Collecting History: Post-settler society's appropriation of identity
Hansen, A, Collecting History: Post-settler society's appropriation of identity, 19th British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies Conference, 26-27 February 2010, Savannah, Georgia, USA (2010) [Non Refereed Conference Paper]
The collecting of early natural history art of the exploration of a country and other material from this era appears to be a strong in many government institutions in settler societies – particularly the former British colonies of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and perhaps the United States of America.
This paper examines the compilations; the ‘Australiana’, ‘Tasmaniana’, ‘Canadiana’ collections that are such a feature of museums, art galleries and libraries of post-settler societies. I will examine the interest in creating a history, as a society moves from identifying with the colonial power, to establishing its own identity and sense of self. As that awareness grows, so too does the interest in the past, in creating a history that is one’s own.
A particular feature of many of these collections is their movement from the private to the public domain; private collectors recognising the emergence of ‘local’ before their state institutions – a trend of individuals defining themselves by their location, while governments are still tied to the colonising powers. As the links with the former colonisers weaken, awareness of the importance to the public of the shared history contained in these collections grows.
Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen’s Land) has rich and extensive collections of ‘Tasmaniana’ in its state institutions; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, State Library of Tasmania, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and of course, the Royal Society of Tasmania. I will examine and discuss the history of one of these collections in detail – the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, a part of the collections of the State Library of Tasmania.