National Museum announces ‘largest ever’ $8 million purchase

NMA national museum trevor kennedy
The National Museum of AustraliA will acquire $15 million worth of objects from Australian businessman Trevor Kennedy’s renowned collection – $8 million worth purchased and $7 million donated. Photo: NMA.

The National Museum of Australia has committed to its largest ever purchase – valued at over $8 million – acquiring objects including artworks, furniture, jewellery and ceramics from Australian businessman Trevor Kennedy’s renowned collection.

The 5,000 odd items, which explore Australia’s history, culture and identity, will become a part of the National Historical Collection (NHC).

Subsequent to the purchase, Mr Kennedy donated thousands of additional items of historical and cultural significance valued at approximately $7 million, which will also go into the NHC.

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

The acquisition 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.

Mr Kennedy, who has spent his working life as a journalist, editor and media executive, amassed his unique collection of Australiana over a period of 40 years.

In 2005, the collection was considerably strengthened when he purchased the Ruth Simon collection of Australian decorative arts.

Mr Kennedy said he was thrilled his collection has found a new home at the Museum 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,” he said.

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,” said Dr Jensen.

“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.”

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,” he said.

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