July 27, 2013

Sir David on mission to breathe life into neglected fish fossils

Fish fossils in Canowindra

Sir David Attenborough and Dr Alex Ritchie in Canowindra
where a large fish fossil site was partly excavated 20 years ago.

The naturalist and wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has described a collection of Australian fossils neglected by the state's natural history museum as ''world class''.

On a break from his two-week speaking tour around the country, Sir David was taken to a site in NSW's central west where hundreds of ancient fish perished at the bottom of a small lake 360 million years ago.

Arguably one of the country's most impressive fossil deposits, the site reflects a time when fish ruled the world and animals were on the verge of walking on land.

Rock of ages: Sir David Attenborough and Alex Ritchie
with the fossils in Canowindra. Photo: Janie Barrett

Today, evidence of this event can be seen on several large rock slabs on display at Canowindra's Age of Fishes Museum.

''When you look at one of these slabs you can see it is extraordinary,'' said Sir David.

''What you have here is dozens and, if the rock was big enough, hundreds of these things piled one on top of another.''

The intrepid traveller, who turned 87 in May, was invited to visit the rare fossil deposit by Australian palaeontologist Alex Ritchie, a world authority on early fishes and former senior researcher at the Australian Museum.

Dr Ritchie led the first, and only, excavation of the road side site just outside Canowindra exactly 20 years ago this week.

Several leading international palaeontologists believe the site may contain some of the earliest evidence of tetrapods, the first animals to walk on land.

Sir David said the high quality exhibits at the small Age of Fishes Museum, run by the Cabonne shire council, were a credit to the local community.

''But the find is world class and it deserves even more than it has got here,'' he said. ''It would be nice to think that the state or the nation should support such a thing.''

While it was typical for state museums to support important fossil sites, the Australian Museum said earlier this year it could not support all of the country's regional museums or store all of their material.

The assistant director of research and collections, Brian Lassig, said the museum had reviewed its priorities and was more focused on issues such as biodiversity conservation.

Dr Ritchie said no other fossil fish site of this age in the world compared to Canowindra.

''I reckon there's another 5000 to 10,000, possibly 20,000, more fish under there. It's just waiting to be dug up and turned into a major tourist, educational and research facility. The Australian Museum have pulled out and washed their hands of Canowindra and that's a tragedy.''

The fossil specimens Dr Ritchie discovered belong to the area's regional council, but they could not afford appropriate storage space for all the specimens, which meant most were housed in the dilapidated basement of the town's grandstand.

Dr Lassig said the Australian Museum was working with the shire council to secure funding to improve the storage.

July 26, 2013

Ben Hall Raid Weekend Festival - August 2013 Newsletter


The Ben Hall Raid took place at Bathurst on Saturday 3rd October, 1863, and the Ben Hall Raid Weekend Festival will mark the 150th Anniversary of the event. This is the sixth in the series of these e- newsletters to be emailed to anyone interested. If you would like earlier issues, just ask.  

The Ben Hall Raid Weekend Festival Committee of the Bathurst District Historical Society has been meeting for almost fourteen months to bring plans together for this event. The next issue will contain an updated program for the three days.

We are most grateful to Sergeant Kylie Riddell, the Mounted Police Event Co-ordinator, for making the arrangements for the Mounted Police to visit Bathurst to take part in the weekend events.

A number of bushranger, colonial and historic displays will be on show on the Saturday as well as talks, numerous bus tours, a dinner and a  number of activities that will take place during the three days. The re-enactment is on schedule. The countdown is now on with about 9 weeks before visitors start arriving in Bathurst for the weekend.

If you are planning to spend some extra time whilst in Bathurst make sure you visit some of the many attractions 

Mick de Losa will have his superb display of historic orangeish, reddish and amber-yellow Meerschaum pipes. Tobacco was often stolen by the Hall gang to use them- selves or give away. We know that Mickey Burke smoked a pipe and Captain Edward Montague Battye, Commander of the Western Mounted Police and Gold Escort, smoked a meerschaum pipe with its bowl depicting a man’s arm holding a pistol though he lost it in 1861.

We hope that some families will use the weekend to peaceful Macquarie River, especially on the Sunday. Some may wish to put a family plaque on Bathurst’s Pioneer Wall.

