Given the icky weather predicted for our first day out in Hobart,
we tweaked our scheduled and found some indoor activities
to amuse ourselves.
Our first indoor activity was the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
This gateway that you pass to enter the museum is called the Watergate.
It is called that because the Hobart Rivulet used to lap just metres from this gate.
Boats used to dock here to unload their goods.
The museum used to be the Commissariat Building, where the supplies for the colony were stored.
We loved that the Tasmanian Government had the forethought to protect these historic buildings and features.
Admittedly, it doesn’t make for the most attractive courtyard to the museum,
but, with a bit of visualisation,
you can imagine people from the past rolling barrels of goods passed you as you enter the museum.
(The hideous coloured table and chairs need to go though!)
The historic reminders continue inside.
A 140 year old ‘spoon drain’ was uncovered during recent works
(a spoon drain channels water away from a building)
and the museum have made it a feature.
(It’s under the glass tiles on the ground).
Okay, I have to mentioned my dislike of Modern Art again.
It’s ugly and devoid of meaning.
And it’s totally out of place in an historic place museum like this one.
Okay, I just had to say it.
This is the Central Gallery.
At first I was a bit perplexed,
wondering if it was more Modern Art,
and it does have that air about it,
but then I discovered that it was an exhibition piece
reminding visitors of the old museum
(perhaps even the old country).
The 19th Century stairs were from the old museum
and the exhibits ‘under the stairs’ are part of the museum’s international collection.
I thought this was clever.
But, we were at the museum
with one key goal in mind –
to see a Tasmania Tiger
…or what’s left of them.
We were actually really lucky in that we found a knowledgeable, interesting museum docent
to guide us through the Tasmania Tiger room.
If you didn’t know,
Tasmanian Tigers, or Thylacine as they are more accurately known,
are functionally extinct.
The last captive thylacine died in 1936
and, while researchers and the public have gone to extremes to find evidence that the species still exists,
they have not been successful.
The thylacine isn’t actually a tiger,
if you hadn’t already guessed.
It looked more like a dog but it was actually a marsupial carnivore.
So, yes, this animal had a pouch, just like a kangaroo or koala.
In 1888, the Tasmanian government placed a one pound bounty
on the head of each Thylacine
(however there were other bounties on them from as early as 1830)
because the commercial sheep farmers
claimed that the thylacines were vicious sheep killers.
Sadly, these bounties, and the hunters that claimed them,
led the species into a fast extinction.
Nowadays, all that remains of the Thylacine,
(unless you believe there are still thylacines living deep in the forest somewhere
…which is possible)
are the pelts, skeletons and photographs
you can see in museums.
Interestingly enough, the best taxidermied examples of the thylacines
aren’t to be found in Australia.
In the past,
Tasmania was shipping these critters off to zoos and museums all over the world
because of their rarity, hence value.
Nowadays, we’d happily give back some of the taxidermied critters we received in exchange,
like this porcupine and groundhog.
Oh, totally un-Tasmanian Tiger related…
we learned something really interesting from our museum docent.
Have you ever heard of a Jack Jumper Ant?
You probably have if you live in Tasmania,
but we were clueless.
Our docent promised to show us the deadliest animal in Tasmania
so we followed…keen to see which snake or spider he might be about to show us.
But, instead, he took us to a tank of harmless looking ants.
Seemingly, the most deadly creature in Tassie is an ant.
But don’t be fooled.
This little ant kills (through anaphylaxis)
more people than sharks, snakes or spiders.
Hard to believe but that’s what the sign and docent said.
(And, with further research, I’ve discovered that they aren’t isolated to Tasmania
apparently they exist in parts of all the Eastern states.)
Okay, onto cuter creatures.
Look at this playtpus and ecidna.
Aren’t they sweet.
Oh yeah, that playtpus has a poisonous spur
and you will wish you were dead if he stings you.
Yep, pretty much everything, cute or otherwise,
will kill you in Australia.
Moving onto to a new topic…
While we were at the museum,
we visited the temporary exhibition,
“The Black War”.
In 1826, Governor Arthur gave the white settlers
permission to defend themselves,
in whatever way was necessary,
against the violent attacks by the Aboriginal people.
This was the beginning of what has been called “The Black War”.
Of course, it was a very one sided exhibition.
It did an excellent job of showing how the British took over the land and pushed the Aboriginal people out.
However, it didn’t document much of the massacres and violence against the white settlers
that led the Governor to such an extreme position.
There’s always two sides to a story and I wish exhibitions would tell both sides –
both sides were aggressors and both sides were victims.
It wasn’t pretty but one side won and the other side didn’t.
There were some great artworks in the exhibition
but the boys grew tired of them pretty fast.
Me, I loved the journals.
I wish I could keep a journal;
sadly, I’m useless at it.
Nor do I have fascinating things to write in them,
so I’ll just continue to admire the journals of others.
Hubby’s favourite exhibition was the Medals and Money exhibition.
He spent so long in there that we had to leave him
and find other things to look at.
I mean, it was interesting…for a while…but not an hour!
Have you ever heard of a ‘groat’?
There were a series of little rhymes
that includes mentions of currency
and a ‘groat’ is an old English coin
mentioned in a rhyme from one of Beatrix Potter’s books.
The boys liked seeing the old Australian currency.
I think it’s much prettier than our current plastic notes.
When we finally dragged hubby away from the money,
we headed to the Bond Store exhibition
This exhibition told the story of the first hundred years of colonisation in Tasmania.
It began on the top of three floors
with displays about contact between the British and Aborigines.
The next floor demonstrated how the British shaped and changed life in Van Diemen’s Land.
It included artifacts from convict times,
including this box called ‘the black box’,
which was used to isolate troublesome female convicts on board transport ships.
The piece I found the most interesting was this fire insurance plaque.
(I first learned about these in Philadelphia,
but I didn’t know that we had them in Australia as well).
In the past, when your house was burning down,
the fire insurance company were the people you ran for to put out the fires.
However, they would only come if you had paid for fire insurance.
This second floor also included exhibits about the end of convict transportation
and the renaming of Van Dieman’s Land to Tasmania.
The third and final floor was focused on the Australian land –
the plants, animals and minerals that the colonists had to utilise to make the new land their home.
The best story on this last floor was that of the wombat.
A taxidermied wombat was sent back to England
mistakenly portrayed as an animal that walked on its hind legs.
Here…read a little more about it.
Imagine coming face to face with a wombat,
standing on its back legs.
Now imagine it running at you at 40kms an hour,
on its hind legs!
That’s how fast it can run.
Gosh, this is the stuff of nightmares.
Anyway, that was our visit to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
It had lots of things to see and explore
and we quite enjoyed our time there,
but, we had to dash.
We had a date at the penitentiary
…and one must not to be late for the penitentiary.