Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium

A five-day symposium revisiting a landmark international venture – the 1948 American–Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land – and exploring the vast collections with an emphasis on Indigenous perspectives.

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Book launch: Exploring the Legacy of the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition

Andrew Sayers, Shane Mortimer, Martin Thomas, Anne McGrath, Professor Mandy Thomas and Margo Neale

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 June 2011

The book, co-edited by Martin Thomas and Margo Neale, extends on the papers presented at the ‘Barks, Birds and Billabongs: Exploring the legacy of the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land’ Symposium held in November 2009.

Transcript

archaeology, exploration, indigenous

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Terra incognito no more – reflecting on change

Robyn Williams, science journalist, presenter and author

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 16 November 2009

At the time of this ‘last great expedition’, many plants, animals, aspects of human culture were unknown to science. Robyn Williams launches the symposium Barks, Birds and Billabongs with a broad-ranging talk on science since 1948.

Transcript

collection, indigenous, politics

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A history of the 1948 expedition

Dr Sally K May, Australian National University

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Sally K May provides a historical overview of the Expedition, its planning and execution.

collection, indigenous, politics

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Unpacking the testimony of Gerald Blitner: An Indigenous perspective on the Arnhem Land Expedition

Martin Thomas, University of Sydney

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Gerald Blitner served as a guide and translator for the Expedition. Here, Martin Thomas explores his oral testimony alongside archival evidence, including observations recorded by the Expedition party, to unpack their intercultural exchanges.

indigenous, media, science

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Locating the expedition politically: 1948 American–Australian Relations

Professor the Hon Kim Beazley AC

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Kim Beazley situates the 1948 Expedition in the context of postwar international relations.

conflict, indigenous, politics

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The Smithsonian’s participation in the Arnhem Land Expedition

Paul Taylor (paper read by Martin Thomas)

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Paul Taylor offers some historical context for the Smithsonian Institution’s participation in the Expedition, especially in light of prior Smithsonian partnerships, involvements, and sponsorships of domestic and international scientific expeditions.

indigenous

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‘A Robinson Crusoe in Arnhem Land …’: Howell Walker, National Geographic, and the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition

Mark Jenkins, writer, editor and historian

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Mark Jenkins explores the role played by the Expedition’s primary American sponsor – National Geographic – and its intrepid representative, Howell Walker.

exploration, indigenous, photography, place, science

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Fossicking memories

Emeritus Professor Raymond Louis Specht and Martin Thomas, University of Sydney

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Expedition botanist Raymond Louis Specht is interviewed by Martin Thomas.

collection, indigenous, science

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Inside Mountford’s tent: paint, politics and paperwork

Dr Philip Jones, South Australian Museum

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Charles Mountford lacked formal credentials as an anthropologist or scientist, yet he led the largest and most complex scientific expedition to remote Australia. Dr Philip Jones explores Mountford’s contribution and the controversy around his leadership.

art, collection, indigenous, politics, science

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The responsibilities of leadership: The records of Charles P Mountford

Suzy Russell (paper co-authored by Denise Chapman), State Library of South Australia

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Suzy Russell describes the Mountford–Sheard collection at the State Library of South Australia, shares insights recorded by Bessie Mountford in a journal she kept during the Expedition, and considers some Expedition controversies.

collection, indigenous

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‘Bastard barks’: A gift from the 1948 Arnhem Land expedition

Adjunct Professor Margo Neale, National Museum of Australia

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 17 November 2009

Margo Neale explores Charles Mountford’s collection of works on paper, locating them as a useful starting point for reassessing Mountford’s reputation as a collector of Aboriginal art and stories.

art, indigenous

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Beneath the billabongs: The scientific legacy of Robert Rush Miller

Gifford Miller and Robert Cashner

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Robert Rush Miller was one of the youngest members of the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. Miller’s son, Gifford Miller, and son-in-law, Robert Cashner, provide insight into his life and work.

exploration, indigenous

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Appraising the legacy of the Arnhem Land Expedition: An insider’s perspective

Emeritus Professor Raymond Louis Specht

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Raymond Louis Specht, botanist on the 1948 Expedition, reflects on the influence of the Expedition and discusses his botanical investigations.

collection, indigenous, science

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The ‘exciting thing was the landscape’: Raymond Specht, a botanist in the field

