Booklet, 'Australian Aborigines and South Sea Islanders: Implements, Weapons and Curios', paper, Tyrrells Museum, Sydney, 1929
In the first half of the twentieth century images from South Pacific and Aboriginal cultures exercised an 'exotic' fascination in the Australian popular imagination. Souvenir photographic prints, postcards, artefacts, travel books and museum displays romanticised the islands of the 'South Seas' and frequently inscribed an Australian colonial presence on the region.
In 1929 the bookseller James R Tyrrell bought most of the stock of the two defunct Sydney photographic studios of Henry King and Charles Kerry. Among the 6500 glass plate negatives were photographs of Aborigines as well as images of life in the South Pacific accumulated from a range of sources. Tyrrell sold prints of 'old Sydney, Australian Aborigines and South Sea Native Life', ensuring their currency half a century after they were taken. In 1929 he also acquired a curio collection belonging to the taxidermists and curio merchants Tost and Rohr. Tyrrell had plans for a floating ethnographic museum moored on Sydney Harbour, but the material remained in his bookshop for half a century.
Tyrrell published this booklet as a sales catalogue of his newly acquired collection of objects and photographs of indigenous cultures. It lists ethnographic artefacts from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and other Pacific islands. Each item is numbered, described and the price is noted. To emphasise their commercial value and their quality as commodities, Tyrrell used a commonplace phrase of social Darwinism, 'valuable records of the fast disappearing native races' (page 36).
The booklet includes black and white photographs of souvenirs and artefacts (including contemporary boomerangs from La Perouse), photographs from the studios of Henry King and Charles Kerry and interior views of Tyrrell's museum/bookshop in Castlereagh St.
The Tyrrell collection of glass plate negatives was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1985. This booklet sheds light on the Tyrrell collection by showing one way in which the photographs were used after the demise of the photographic firms from which they came.
Set up and printed by Jno. Evans & Son Printing Co, 186-188 Kent St Sydney