Full Record

The Museum and Art Gallery
Record no:
19 January 1899
Kept:Press clippings 2, p. 8



People are sometimes very reluctant to agree to the expenditure of large
sums of money for the erection of public works, but the establishment of a
museum and art gallery in a city like Perth must have such an educational

influence upon the minds of the people, that I think very few would be
inclined to grumble at the proposal to spend a reasonable sum upon their
development. There is also the fact that such an institution must have a
good effect upon the community, for the reason that it is a showroom for
all the products of Western Australia, wherein visitors from other
countries may see what the capabilities of the colony are, and thereby
possibly be induced to come and settle here. The Western Australian
institution is becoming more and more popular, and, having regard to this
fact, and also to the desirableness of bringing under more prominent
notice the different specimens that are to be seen there, reference with
some regard to detail to this subject should not be without interest to
the general public.

It should be said that it is only a very short time since the Museum was
extended, and that from the date of that extension its growth has not only
been rapid but satisfactory in detail. The members of the Museum committee
are as follows :—Sir James Lee Steere, M.L.C. (chairman), Mr. J. W.
Hackett, M.L.C., His Honour Mr. Justice Stone, J. C. H. James
(Commissioner of Titles), Mr. Charles Harper, M.L.A., Mr. M. F. A,
Canning, and Dr. Harvey, Mr. Bernard H. Woodward, F.G.S., F.I.I., being
the curator.

Before entering upon a description of the art gallery, a short account may
be given of the various zoological and entomological specimens contained
in the Museum.

The most recent additions to the Museum are the introductory or index
cases, exhibiting types of the invertebrates, so that the visitors may see
the principal forms and subdivisions of the animal kingdom and the reasons
for the classification. This is the first time such cases have been
introduced into a Museum in Australia, though the Australian Museum is
just now beginning similar work. The sub-kingdoms are as follows :—(I.)
Mollusca, or soft bodied animals ; (II.) Annulosa, jointed animals ;
(III.) Echinoderma, or sea urchins, starfish, etc., (IV.) Coelentora,
corals and anemones; (V.) Ponfera, sponges ; and (VI.) Protozoa, infusoria
foraminfera. The lowest of these sub-kingdoms is represented by models,
because the originals are so small that in the majority of cases a
microscope would be required to enable the student to see them. Included
in the next sub-kingdom (sponges) are the horny sponges, such as are used
for domestic purposes, the siliceous sponges, such as the beautiful lace-
like Venus’s flower-basket found in the deep seas near the Philippine
Islands, and others, forming a most interesting collection. Sub-kingdom
IV. includes all the sea anemones and corals. The latter when living
closely resemble a mass of sea anemones, their structure being almost
identical with the exception that the corals deposit a hard skeleton of
lime. The beautiful “precious” coral of commerce is exhibited in the form
of specimens, and also by an enlarged medal showing the appearance of the
living animal. The echinoderma will be examined with great interest by
visitors. They are represented by sea urchins, star fish, etc. The sea
urchins vary in form from almost globular to quite flat. They all show the
five divisions characteristic of this sub-kingdom. In the flat forms the
five divisions are so strongly marked that they closely approach the next
order, the star fishes. Then follow the brittle stars, the arms of which
are longer, while the bodies are very minute. The pretty feather stars are
very similar to the last named specimens, but they grow on very long
stalks. The lowest forms are the sea-slugs, one class of which, the beche-
de-mer, is found on the north-west coast of this colony, and exported to
China for the delectation of residents in that country who are able to
afford to partake of such a luxury.” Sub-kingdom II, annulo-a, [sic] or
jointed animals, is very vast, because it includes all the crustaceans,
scorpions, insects, spiders, mites, etc. The types shown are lobsters, and
one or two extraordinary crabs, such as the giant crab, from Tasmania, the
spider crab from America, and the king crab from the American coast. The
latter has a back similar in appearance to that of a tortoise, and in
times of danger he gathers his body and legs beneath this hard covering,
and clinging to the bottom of the sea defies the attacks of his enemies.
Amongst the lobsters are to be seen the Western Australian gilgie and the
crawfish. One of the latter from Garden Island is the largest specimen
known to have been captured. Passing from these large creatures it is
difficult to realise that the types of butterflies shown in a case hard by
belong to the same sub-kingdom. In the same case moths and beetles are
shown. Some of the specimens have been dissected, and the separate parts
laid out on card, upon which are written the number and name of each
particular exhibit. There are more than a quarter of a million of insects
known, but in a Museum such as that of Western Australia such a vast
number is not required, for there are not sufficient students of
entomology here to justify their inclusion. At the same time it is
necessary that there should be types of the various orders, so that people
may see the principal forms. Wherever it has been possible the curator has
secured specimens as types. He hopes in course of time to get a complete
collection of all Western Australian forms, as the desire of the committee
is that all the fauna and flora of the colony should be represented in the
Museum, while types merely should be obtained of those orders which are
not found in the colony.

