The nature of the collection and policy guidelines for its development
The Collection as a whole
The purpose of the collection is to provide, maintain and develop for Tasmanians and other interested people a high quality collection of rare and valuable items, in several print and art forms.
The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts is unique in its origins as a family collection which, since it became a public collection in the care of the State Library of Tasmania, has continued to be developed according to the principles established by the Allport family. It is also unique in the breadth and richness of its resources. Its importance lies both in its continuing integrity as a collection and in the value of the items it contains.
From 1966 to 1994, the development of the collection determined very largely by the knowledge and expertise of the former curator, Geoffrey Stilwell until his retirement in January 1995.
Allport is one of several agencies charged with the responsibility of collecting and preserving Tasmania's cultural and documentary heritage. There is, inevitably, some overlap and duplication between the roles and collections of these agencies. Within the State Library of Tasmania, the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts is one of four heritage collections, the others being the Tasmaniana Library, the WL Crowther Library and the Launceston Local Studies Library. Each of these four collections has, and will continue to have, its own legal and physical integrity. Together, they form an integrated unit providing resources and services to researchers and recreational visitors.
Apart from the State Library, the Allport collection and the services it provides are closely related to those of the Archives Office of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.
Acquisitions for the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts will always be made in a spirit of co-operation with other heritage collections, both within and outside Tasmania.
The origins and essence of the collection and of its principal print and fine arts forms lie in the artistic interests and abilities of an educated and cultured Tasmanian colonial family of the nineteenth century. The wider ranging interests of some members of the family are also reflected in its historical, scientific and social content.
The principal forms comprise books, pamphlets, manuscripts, maps, prints, oil paintings, water-colours, ceramics, glassware, silverware, furniture and objects of historical interest. It is necessary and useful to divide materials into different formats according to the ways in which they should be stored, handled and catalogued.
The present strengths of the collection lie in the subjects of:
Pacific and Australasian discovery
Exploration and travel
Australian and Tasmanian history
The criteria determining the contents of the collection are principally the rarity and value of items within the above mentioned subjects and forms. Items are included in the collection as fine and typical examples of the subjects and forms they represent. A guiding principle is the desire, whenever possible and appropriate, to obtain items of the finest quality of their type.
Books, Pamphlets, Manuscripts and Maps
The collection of printed material comprises approximately six thousand items (many of them making up multi-volume works) dating from the early eighteenth century to the present day. It includes rare or valuable works generally covering:
discovery and exploration of Australasia and the Pacific region including the Antarctic
natural history of these regions
history of Tasmanian and Australian settlement and subsequent development
aboriginal people of Tasmania and Australia
fine arts and architecture relating to Australia
Allport family items
The Library collection includes fine editions of works mainly concerning early exploration and voyages of discovery in the Pacific and Australasian regions, with particular regard to Tasmania. Australian and Tasmanian biography of the early colonial period features prominently, together with published journals, letters and diaries of the period. Other subjects represented less intensively in the collection include Antarctic and New Zealand exploration, natural history of the Pacific and Australasia and, more incidentally, colonial and penal settlement and aboriginal subjects.
Most works are in the English language, a few in Latin, French, German and Dutch. The latter were purchased because of references to Tasmania. English is the preferred but not necessarily exclusive language.
In its scope and content, the Library collection now stands as the counterpart of the rare book collections in State Libraries elsewhere in Australia. This reflects Henry Allport's intention that it serve as permanent reference library of Australiana akin to the Mitchell Library in the State Library of New South Wales.
The manuscript collection includes Allport family (and related) material as well as items and record groups collected because of their subject matter (in most instances relating to Tasmania's history).
The scope of the book collection and the rarity of its contents will be preserved by acquiring scarce and valuable items which reinforce the present coverage. This policy will permit the acquisition of rare items relevant to the collection, not previously held, and the replacement of existing titles with superior copies.
The present subject coverage will be maintained by purchasing newly published works as well as facsimile editions and translations of original works already held.
An extension of the scope of the collection into subjects such as Antarctica
Rare and significant manuscripts will be acquired, depending on an assessment of their value and merit to the Allport collections as a whole.
There are approximately 2000 photographs in this small but important collection.
It includes fine examples of daguerreotypes, glass plates and other nineteenth century photographic formats as well as an extensive collection of modem photographs and slides. The collection is very much the result of the involvement of Allport family members in the development of photography in Tasmania and their association with some of the better-known photographers.
