Prisoner John NORMAN or MORRISON


This young prisoner was originally identified as John Morrison in the National Library of Australia’s catalogue, eg. for the NLA exhibition “In a New Light: Australian Photography 1850s-1930s”, 9 Oct. 03-26 Jan. 2004, and renamed as John Norman in 2013.


John Norman, suspected of theft, notice of 14 October 1881, Tasmania Reports of Crime (police gazette)

John Norman, committed for trial for house-breaking, notice of 28 December 1883, Tasmania Reports of Crime (police gazette)

Although the name has changed for the subject of the photograph, the National Library’s incorrect catalogue entry still retains the impossible photographer attribution to the non-photographer A.H. Boyd, and the erroneous place of incarceration as Port Arthur, per these notes:

Title John Norman, native born and sentenced for 12 months, age 19, taken at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1884 Other Creators Boyd, A. H. (Aldolarius [sic]Humphrey), 1829-1891.(incorrect information) Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874. Gunson Collection file 203/​7/​54. Dated from rectangular shape and dates of similar photographs in collection. Sentenced of 12 months on 5 February 1884. Also available in an electronic version via the Internet at: http:/​/​​nla.pic-an24612677. Exhibited: “In a New Light: Australian Photography 1850s-1930s”, National Library of Australia, 9 Oct. 03-26 Jan. 04

This young locally-born (“native”) 19 year old John Morrison or John Norman was photographed on being received at the Hobart Gaol on February 16, 1884 by Constable John Nevin. The National Library has included the photograph among the collection of the earlier 1874 convict photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin, and retained the prison location as Port Arthur despite the simple fact that in 1874 the prisoner would have been only 9 years old, and clearly John Norman is not a child in his photograph. As for the place of imprisonment, he could not have been imprisoned to serve his 12 month sentence at the Port Arthur prison because it was well and truly closed by 1877, and by 1884 it was in ruins.

Not simply content with misleading the public with this sort of catalogue entry, the NLA has compromised Thomas J. Nevin’s former sole and correct attribution from accession in the 1980s until 2007 for this collection of Tasmanian prisoner mugshots with a parasitic misattribution to the non-photographer and retired Port Arthur prison official A. H. Boyd, the result of deliberate falsification by individuals (eg the aspirationally pathetic Julia Clark) seeking appropriation and self-promotion.

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