Lost and found: one day in 1866 and the scientific racism which followed

TASMANIAN PHOTOGRAPHERS C. A. Woolley; T. J. Nevin; Samuel Clifford; and the Anson Brothers 1860s-1880s
REPRODUCTIONS of C. A. Woolley’s photographs of Tasmanian Aborigines 1860s by John Watt Beattie 1890s-1915

In August 1866 at his Hobart studio, 42 Macquarie Street, photographer Charles A. Woolley (1834-1922) would ask of his three sitters, Truganini, William Lanney and Bessy Clark, to bear with him while he rearranged their clothing, repositioned the studio decor, swapped their seating, and gave instructions as to sightlines. This short session, perhaps no more than an hour, resulted in a series consisting of at least four full-length portraits of the trio as a group, each slightly different in configuration and composition. The earliest example to survive from this session, an original carte-de-visite produced by Charles A. Woolley before 1869, has surfaced in the family collections of Woolley’s young contemporary, Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923).

The cdv by descent before 1961
The first of these photographs in the series from 1866, a hand-coloured carte-de-visite of this group of three sitters (below) was passed down from Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s own photographic collection to their youngest son Albert, his wife Emily and their family where it was held for nearly a century.

In April 1961, a family member resident in NSW, Mrs Hilda Warren nee Nevin (dec), wrote a letter to Davies Brothers Limited, publishers of the daily newspaper, the Tasmanian Mercury in Hobart, suggesting they might want to publish the photograph. The impetus behind this suggestion is not immediately evident, nor easily discoverable because the National Library of Australia has yet to digitise issues of the Tasmanian Mercury past the year 1954. Perhaps by 1961 new research or new controversies regarding Tasmanian Aboriginal history were emerging. Whatever reason for Hilda’s decision to offer her cdv of the Aboriginal trio to the Mercury, D. N. Hawker, Chief of Staff replied by letter dated 2nd May 1961 with the request she send him the cdv by registered post.

Tasmanian Aboriginal group 1866

Above: Letter from the Mercury, 2 May 1961 addressed to Mrs. Hilda Warren, NSW;
The cdv/photograph in question of Tasmanian Aboriginal trio by C. A. Woolley, 1866-69;
Envelope containing letter returned from the Mercury.
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021.


Dear Mrs. Warren,
Your letter about the photograph of three Tasmanian aborigines is most interesting.

We would like to be able to publish the picture. We would be grateful if you could send it to us by registered mail. We would see that it is returned safely.

We would be happy to meet the mailing cost and pay an appropriate publication fee if the photograph is suitable for reproduction.

Yours faithfully,
(Signature – D. N. HAWKER)

The question remains and needs to be addressed: did the Mercury receive the cdv and publish it? Perhaps Mrs Warren had second thoughts about letting the cdv go from the photographic collection of her grandfather Thomas J. Nevin, and hesitated. Only in this decade (2020) has the cdv surfaced along with many other photographs and ephemera dating from Thomas J. Nevin’s active years as a commercial and police photographer, fl.1864-1888.

1. Truganini with footstool visible
The carte-de-visite print of Charles Woolley’s original photograph of three Tasmanian Aborigines – Truganini (seated on left), William Lanne (centre, standing) and Bessy Clarke (on right), taken in 1866, was passed down from Thomas J. Nevin to descendants of his youngest son, Albert E. Nevin (1888-1955). It may have been reprinted by Thomas Nevin’s studio before Truganini’s death in 1876. The owner of the cdv print attempted hand-colouring of the drape and carpet with crimson. Similar inept hand-colouring was applied to a series of cdvs bearing Nevin’s name inscribed as “Clifford & Nevin” or his studio stamp with provenance in the north of Tasmania (QVMAG, Launceston; McCullagh Private Collection, etc). Although the provenance of this particular cdv is from the private collection of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s grandchildren, it was not necessarily hand-coloured by Nevin or his studio assistants at the time of printing.

The phrase “The only Aboriginal Native of Tasmania living in April 1869” on the printed label, verso of this print, which appears to have been pasted over the back of the original cdv, uses the present tense to indicate that Truganini was still alive in April 1869, while Bessy Clarke had died, 12th February 1867, and William Lanne had died, 3rd March 1869, thereby dating the first reprint of this photograph in cdv format to April 1869 but not necessarily of any subsequent prints which could have been produced in every decade until the early 1920s in the name of tourism, especially by John Watt Beattie, when this particular trio was believed to represent “the Last of the Tasmanian Aborigines”.

