Full Record

Public Institutions No. III Museum and Art Gallery
Record no:
21 January 1899
Kept:Press clippings book 2, p. 6



The Museum stands in the front rank of public institutions on the score of
popularity, and this fact can be easily understood when it is remembered
that within its walls are gathered a large number of objects of curiosity

and of interest. It is here that the naturalist arranges the animal
kingdom in the order of classification. The minerals with which the earth
is teeming are brought to light, the various specimens being arranged in
cases with cards attached, giving the names and other particulars. Fossil
remains, met with by the miner in the of the bowls [sic] of the earth, are
identified, throwing a flood of light on the character of animals which
existed on the earth ages ago, and these too, cannot escape the publicity
of the modern museum. It would take too long to attempt even to summarise
the objects to be found in any modern museum, and one cannot do more than
pass them over in brief review.

The Perth Museum was formally opened on September 9, 1891, by Sir William
Robinson, who was then Governor of the colony. The beginning was a humble
one, as the curator had very few cases in his charge, but in the following
year the Government purchased the Museum of the Mechanics’ Institute, and
the public Museum began to assume respectable proportions. A new gallery
was soon afterwards started, and this was opened on July 31, 1895, by Sir
Alexander Onslow. The work of extension still went on, and the handsome
building which now faces James-street was put in hand. This has now been
finished, but the first floor is being used as a library for the time
being, and the authorities will have to be content with the possession of
the top floor of the new building until the proper quarters for the
library are erected. The Art Gallery is also to be found in the Museum
building, but the position is not a favorable one for the purpose, and
another will be secured as soon as possible.

In 1895 the control the Museum transferred to a committee, consisting of
the following gentlemen :—Sir Jas. Lee-Steere (chairman), Sir George
Shenton, Mr. Justice Stone, Dr. Harvey, and Messrs. J. W. Hackett, M.L.C.,
Chas. Harper, M.L.A., M. F. A. Canning, and J. C. H. James. Mr. B. H.
Woodward, F.G.S., was appointed curator in January, 1891, and has retained
the position ever since. The institution has been well patronised by the
public, the last annual report showing that for the year ended June 30,
1898, the total attendance of visitors was 37,402. Of these 11,067 visited
the institution on Sunday afternoons.

The first thing which claims attention on entering the Museum is the fine
collection of animals, Order 1, of which comprises the Primate, and Order
2 the Carnivora. Among the best specimens are a splendid ant-eater from
Guiana, a beaver from Maine, some Russian wolves and a chimpanzee from the
west coast of Africa. There are some large animals in the central cases, a
bison from Nebraska taking pride of place in the matter of bulk. A grizzly
bear from the Rocky Mountains is a veritable type of strength and
shagginess, while the two leading families of the carnivora are
represented by a South African lion and an Indian tiger. There are fine
Norwegian elk, a red deer from Scotland, and a Selous antelope from

The marsupials are of especial interest to Australians, and of these there
is a large and representative collection. A good idea has been carried out
for the purpose of showing at a glance the geographical distribution of
the animals, birds, etc. A small map of the world is placed with every
species, and that portion which is inhabited by the exhibit to which it is
attached is colored red. These little maps show at once that the
marsupials are confined almost entirely to Australasia. A few exist in
South America, but specimens of these have not yet been secured by the
museum authorities. A family of dingoes at once commands the attention of
the visitor, there being two old ones and six pups. These exhibits were
obtained from York and Broomehill, and the animals have been very
effectively mounted. Close by is another case in which are to be seen some
emus, which were captured in the Geraldton district.

The collection of birds is a very good one, especially as far as
Australian birds are concerned. There are numbers of gulls and other
seabirds from the vicinity of the Abrolhos Islands, and parrots and
cockatooes [sic] also form a goodly collection. There is one case which
contains birds of paradise, and the display of plumage is very beautiful.
Close by is a case of humming birds, which are well known to be among the
smallest of the feathered tribe. The humming birds are very pretty little
creatures, and as there are numbers of them in the case the effect is a
decidedly pleasing one. There is not a large number of fish, but the
invertebrates are well represented. The absence of a backbone is the
distinguishing characteristic of the invertebrates, of which there are six
sub-kingdoms. An excellent plan has been adopted in providing an index
case, in which there are typical forms of the various families belonging
to the order.

There are a great many specimens at the museum which are not yet ready for
exhibition, and included in these is the skeleton of a whale, some 85 ft.
in length. The animal was stranded at the Vasse during last year, but it
will be some time before the skeleton is fixed up for exhibition, as the
work will involve a certain expenditure of time and money. The weight
whale’s head alone is as much as a ton, and the weight of the whole
skeleton is of course something considerable.

The top floor of the new building is not yet open to the public. It will
be devoted to the accommodation of the recent invertebrates, as well as to
the reception of corals, sponges, etc. Many of the latter are already in
their cases, but the whole of the cases required have not yet been
finished. All the fossils will be placed in this room, the total number
being 5,000. The fossils which have been discovered in this colony have
been found in the coastal limestone, and in the carboniferous formations
which extend at intervals from the Irwin to the Gascoyne, and from the
latter place across country to Kimberley. The upper part of the skull of a
mastodon is on view in the new room, and gives some idea of the massive
size and enormous strength of many races of animals which long ago became
extinct. These are also represented by a number of casts of the large
saurians or fish-eating reptiles.

The most interesting exhibits in the ethnological gallery are the relics
of the Dutch ship Zeewyk, which was wrecked on Gun Island in the Abrolhos,
in the year 1727. There are cooking utensils, bottles, coins, pipes and
other articles, as well as two skeletons representing all that is left of
the adventurous Dutch after the catastrophe of 172 years ago. In this
gallery are samples of textile fabrics, including carpets from Persia and
Armenia, embroidered curtains and other fabrics from India, with a
quantity of metal work from the same country. There is also a good
collection of native weapons, implements, and other articles.

The mineral exhibits are, of course, not the least important items in a
country like Western Australia. In one set of cases the various minerals
are arranged in scientific order, while, in another, Western Australian
minerals are ranged according to their commercial interest. The latter
include specimens of gold, copper, iron, tin, and other ores. There is a
large mass of gold in quartz which was brought from the Orient mine at
Lake Austin, in 1892, the precious metal being plainly discernible in the
stone. There are specimens of Nullagine diamonds and Collie coal, two
products which are very dissimilar in appearance, but which are both
composed very largely of carbon.

At the entrance to the Museum is a gilt pyramid representing the
comparative gold production in the colony during the last eight or nine

There are two large models in the Museum, namely, those of the Fremantle
harbor works, and the Merredin tank, on the Yilgarn railway. The
reproductions of the celebrated Moabite and Rosetta stones are very
interesting. There are also huge Assyrian bas-reliefs.

The Art Gallery is small, but contains some good pictures, and other works
of art. There is a collection of black and white drawings by British,
French, German, and American artists, including Charles Keene (who was at
one time on the “Punch” staff), Millais, Whistler, Burne-Jones, Leighton,
and Phil. May. Among the best of the paintings are “The End of a Long
Day,” by Mr. Clausen, A.R.A. ; “The Great Southern Ocean,” by J. Ford
Paterson, of Melbourne ; “Low Tide in Guernsey,” by Arnold Helcke ; and
“Lake Lugano,” by R. P. Bonington.
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