Alastair Morrison (1915-2009)
Interview with Alastair Morrison, 2006
Alastair Morrison, Life Fellow and friend of the Powerhouse Museum, passed away on 4 August, aged 93. Alastair was a passionate collector and one of the Museum's most generous donors.
Born in Peking to George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920) and Jenny Wark Robin (1889-1923), Alastair was educated in England. After graduating in economics from Cambridge in 1937, he travelled to Peru and Chile to collect bird specimens that he sold to British zoos and museums. In 1940 he re-visited Peking where he met Hedda Hammer (1908-1991) whom he would marry in 1946. During the war Alastair served in the British Indian Army and worked in intelligence. After demobilisation he joined the British Colonial Service. He was posted to Sarawak as a District Officer and worked in various up-river locations. In 1954 he was appointed to the Colonial Secretariat in Kuching and worked as Principal Assistant Secretary (Defence), Development Secretary and then Information Officer. After the incorporation of Sarawak into the state of Malaysia in 1963, Alastair was invited to work in the new Federal Department of Information. Prior to his departure from Sarawak he received an award for services to Malaysia. In 1967 the Morrisons moved to Canberra where Alastair worked as Head of the South-East Asia branch of the Office of Current Intelligence under the Joint Intelligence Organisation until his retirement.
Among Alastair's gifts to the Museum's Asian collection are a large number of photographs by Hedda Hammer Morrison taken in Peking during the period 1933-46, and Sarawak in northwest Borneo from 1947 to 1966; collections of Chinese belt toggles and their Japanese equivalent, netsuke; collections of Indian and Nepali bronze figures reflecting Hindu, Jain and Buddhist philosophies, and many books from his personal research library that reflect his wide-ranging collecting interests. Alastair's most recent gift to the Museum was a group of ceramics from North and Southeast Asia.
In 2006 Claire Roberts interviewed Alastair at home in Canberra, filmed by Jean-Francois Lanzarone. This short video, produced by Jean-Francois Lanzarone, is a tribute to Alastair Morrison and his generosity to the Museum over many years.
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