Another introductory case that has been filled exhibits the heads, wings,
legs and tails of birds. The object of this arrangement is to show the
characteristics which have led naturalists to divide them into the various
orders. Thus, the fruit-eating birds have bills adapted for that purpose
and protective colour colouring in their plumage, their feet being formed
to enable them to perch upon the branches of trees. The fish-eating birds
have bills which make it easy for them to seize their prey, and their
colouring is also protective. The insect-eaters have other characteristics
; the diurnal birds of prey may be recognised by their very powerful wings
and talons, and their hooked beaks ; and the nocturnal birds of prey by
similar characteristics, though their wings are not so powerful. There are
also examples of the wading, swimming and other birds. In the wall cases
will be found the zoological collections, commencing with the mammalia.
The first case contains the primates. There are the old-world monkeys,
represented by the ourang, chimpanzee and the baboon, and the spider
monkey of the new world. Of the ourangs there are three heads, showing the
conformation at different periods of the animal’s life. The youngest is
more human-like than those of the older growth, the development of the
frontal processes in the latter taking away the resemblance to the heads
of the human family.

Coming to the carnivora, the cat family is represented by the lion the
tiger, lynx, and civet. Of the dogs there is a remarkably fine specimen of
the wolf, and arctic and red foxes and jackals are also included in the
exhibits. A special case has been devoted to the dingoes, and this exhibit
has attracted considerable attention. The specimens were set up by Mr.
Otto Lipfert, the taxidermist attached to the Museum, and the group of
adults and puppies look as natural as if they were in their native home.
Continuing the inspection of the carnivora, the visitor will notice that
the next order is represented by a very good specimen of the grizzly bear,
which occupies a place in the centre of the gallery with the other large
animals, while the wall case displays the wolverine, the beautiful fur of
which is so much admired by the ladies for the purpose of trimming their
cloaks. There are also the badger and otter. Of insect eaters there are
the mole and the shrew, and a few specimens of bats, of which more will be
added very shortly. In the order Dermoptera there is only the flying
lemur, from the Phillipines [sic]. The gnawing animals (rodentia) are
represented by the squirrel, marmot, and the true porcupine, the beaver,
and many rats and mice. There are many representations of the ungulata,
including a magnificent bison, from America, a large elk (from Norway),
shot by Mr. Neil McNeil, and presented by him to the museum, the coney,
gazelle, and the axis, one of the smallest of the deer tribe Amongst the
cetacea may be seen the Swan River porpoise, with a skeleton of the same
order. Amongst the edentata, or toothless animals, there are the South
American ant-eater; a splendid specimen of the pangolin an animal which
devotes all its time in its home in South Africa to the eating of white
ants ; the sloth and armadillo, the last mentioned being the lowest of
this order of animals. There is a good collection of marsupials, including
the West Australian great kangaroo, a good specimen of the male red
kangaroo of this colony, and also one of the opposite sex, which is
perfectly grey in colour. There are also specimens of the dalgite, or
rabbit bandicoot, two marsupial mice, very tiny creatures, and the minute
flying opossum. The lowest of the marsupials is the banded ant-eater,
found in portions of this colony and the border of South Australia. That
very curious little animal, the native porcupine, an insect eater,
belonging to the monotremata, and, like the ornithorhynchus of the South-
east of Australia and Tasmania, it lays eggs. It will be interesting for
visitors to compare it with the specimen of the tree porcupine referred to.

There are over 650 birds in the Museum, representing about 400 species,
already set up. These are mostly West Australian, and considering that it
is only a short time since the institution was enlarged so as to include
recent specimens, the exhibition is a very satisfactory one. More than
half of the birds that are found in this colony are included in the
collection. The birds are classified in scientific order, and it is
intended to make the exhibition more attractive and interesting to
ornithological students by adding nests, eggs, etc., to the different
specimens, thus showing the different characteristics of bird life. There
are several examples of the effect that is produced by environment. The
sparrow hawk is exhibited with a nest of young ones resting upon the
branch of a paper-bark tree, upon which it was originally built. This
exhibit was not secured without a great deal of trouble and considerable

Included in the exhibits of perching birds is the great bower bird, which
in most attractive. It was obtained at Derby by the energetic collector,
Mr. Jno. T. Tunney. One of the habits of this bird is to build what may be
described as a “play house” and which is often referred to, erroneously,
as the nest. Through this curious structure the male and female birds
carry dark and light objects of various kinds, such as shells, nails,
stones, etc. The game of the birds is to carry the light and dark articles
from one end of the house to another, each colour being kept separate. The
specimens at the Museum are seen engaged in this peculiar pastime. The
emu, of course, finds a place in the collection, and there is a
particularly fine group of sea birds, with their nests and eggs, these
having been brought from the Abrolhos Islands.

Several cases have been given up to batrachians and reptilia. There are
numerous specimens of the snakes and lizards of the colony, all of which
are well set up.

The exhibits of fish at the present time are very few, owing to the fact
that the Public Works Department have not yet completed the wall cases. As
soon as this work is completed the fine representative collection will be
placed on view.

There is an excellent collection of corals and sponges on the second
floor, which will find a more appropriate place when the cases above-
mentioned are ready in the large gallery in the now wing which is to be
devoted to the exhibition of the recent invertebrata and all the fossils.
It will shortly be opened, when a full description will be given.

My next paper will be devoted to a description of the ethnological
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