Thursday, 3 September 2009

Dancing and delicacies

It's officially spring here in Australia and the 10th International Congress on Medical Librarianship is in full swing. So far we've been treated to a Brisbane childrens' choir recital and an Aboriginal dance to welcome us to Queensland. We were privileged last night to attend a reception hosted by Her Excellency the Governor of Queensland at her beautiful Victorian home.
Jan has given a paper on the Medical History of British India project and I am due to present my poster this afternoon. We've been delighted to meet so many librarians from 44 countries and discuss our work and the weather (of course!).
There was a fascinating talk on the history of veterinary medicine through postcards yesterday. We learned that in some areas men castrated sheep with their teeth (hence the term "prairie oyster" as a delicacy). And we saw the picture to prove it!

(Photos show Brisbane Children's Choir at ICML 2009 opening ceremony and Francine Millard putting up the Medical History of British India poster)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Winter in Brisbane

ICML 2009 kicked off on Sunday 30th (I think - still a little jet-lagged) with a visit to Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. The librarian, Linda MacMahon, introduced the speakers, Prof. John Pearn and Ross McKinnon.
Prof. Pearn spoke about ethnobotany (indigenous medicine), with fascinating facts such as: the average GP prescribes around 65 types of medicine, yet aboriginal children as young as 5 know 650 different medicinal plants. Of course this knowledge was transferred by oral history rather than written sources. A lot of the plants have both nutritional and medicinal qualities and were treated to extract their various compounds. In fact, one of the first exports from Australia after the "discovery" of the country in 1788 was eucalyptus, used for its many medicinal properties.
Ross McKinnon, director of the garden, gave an entertaining talk on the diverse enquiries a botanic curator can get, such as the case of the exploding trousers (really). In New Zealand, farmers clearing ragwort from their farms using sodium porate found that their clothes literally exploded. One unfortunate man exploded while on his horse (both died...). Of course, this was because the chemical weedkiller reacted to the cotton in the clothes and caused an explosive reaction, The botanical experts at the garden advised using a particular insect to destroy the ragwort rather than a dangerous chemical - problem solved. I think that beats any OPU enquiries into a cocked (bush) hat!

p.s. Winter in Brisbane reached 31 degrees...!

(Photos show Ross McKinnon showing librarians around the gardens and the inside of the BioDome)

A library for all

Jan and I are in Brisbane for the International Congress of Medical Librarianship. We have just had a fabulous and inspiring tour of Queensland State Library. Located on the South Bank, with wonderful views of the river, this library won awards for its architecture. The building has a light airy feel and blends well with the outside environment, with many outdoor spaces for events. Inside, readers can relax on sofas or in armchairs and sleeping is not discouraged.
The John Oxley Library, founded in 1934 by a group of interested members of the public, is a vital part of the State Library. It collects, by gift, donation and legal deposit, items relating to or published in Queensland. Some items on display include specimens of cloth from the three voyages of Captain Cook, a transcription of William Bligh's log from his ship Providence and some early estate maps of the Gold Coast. There are numerous art objects on show, plus a display of handbags.
A children's area, firepit for indigenous story sharing, meeting rooms, theatre, and a large Internet area (where I am now), make this a place for everyone to come and enjoy. Mind you, I would be too busy looking out of the window to do much reading!

(Photos show side view of State Library of Queensland and the view from near the firepit of the riverfront)