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Edmund Jarvis and his amazing cane beetle displays

Beetle Borers of Cane,  June 1924. Meringa Station.

Beetle Borers of Cane, June 1924. Meringa Station.

It’s not often I get called to look at natural history or entomological collections. And, when I was contacted by staff at Meringa Research Station near Gordonvale to come and assess the condition of some old display cases, I must confess to being a little skeptical. Imagine my surprise, then, when a little bit of research into their creator, Dr Edmund Jarvis, revealed that these cases were going to contain more than your average cane beetle displays.

Dr Jarvis was an entomologist from the early 20th century. He ended his career as the Chief Entomologist to Queensland’s Bureau of Sugar Experiment Station, and specialised in cane beetle research. Prior to this, however, he had a museological career. After moving from Devon, England to Australia, his first job was a Acting Assistant Entomologist, National Museum, Melbourne in 1903 (now, Museum Victoria). In addition to his scientific training, he was well known for his skills in line drawings and water colours.

On site, it was immediately clear that the displays had been arranged by someone with a museological eye. Seven timber framed cases, which date between 1922-1932, had been ‘curated’ to ensure that information is conveyed in an educational manner. They contain a mixture of specimens, line drawings, photographs and labels – all laid out to make the subject matter as accessible as possible. The cases illustrate the research undertaken into pests impacting the sugar industry during the 1920s by the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations.

Greyback cane beetle, May 1922.

Greyback cane beetle, May 1922.         Meringa Station

Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations were, established under The Sugar Experiment Stations Act of 1900 and were initially administered by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture. Employees undertook research to assist growers and millers improve the breeding, planting, growing, harvesting and milling of sugar cane. The focus on the cane beetle, and other cane related pests, demonstrates the importance of the research stations, the work they were conducting, and of the value placed upon the cane industry in Queensland in general.

In valuing these cases, I have come to think of them as more than just the work of a scientist, but as the work of a fellow museum worker with a passion for conveying information to different audiences. I am hoping to secure funds to assist with the conservation of the cases, and a way to interpret them further – in consultation with staff at Meringa.

The art of making tea: Mulgrave Settlers Museum’s New Tea Cosy Competition

Mulgrave Shire Historical Society and the Mulgrave Settlers Museum are holding a Tea Cosy Competition this year to celebrate and promote the art of making tea cosies. The Museum is calling for locals, artists and other interested participants to submit an entry into one of three categories: Knitted; Crocheted; or Any Medium.

One of the tea cosies from Mulgrave Settler's Museum, Gordonvale

One of the tea cosies from Mulgrave Settler’s Museum, Gordonvale

The competition is inspired by the wife of the former Mulgrave Mill Manager, Mrs Whittaker, who was well known in the local community for her decorative homemade tea cosies, and afternoon teas she hosted for the local community.The museum has one of Mrs Whittaker’s items in its collection.

Mulgrave Mill, which was one of the early central mills developed in the 1890s, has played a pivotal role in the community for more than 100 years. The region’s strong sugar history is reflected through the Mulgrave Settler Museum’s collection, which is located in a small building in the heart of Gordonvale.


For more information about the competition and to get an entry form see details below. Entries must be submitted at the museum by 4 August 2014.Tea Cosy Competition Flyer