In August 1948, U-M Museum of Zoology curator of fishes Robert R. Miller acquired this painting of fish while in Australia on a National Geographic Society expedition. It is one of five paintings depicting marine life that he collected during the expedition. All five paintings were created by artists in the Yolngu settlement of Yirrkala, in coastal Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Yolngu settlement was founded as a mission in 1935, and Yirrkala bark paintings and other objects were among the earliest Aboriginal art to be widely sold in Australia. In 1963, community members used the medium of bark painting for petitions submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament. The petitions, mounted on bark paintings, were written in English and Gumatji and described the traditional relationship to the land. They played an important role in Indigenous struggles for land rights in Australia. The Museum is honored to care for paintings made by early Yirrkala artists.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.