Prisoner Robert aka James OGDEN, photographed by Nevin 1875

This photograph – a standard 1870s carte-de-visite prisoner identification photograph produced by Thomas J. Nevin – has escaped the attention of photo-historians of the 1870s Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photographs, the so-called “Port Arthur convict portraits 1874” labelled and catalogued as such in Australian national collections, viz. the National Library of Australia, Canberra, and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. It belongs to the same series of fine albumen prints of prisoners taken by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin for the Hobart Gaol and Hobart Municipal Police authorities from 1872- 1880. … More Prisoner Robert aka James OGDEN, photographed by Nevin 1875

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

NEVIN’S GLASS NEGATIVES 1870s PRISONER BEWLEY TUCK or JOHN TUCK? Black and white print from Thomas Nevin’s glass negative taken of prisoner Bewley Tuck, No. 68 From the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online until 2006) Of the three hundred and fifty (350) or so extant photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin … More From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

Mirror with a Memory Exhibition, National  Portrait Gallery 2000

A new National Portrait Gallery of Australia is under construction in Canberra. No doubt the new spaces will display photographic portraits of convicts transported to Australia, as part of the country’s rich history of migration. How will the National Portrait Gallery handle issues of attribution? Will the contradictions of the exhibition Mirror with a Memory … More Mirror with a Memory Exhibition, National  Portrait Gallery 2000

The Old Curiosity Shop

William Radcliffe published a guide to Port Arthur in the 1930s with photographs by John Watt Beattie taken in the early 1900s. The shame of convict heritage, a keenly felt stigma of the times, required concealment of real names. On page 25, he writes:

In consideration of relatives who may be living, the actual names have been omitted. If any doubt of the facts is occasioned in any way, the records may be seen on application at my museum at Port Arthur. … More The Old Curiosity Shop

John Watt Beattie’s Museum ca 1916

“There are three rooms literally crammed with exhibits … The question which pressed itself on my mind time and again was, how comes it that these old-time relics which formerly were Government property, are now in private hands? Did the Government sell them or give them away? The same query applies to the small collection in a curiosity shop at Brown’s River. Whatever the answer may be, I hold the opinion that the Government would be amply justified in taking prompt steps to repossess them, even though some duplicates may be in the State Museum. Today the collection is valuable and extremely interesting. A century hence it will be priceless. It would surely be unpardonable to allow it to pass into the hands of some wealthy globe-trotter which is the fate awaiting it, unless action be taken to secure it to the State.” … More John Watt Beattie’s Museum ca 1916