The series Fragile is an example of taking up the threads of an earlier story line: the inter-generational collection begun by Alexander Macleay, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales. An installation at Macleay’s Elizabeth Bay House in Sydney dealt with his renowned natural history collection (Cyclopaedia, 1990). In 1875 his nephew, William John Macleay, struck out and organised the first Australian scientific expedition to the Torres Strait and New Guinea amassing “a vast and valuable collection.” Fiona MacDonald cross-weaves Macleay Museum collection records into ethnographic ‘abstracts’ to amplify the unsettling status of colonial loot. Fragile crosses over with a parallel series to Local Studies dealing with International Relations: seamy neo-colonialism, social turmoil, hot media and populist democracy. Queensland forms one side of the Coral Sea that also includes New Guinea and Pacific Islands and cast covetous eyes on Melanesia for natural resources and cheap labour. Several other series of works deal with the topic of the Coral Sea sphere of influence such as Aide Memoire shown in Wake Naima the opening exhibition of Ngan Jila Centre Culturel Tjibaou in Noumea, New Caledonia. Globalisation is pulling entangled storylines tighter making local investigations of the lives of the poor, dispossessed and displaced more vital.
Jo Holder catalogue essay Local Studies, Global Reach: a View from Central Queensland archives 2009
Source images: Collection catalogue photographs.
Courtesy: Macleay Museum, University of Sydney