The Curiosity of Melbourne Ward

The Curiosity of Melbourne Ward

Jim Smith | Den Fenella Press | 9780994387240

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For over 20 years, an unassuming shed in the grounds of the Hydro Majestic hotel offered visitors access to one of Australia's greatest private collections of anthropological artefacts and biological specimens. Entering its dim interior, tourists would be greeted by the curator Melbourne Ward, a man as unusual as his eclectic assemblage. His 'Gallery of Natural History and Native Art' opened in 1943 and closed in 1965. A branch Museum at Echo Point called Pyala stayed open until 1972, being run by Mel's wife Halley after his death in 1966.
This book relates the curious story of Mel Ward's life, including his early theatrical career, and recreates through photographs something of the experience of walking through his densely packed displays of arts and crafts from indigenous peoples in Australia, New Guinea, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. These were intermingled with stuffed and pickled fauna and Australian convict and colonial era artefacts. Mel was fascinated by the mythology and legends of tribal people and was the first to publicise widely the best-known version of the Aboriginal legend of the Three Sisters at Katoomba.
Mel Ward's enthusiastic presentations and charismatic personality made a lifelong impression on those who were lucky enough to meet him. The consultation paper published in support of the Victorian Law Reform Commission's review into the Family Violence and the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 outlines issues to guide submissions to the inquiry.

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