I hope you are enjoying these monthly e-newsletters of which there are just three more to go, including this issue. I’m surprised by the number of people asking if these newsletters could be made into a book. Maybe next year. I look forward to meeting some of those who have emailed or phoned. I trust that everyone will have a terrific weekend here in our fine city.

Alan McRae, FAIHA, President Bathurst District Historical Society 

To view the full newsletter click here.

July 24, 2013

Regional Museum Networking Grants

& Galleries

Regional Museum Networking Grants fund one off projects that aim to enhance and develop networking relationships between regional volunteer managed museums and other key stakeholders. The project must include at least five volunteer managed museums.

It can be spread over 12 months and may involve partnerships with professionally managed museums, Regional Arts Development Officers and Regional Tourism Officers. Ideally, the project should lead to increased public access to collections, either real or virtual, through the identification of new or existing material for interpreting local themes. 

Closing: Friday 16 August 2013

Regional Museum Networking Grant Guidelines

If you are interested please email or call:

Tamara Lavrencic
Museum Programs and Collections Manager
TamaraL@mgnsw.org.au or 02 9339 9908 

This is an Arts NSW devolved funding program, administered by Museums & Galleries NSW on behalf of the NSW Government.

July 14, 2013

The Paragon Café in Katoomba - Talk by Ian Jack

Thursday 25 July 2013
Talk by Ian Jack
The Paragon Café in Katoomba: its social, aesthetic and industrial heritage

Greek cafes of the 1920s and 1930s have a special place in Australian social history and occupy a distinctive heritage niche. The Paragon in Katoomba is the apotheosis of the Greek cafe, still flourishing after ninety years, still renowned for its chocolates and its ambience.  But there is more to the Paragon than most people have seen: two spectacular function rooms behind the public cafe and the industrial zone upstairs, with its bakery, chocolaterie, dumb waiter and original equipment.

Ian Jack has been interested in the Paragon since he supervised the heritage assessment twelve years ago and is strongly supportive of the efforts of the present tenant, Robyn Parker, to conserve its heritage values.  Ian has retired from the Department of History at the University of Sydney and is a past President of both ASHET and the Royal Australian Historical Society.

Venue: History House, 133 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Time: 5.30 for 6 pm
Cost; Includes light refreshments on arrival; RAHS and ASHET members $10, others $12
Bookings: phone RAHS on (02) 9247 8001 or email history@rahs.org.au

David Craddock
Secretary ASHET

July 12, 2013


Corroboree on the Murray River, 1858,
image by Gerard Krefft, image courtesy SLNSW
This lecture given by acclaimed historian John Gascoigne aims to place the origins of Australia’s human population in the context of world history. Its central theme is how the original divergence and subsequent convergence of Homo sapiens drew Australia into the dynamics of globalization. Following its origins in Africa some 200,000 years earlier, the divergence of humanity eventually led to the arrival of the Aboriginal population around 60-50,000 years ago. The much shorter chapter of human history concerned with the convergence of humanity is largely associated with the efforts of dominant European powers to expand their trade and empires. As their global reach increased, so, too, did their interest in charting the Australian landmass. This lecture concludes with the publication of Matthew Flinders’ 1814 map of Australia, marking the endpoint of increasing European preoccupation with establishing the contours of what was, for them, a new quarter of the globe.

July 3, 2013

Ben Hall Raid Weekend Festival - July 2013 Newsletter


Welcome to the fifth e-newsletter in the series in the lead-up to the 150th Anniversary of the Ben Hall Raid on Bathurst which took place on Saturday 3rd October, 1863. The e-newsletters seem to be getting quite a following. 

It is pleasing to have noted Ben Hall history buff, writer and collector, Mark Thurtell, attending and bringing his magnificent display of Ben Hall relics and memorabilia to exhibit in Bathurst on Saturday 28th September.

The Ben Hall committee of the Bathurst District Historical Society have been meeting weekly of late and organising an impressive number of historic displays, talks, tours, a dinner and numerous activities which will take place during the three day festival and information on these activities will appear in various issues as details are confirmed. 

Alan McRae, FAIHA, President Bathurst District Historical Society 

To view the full newsletter click here.