Thursday, August 30, 2007

The QVMAG, the NLA, Chris Long, and A.H. Boyd

CRONYISM effects on the National Heritage collections

Left:    poster printed of 1870s photographs of Tasmanian prisoners (QVMAG collection,1991)
Right: press notice of 1977 exhibition of T. J. Nevin's prisoner photographs at QVMAG

Letter from the QVMAG 2005
The Queen Victoria and Albert Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG), Launceston, seemed so intent on abrogating the name of Thomas J. Nevin as photographer from any association with its holdings of the "Convicts of Port Arthur" photographs which were exhibited there in 1977 as Nevin's work that in a letter to a Nevin descendant dated 17th November 2005, the technical officer showed considerable confusion and made contradictory and incorrect statements. This is the letter:

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Dear [name],
Please find enclosed some documentation relating to the convict photograph exhibition that was attributed to Thomas Nevin in 1977. Also enclosed is a list of the convict photographs that include the registration number, the type and content of the photograph, as well as the photographer who is listed as Adolarious Humphrey Boyd. I have highlighted registration number QVM:1985:P:0131 and included a photocopy of the reverse of this image, as it contains the photographic stamp of T.J. Nevin. The photographer of the convict photographs has been listed as Boyd, in accordance with comments made by Chris Long.
We have two photographs in our collection which have the photographer listed as Thomas Nevin. I have enclosed information about QVM:1987:P:0220. The other is QVM:1985:P:0005 that we have discussed via e-mail.
Thank you for your enquiry. Please be in contact if you have any questions.
Danielle Grossman
Technical Officer
Community History Centre

This letter prompted an analysis of the volte face position held by the QVMAG since 1977 with regard to their data bases. The errors in this letter are dealt with summarily here:

There were three photographs in their holdings of T. J. