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Correspondence with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart on the disposal of Truganini’s skeleton. 1954.

In 1953, the Director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery informed the RAI President of the move to remove Truganini’s skeleton from the Museum and to scatter her remains in the sea. He wished to prevent this, feeling her memory would be best served by conserving it. On 8 Oct. 1953, Council decided to ask the Director what response from the RAI would be most helpful. It was reported to Council on 7 Oct. 1954 that it had been agreed that a special room should be set aside in the Museum as a memorial to the Aborigines. Truganini’s skeleton and other Aboriginal remains would be preserved there but would not be on public display (see CM/83/1, Item 12; CM/84/1, Item 7). The controversy over Truganini’s remains continued and on 30 Apr. 1976 they were cremated at the Cornelian Bay crematorium. Next day, 1 May a few days before the centenary of her death, her ashes were scattered in D’Entrecasteaux Channel near her birthplace on Bruny Island, Adventure Bay. See Trucanini: queen or traitor by Vivienne Rae Ellis, Canberra, 1981 for an account of the controversy. In 1984 the Tasmanian Government legislated that all Aboriginal remains in the Museum were to be handed over to the Aboriginal community for disposal.


WB        William Bryden, Director, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

WBF    W.B. Fagg, CMG (1914-92), Keeper, Dept of Ethnography, British Museum 1969-74; RAI Hon. Secretary, 1939-56; Hon. Editor of Man, 1911-65

RWF    (Prof. Sir) Raymond W. Firth, FBA (1901-2002), Prof. of Anthropology, University of London; RAI Hon. Secretary, 1936-9, President 1953-5

1    WB to RWF, 15 June 1954 – reports as promised on the public meeting, convened by the Bishop of Tasmania, to consider the proper disposal of Truganini’s remains; it was decided to nominate a few people to meet the Trustees of the Museum; an extension to the Museum to provide a special room was envisaged as a memorial; a deputation was led by the Bishop to the Premier who was sympathetic; the Government was to proceed with the extensions; suggests a note in Man (tp.)

2    RWF to WB, 2 Aug. – acknowledges letter of 15 June; pleased to hear of satisfactory outcome; will report matter to Council (tpc. with autogr. note by RWF suggesting a note in Man); no note was published in Man