As a result of the growing belief that the Aboriginal race was doomed to extinction, photographers sought to record what was believed to be a disappearing way of life. They followed the ‘frontier’, seeking to find Aboriginal people apparently untouched by change – seemingly ‘primitive’, ‘authentic’ subjects, stripped of signs of European civilization, such as clothing. By contrast, humanitarians such as missionaries sought to show Aboriginal people as essentially the same as Western observers, dressed elegantly with signs of literacy and Christianity such as the Bible…

Jane Lydon (2016): Transmuting Australian Aboriginal photographs, World Art
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21500894.2016.1169215

Subject: on left, Truganini (seated), William Lanne (centre), Bessy Clarke (standing, on right).
Photographer: Charles Alfred Woolley (1834-1922) who worked from 1859 to 1870 at premises adjacent to his father’s upholstery and carpet warehouse.
Format: sepia carte-de-visite on plain buff mount. The plain cdv mount was imported from Marion Imprint Paris, sold by Walch’s stationers in Hobart, Tasmania.
Location and date: 42 Macquarie St. Hobart, 1866
Details: reprint of an original photograph by C. A. Woolley by another studio, possibly T. J. Nevin’s, given provenance from Nevin family descendants.
The verso of this particular cdv reprint was pasted over with a printed label to indicate that Truganini was still living in April 1869, ostensibly when the printed label was first created.
Crimson water colour was applied to the drape and carpet by purchasers of the print, which may have been returned to Nevin’s studio where attempts were made to remove the colouring.
Condition: faded image, torn mount, pinholes in mount, possibly printed on salt paper which has absorbed the crimson colouring in parts; might have been washed at some stage.
NB: the footstool at Truganini’s feet is visible in this capture which was taken minutes apart from the capture below which was reprinted by John Watt Beattie ca. 1891. Another difference between this capture and the reprint by Beattie is Truganini’s right hand – she held it open and relaxed in this capture, but clenched and closed in the capture below.
Provenance: descendants of photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)

: (for recto notes, see above)

Female to left, TRUGANINI, – Seaweed. (Lallah Rookh). About 65 years old. The only Aboriginal Native of Tasmania living in April, 1869.

Female to right, PINNANOBATHAC, – Kangaroo Head. (Bessy Clarke). About 50 years old, died at Oyster Cove, February 12th, 1867.

Male, WILLIAM LANNE, or King Billy, about 26 years old. The last male Aboriginal Native of Tasmania. Died at Hobart Town, March 3rd, 1869.

Photographed from life by Chas. A. Woolley, August, 1866.

Marion Imp. Paris

Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021.

2. Truganini with footstool covered
Clearly, Charles Woolley took this photograph (below) within minutes of the capture above in the same session. He requested from his sitters a few minor adjustments to the composition. Truganini moved her chair and herself closer to William, covered her feet and the footstool with the hem of her dress, and closed her right hand into a fist. William maintained his pose but changed his facial expression; and Bessy leaned in closer to William. All three maintained their gaze to the left of the photographer but focussed on a point closer to the floor.

This is not the only instance where two or more captures taken in the same sitting within minutes are extant of a group of Tasmanian Aborigines. The original session in which two photographs were taken of four sitters identified as William Lanne, Mary Ann, Truganini and Pangernowidedic is dated 1864 and widely credited to the studio of Henry Albert Frith of 19 Murray Street, Hobart. Slight variations in seating and direction of gaze also occurred between takes, and only one of the two captures to survive was hand-coloured. Read more in this article: Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

Given the quality of this print, (below) by John Watt Beattie, he most likely acquired Charles Woolley’s original glass plate negative from stock purchased by the Anson brothers when he first joined their studio in 1891 at Wellington Bridge, Elizabeth Street Hobart. He expanded their business, reprinting the works of Charles A. Woolley, Thomas J. Nevin and Samuel Clifford when each had ceased commercial photography, and mostly without due acknowledgement to them as the original photographer. There is no indication, for example, on this and later prints of this image that the original photograph was taken in 1866 by C. A. Woolley, and not by J. W. Beattie when it was reproduced after 1891. With commercial imperatives foremost in all Beattie’s endeavours, this print was produced for the tourist market in postcard format as well as sold individually for inclusion in travellers’ albums. In one example, a fine print of this particular composition with Beattie’s name embossed on the lower left was collated thematically in a deluxe album, and offered to wealthy collectors such as David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907 – viz. Mitchell Collection, State Library of NSW).

Photograph – Tasmanian Aboriginals, TRUCANNINI, LANNE, William, CLARKE, Bessy
Item Number: PH30/1/3645
Start Date: 01 Jan 1868
View online:https://stors.tas.gov.au/AI/PH30-1-3645
Archives Office of Tasmania

3. Faux stereograph with backdrop and table
This double portrait, appearing to be a stereograph (below) might suggest that two separate photographs were taken within minutes, with the camera moved to right (or left) to create the effect necessary for stereography. But that may not be correct for several reasons. First, the stereograph has no buff mount. The whole has been cropped to eliminate the mount. Second, it would seem that the image on the viewer’s right was cropped from the image on the viewer’s left, suggesting just one photograph was taken but printed twice. If this is correct, the only photograph produced from this particular positioning of the Aboriginal trio and taken in the same session in 1866 at Woolley’s studio, was the image on the viewer’s left which kept visible at the frame’s right side a conservatory door with fanlight and lace curtain partially covering a table with griffin-shaped legs. This table appears in a few portraits by Charles Woolley, notably in one of Mrs Mather. He most likely sourced the table from his father’s furniture store where Thomas J. Nevin later acquired it or one identical; it features as a key piece of studio decor in dozens of Nevin’s portraits of private clientele of the early 1870s, some in particular showing off his big box tabletop stereoscopic viewer.

Although Bessy Clark remained standing to William Lanney’s left, in this capture her right arm was hidden behind his back. In the other two poses above, while different in other respects, her right arm was placed in front of William Lanney’s left arm. In this capture, Truganini has intertwined the fingers of her left and right hands, while in the hand-coloured cdv (Thomas J. Nevin’s collection) her  right hand is open and relaxed,  and in the 1890’s reprint by Beattie of yet another capture from Woolley’s original session, her right hand is clenched. The footstool for this capture was fully covered by Truganini’s dress.


Last of the Tasmanian Aborigines photographs, a most remarkable collection of photographs from the great Grandson of Charles Woolley, principal photographer of the Tasmanian Aboriginals. Taken from life in 1866. They have been only in the possession of the family since they were taken, comprising: ‘Wapperty Z’ died 12th August l867 (3): ‘Truganini (seaweed) (Lallah Rookh)’, of the Bruni Island Tribe was the last and only native of Tasmania living in April 1869 (3); ‘King Billy (William Lanne)’, the last male Aboriginal Native of Tasmania died March 3rd 1869 (3); ‘Pinnanobathac (kangaroo head) Bessie Clarke’, died Oyster Cove, 12th Feb 1887 (4): ‘Patty’ died 9th July 1867 (4); group picture of Truganini, King Billy and Bessie Clark. (1). (18)

Source: Carter’s Price Guide to Antiques.
Link: https://www.carters.com.au/index.cfm/index/4860-woolley-charles-australia-photographs/

4. Another seating arrangement
Although the hand-coloured cdv (above) from Thomas J. Nevin’s family collections may not have been published by the Tasmanian Mercury in 1961, another group photograph of the same sitters – Truganini, William Lanney and Bessy Clarke – which was one of at least four photographs taken by Charles A. Woolley in the single session in 1866, was published by Melbourne’s Herald Sun on 8th July, 2000.

In this capture from the series (below), Bessy Clarke sat centre, the footstool visible at her feet, William Lanne took her place standing now at right of frame, and Truganini stood left of frame. This photograph of the Aboriginal trio was taken in the same session as the three single image portraits, including the image used as a stereograph (above), but it too appears to have been neglected by the institution which supplied a print of it for the Melbourne Herald Sun‘s article “The Death Collectors”, 8th July 2000. Information supplied by the Herald Sun gave no source for the print nor any photographer accreditation. The identities of the Aboriginal trio were simply acknowledged with this caption – “(top left, from left) Truganini, her relative Bessy Clarke and William Lanney.” (see page below).

Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021.

