Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Marvellous Museums, in Hobart

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 19, 2009


We spent the day in Hobart, exploring their museums…
First up was the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition of the machines he invented. They were all interesting, but what especially caught my eye were the siege machines, because I’ve just finished reading Ismail Kadare’s The Siege. This brilliant book, which is an allegory for life under the Soviet dictatorship, vividly depicts an Ottoman assault on the Christian Albanians inside the walls of the castle – and here in Hobart are scale models of Da Vinci’s creative genius at work, inventing machines, on the one hand to repel invaders and on the other, to breach the walls of an enemy castle. As you can see from the picture, he thought of tools to climb the walls (similar to equipment used for rock-climbing today); machines to bring a bridge or a ladder up over the ramparts; and also one to push down any ladders that were being for an assault on the walls. The engineering involved in these machines is very sophisticated indeed – and yet even quite small children at this exhibition could use some of them and clearly understand how they worked.

Next up was the Hobart Museum and Art Gallery, about to be refurbished and extended – so I hope it doesn’t turn into a McMuseum like ours in Melbourne has! (The Melbourne Museum, that is, not our wonderful art gallery which is the best and most comprehensive in the country). The best exhibition here was the Antarctic one, with artefacts from various expeditions and a scale model of the hut of my hero, Douglas Mawson. This brave man’s exploits have captivated me since I first read about them as a schoolgirl, and my admiration grew further on my last visit to the Adelaide Museum, where they have not only the sled that Mawson sawed in half on his solo trip back to base after the tragic loss of his companions, but also the small knife that he used to saw it with. The courage and tenacity of this great man is an inspiration to all who know about him. I think I’ll read his story to my senior classes this year…

After all our splendid meals in this gastronomic paradise, a light lunch was in order, so we tracked down a Japanese restaurant on the waterfront and enjoyed bento. Not surprisingly we did not see any of the Sea Shepherd’s crew there even though whale was not on the menu. I am willing to try eating many strange and unusual things but nothing could ever induce me to eat a creature harvested with such cruelty from the sea. I wandered down to the pier to see the Sea Shepherd close up and chatted to one of the crew: they were refuelling in readiness for departure on Wednesday to depart to harass the Japanese whaling fleet further. I wish our government would harass them too…

After lunch I went to the Maritime Museum and had an unexpected literary treat. There amongst all sorts of model ships and boats, bits of rope, knots and so forth, was a display about the three masted barque Otago, which was the ship commanded by Joseph Conrad in 1888-9.  He took command of this ship in Bangkok, sailed it to Sydney, Melbourne, Mauritius and Adelaide before resigning his command because the owners didn’t want him to sail it on to China. It was this journey that formed the basis of his writings about the South Seas, and it is therefore a very great pity that the remains of this ship are being left to rot at Otago Bay in Risden. I got quite a thrill from being allowed to touch the hatch that has been salvaged from the ship and restored – Conrad must also have grasped it on his way down below decks!

A little retail therapy in Salamanca Place, dinner at the Shipwright’s Arms, and then an early night so that we can be up bright and early because we are hoping to go on a tour of a distillery!

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One Response to “Marvellous Museums, in Hobart”

  1. […] Then the chapter covers the author’s travels, and explores how the Aussie experience influenced the writer’s work.  DH Lawrence, of course, wrote Kangaroo, while Trollope wrote a sort of Lonely Planet guide, a short story called Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, a Tale of Australian Bush Life and a strange futuristic novel called The Fixed Period which was set in a fictional island half way between Australia and New Zealand.  (Trollope was also fascinated by postal services, and invented the pillar box!)  Conrad didn’t set any of his novels in Australia because he saw not much more than its ports, but you can see the hulk of his beloved ship Otago at Risden in Tasmania and the restored hatchway in the Hobart Museum. […]

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