger narrative. I like to think that I’ve ‘discovered’ it myself and that not everybody who has ‘done’ the museum might have seen it. And I LOVE labels and plaques.

      • Oh yes, sorry if I misled, I love labels … labels that tell me useful “stuff” (but aren’t too long). I don’t like lots of things in cabinets with lots of tiny labels. Overwhelming, can’t take it all in.

  5. Oh, I do hope they haven’t overlooked it! Maybe they’ve moved it to the maritime museum, though of course for me, the interest is literary.
    The ship itself is (or was when I was there) rotting in Otago Bay at Risden, but there is a model of it in the Maritime Museum (see my ramblings here http://hillfamilysoutherndivision.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/marvellous-museums-in-hobart/) but at the Hobart Museum they had part of what I think is called the foc’sle (?sp), the covered bit that the captain goes through to get onto the bridge, temptingly positioned so that anyone wanting to place a hand where Conrad’s had been could do so. Did I? Not telling!

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