Above: an original cdv of this image, produced at the time the photograph was taken, is either missing or not yet digitised if still extant in Australian or British public collections. This capture is the fourth composition, different again from the other three, each taken minutes apart during the same session when Truganini, Bessey Clark, and William Lanney posed at Charles A. Woolley’s photographic studio, Hobart, in 1866. It was published by Melbourne’s Herald Sun in 2000, and again by the London Times in 2003, in articles dealing with the genocide of Tasmania’s Aboriginal population and theft of Aboriginal remains during the colonial and early modern era.

“The Death Collectors” 2000
Published on July 8, 2000 | Herald Sun/Sunday Herald Sun/Home Magazine (Melbourne, Australia)
Author/Byline: PAUL GRAY | Page: W08 | Section: Weekend. 1771 Words

This copy of the article was kept together with the cdv of the Aboriginal group from Thomas Nevin’s family.
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021

TRANSCRIPT (text only – no photographs which appeared in this article were available at Newsbank).

[head and shoulders portrait of Truganini facing front wearing shell necklace]
Caption: The bodies of countless Aborigines were dissected, decapitated and taken far from home – all in the name of science.

[portrait of Michael Mansell]
Caption: Tasmanian Michael Mansell says the most important issue is to get past the control exerted by British Museum authorities over the remains they hold.

The return of Aboriginal remains held in British museums was high on the agenda of talks between Prime Minister John Howard and his British counterpart Tony Blair this week. PAUL GRAY investigates an appalling chapter in Australia’s history.

THE corpse of an Aboriginal man lies in the morgue in Hobart Town.

It is March 1869, the day on which the last full-blood Aboriginal man in Tasmania, William Lanney, died.

But as he awaits burial, an international squabble is brewing.

British scientists are racing to lay their hands on his remains.

A modern British writer tells the grisly story of how these scientists fell over each other in their haste to get hold of Lanney’s remains.

Soon after Lanney died, the surgeon in charge of the mortuary that day, Dr Stokell, was called away to tea. But the invitation to tea was a ruse, says Mark Cocker in his book, Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold.

While Stokell was absent, Dr William Crowther, acting for London’s Royal College of Surgeons, entered the morgue with his son. Together they decapitated Lanney’s corpse and removed the cranial skin.

In a crude attempt at deception, they pushed another skull — one they’d brought with them — inside the peeled-off skin and left, taking their “prize” with them.

Soon Stokell, a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania, returned. Apparently aghast at being beaten to the chase, he removed Lanney’s hands and feet.

As if this were not enough for these men of science, the night after the funeral, Royal Society members raided the cemetery for the rest of Lanney’s body, took it back to the morgue and removed more anatomical specimens.

While the fast-disappearing remains were still there, the original dissectionists — Crowther and his fellows from the Royal College of Surgeons — reportedly also arrived at the morgue and knocked down the door with an axe. They were disappointed.

In all this rush for scientific enlightenment, Cocker says, “there were only a few scraps of flesh left”.

The gruesome fate of Lanney’s body has an epilogue in the tale of Truganini (Aboriginal name Lallah Roogh)[sic].

Regarded in her lifetime as “the last Tasmanian”, Truganini was born early in the 19th century and grew up witnessing some of the worst atrocities against Aborigines in recorded history.

Her hard life included helping the British “protector of Aborigines”, George Robinson, to relocate a group of her own people from mainland Tasmania to Flinders Island.

She is said to have once saved Robinson’s life.

Yet, despite having earned much respect from blacks and whites, Truganini nursed a fear — which she confided to a doctor before her death — that her body would suffer a fate similar to Lanney’s.

“Bury me behind the mountains,” she is said to have asked before dying in 1876.

Despite this, her body was disinterred by scientists and the skeleton put on display in a Tasmanian museum, where it remained until 1947.

Tragically, the fate of both Truganini and Lanney is typical of a national tragedy that befell unknown numbers of Australian Aborigines.

Putting that wrong to rights, particularly through the return to Aborigines of human remains still held by foreign museums, is now moving higher on Australia’s political agenda.

This week, Prime Minister John Howard was to meet his British counterpart, Tony Blair, to discuss the return from British museums of Aboriginal remains. Specimens were taken in their thousands throughout the 19th century to fulfil a craving for scientific knowledge.

Commenting to Weekend on the recent return by Britain’s University of Edinburgh of remains from some 330 Aborigines, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Affairs Minister John Herron says the event is significant for all Australians.

