The Agricultural Bureau Museum

Arthur Tideman

In 1890 an Agricultural Bureau Museum was established in the former dining room in the old Parliamentary Building of the Legislative Council.  In the May 1900 edition of the Garden and Field magazine, Albert Molineux reviewed his services to the Bureau Movement and to agriculture.  In this review he suggested forming an organisation for the collection of all manner of information for the benefit of producers.  He envisaged a museum of agricultural products of economic value showing the form of when and how produced.  He reported that his idea had caught on but his article did not elaborate, nor was there any reference to the museum in Journals of the Agricultural Bureau or its reports, for the decade following Moulineux’s intention.  However there is no doubt the museum was established.  A special correspondent writing in the Register on 13th February 1893 reported that the museum was a centre of great interest. 

The report stated that, on the walls were displayed a wide range of plants utilized by man for his own or “dumb friends” (livestock) use including an exhibition of fibrous plants grown at the Melbourne Botanic Garden.  Included in the display were one hundred wheat varieties and collections of weeds.  The wheat varieties were attained from Mr Marshall from Templers and Mr Coleman from Mt Barker.  Fodder plants had also been collected including an 11 feet high sorghum plant grown under irrigation at Terowie.  In glass cabinet’s collections of honey, aromatic oils, silk and seeds, including Pharoh’s wheat found alongside a mummy in Egypt, were neatly displayed.  The museum also boasted a library which provided highly instructive information of men of the highest scientific attainments connected with the British, colonial and foreign departments of agriculture.

The special reporter stated that “the museum had an ambition that was taking a fair direction, and it evidently means business”.  Official records of the life fate of the Museum have not been found.  It was thought it may have been merged with the Economic Botany Museum at the Botanic Gardens.  

Another Museum of the day was The Economic Botany Museum, established in the Botanic Gardens in 1881.  Although this Museum has had a very chequered life over the years, today it is a vibrant exhibition.  Its curator is Tony Kanellos.  Discussions with him have not revealed any exhibits which could be related to the Agricultural Bureau Museum.  One interesting reference reveals that Albert Molineux supported the Economic Botany Museum in 1881.  It raises the question why he formed the Agricultural Bureau Museum in 1890 which had much the same aims.

For further information on the Economic Botany Museum:

Emmett, P and Kanellos, T. 2012, The Santos Museum of Economic Botany, Board of Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia 5000