On this page...

In 1884, the Australian Museum purchased a remarkable collection of papers of the Alexander Walker Scott family.

Scott Sisters Drawing
Xylopsyche stacyii Scott Creator: Helena Scott © Australian Museum Archives Image: -
© Australian Museum

The Scott family collections

The collection included manuscripts, correspondence, research notes, observational notebooks, photographs, sketches, dried botanical specimens and spectacular watercolour final publication plates, all relating to the research and production of some significant 19th century natural history works. These papers are today preserved in the Australian Museum Archives.

Alexander Walker Scott

Alexander Walker Scott, entomologist and entrepreneur arrived in NSW in 1827 and went on to a varied career in industry, agriculture, politics and natural history. He also served as Chairman of the Australian Museum from 1874-1879.

Harriet and Helena Scott

His two daughters, Harriet and Helena Scott, became prominent natural history illustrators and executed much of the artwork for scientific literature produced in Sydney in the 1860s.

Scott Sisters Drawing
Antheraea simplex Creator: Helena Scott © Australian Museum Archives Image: -
© Australian Museum

Seals & Whales and Mammalia

In January 1884, following her father’s death the year before, Helena Forde (nee Scott) sold the Australian Museum a bundle of his papers relating to the production of his 1873 publication Mammalia, Recent and Extinct; An Elementary Treatise for the Use of the Public Schools of NSW; and his unfinished Catalogue of Seals and Whales. Including very early photos of museum galleries and specimens; a well annotated author’s copy of Mammalia; a bound volume of manuscript notes by Scott relating to the Mammalia; and working notes for the unfinished manuscript of the Catalogue of the Seals and Whales; this constitutes a fascinating collection of the research papers of one of Sydney’s leading 19th century naturalists.

The Lepidoptera

Later that year then Curator E.P Ramsay also recommended to the Trust the purchase of the ‘Manuscript and Plates’ of “Scotts’ Lepidoptera” offered for sale by Mrs E.Forde…’. As a result of this purchase the Archives today holds A.W Scott’s working papers, notes, drawings, and a handwritten manuscript of Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations. It also holds a collection of papers from Harriet and Helena Scott which includes their remarkable field notebooks, drawings, correspondence, dried botanical specimens and magnificent watercolour plates of moths and butterflies prepared in the 1850s and 1860s for their father’s landmark publication.

Scott Sisters Drawing
Oiketicus nigripennis Scott Creator: Helena Scott © Australian Museum Archives Image: -
© Australian Museum

Entomological collections

The Museum’s Entomology department also holds a collection of insects collected by the Scott family in the course of their lepidopteral research, which were also purchased from Helena Scott in 1884.

Library Holdings

In addition to the Scott family papers the Museum’s Archive and Research Library also hold other publications including Gerard Krefft’s Snakes of Australia (1869) and Mammals of Australia (1871) which further showcase the remarkable scientific artworks of Harriet and Helena Scott.