Museum’s hunt for top treasures
DEEP in the vaults of the Australian Museum curators prised open a dusty old crate for the first time in 70 years to reveal a remarkable beast.
The skeleton of an Irish elk — which is actually neither Irish nor an elk but rather an extinct deer that once roamed Europe — was painstakingly taken out of storage and reassembled to become one of the stars of a new landmark exhibition.
The imposing specimen was chosen from around 18 million artefacts, many of which are stashed away gathering dust, as one of the 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum.
Celebrating the objects and people that have shaped Australia, the new permanent exhibition has been collated to mark the museum’s 190th anniversary and to cel- ebrate the reopening of the Westpac Long Gallery after a $9 million two-year restoration.
It includes 100 of the most important items in the museum’s collection — including Australia’s first banknote, a stuffed Tasmanian tiger pup and the only surviving large gold nugget from the early gold rush years of NSW. The other half of the exhibition celebrates 100 people who have helped shape the nation through contributions to history, science, nature or culture.
The Irish elk is one of the most impressive: with antlers spanning 3m it would dwarf all living deer and even a fully grown bull moose.
The skeleton was found perfectly preserved in a peat bog, an oxygen-starved quagmire that mummifies anything which falls in.
200 TREASURES OF THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM OPENS SATURDAY
Mike Smith and Tim Moore set up the imposing Irish elk skeleton at the Australian Museum.