‘Booloominbah’ viewed ‘through the collector’s lens’

Published 23 February 2011

julieA new exhibition at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) uses the University of New England’s impressive scientific, historical and cultural collections to explore the style and character of Booloominbah.

Booloominbah, the late 19th-century house designed in the “Arts and Crafts” architectural style by John Horbury Hunt for the White family, is now home to the University’s executive offices and the “Booloominbah Collection” of restaurants. Visitors to this unique exhibition are enjoying the many curiosities to be found there.

“‘Through the Collector’s Lens: Dissecting Booloominbah‘ celebrates what is probably the largest single collection of scientific and cultural material in regional Australia – Armidale’s own Smithsonian,” said UNE’s Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Professor Jennie Shaw.

Among the eclectic array of items curated by UNE’s Ian Stephenson and Michelle Arens are basalt from the Earth Sciences Mineral, Rock, Fossil and Drill Core Collection of the type that can been seen in the outer walls of Booloominbah; pressed specimens of hydrangeas and other plants found in the garden, from the N.C.W. Beadle Herbarium; brightly coloured bird skins from the Zoology Museum; a soldier’s Crimean War diary from the UNE and Regional Archives; a Landseer steel engraving of a dog from the UNE Art Collection evoking Frederick White’s taste in pictures.

Elsewhere in the gallery a blackboard from the Museum of Education recalls long division, and ancient urns and vases from the Museum of Antiquities display patterns that can also be seen in Booloominbah‘s interior detailing.

“A wonderful aspect of this exhibition is the bringing together of different disciplines to explore a common theme,” Professor Shaw said. “These are not static collections: they are continually enhanced by new acquisitions and specimens, and visited by UNE staff, students (including those enrolled in UNE’s new Bachelor of Zoology, Bachelor of Historical Inquiry and Master of Arts Management degree programs), and new audiences – from  school groups to distinguished scholars.”

Some collections, like the Zoology Museum and Museum of Antiquities, are open to the general public on weekdays throughout the year, while others are open to scholars and visitors by appointment. “The academics working with the collections are authorities in their respective fields, so if you visit the collections you will have an expert guide on hand,” Professor Shaw said.

The University’s Curator, Ian Stephenson, will be giving a talk about the exhibition at 11 am on Saturday 26 February at NERAM. The cost of the talk is $5, and everyone is welcome.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here expands to show UNE’s Associate Professor Julie Roberts enjoying one of the exhibits at the opening of the “Dissecting Booloominbah” exhibition at NERAM.