The collection mainly comprises portraits of family members and friends; and images of houses, prominent buildings, streetscapes and natural features.
Rare and significant photographs will be acquired depending on an assessment of their value, merit and relevance to the Allport collections as a whole.
Paintings, Drawings and Sketchbooks
There are approximately 70 oil paintings and almost 1,700 water-colours and drawings (including items in sketchbooks) in the collection.
The collection is focused in the nineteenth century with an emphasis on Tasmanian subject matter: i.e. early exploration, settlement, topography, history and portraiture. Artistic merit, rarity, fine physical condition and the importance of the works as historical documents have all been considered in the development of the collection.
- Additions to the collection will generally conform with the artists originally collected by Allport family members. However works by contemporaneous artists of acknowledged quality who are not already represented in the collection, but whose works will enhance the collection and make it more comprehensible, will be considered for acquisition.
- Increasing the representation of early artists important to the development of nineteenth century Australian exploration and settlement (particularly Tasmanian) by collecting fine examples of their original work. Allport's collecting ability will increasingly be influenced by the rising popularity and consequent cost of "colonial" art. Relevant material from later periods which otherwise fall within the scope of this policy and is affordable will therefore be considered for acquisition.
- Supplementing the Allport's collection of fine and rare printed volumes on exploration and natural history by collecting original works which relate to the published images.
- An increase in the collection of Tasmanian colonial portraits where the available examples are of artistic as well as biographical merit. The provenance of these portraits and confirmation of the identities of the sitters will be major factors in the decision to purchase.
- Some examples of 20th Century fine arts may be appropriate for acquisition if they provide a context for the existing Allport works created by CFL Allport in the first half of that century.
- Collecting works which form a historical record of the Tasmanian environment, both built and natural.
- Development of a representative collection of Tasmanian watercolours of exceptional quality and significance by the principal Tasmanian artists of the second half of the twentieth century.
- Collecting outstanding examples of the work of female Tasmanian botanical artists of the second half of the twentieth century.
- Replacement of inferior works with works of superior quality, unless there is a compelling reason for retaining the inferior original, ego historical importance, subject matter or association value.
- Additions will not be made to the examples of the works of English painters such as R.P. Bonington. J.S. Cotman, Peter de Wint, and John Varley.
- Costs associated with conservation and storage will be taken into consideration when acquiring works. Information regarding the provenance and history of the work and materials and techniques used will be sought and recorded.
- Artists' intentions regarding display, storage, conservation and copyright permissions will be sought and recorded.
Prints form a valuable component of the Allport Library. The collection includes more than 600 individual items. Although it is not yet definitive, it is perhaps the most extensive collection in Tasmania. Most are of Tasmanian interest, forming an important source of information for the history, biography, topography, natural history, and architecture of Tasmania. The historical range extends from lithographs produced by the artists on French expeditions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to the work of Curzona Frances Louise Allport in the first half of the twentieth century.
- Additions to the collection will concentrate on filling gaps in the nineteenth century Tasmanian print area. The major references are the three standard works by Clifford Craig, The engravers of Van Diemen's Land (1961), Old Tasmanian prints (1964) and More old Tasmanian prints (1984).
- The nineteenth-century emphasis will be maintained, except that items by or associated with members of the Allport family and items which enhance the appreciation of, and place in context, the work of CFL Allport (such as selected examples of the work of early twentieth century women printmakers) will also be considered for acquisition.
- Images which are already held in the collection as illustrations in bound volumes -especially those relating to natural history, discovery, exploration and travel - will, when appropriate, be acquired as separate prints for exhibition purposes.
- Where there are multiple copies of the same image, a minimum of 3 exact duplicates of the best quality, as well as all variant copies, will be retained for the collection. Additional exact duplicates will be considered for disposal. Where possible inferior copies of important prints will be replaced by copies of superior quality.
- When opportunities arise, contemporaneous prints which will assist in the display of the collection (for example, an 1830s fashion plate of female archery dress, to accompany Mary Morton Allport's archery equipment) will be acquired. These acquisitions will not be given high priority.
Decorative Arts - Ceramics, Glassware, Silverware and Furniture
The ceramics, glassware, silverware and furniture collections reflect more modest and narrowly defined areas of acquisition pursued by family members at different times during the development of the collection. Within these special areas excellent and valuable examples were acquired, with other examples being added since the collection came into public custody.
The collections are housed in the State Library of Tasmania in accommodation which was designed to meet the need for high quality presentation of museum objects, as perceived in the 1960s, and to preserve the atmosphere of a gentleman's residence.
