From the archive of the archivist: celebration menus

Title: Federation menus from the Royal Australian Historical Society collection.

Display date:. 1891, 1901

Creators: unknown.

Where it was created: .

Format: Printed images and text.

Language: English and French.

Materials: Printers ink, including metallics, heavy gauge paper.

Collection details: PXD 1223 Box 1 (1)

Availability: Access at the Special Collections reading room in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Why it matters: Ephemera such as these menus have multiple points of interest. One is the visual representation of Australasian colonies in feminine form. Including New Guinea, New Zealand and Fiji alongside Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania is a fantastic talking point for history students. The positioning of Papuan and Maori women beneath the other feminine representations of the colonies is another worthwhile consideration for viewers. Another is the presentation of food. While it is not uncommon to see French places or people attributed in a celebratory menu, the inclusion of lamb here is likely evidence of the influence of Australian meat availability. There is an interesting juxtaposition here of industrial developments on local landscapes, see seen in the miniature scenes of each colony, and an appreciation for local flora, as seen on the menu-side of the document.

Complimentary collections: City of Sydney records, Royal Australian Historical Society, The Australian Culinary Archive.

Recommended reading and listening: Menus that made History Alex Johnson and Vincent Franklin (2019), The Australian Culinary Archive podcast.