Plotting the island: dreams, discovery and disaster
Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne
The exhibition Plotting the island: dreams, discovery and disaster navigates both real and imaginary voyages, seeing the island of Australia as a pivotal destination.
The Indigenous inhabitants had long established profound connectedness and history to this island, yet in the Western mind it was shrouded in mystery and imagined through art and literature. It was the lucrative spice trade and the opportunities for territorial expansion that brought Europeans to the Pacific and onto Australia, sometimes purposefully, other times by fateful accident.
Their cartographic developments began to transform the world’s map. The era of exploration encompassed another age, that of the Enlightenment. This in turn gave rise to a great desire to collect; voyages were a course leading to the collection of scientific specimens from natural history and objects of culture.
The subsequent and often disastrous shipwrecks, mutinies and encounters between Europeans and Indigenous people had effects which shaped the identities of many islands. The exhibition strives not to be chronological and comprehensive in its exploration of islands, rather to study how they are characterised through the University’s collections.