Enquiring Minds: exploration and discovery in colonial NSW
Enquiring Minds will delve into the eighteenth and nineteenth century voyages of discovery which combined the exploration of the great southern land with scientific advances in navigation, astronomy, mapping, and botanical collecting.
As a government residence, Old Government House was at the centre of these discoveries. When Governor King arrived in 1800, he brought with him the first appointed colonial botanist, George Caley. Caley was based at Parramatta, using Old Government House to dry his specimens, and the old farm at Parramatta to establish acclimatisation gardens for plants going between the colony and England. Many of the first Australian plants grown at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, England, were from Caley’s seed collections.
Governor Brisbane had a keen interest in using astronomy for marine navigation, and established an observatory in Parramatta Park next to the house, where the first chart of stars in the southern hemisphere was compiled from 1821 – 1825, cataloguing over 7,500 stars. The chart, and some of the instruments used to create it will be featured in the exhibition.
The marine explorations of Mathew Flinders and Phillip Parker King, and the inland explorations of John Oxley added greatly to the European knowledge of the land as they were accompanied by botanists, geologists and naturalists. Although the fabled inland sea was never found, the expeditions of Oxley and those who followed him opened up the country for agriculture and settlement, and had a profound effect on both the land and the indigenous peoples.