Interviews and past lectures

Nicholson Museum

The Sir Charles Nicholson Lecture 2018 | Facing Our Past: The Jericho Skull

November 21 2018, Nicholson Museum

In 2018 Dr Alexandra Fletcher (British Museum) gave the annual Sir Charles Nicholson Lecture on new research and discoveries that have been made about the Jericho skull from the British Museum's collection, as well as our own.

Jericho, near the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest inhabited settlements on the planet. Excavations in 1953 uncovered a cache of skulls that had been plastered and painted 9500 years ago to resemble individuals – some of the oldest 3D portraits in human history. One of these skulls was sent to the British Museum, and another to the Nicholson. Recent CT imaging of the skull in the British Museum has revealed astonishing new information about the skull at the British Museum, and its transformation from person to cultic artefact. In this talk, Dr Alexandra Fletcher will discuss these new discoveries, and how they might help us better understand the celebrated Jericho skull in the Nicholson Museum.

See Dr Fletcher discussing the Jericho Skull at the British Museum here.

Alexandra Fletcher has been a curator in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum since 2001. She has been involved in several re-displays of the permanent ancient Middle Eastern collections. Her research focuses on interpreting social change through objects, particularly artefacts related to feasting and mortuary practices. She received her PhD from the University of Manchester and has published on the prehistory of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. She has also conducted fieldwork in Turkey and Oman.

Sardinia and Corsica in the post-classical era

March 02 2019, Nicholson Museum

On Saturday 02 March 2019, Robert Veel from Academy Travel presented a survey of these two Mediterranean islands from the Dark Ages to the dawn of the modern era.

This talk was part of our #freeSaturdaylecture series, 'Travellers in Time'.

The Mummy Project

February 20 2019, Nicholson Museum

On February 20, 2019, at the Nicholson Museum six experts presented an overview of the ongoing Mummy Project.

Although three Egyptian mummies have been part of the Nicholson Museum’s collection since 1860, modern scientific techniques enable us to examine these ancient individuals with new eyes. The Mummy Project is one of the Nicholson Museum’s most recent – and most exciting – research projects.

Collaborating with experts such as medical scientists and illustrators from several institutions, the project is making astonishing discoveries concerning age, sex, biology, genetics, diet, disease and processes of mummification. This research also includes the excavation of the heavily disturbed mummified remains left by robbers inside the coffin for the woman Mer-Neith-it-es, which have never been studied. In this presentation, six experts gave an overview of different aspects of the project, including:
- Dr Jamie Fraser (Nicholson Museum): Nicholson and the mummies
- Prof John Magnussen (Macquarie Medical Imaging): CT scanning the mummies
- Dr Conni Lord (Nicholson Museum): Excavating the Mer-Neith-it-es coffin
- Dr Therese Harrison (Sydney Analytical, University of Sydney): Analysing the remains
- Dr Andrew Howells & Dr Bernadette Drabsch (University of Newcastle): Re-colouring the coffin.

Some Impressions of Greece: The photographic archive of William Woodhouse

May 30 2018, Nicholson Museum

On May 30 2018 our Assistant Curator Candace Richards gave a free public lecture on the photographic archive of our former curator William J Woodhouse.

This talk delved into the collection revealing Woodhouse’s love of Greece and his family, and discussed the significance of the archive. Candace introduced the museum’s Flickr project where members of the public have contributed to the documentation of the archive and conveyed some of the incredible encounters she had while retracing Woodhouse's steps through Peloponnese in 2017.

Candace Richards is Assistant Curator of the Nicholson Museum, and has been part of the Sydney University Museums team for over 10 years. She is an archaeologist interested in Mediterranean and Balkan archaeology, working on both research and commercial excavations in Europe and Australia. Currently she is a senior team member of the Paphos Theatre Archaeological Project and is undertaking research on recycling and reuse in the area of Nea Paphos.

Shakespeare's Mark Antony: a tale of two authors

March 27 2018, Nicholson Museum

Professor Kathryn Welch gave a lecture at the University of Sydney on 27 March 2018 as part of our #freeSaturdaylecture series 'Postcards from the Past':

Shakespeare made Marcus Antonius a pivotal character in two of his most famous plays, Julius Caesar (1599) and Antony and Cleopatra (c.1607). However, even at the hands of such a sharp observer of character, the Antony of one play is not quite the same character as the Antony of the other. This presentation will argue that Shakespeare was reacting to and extending a complicated source tradition in an interesting way. He had access to two major authors, Plutarch and Appian, who had appeared in English translations of 1579 and 1578 respectively.

Shakespeare’s contrasting versions offer an opportunity to observe the on-going (and immensely entertaining) history of the image of Antonius that started with himself, was massaged by his friends and enemies alike, and still has a strong impact on the popular culture of our own times.