“The return of these remains marks their final journey back to local Aboriginal communities, and is recognition of the importance of indigenous heritage and culture,” Herron says.

However, a great deal remains to be done before we can understand why this sacrilege — as Aboriginal people see it — against so many ancestors occurred.

Bob Weatherall, a longtime campaigner for the return of ancestral remains and cultural artefacts, blames the chase for specimens on an upsurge in what he calls “scientific racism” at the start of the 19th century.

Weatherall is a cultural adviser to the Queensland-based Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action.

“There were anthropologists, archeologists [sic], anatomists all going around the world acquiring non-white, indigenous remains,” he says. “They were all looking for the `missing link’ in Darwin’s theory.”

AGENTS were often paid to bring back remains for scientific institutes, Weatherall says.

“Before the bodies were cold, they were dissecting heads and arms.

“And they weren’t just robbing graves, there was also deliberate murder.”

In one case, Weatherall claims, a man who later became a successful Queensland politician killed his Aboriginal servant and dissected the body for trophies.

While the wholesale scientific exploitation of burial sites has long finished, Weatherall says Aborigines are still upset that graves continue to be robbed, usually by “fast-buck merchants” or people in search of “curiosities”. Weatherall says he knows of pastoralists who took bodies which had been interred in trees, to pass on to museums.

The violation of burial sites is particularly inflammatory to Aborigines.

“Most (of the dead) were people who had believed that when they died, they would go to their final resting place, that they would join the spirit world. They never dreamed they would be dug up,” Weatherall says.

This denial of human dignity to Aborigines throughout the 19th century has parallels in white society, with the seizure and dissection of executed criminals such as Ned Kelly.

But the systematic, scientific collection of Aboriginal bodies — and those of other indigenous people around the world — had no parallel inside European communities.

This, and the continuing presence of Aboriginal remains in overseas museums, is what makes their repatriation and dignified burial a project of major national importance for Australia.

Appropriately, in view of what happened to William Lanney and Truganini, Tasmanian Aboriginal activists have led the way on this issue.

In the 1970s, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre brought unsuccessful legal action against the Tasmanian Museum. However, publicity surrounding the case led to state legislation providing for the return of remains.

Two weeks ago, the centre blazed another trail towards reconciliation by writing to Prime Minister Howard welcoming his intention to ask his British counterpart for the return of all Aboriginal remains.

However, the letter warned that certain principles were crucial for repatriation to be acceptable to Aborigines, among them that all remains had to be repatriated — identified or unidentified — and all decisions on storage and disposition of remains on their return should be made only by Aborigines.

The Tasmanian group has also appealed directly to the British Government. In a submission last month to a House of Commons inquiry, it claimed at least 16 overseas museums and other institutions still held Tasmanian Aboriginal remains.

The centre’s Michael Mansell says the most important issue at present is to get past the control exerted by British Museum authorities over the remains they hold.

Many of these authorities, he says, view the remains as “cultural items, not human remains”.

If some of these authorities have their way, remains will be returned only on condition they are not cremated or buried.

“They are saying in effect that Aborigines cannot be trusted to control what is done with the remains,” Mansell says.

“They can’t see that every people in the world, including Aborigines, have a right to control what happens to their dead.”

Mansell and the centre have already demonstrated what such control might involve. They have been receiving remains on behalf of Tasmanian Aborigines from museums and institutions since the 1970s, including a set of skulls from the University of Edinburgh in 1991.

Nearly all these remains have been cremated or buried, Mansell says. The skeleton of Truganini was cremated and the ashes scattered over her ancestral waters in 1976.

However, Mansell believes the number of Aboriginal remains still held by museums worldwide is in the thousands.

These people are waiting, he says, “to have their spirits laid to rest”.

A problem is that many remains held by museums and universities include soft-tissue samples, such as skin and parts of internal organs, as well as bones. In many cases, these are unidentified or difficult to identify as to place of origin.

In such cases, what is the appropriate means of disposal?

Weatherall agrees with his Tasmanian colleagues that customary burial — laying to rest the spirits of the dead — must be the ultimate aim.

Repatriation, the Tasmanian Aborigines insist in their submission to the British Parliament, is not intended to further the cause of Australian museums at the expense of overseas ones.

