On this page...
The Australian Museum had been in existence for barely a decade when John Gould arrived in Sydney in February 1839. At the time of Gould's visit, the Museum was situated on the ground floor of the old Chief Justice's house, in Macquarie Place. The new Museum welcomed the British ornithologist warmly - its curator, George Bennett (1804-1892) considered the Museum a colonial outpost of the British scientific establishment.
Gould stayed with Bennett whenever he visited Sydney and used the Museum's collection to familiarise himself with the native fauna before going into the field to locate his own specimens. A number of the Museum's birds are mentioned in the text of Gould's Birds of Australia and one species, Bourke's Grass-Parakeet, was so difficult to obtain that Gould resorted to describing and illustrating the Museum's two specimens.
Bennett remained closely tied to the Australian Museum for most of his life and his friendship with Gould ensured an ongoing relationship with the institution. Most of its curators exchanged correspondence and specimens with Gould over the subsequent decades, as well as purchasing the bulk of his publications for the Museum Library. The strong representation of Gould works in the Museum's Research Library may also reflect George Bennett's role as Gould's Sydney publishing agent over a period of many years.
An Upland Plover in Australia
In 1848, an Upland Plover (Bartramia longicauda) was shot in what is now Centennial Park, Sydney. This unfortunate bird had clearly lost its way, having travelled approximately 13,000 kilometres from its usual habitat in the Americas. This is the only recorded instance of an Upland Plover found in Australia.
In a gesture indicative of the continued relationship between John Gould and the Museum after his return to England, the Museum loaned him the mounted specimen for illustration in his supplementary volume of The Birds of Australia. Gould returned the specimen to the Museum in 1861.