Museum Review: QVMAG (Royal Park) – First Tasmanians Exhibit

I have fond childhood memories of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) at the Royal Park, Launceston site. For years, it was the template I held for what a museum should be. It had lots of interesting corners to poke around in and a number of exhibits that I still miss. For now & then photos of the museum, see my post here.

Looking back though, the museum was Eurocentric. I don’t recall exhibits about Aboriginal Tasmania. If they existed, they were such a small part of their collections that they didn’t leave lasting impressions. QVMAG’s approach has changed substantially in the decades since then, with exhibits and art that promote understanding of Aboriginal culture.

First Tasmanian Exhibit

The First Tasmanians exhibit is situated on the ground floor, with entry from the right of the main gallery. The exhibit informs on Aboriginal land management practices, which includes a specific example of how this was applied in the Cataract Gorge. Also included are exhibits on food, tools, body adornment, and the different types of shelters used in the differing climes of the state. Traditional style displays are supported by video.

Perhaps the component of the exhibit I find most interesting, is that focusing on Tasmanian Aboriginal mythology and the creation of the first Tasmanian Aboriginal. This is an engaging display with a video backdrop that showing the constellations over the millennia.

This is an exhibit I visit periodically. There is a wealth of information about the world’s oldest continuing culture to absorb.

Art Gallery

The art gallery has made acquisitions of many artworks from Aboriginal artists which sit alongside European art.

There is a linear progression that the art can be followed in. From this proclamation from the period of the Black War –

Proclamation board 1829. These boards were made at the height of the Black War and attempted to communicate that all would be treated equally under the law, regardless of race. [QVMAG]

To art by European artists –

Aborigines of Tasmania 1859 – Robert Dowling [QVMAG]

To contemporary Aboriginal art –

Lost Tribes (1996) Valma Tiffin [QVMAG]

There are four paintings that I return to frequently, by Tasmanian Aboriginal artist Julie Gough. The below work by her is simply titled, Stolen. The figures and dog from the proclamation panel (above) are extracted, and surrounded by the names of Tasmanian Aboriginal children listed in historic records as living with colonists in Van Diemen’s Land.

Stolen (2019) – Julie Gough [QVMAG]

The other three paintings sitting beside this one by Gough are similarly powerful and thought provoking.

Always was, always will be.

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