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Marking time

Marking time in August 2003

Saturday 30 August 2003

Denis O’Donovan’s library

In 1874 Denis O’Donovan became Queensland Parliamentary Librarian. He was an unlikely arrival in the colonial frontier town of Brisbane — capital of the state of Queensland, separated from New South Wales 15 years before. O’Donovan was a cultivated man, educated in Ireland and France.

Bookshelves in the library

When he came to the job in Brisbane, the library had 8,000 books and magazines. He resigned exhausted in 1902, leaving a collection of 32,000 items that represented the knowledge and culture of the European nineteenth century. It ranged from the complete works of Voltaire (70 volumes), through works of literature, history and science, to the journals of Cook, Darwin, Mitchell, Flinders, Oxley, Leichhardt, Jardine and La Perouse. A visitor gave it a good review:

The Parliamentary Library in Brisbane is one of the best of its size I have ever seen, with a catalogue which is the model catalogue of all catalogues. [A J Duffield, Recollections of Travel Abroad, (London: Remington, 1889)].

O’Donovan invented a catalogue that anticipated the twentieth century card catalogue. By 1900 this encylopaedic dictionary catalogue filled three large volumes and had annotated subject headings and biographical notes on authors. Librarians from the British Museum, the House of Commons and the Bodleian Library in Oxford applauded O’Donovan’s catalog as a world-​class work of scholarship.

After 1902, without Denis O’Donovan’s collecting and organising zeal, the library stagnated. I’m pleased that in the 1980s the books were restored to their shelves in the spacious room above the entrance to Parliament House. There they remain, now called the O’Donovan Library, arranged on the numbered shelves in accordance with the printed catalogue of 1900. It is a time-​capsule of nineteenth century knowledge.

The library is open to members of the Parliament of Queensland, and to scholars by special arrangement. I saw it on a rare open day, and took some snapshots.

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Wednesday 27 August 2003

Celebrating federation

When the Duke and Duchess of York visited Australia in 1901, the loyal colonists turned on a special welcome. See this little gallery of stereo photographs. Of the six triumphal arches, my favourite is the one made of butter boxes.

The Duke and Duchess en route...

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Sunday 17 August 2003

Knowspam

I recommend knowspam.net. Over the last month, knowspam has thrown out every piece of spam before it got to my inbox — six hundred messages I didn’t have to see. Now I only get messages from people I want to hear from.

knowspam.net score card, 17 August 2003

Ha ha spambots, keep sending those organ-enhancement offers to peter@marquis-kyle.com.au but I won’t be reading them.

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Thursday 14 August 2003

Who owns this photograph?

The Columbia Journalism Review carried an exchange of letters between freelance photographer George Zimbel and the New York Times. The paper paid the photographer for a single use of a picture of John and Jacqueline Kennedy. Forty years later the paper offered the print for sale to collectors for US $4,000. Give it back, it’s mine, said the photographer.

John and Jacqueline Kennedy in New York City, 1960 [George Zimbel photo from the cjr.org website]

In a letter to the paper Zimbel points out the important distinction between freelance photographers (who sold one-use rights but retained their intellectual property) and staff photographers (paid a salary by the paper which owned the rights to their work).

It’s clear from the correspondence that Zimbel was upset by this business — which is no surprise to me. He wrote to the newspaper’s lawyer:

You get paid when you write letters and I don’t, but sometimes I have to come out of the darkroom and tend to business and ethical issues.

Did the story have a happy ending? Well, the Times did send the print back to Zimbel.

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Tuesday 12 August 2003

Melting metal in a microwave oven

David Reid has been working on this new method.

Research is nearing completion on a system that will allow the melting and casting of bronze, silver, gold, and even cast iron, using an unmodified domestic microwave oven as the energy source. A potential foundry in every kitchen !!
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On this page
Denis O'Donovan's library
Celebrating federation
Knowspam
Who owns this photograph?
Melting metal in a microwave oven

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