In 1831, English lawyer Joseph Allport and his family settled in Van Diemen’s Land.

From this time, members of the Allport family all made an effort to acquire antiques, artwork, and books they considered worthy of preservation. Morton Allport is credited with the first wilderness photographs taken in Tasmania and various other members were actively interested in printmaking, books and fine arts.

This resulted in a large collection that is deliberate, ordered, and focused.

The last male member of the Tasmanian line of the family was Hobart lawyer Henry Allport. He died in 1965, and in his will, he bequeathed the entire collection to Tasmania’s State Library.

Mr. Allport also left a sum of money in his will to be held in trust. He stated that this money is to be used for the collection’s upkeep and for obtaining new pieces that fit within its scope. Income from the fund has purchased rare items to enhance the collection, continuing the Allport family’s contribution to Tasmanian history and culture.

The Allport Museum

Thus the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts was born.

Henry Allport

It is located on the ground floor of the State Library in Hobart, but most of the collection is kept in climate-controlled storage spaces that are blacked-out.

The Library and Museum is filled with antique furniture, including a four-poster Chippendale-style bed and two large cedar bookcases. There is also a gallery where a few of the most famous paintings in the collection hang.

There is a room that is lined with the rare books that the Allports collected, as well. It’s in this book-filled room that a small, modest-looking book (about A5 in size, with a worn cover and yellowed pages) sits on a pedestal for people to skim through. It is William Gould’s famous Sketchbook of Fishes, made well-known by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan’s 2001 novel Gould’s Book of Fish. It is a replica, though. The original book is on the World Heritage register, so it is therefore kept safe in storage.

The Library and Museum’s importance lies both in its continuing integrity as a collection and in the value of the items it contains. You can support it by becoming a Friend of the Allport.

The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts is open to the public from 9:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and from 9.30am to 2:00pm on Saturdays.

The Allports. Image courtesy TAHO.