News

Macleay exhibition and book celebrate science, art, collecting and obsession


30 October 2007

Beau Monde (yellow) by Robyn Stacey will appear in both the
Beau Monde (yellow) by Robyn Stacey will appear in both the "Museum" exhibition and book. (Copyright Robyn Stacey. Not to be reproduced without permission.)

The University of Sydney's Macleay Museum will open a stunning new exhibition on Monday to celebrate the release of Museum: the Macleays, their collections and the search for order, a book chronicling the passions and collections of one of Sydney's most significant establishment families.

Museum opens at the Macleay Museum this Monday, 5 November, 2007, and will feature a selection of exquisite photographs taken by Robyn Stacey for the book published by Cambridge University Press. The dramatic images of specimens from the Macleay family's extensive natural history collection will be in large-scale format and words by Museum author Ashley Hay will be highlighted throughout the exhibition.

The Macleay exhibition and book explore the lives and collections of the Macleay family - most notably, those of Alexander Macleay, who arrived in Sydney from England in 1826 with his wife, six daughters and one of the most substantial and diverse natural scientific collections of the time.

Museum features photographs of the Macleay Museum's vast collections. (Copyright Robyn Stacey. Not to be reproduced without permission.)
Museum features photographs of the Macleay Museum's vast collections. (Copyright Robyn Stacey. Not to be reproduced without permission.)

Alexander went on to become the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales and he and his family took up residence at Elizabeth Bay House and its surrounds (Macleay Street in Potts Point was named after the family). During the next seven decades, Alexander and his descendants became an intricate part of Sydney society and continued to build a collection which remains internationally significant.

The Macleay collection - totalling more than 20,000 animal specimens and about half a million insects - was donated to the University of Sydney in 1887 and the Macleay Museum was established. The collection continued to grow and, significantly, the museum now holds around 7000 type specimens.

The collection has provided the perfect inspiration for artist Robyn Stacey. "It's always a thrill when my photos help people see a hidden collection or see an object from a totally different perspective," says Stacey.

Due to the nature of the Macleay collection - its fragility, size and importance - only two per cent of the collection is actually ever on display to the public and Museum gives an intricate behind-the-scenes look into the Macleay family's work.

"The Macleay family's collection was the foundation collection of natural history for New South Wales and Australia as a whole," says senior curator of the Macleay Museum, Jude Philp of the collection which includes an array of butterflies, insects, mammals and native and international birds. "The family collected privately for the public good and their legacy continues to shape scientific research today."

Museum: the Macleays, their collections and the search for order (CUP) will be officially launched by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW and Chancellor of the University of Sydney on Wednesday, 7 November, 2007. Museum, the exhibition, closes at the Macleay Museum on 16 December, 2007.

Specimens were collected by the Macleay family from all across the region. (Copyright Robyn Stacey. Not to be reproduced without permission.)
Specimens were collected by the Macleay family from all across the region. (Copyright Robyn Stacey. Not to be reproduced without permission.)

Events to be held in conjunction with Museum

Museum photographer, author and curator talk

Artist Robyn Stacey, author Ashley Hay and entomologist and Macleay Museum natural history curator, Elizabeth Jeffreys, will discuss Museum: the Macleays, their collection and the search for order and the Macleay family's extraordinary collections.

When: 2pm, Sunday, 11 November, 2007

Where: The Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane, University of Sydney

Cost: Free

Further information: (02) 9036 5253

Science, Illustration and Beauty: a talk by photographer Robyn Stacey

Photographer Robyn Stacey will discuss her work in Museum: the Macleays, their collections and the search for order plus the dual purposes of scientific illustrations - beauty and science.

When: 1.30pm, Sunday, 25 November, 2007

Where: The Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane, the University of Sydney

Cost: Free entry

Further information: (02) 9036 5253

Museum: BIG + small

Children will be able to take a close look at the natural history specimens that inspired photographer Robyn Stacey in the making of Museum: the Macleays, their collections and the search for order. Activities include examination of specimens through magnifying glasses and making specimen-inspired Christmas cards.

When: Noon to 4pm, Sunday, 9 December, 2007

Where: The Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane, the University of Sydney

Cost: Free entry.

Further information: (02) 9036 5253

Some of Robyn Stacey's work will also be on display at Elizabeth Bay House, in Sydney and events are held in conjunction with Historic Houses Trust. For further information about events to be held at Elizabeth Bay House, visit http://www.hht.net.au

MacleayMuseumopening hours:

Mondays to Fridays - 10am to 4.30pm. Sundays - 12pm to 4pm. Closed public holidays.

Website: www.usyd.edu.au/museums

Editor's note:

Photographer Robyn Stacey is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney and is one of Australia's most acclaimed photographers. She has a close association with the Macleay Museum and has spent the past five years photographing and interpreting the Macleay Museum's collection and the past three working exclusively on Museum: the Macleays, their collections and the search for order, which features120 of her works. Ashley Hay is the author of two books of narrative non-fiction The Secret: The Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron and Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions and has also written for The Independent Monthly, The Monthly and The Bulletin. Stacey and Hay have previously collaborated on Herbarium (Cambridge University Press, 2004), featuring the collections from the National Herbarium of NSW at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.

Museum: the Macleays, their collections and the search for order ($79.95) will be published by Cambridge University of Press this Thursday, 1 November, 2007. It can be purchased through the Macleay Museum by visitingSydney University Museums bookshop


Contact: Katrina O'Brien

Phone: 02 9036 7842

Email: 594a2213181a5516063a1e3d151f15035e7f3834