Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Researching and developing a new project always means a whole new library of books on the office shelves. For Project 32, Jonathan Jones’ barrangal dyara (skin and bones), research is critical to understanding a history which took place well before our time, and which has largely faded from our collective memory.

To celebrate this process of digging and delving, we asked our office what they were reading.

Curator Emma with her new favourite book, Ross Gibson’s 26 Views of the Starburst World: William Dawes at Sydney Cove 1788-91: “When the suffix ‘kara’ insinuates a phrase, the world it represents seems to reconfigure and rouse through the language. Any utterance that gets reorganised by ‘kara’ seems to carry the world’s force. Here is a linguistic energy that shadows physical and metaphysical energy.”

Education and Public Program Coordinator Antonia reading Stan Grant’s Talking To My Country. Grant quoting anthropologist WEH Stanner: “What may have begun as simple forgetting of other people’s views turned under habit and over time into something of a cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale.”

Archivist and Research Assistant Ineke reading the catalogue Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation from the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum: “Researchers in central Australia identified 140 species [of food plants], of which seventy-five were exploited for their seeds. Seeds required a high labour input. They needed to be collected, winnowed (separated from the chaff) in a coolamon (wooden dish) and ground with a mortar before being cooked in the ashes of a fire.” -Howard Morphy & John Carty.

John reads Josephine Flood’s The Original Australians. “Often children had parents who spoke different languages; they used their mother’s tongue in the earliest years but most changed to their father’s language before reaching puberty. Quite often they learnt three or four languages, and might be able to understand several more. Indeed the original Australians were possibly the most multilingual people in the world.”

Melissa reading Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia: “Unlike the Britain of most early observers, about 70 percent of Australia’s plants need or tolerate fire. Knowing which plants welcome fire, and when and how much, was critical to managing land.”

Monique reading the most sought after book in the office, Bruce Pascoe’s Dark emu: black seeds. "The science of baking developed alongside the seed harvests. Richard Fullagar, Australian Museum, and Judith Furby, University of New South Wales, found grindstones at Cuddie Springs, near Walgett, western New South Wales, which had been used to grind seeds more than 30,000 years ago, making these people the world's oldest bakers by almost 15,000 years, as the Egyptians, the next earliest, didn't bake until 17,000BC."