Stories from the storeroom: Amarna’s frescoes reconstructed

February 21 2018, Nicholson Museum

On 21 February 2018 we presented our latest research about the Nicholson Museum’s Egyptian fresco from Amarna to the Friends of the Nicholson Museum. Listen here for the latest news on the conservation and research of the fresco.

Art and Performance: Two decades of archaeology at the ancient theatre of Paphos, Cyprus

January 30 2018, Nicholson Museum

The University of Sydney’s Paphos Theatre Archaeological Project has been excavating, analysing and interpreting the remains of the World Heritage listed ancient theatre of Paphos since 1995. Working with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, over 500 Australian archaeologists, students and contributing volunteers to date have helped reveal a structure that was used as a venue for performance and spectacle for over 650 years from its construction around 300 BC through to its destruction by earthquake around 365 AD. Despite the subsequent stripping of stone from the building, clear archaeological and architectural evidence indicates that the theatre could hold up to 8500 spectators.

The project has also been investigating the surrounding theatrical precinct, including a Roman fountain house and a colonnaded street. These important excavations are slowly revealing clues about the urban layout of the capital city of ancient Cyprus. Project director Dr Craig Barker discussed what is known about the site, the project’s adoption of new technologies and work with visual contemporary artists. The creative spirit of the ancient actors lives on.

In conversation series

Beginning in 2017 the Nicholson Museum began an In Conversation series, to we explore the life and work of prominent archaeologists who have helped shape the museum throughout their careers. Our first guest was Associate Professor Judy Birmingham in conversation with Dr Craig Barker; discussing a career spanning decades and encompassing the pre-historic through to the historic. Future interviews in this series, as well as all of our upcoming lectures, can be found on our events calendar.

A Life in Archaeology: In Conversation with Judy Birmingham

May 27 2017, Nicholson Museum

Associate Professor Judy Birmingham is a significant figure in the history of archaeology in Australia. She studied at the Institute of Archaeology in London under Sir Max Mallowan and undertook extensive fieldwork in the Middle East, Cyprus, Greece and Britain with some of the most famous and fascinating figures of 20th century archaeology. Beginning with the Near East, she went on to pioneer the development of Australian historical archaeology in the 1970s and 1980s, leading excavations at sites such as Irrawang, Wybalenna and Regentville.

Sharing memories of the resistance she overcame while developing Australian historical archaeology courses, Judy and Craig discussed what it was like to be the first female archaeological staff member at the University, and her involvement with the Nicholson and Macleay Museum collections over five decades.

Macleay Museum

Māori in Early Sydney

February 02 2019, Nicholson Museum

On February 02, 2019 the Macleay Museum's curator of ethnography, Rebecca Conway, introduced two Māori-Australian historians who shared their knowledge and insights into some of the key characters and fascinating episodes of early Māori in Sydney.

Māori in Early Sydney
Maintaining strong genealogical and cultural connections to Aotearoa – New Zealand, today one in six Māori call Australia home. From the earliest days of the British Colony, large numbers of Māori visited and based themselves in the emerging port city, particularly for the development of trade and strategic alliances.

Jo Maarama Kamira is of Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whakaue and Maussie descent and has a background in law enforcement. Jo researched and wrote the entry on Māori for the Dictionary of Sydney (2012) and the publication, Māori Trade & Relations in Parramatta (2016).

Brent Kerehona (Pukepuke-Ahitapu) of Ngāpuhi descent, is a high school history teacher with a military background. Brent is currently researching, writing and producing texts and films centred on his whanaunga family member, rangatira (chief) Hongi Hika (1772-1828), an 1814 carved bust of whom is currently on display as part of the Nicholson Museum, Connections exhibition.

Arts and Aboriginal Australia: decolonisation or reconciliation?

31 May 2017, Macleay Museum

In 2017, National Reconciliation Week commemorates two significant milestones in Australian history: 50 years since the 1967 referendum and 25 years since the Murray Island Land Case 'Mabo' Decision.

In those 50 years museums have slowly changed from exhibitions 'about' Indigenous peoples to exhibitions by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander curators. This year also marks 25 years of the University of Sydney’s own repatriation program, part of an International reconciliation between museums and colonised peoples.

As the University of Sydney embarks on the building of the new Chau Chak Wing Museum, we will continue to question how exhibitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections can engage all visitors meaningfully.

How can museums embed the diversity of knowledge and experience that these objects signify for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities today?

This panel session was chaired by Matt Poll, Curator Indigenous Heritage and Repatriation Project, Macleay Museum on 31 May 2017. Matt was joined by:

  • Sharni Jones, Manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections at the Australian Museum
  • Stephen Gilchrist, Associate Lecturer Department of Art History, University of Sydney
  • Rodney Kelly, Gweagal activist for the repatriation of ancestral collections to Aboriginal ownership
  • Amanda Reynolds, Stella Stories artist, curator, cultural consultant and editor.

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