The art of the First Fleet

Tiger cat  (Dasyurus maculatus)On 13 May 1787 eleven ships, now commonly referred to as the First Fleet, set sail from Portsmouth to establish a colony in New South Wales, Australia. They reached their destination on 18 January 1788, 18 years after Captain James Cook had first landed on the east coast of Australia at Botany Bay. One of the unplanned but long-lasting outcomes of this event was the large number of outstanding drawings of Aboriginal people, the environment and wildlife found on arrival as well as of the early foundation of the colony.


It is customary for some Aboriginal Australian communities not to mention names or reproduce images associated with deceased people. Members of these communities are respectfully advised that some images on display depict deceased Aboriginal people.


Three different collections make up the Natural History Museum Library's 'First Fleet collection'. Drawings have been arranged under four themes:

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