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Bushfire Keepsakes Gathering

In response to the devastating bushfires which ravaged Canberra on 18 January 2003 Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) assembled a display within CMAG’s permanent exhibition, Reflecting Canberra. The display, ‘The Day the Sky
Turned Black
, was opened by Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope MLA at CMAG on Saturday 17 January 2004 at 2pm. Through words, pictures, objects and stories, it provided the Canberra community with an opportunity to share its bushfire experiences.

The display focused on the experience of pain and loss, response and recovery. It covered
the loss of lives, homes, neighbourhoods, pets and wildlife as well as the loss of significant historic places.

Objects in the bushfire display included a badly burnt ACT/NSW border sign, a dishwasher recovered from a home in Duffy; photographs from a wedding held at Lanyon on 18 January and a painting by artist Michael Taylor depicting the Georgia Peach helicopter that was sent by the United States to assist with controlling
the fires.

During the recovery period, CMAG joined with National Institutions to play an important role in assessing fire-affected objects. CMAG held two community ‘keepsake’ gatherings which provided an opportunity for those affected to bring their objects, stories and images to the Museum where CMAG staff, conservators and councillors were on hand to provide advice and record
the event.

The Day the Sky Turned Black showed how Canberra reeled at the onslaught of the firestorm on the 18 January 2003, assessed its losses and prepared to begin again.


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