Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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CourseEight 30th July 2008 01:37 PM

Visiting Australia
 
Hi All --

I have recently found out that I will be taking a trip to see a family friend in Australia, and I was wondering if any forum members might be willing to give me recommendations on ethnographic weapon sites/museums/shops to visit in the Sydney area.

Thanks!

--Radleigh

A. G. Maisey 31st July 2008 12:01 AM

G'day Radleigh, I've lived in the Sydney area all my life, and currently live a couple of hundred kilometers south of Sydney, but am in the city about every two weeks.

Australia in general, including Sydney, is pretty much empty of any shops or museums that might cater to the interests of anybody with an interest in any type of weaponry.

In Sydney there are several museums. The Australian Museum, in College St, is currently a shadow of what it was 20 years ago, and I could not recommend it to anybody, except perhaps, a person with an interest in minerals and gemstones.The second major museum is the Powerhouse Museum, which is supposedly a museum of technology, but the way in which it has been developed has turned it into something that is probably not much more than a very expensive child entertainment facility. Its forerunner, the old Technological Museum, or Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, was an absolutely brilliant facility with one of the best exhibitions of weaponry one could ever wish to see. You will see none of this in the Powerhouse.The old museum had been developed as a type of "library" of crafts that students and journeymen could call upon to see top examples of the trade and craft skills that they were trying to master.In all honesty, it had probably passed its useful life, but its replacement is an enormous disappointment to most people over the age of 12.
Some years ago I trained one of the Powerhouse conservators in the cleaning and staining of keris, and during the course of this instruction I got to see the stored collections in their basement. There was very little weaponry in store, and what I did see was mostly rubbish. I was given to understand that the large part of the collections previously on display in the old Tech. Museum had been on loan to the museum.

There is a maritime museum, a pretty fair art gallery---NSW Art Gallery, the Domain, and a few other small museums and galleries scattered around. None of these places have anything at all that could be of any interest to a student of weaponry, except perhaps the NSW Art Gallery which has a few nice Japanese pieces in its Asian section.

As to any opportunity to purchase anything at all in the way of weaponry, well, I reckon you could walk Sydney and suburbs from end to end and crossways for a year, and about all you'll find is modern glitzy wallhangers, pocket knives, and perhaps the occasional bayonet. Ethnographic weaponry? Forget it!

In fact, forget all about weaponry of any type while you're in Australia, and on no account carry any bladed implement of any kind while you are in Sydney, not even a keychain pocket knife. Delay your visit until November December, and spend your spare time on the beach.

VANDOO 31st July 2008 02:32 AM

I HAVEN'T BEEN TO OZ SINCE THE LATE 1980'S AND IT HAD CHANGED A LOT SINCE MY FIRST VISIT IN 1978. IT HAS OBVIOUSLY CHANGED A LOT SINCE THEN THERE USED TO BE SHOPS DOWN BY THE ROCKS AREA AND THERE WERE SOME PEOPLE THERE SELLING GOOD AUSTRALIAN ART PAINTINGS AND SUCH MOSTLY, BOOMERANGS AND CLUBS WERE ABOUT THE ONLY NEWLY MADE WEAPONS. YOU MAY FIND SOMETHING OF THAT SORT BUT IT WILL LIKELY BE MADE TO FLOG TO THE TOURISTS AND NOT FOR ACTUAL USE. I USED TO SEE A FEW GOOD OLD ITEMS AT FLEA MARKETS AND THE ODD SHOP OFF THE BEATEN TRACK AND AT SOME ART GALLERYS AND PAWN SHOPS. I USED TO FIND SOME NICE ARROWS AND ART FROM NEW GUINEA ALSO ESPECIALLY UP IN THE NORTH EAST AROUND CAIRNS.

OZ IS STILL A GREAT COUNTRY BUT THE POLITICKS ARE WAY OUT OF CONTROL SO KNOW THEIR LAWS SO YOU DON'T GET GOT BY THE CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER :D YOU MIGHT PICK UP SOME OPAL WHILE YOU ARE THERE I ESPECIALLY LIKE THE DOUBLETS AND TRIPLETS AS THEY ARE MORE STURDY, CHEAPER AND CAN LOOK VERY NICE THEY WERE A GOOD DEAL FOR THE PRICE IN THE PAST AND IF UNMOUNTED THE CUSTOMS DUTY WAS NOT BAD. ABORIGINAL ART CAN BE QUITE ATTRACTIVE AND UNIQUE ALSO. ENJOY YOUR TRIP AND GOOD LUCK

A. G. Maisey 31st July 2008 03:30 AM

Yes Barry, it has changed.

Enormously so during the last 10 to 15 years.

During the 1950's and 1960's I worked in the Sydney CBD. During my lunch break I would cruise a number of shops that sold weaponry --- modern, antique, ethnographic---within ten minutes walk of where I worked. Once weekly there was an auction just around the corner from my office that about 50% of the time had weaponry that I would leave bids on.

Genuine aboriginal artifacts are very, very expensive, and are prohibited exports. Plenty of tourist stuff that looks OK, but it is likely to be made by a Bosnian refugee working for a Koori entrepreneur. The Aboriginal art, especially the stuff around the Rocks and tourist traps is done to order by whole families who work for whitefeller dealers. Nothing much that's fair dinkum---not that you can find without knowledge of the art form and the industry it supports.

My wife and I do the weekend markets, and the permanent markets very regularly. I have not bought any kind of ethnic weaponry from these places in years. You do occasionally see something, but normally it is junk grade, and the prices are off there in La-La Land.

There is still decent opal and gemstones around. Private dealers are a much better bet than the retail outlets.

CourseEight 31st July 2008 04:27 AM

Thanks a bunch! I hadn't heard of anything via searching, and I guess I know why now. Sadly I cannot move the trip to more clement weather, but it should still be quite a trip.

--Radleigh


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