It is said that history is written by the victor – it’s also written by the native. A few days back, Stacey and I went to the National Museum in Canberra, and it is astounding how many exhibits we stood in front of and expounded “Who the heck is this person?” Their deeds had profound impact on at least the national level, but I was sadly uneducated as to their global significance. However, it can also be said (as illustrated on a recent pub trivia night) that many here don’t know when Pearl Harbor happened, though to be fair, it’s partly because Australia was already engaged in a war with the Japanese well before our entanglement.
In any case, the National Museum was a delightful treat that will take another two visits to fully appreciate. How rabbits have overrun the terrain, despite all sorts of antique and modern controlling techniques, Australia’s exploration of its interior mineral and water resources, and the evolution of its architecture are truly amazing stories. The displays are enrichened by nearby touch tablets that provide you with additional pages of story-telling of the objects or characters, all photo identified, something I have never seen before.
There’s a of hands-on too – find a photo of me floating around Facebook now in leg irons, similar to how the early prisoners were shipped over. I built part of a house with plastic flexible blocks that appears to be a modern solution to wood and steel shortages.
The highlight of the afternoon was the 3D 30-minute series narrated by David Attenborough (I really can’t get enough of his accent) on the beginnings of life on earth, and another segment of current life under the waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef. We both remarked that these are phenominal, and wish they were available to anyone on YouTube who has their own Samsung Gear VR and Galaxy S6 (the equippage used by the museum). It was fun to sit down in this large room, with everyone to their own swivel chair, out of arm’s reach of one’s neighbors, put on the the googles and high-quality earphones, and proceed to be immersed in a digital world where you float and spin around, though fortunately not enough to get one’s stomach disturbed.
And it is here (in addition to the War Memorial) where much of the Aboriginal culture and heritage have been preserved and explained. A wonderful people, well documented now, and yet you get a sense that we will never truly understand them as they were, thousands of years before the rise of civilisation (see, I’m even spelling their way now) in Europe.
But in a twist of irony, as we ran out of time and were shooed out the doors, we stepped right into a hip hop concert behind held on the patio on the lake, complete with wine and cheese plates. Although the local talent was quite enjoyable, complete with John Lennon glasses and fringe apparrel that went right along with my pony-tail and mid-life crisis, what I really found fascinating was the early vintage restored side-wheel steam paddleboat down at the dock. It was named Enterprise, but I didn’t see an NCC-1701 on it anywhere.