Rather, its purpose should be solely so “we are able at last to put to rest in a traditional ceremony conducted by Aboriginal people the spirits of our ancestors who were disinterred from burial grounds or killed in the bush”.

Weatherall believes that with adequate political support, a national Aboriginal reference group can be established which would set in place procedures for dealing with remains whose origins are unknown.

Part of the problem that must be faced is that there is no national clearing-house for remains. Such a clearing-house could be established under Aboriginal control to hold remains pending final investigations, Weatherall says.

Some scientists believe useful research can still be carried out on remains, particularly in light of the human genome project and DNA breakthroughs.

But Weatherall opposes this, dismissing the idea of continuing research on old human remains as nothing more than “a vampire project”.

He believes that a final, satisfactory answer to the violations of the past requires an independent commission of inquiry — in collaboration with museums, but run by Aborigines — to make a comprehensive list of Aboriginal remains held in all museums around the world.

Weatherall’s call for a national clearing-house is strongly supported by Mansell.

He believes that holding remains under Aboriginal control until they can be identified makes a lot of sense, because with museums everywhere now becoming more open, “more information is coming out every day” about their origins.

That could take years.

However, for today’s Australians seeking reconciliation between black and white, it could become a useful focus of energy.

As for the dead, they continue to wait . . . *

Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021.

Captions – Photos
Last of the line: (top left, from left) Truganini, her relative Bessy Clarke and William Lanney.

Science shame
: (top right) Queensland campaigner Bob Weatherall blames “scientific racism” for the taking of remains.

: (above) Prime Minister John Howard and his British counterpart Tony Blair were to discuss the return of remains this week.

PAUL GRAY, ‘THE DEATH COLLECTORS’, Herald Sun (online), 8 Jul 2000 W08 ‹https://infoweb-newsbank-com.rp.nla.gov.au/apps/news/document-view?p=AWGLNB&docref=news/0FCE89D898FB1BDF›
Copyright, 2000, Nationwide News Pty Limited

View article in Google Drive here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1etjHJt9h14CWgk496GgNSS9YZrP-jvAs/view?usp=sharing

Source: GRAY, PAUL. “THE DEATH COLLECTORS.” Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), 1 – FIRST ed., sec. Weekend, 8 July 2000, p. W08. Global NewsBank, Accessed 27 Aug. 2021.

5. In the London Times, 8th November 2003
The same photographic capture (below) as the print appearing in the Herald Sun, Melbourne, 8th July 2000 – with Bessy Clarke seated centre, footstool visible; Truganini standing on viewer’s left; and William Lanney on viewer’s right – was published by the London Times in an article reviewing the Palmer report on the repatriation of indigenous remains from British museums, specifically the skeletons of Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori, Egyptian mummies and American Indians [sic] acquired in the name of science.

Again, no source was given for the photographic print in the London Times article, nor any photographer accreditation, although clearly it belongs with at least three other poses and configurations of seating in the series taken during the one session at Charles A. Woolley’s Hobart studio in 1866.

The absence of any record in Tasmanian collections of this particular photograph with that particular seating configuration of the Aboriginal trio might suggest the sole extant and remaining print or cdv was sent to Britain or Scotland as a pictorial record along with Aboriginal skeletal remains during the 19th century, and may still be held in the archives of those receiving institutions, whether in London, Cambridge or Aberdeen. The British Museum, as one example, holds a large collection of photographic works by photographer John Watt Beattie, including a glass plate he used to produce the prints of the trio bearing HIS name and impress. Since Beattie reproduced photographs on glass for magic lantern shows, the plate he used may or may not have been an original from Charles A. Woolley’s studio.

Source: p.78, Intercolonial Exhibition 1866 : official catalogue (2nd ed.). Melbourne
Link: http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/permalink/f/1o9hq1f/SLV_ROSETTAIE4531816
Link: https://guides.slv.vic.gov.au/interexhib/1866to67

For the Commissioners of Tasmania: Charles A. Woolley won medals for individual photographic portraits of five Tasmanian Aboriginals: William Lanney, Patty, Wapperty, Truganini and Bessy Clarke at the Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne, October – November 1866. His series of each individual included their head and shoulder portrait in three aspects: full frontal, left profile and right profile, held in the Mitchell Collection, State Library of NSW. However, there is no record that the group portrait of William Lanney, Truganini and Bessy Clarke under discussion here was submitted for exhibition then or at any later date.