There are over 400 accessioned groups of china in the collection, 48 of which have been added since 1966. They range from single items to a complete dinner service of many items, making a total of approximately 700 items in all.
The collection reflects Mrs. Henry Allport's collecting interests and is centred upon English factories from Bow onwards, resulting in a collection which, on a small scale, is representative of the output of English porcelain in the hundred years after 1745. It also includes a small group of Chinese and Continental pieces. English-made pieces for the colonial market have also been added to the collection since 1966.
The collection also includes a few examples of pieces connected with colonial Tasmanian individuals and organisations (such as Sir John Franklin, the Union Club and the Wesleyan Sunday School, Longford).
The purpose of the collection is to continue the modest representational intention of the original owners, providing an interesting overview of English porcelain from the mid eighteenth century using examples of high quality.
Advice from several reputable sources and from international visitors suggests that the collection is substantial in Australian terms and is comparable with some highly regarded collections in England and Wales.
- Developing the collection to fill gaps, and create a better balance between the different styles and factories. (For example Chelsea, Rockingham and Worcester are at present better represented than New Hall)
- Expanding the collection to include a small number of select pieces that pre-date or post-date the body of the collection. This will allow the existing collection to be set in a broader historical context and thus enable a more meaningful interpretation. These pieces will not be regarded as extending the defined parameters of the collection but rather as accessories that will enhance appreciation and understanding of the existing collection.
- Further selective acquisition of items connected with Tasmanian individuals and organisations.
The small collection of glassware comprises 125 items, of which only four new acquisitions and four replacement pieces have been added since 1966. The collection includes drinking vessels of various kinds, decanters and finger bowls manufactured between 1730 and 1850. Some late nineteenth and early twentieth century Allport family pieces are also included. There are some examples of the more fanciful productions of such factories as Nailsea and Bristol. Among the wine and ale glasses are a number with air twist stems and engraved bowls. Also, there are some characteristic pieces of cut glass by English factories, established in Ireland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to avoid the glass tax imposed in England.
- Although the collection of glass is not regarded as a priority, a passive approach to development will be adopted to take advantage of opportunities to enhance the collection through donations, bequests, and serendipitous purchase.
- Replacement of damaged or inferior pieces will be a significant factor in acquisition decisions.
This collection now numbers almost 350 items, of which only sixteen have been added since 1966. Initially acquired and developed by Henry Allport, it is representative of high quality English silverware, primarily comprising smaller domestic items dating from the late sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century.
Future acquisitions to the silver collection will be highly selective, with the intention of filling gaps within existing groups rather than developing new ones.
The furniture collection contains a broad range of approximately 200 pieces. It is largely representative of English furniture of the period 1680-1830, and was mostly acquired overseas by Henry Allport together with some purchases at local sales. It reflects his eighteenth century interests and is unusual because of its European rather than colonial content.
Some colonial items dating from 1830 are included, notably cedar and mahogany bookcases and other family pieces obtained by donation or purchase from a family member after 1966.
- As a family collection the furniture group is regarded as largely complete, but the collection may be expanded in a limited way to include a small number of select pieces that pre-date or post-date the body of the collection. This will allow the existing collection to be set in a broader historical context and thus enable a more meaningful interpretation. These pieces should not be seen as extending the defined parameters of the collection but rather as accessories that will enhance appreciation and understanding of the existing collection.
- When opportunities arise, contemporaneous objects which assist in the display of the collection (for example, an attractive cabinet to display curios and other objects) will be acquired.
Objects of historical interest
There are several items in the collection which do not fit into the categories listed above.
Most have Allport family association either directly, eg. Joseph Allport's wig and wig box, Morton Allport's shotguns, Mary Morton Allport's archery target, bow and arrows and her paint boxes; or indirectly, as objects acquired by Henry Allport or his father, Cecil, such as scrimshaw, card cases, jewellery and plates for bank-notes.
Other items have been donated to the collection since 1966 (these include a sextant, two plaques and a medal).
- The intention is to continue to acquire such items only if they have direct Allport family association or relate directly to an item already in the collection.
- When the opportunity arises contemporaneous objects which assist in the display of the collection (for example, a set of brushes to place on top of a dressing table) will be acquired. These acquisitions will not be given high priority.
The following items are specifically excluded from the collection unless they have direct Allport family association:
- clothing, linen etc.
- natural history specimens, for example animals, birds eggs etc.