“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





09 April 2013


The Museum of Economic Botany is the proud centrepiece of the Adelaide Botanic Garden.  It was refurbished in 2009. First opened in May 1881, it has had "a continuous life dedicated to the collection and interpretation of useful plants." Such museums were once a common keystone in botanical collections around the world, but this is the only surviving example of its kind. I spent another mind-blowing morning there yesterday, this time with the Yangarra viticulture crew and Napa Cabernet maker Chris Carpenter, who's here making wine from the Hickinbotham Vineyard at Clarendon.

"None of those great brains had heard of Zeus, or Jupiter, the boss of the heavens, nor of his wife, the Goddess Mnemosyne, or Memory. They didn't realise the daughters of this couple, the cover girls of their day, were the official inspirers of all poetry and art. Cleo was the trigger of history, Thalia of comedy. Euterpe was the source of all music; Urania of astronomy, and so on. They were called the Muses, just like my much uglier lot's called the Whites. The Muses lived in the Museum."  From a speech the author made to the Australian Insitute of Urban Studies, 1999.
"One or two of my friends have asked me what is meant by the term 'Economic' in connection with this museum.  My idea is that, as every botanical exhibit in the Museum has a use and value to mankind, the word is the most appropriate as they show what use can be made of various plants, and thus waste can be prevented."  Albert Molineux, 1881

"It would be well were every one to study how to prevent waste and make the most out of everything that comes in their way.  By 'studying economy', as illustrated in this Museum, they may in time learn to 'live like lords'."  Molineux 

Hand-painted papier-mâché mushrooms made for the Museum in the 19th century by Heinrich Arnoldi and Co, Gotha, Germany. There are many hundreds of these mushrooms laid out like a forest, right at the perfect eye level for children. It is wondrous to behold.

Mid-north grain grower Don Whiting devoted his life to investigating wheat. He had over 400 different wheat varieties growing on his property Rocky Glen at Barunga Gap from about 1970 to 2009.  He would grind flour from them, then compare the efficacy of each type by making these tiny bread loaves.

The collection includes a mind-boggling array of examples of the uses of plant fibre.  This exhibit displays various cloths made from bark.

1880s papier-mâché fruit by Heinrich Arnoldi and Co.  There are hundreds of apples and pears represented, many varieties of which have long gone from the planet.  Gardens Director Stephen Forbes says that when young folks see these stretched out before them, they inevitably remark that they've seen only three or four types of apple in their entire lives.  "But you walk out of the supermarket," he tells them, "and into the phone shop, and how many phones do you expect to be able to choose from?"

Prototype joinery system by local furniture designer Khai Liew 2009. Khai designed and built the modern exhibition display stands that make possible a continual series of specialised exhibitions in the eastern end of the Museum.

Keeper of the Museum Of Economic Botany, Tony Kanellos, left. Then Dan Mullins, chef of the original  Universal Wine Bar in Adelaide and Gay Bilson's restaurant in the Sydney Opera House, now assistant viticulturer and gardens wizard at Yangarra. Stephen Forbes, Director of the Botanic Gardens, centre.  Chris Carpenter, Cabernet king from the Jackson Family's mountain vineyards in the Napa.  Then Michael Lane, Yangarra vineyard manager and keeper of both the Yangarra Estate and Hickinbotham Clarendon properties for the owners, the Jackson Family.  Yangarra and the Botanic Gardens support each other's quest for making the most of what nature provides. Apart from this one, all the above  photographs are copyright Tony Kanellos, Santos Museum of Economic Botany, Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia.  Our sincere gratitude goes to Stephen and Tony.

1 comment:

Sal said...

I love this, and admire your passionate promotion of it. One day, I swear, I will see it for myself. A treasure.