“Please can we have our bones back?
*Approximately 100 skeletons collected in Australia from the mid-18th to early 20th centuries are now claimed by the Australian repatriation movement from the Duckworth Laboratory, Cambridge University.
*Up to 450 further sets of Australian remains are also held by the Natural History Museum, London.
*Maori warrior remains are claimed by the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander research after Edinburgh University handed back 330 Aboriginal skeletons to Australia in 2000. Marischal Museum, Aberdeen.”

“Skeletons in the closet : Burying the past; He’s narrow skulled, pointy nosed and he upsets people. He may also have cousins in Britain. Giles Whittell on the strange case of Kennewick Man; Archaeologists All Agreed—he Wasn’t an Indian. In Which Case, what was He?”
Contributors: Giles Whittell
Source: The Times, London, United Kingdom: Times Newspapers Limited, pp. 6[S2], Issue. 67915, 2003.
Publisher Information: London, United Kingdom: Times Newspapers Limited, 2003.
Publication Year: 2003
Contents Note: Arts and Sports
Document Type: Review
Language: English
Rights: © Times Newspapers Limited
Accession Number: edsgtd.IF0502523792
Database: Times Digital Archive

6. Benjamin Law’s bust of Truganini, 2009
This representation of Truganini cast in plaster by Benjamin Law and dated 1836 is one of several held in public collections. The British Museum’s copy is damaged. Now housed at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, this cast was first owned by Judah Solomon in Hobart, and was on loan to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery until offered at Sotheby’s in 2009 which prompted calls for its withdrawal from sale. The NPG Canberra purchased it in 2010.

Cast plaster bust of “Trucaninny” [NPG, sic] 1836 by Benjamin Law (1807-1890)
Purchased by the National Portrait Gallery, 2010.
Photo taken at the National Portrait Gallery 2021
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021

Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021.

In the press
“Truganini bust sale in ownership battle”.
Source: MICHELLE PAINE, Mercury, The (Hobart), 21.08.2009, p2-2, 1
Abstract: RARE busts of renowned Tasmanian Aborigines Truganini and Woureddy are expected to fetch up to $700,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne on Monday.


Truganini bust sale in ownership battle
RARE busts of renowned Tasmanian Aborigines Truganini and Woureddy are expected to fetch up to $700,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne on Monday.
The works are considered by many to be Australia’s first major sculptures and are especially valuable because of their story.
They were originally bought by Hobart convict turned businessman Judah Solomon and were made by Benjamin Law, who knew Truganini and her husband, in the 1830s.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre legal adviser Michael Mansell has called on Sotheby’s to withdraw the busts from sale and hand them back to Tasmania’s Aboriginal community.
The Solomon family has always owned the works but they were on loan to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for 26 years until they helped open the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra last year.
Sotheby’s senior researcher and paintings specialist David Hansen was in charge of the busts when he worked at TMAG.
“They have tremendous importance historically and culturally,” Dr Hansen said.
“She is a very potent image and this is a particularly potent one because it is such a fine portrait.
“The busts are in very fine condition.
“Benjamin Law was Australia’s first professional sculptor.”
Until 1921, the busts stood in Temple House, where Hobart police detectives now work.
Dr Hansen said Law could have made up to 30 casts but that was not certain.
Eight pairs and four individual busts are known to exist in public collections worldwide.
Tasmanian historian Cassandra Pybus hoped a public gallery would acquire the busts.
“I think it would be tragic if these busts were to leave the public domain,” she said.
“They should be on show to the public, either in Canberra or Hobart as they are of enormous historical significance.
“Perhaps [Hobart-based art collector] David Walsh might like to acquire them for his Museum of Old and New Art, or another local benefactor.”
TMAG director Bill Bleathman said the gallery had its own pair of busts, although its Truganini figure needed conservation work, which would be done. “If they were donated to us or could be acquired under a cultural gift program, that would be great,” he said.
The gallery had pursued the gift option, which allows tax deductibility, in vain.
Mr Mansell said: “Truganini is dead and she can’t defend herself against the symbolism that is portrayed by the racists of Australia who abuse her memory.
“The auction house should take responsibility and so should the vendor. They should be accountable for changing these racist attitudes.”
He said past, wrong references to Truganini as the last full-blood Aborigine implied present Aborigines were somehow impure or tainted.

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