Elizabeth Durack Collection digitised and displayed at ANU Library

In 1968, Papua New Guinea was experiencing a period of great change and Australian interest. Advocacy for independence, a significant increase in primary and secondary education, modernisation of health services and early awareness of gender issues characterised the period.

Elizabeth Durack, a noted Australian artist and illustrator, was commissioned by the Minister for Territories Seth Barnes to: “Do something on the women of Papua New Guinea.” Some of the drawings she created during this expedition were published in her books, Face Value: Women of Papua New Guinea and Seeing — through Papua New Guinea: An Artist's Impressions of the Territory.

In 2016, the ANU Library acquired 410 original drawings, sketches and annotations created during her visit to Papua New Guinea in 1968 from Michael Clancy and Perpetua Durack Clancy — trustees of the Elizabeth Durack estate. Over 200 of the works have never been made available to researchers before.

This collection of historical images fills a significant gap in scholarly research. The images illustrate the valuable and important role Papua New Guinean women and girls played in the development of their country, as it progressed towards nationhood and transitioned from village to ‘modernity’.  Speaking on the research significance of this collection, University Librarian Roxanne Missingham said:

“A new light is shone on Papua New Guinea women through this collection. We are delighted to share this collection, together with scholarly essays, with researchers in the wider Asia Pacific region and indeed the world. The collection will be of particular interest to researchers analysing Australia’s formal political, economic and cultural association with the people of Papua New Guinea.”

The Library brings this collection to the world through an exhibition in the R G Menzies Library. All items in this collection have been digitised and made accessible through the Elizabeth Durack Online Exhibition, along with an interactive map of Durack’s expedition and seven research essays on the social, economic and political environment at the time.

Interested in sharing your stories related to this collection?

The ANU Library welcomes offers of materials and information that will enhance our research collections. Share you story relating to this collection through the exhibition website – we look forward to talking to you about your story.