New exhibition showcases Australia through the eyes of Joseph Banks

By Australian Geographic 13 November 2018
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‘Beauty Rich and Rare’ was commissioned by the National Library of Australia and is on display in Canberra until 10 February 2019.

IN THIS MODERN AGE of global travel and media, it’s difficult to imagine the sense of risk, adventure and awe that must have accompanied the early European explorers to far-flung continents from home. The foreign flora and fauna, encounters with indigenous people, the unfamiliar climate – the smells, sounds and sites of what must have felt like another world.

However, we don’t have to imagine what it must have been like, as these early explorers were avid and disciplined record keepers – and the National Library of Australia (NLA) in Canberra holds a rich collection of their original charts, illustrations and journal entries that paint a fascinating and illuminating picture of this period in our post-colonial history.

To mark 250 years since Captain James Cook launched HMS Endeavour on its famous expedition to the Pacific, the NLA has brought part of this collection into the digital era – commissioning an immersive sound and light display featuring the original 250-year-old illustrations, charts and journals of famed English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, who is credited with bringing the unique flora of Australia to the rest of the world.

Beauty Rich and Rare was two years in the making, designed by the creaters of the Vivid Sydney light festival. The original artifacts have been digitised and enhanced to create a virtual, 3D experience which is projected on large five-panel screens that surround and immerse the viewer in the multi-media experience.

The exhibition is running alongside the NLA’s international exhibition Cook and the Pacific which covers Cook’s entire expedition to the Pacific, including Tahiti, New Zealand and Hawaii, and includes maps, objects, books and artworks from around the world.

Beauty Rich and Rare is a free exhibition showing in Canberra until 10 February 2019. Visit for more information.