22 March 2007

National Treasures

The National Treasures Exhibition or, to give it its full title, National Treasures from Australia's Great Libraries, is about to finish its Adelaide season, after which it moves to Darwin and then Perth.

Despite their library associations the exhibits aren't limited to books. Ned Kelly's helmet, one of Don Bradman's bats (and blazers), and a convict uniform from Tasmania are there, while the printed items include old prints, maps, and handwritten diaries, journals etc (though these aren't always easy to read) as well as more conventional books.

I've been several times, once for a general reconnaissance, subsequently to look at particular items. I recommend it highly, even though the exhibits have been shoehorned into a relatively small area. The guide book (
$25 a copy or $35 for two from the exhibition bookshop, and $34.95 online) is informative though limited in its coverage: it discusses a selection of items in detail and provides a list of all items on display (also available online here) .

At the exhibition several items which didn't make the guidebook cut caught my eye, eg the seating plan for an official dinner attended by the then Duke and Duchess of York in 1927 (how many lobbyists or journalists of the time were invited, I wonder?), and the diary of Frederick Bradshaw, one of the first white people to take up occupation in the Victoria River District. Those reservations aside, what is included is good, the printing is of high quality and the binding (touch wood) looks sufficiently robust to survive repeated consultation.

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