Museum acquires rare treasures from renowned Trevor Kennedy collection

Trevor Kennedy sitting on a chair next to a longcase clock. - click to view larger image
Trevor Kennedy with a rare 1922 Robert Prenzel longcase clock

In its largest and most significant purchase, valued at over $8 million, the National Museum has acquired objects including artworks, furniture, jewellery and ceramics, which explore Australia’s history, culture and identity. These items will become a part of the National Historical Collection for all Australians to enjoy.

Subsequent to the purchase Mr Kennedy has also donated thousands of additional items of historical and cultural significance valued at some $7 million, which will also go into the National Historical Collection.

An exhibition of key objects from the collection will be displayed in the Museum’s Studio gallery from March 2021.

The collection of some 5000 objects features items of rare significance including a magnificent collection of pre-1820 Australian-made furniture; unique objects relating to Federation; art from some of Australia’s most historically and culturally significant colonial artists; a diamond and platinum brooch given by Charles Kingsford Smith to his wife to commemorate his flight across the Pacific; and distinctive pottery and folk art objects beloved by generations of Australians.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP welcomed the acquisition of the Trevor Kennedy collection by the National Museum of Australia.

‘This is a collection of national significance and includes a range of items from the late 18th century onwards which Australians will be able to explore and learn from, both in person and online,’ Minister Fletcher said.

‘This vast collection provides a wonderful insight into our past, with examples including the printing proofs for invitations to the opening of Australia’s first Parliament in 1901 and more recently, Lionel Rose’s World Champion Bantam Weight Boxing Trophy, awarded in 1968’.

National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said the purchase is one of the most significant in the institution’s history.

‘The breadth and scope of the collection is extraordinary. This unique collection has been brought together by a passionate and avid Australian collector and we are delighted to be able to share it with the nation,’ said Dr Trinca.

‘The decision by Mr Kennedy to also donate such a substantial part of his collection is remarkable. It is a donation of an unprecedented scale and one that will transform the Museum’s collection forever.

‘The combination of this acquisition and donation made by Mr Kennedy will become a cornerstone of the National Historical Collection and a rich new resource for Australians to explore and interpret our nation’s history’.

Trevor Kennedy has spent his working life as a journalist, editor and media executive. Throughout his career, and particularly his years spent as editor of the Bulletin, Mr Kennedy maintained a deep interest in the history of Australia and dedicated himself to creating a collection of material that reflected his passion. Over a period of 40 years Mr Kennedy has amassed a unique collection of Australiana. In 2005 the collection was considerably strengthened when Mr Kennedy purchased the Ruth Simon collection of Australian decorative arts.

Mr Kennedy said he was delighted.

‘I’m thrilled that my collection has found a new home at the National Museum of Australia and that such a large portion of my collection can largely stay together, retaining its character and integrity. My hope is that these treasures will be seen and appreciated by generations of Australians across the country, giving them the opportunity to explore and better understand our nation’s remarkable history, the quality and traditions of Australian craftsmanship and design and through this the character unique to this nation,’ said Mr Kennedy.

Museum Curator Dr Sophie Jensen was instrumental in working with Mr Kennedy over a period of two years to identify items to purchase from his unique collection.

‘Mr Kennedy’s passion and energy as a collector of Australiana brought these objects together to create an eclectic and magnificent collection of Australian material culture, history, decorative arts and design. This purchase and donation will enrich the stories we explore through the Museum’s existing collection. The National Museum team will research, document and digitise the collection in order to have it available online as soon as possible, for Australians to discover and enjoy,’ said Dr Jensen.

In total, the National Museum has acquired some 5000 objects including the most historically significant items in Mr Kennedy’s collection.

The estimated value of the purchased objects is based on valuations conducted by independent experts engaged by the Museum for this purpose.

The purchase will be funded from the Museum’s Collection Development and Acquisitions budget and will be paid over a period of three years (2020–2023).

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