State Library secures major haul of rare 18th century Spanish sea charts

The State Library of NSW has just acquired a series of rare, hand-coloured charts which document a significant yet largely forgotten story of late 18th century Spanish exploration in the Pacific, it was announced today.

The collection of 24 original Spanish sea charts from the 1770s, acquired from a dealer for $300,000, contains some of the earliest detailed charts of the Spanish expeditions to Tahitiand Easter Island.

Three of the most highly decorative charts from the collection will go on public display in the State Library’s Amaze Gallery from today, Friday 28 November.

According to Maggie Patton, the State Library’s maps expert, “The Spanish were eager to retain a foothold in the Pacific region before the English or French and subsequently, in 1774, established a small colony in Tahiti including two Franciscan priests. The colony failed and the settlement was abandoned a year later.”

“This exciting haul of Spanish charts fills an important gap in the Library’s collection from the late 18th century,” said Ms Patton

See the full media release attached. 

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New website provides vital access to reclaimed Indigenous languages

The State Library of NSW will provide unprecedented access to vital records of 100 Indigenous Australian languages – many considered to be critically endangered – with the launch TODAY [Monday 24 November] of the Rediscovering Indigenous Languages website, supported by Rio Tinto Australia.

According to NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive Alex Byrne: “Three years ago, with strong support from Rio Tinto Australia, we embarked on a landmark project to revitalise, rescue and preserve Indigenous languages from the State Library’s archival records.

“Our prime purpose was to find and return this deeply critical information to the communities to whom it belongs, and in the most culturally appropriate ways,” said Dr Byrne.

Internationally renowned linguist Dr Michael Walsh took on the mammoth task of sifting through the Library’s 14kms of letters and journals authored by colonial surveyors, officers and missionaries. He discovered valuable details on 100 Indigenous Australian languages – including word lists and vocabularies – that were thought to be lost.

Over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages were spoken prior to Australian settlement in 1788, but now only 20 are spoken comprehensively.

The website <> will provide communities with access to digitised copies of these rediscovered word lists and vocabularies.

“Many people will experience their languages for the very first time through our new website so we’re working closely with communities to consult on the most appropriate ways to provide access to the records,” says Kirsten Thorpe, manager of the State Library’s Indigenous Services Branch.

See the full media release attached.

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Prized Australian history heads to central west NSW

Captain Cook’s shoe buckles and rare Indigenous word lists are among the extraordinary items from the State Library’s world-renowned collection heading to the central west region of NSW from 25 to 27 November 2014.

Deputy Premier of NSW Troy Grant said this would be the first time these prized Australian historical items from the State Library’s collection would be shown in this area.

“Over the past two years 168 schools have enjoyed the Library’s popular Far Out! Treasures to the Bush initiative, and I’m thrilled it is heading to Coolamon, West Wyalong, Lake Cargelligo and Goolgowi for the first time to show primary school students these amazing items, relating to the discovery and exploration of our continent and nation,” Mr Grant said.

Students and teachers from 19 primary schools will be among the first in their area to view the actual handwritten letters of Mary Reibey, extraordinary Indigenous artwork and Indigenous word lists from the local area. 

“We’re adding more and more riches to our website every day, and providing remote access to our extensive heritage material and online resources, but seeing these original and unique historic items has a special appeal!” says NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive, Alex Byrne.

See the full media release attached.

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