Dr Lynne McCarthy, National Museum of Australia

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Lynne McCarthy explores the work of Raymond Louis Specht, Expedition botanist, and considers his botanical collection as both a process and a product.

collection, indigenous, science

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Launch of Collecting Cultures, a book about the 1948 expedition

Craddock Morton, National Museum of Australia

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Craddock Morton, Director of the National Museum of Australia, introduces, contextualises and launches the book by Sally K May: Collecting Cultures: Myth, Politics and Collaboration in the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition

Transcript

collection, indigenous, politics

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Birds on the wire: Colin Simpson and the emergence of the radio documentary feature

Tony MacGregor, Arts Editor, ABC Radio National

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Tony MacGregor examines the 1948 ABC radio feature about the Expedition both as a remarkable contemporary account and as a media object of an emerging form – the radio documentary feature.

indigenous, media, politics

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Hidden for 60 years: The motion picture films of the American–Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land

Josh Harris (paper read by Mark Jenkins)

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Josh Harris describes the rediscovery in the archives of The National Geographic Society of 12,000 feet of film shot by Howell Walker during the 1948 Expedition and the in-depth steps that were taken to preserve and bring the footage back to life.

collection, indigenous, media

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Collecting Australia at the Smithsonian: 150 years and still going

Dr Adrienne L Kaeppler, National Museum of Natural History, United States

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Adrienne Kaeppler, Curator of Oceanic Ethnology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, provides an overview of the museum’s Australian collections, focusing on the Arnhem Land collection which comprises more than 400 artefacts.

collection, indigenous

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Making a sea change: Rock art, archaeology and the enduring legacy of McCarthy’s research on Groote Eylandt

Dr Anne Clarke, University of Sydney and Ursula Frederick, Australian National University

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 18 November 2009

Dr Anne Clarke and Ms Ursula Frederick revisit Frederick McCarthy’s research in relation to their own more recent analyses of rock art sites on Groote Eylandt, using sites that were not recorded in 1948, and focusing on cross-cultural interaction.

archaeology, art, indigenous

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The forgotten collection: Baskets reveal histories

Dr Louise Hamby, Australian National University

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Louise Hamby examines the dispersed collection of fibre objects collected by the 1948 Expedition – the objects and the process and politics of their collection.

art, collection, indigenous

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Missing the revolution! Negotiating disclosure on the Pre-Macassans (Bayini) in North-East Arnhem Land

Dr Ian McIntosh, Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis, United States

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Ian McIntosh examines how Yolngu people negotiated disclosure and concealment in relation to Bayini bark paintings. What did they tell Charles Mountford about it and why? What did they tell other anthropologists and how is that issue significant?

art, indigenous, politics

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The forbidden gaze: The 1948 Wubarr ceremony performed for the American–Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land

Dr Murray Garde, University of Melbourne

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Murray Garde considers the Wubarr ceremony performed in 1948 and examines the tangled cross-cultural politics of non-Aboriginal involvement in secret Aboriginal religious ceremonies in Western Arnhem Land.

ceremony, indigenous, politics, spirituality

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From Fish Creek to the Mann River: Hunter-gatherer transformations in western Arnhem Land, 1948–2008

Professor Jon Altman, Australian National University

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Jon Altman describes transformations in the customary economy of Aboriginal people in western Arnhem Land over 60 years – a comparative analysis made possible because of research undertaken by Frederick McCarthy and Margaret McArthur in 1948.

economy, food, indigenous

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Forget the barks! Bring on the string figures! The String Figures of Yirrkala: Activating a legacy

Robyn McKenzie, Australian National University

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Robyn McKenzie examines Fred McCarthy’s celebrated collection of Yirrkala string figures as artefacts of cross-cultural exchange, looking at problems of definition, description, interpretation and analysis.

art, indigenous

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Yolngu ways of knowing Country: Insights from the 1948 Expedition to Arnhem Land

Emeritus Professor Dr Ad Borsboom, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Whereas the 1948 Expedition presented vast collections of plant and animal life classified according to Linnaean taxonomy, Ad Borsboom explores how the Yolngu organise and present knowledge through mythological Dreaming stories.

economy, indigenous, place, ways of knowing

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Closing remarks

Dr Peter Stanley, National Museum of Australia

Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium, 19 November 2009

Closing remarks from the Barks, Birds and Billabongs symposium.

art, collection, indigenous, science

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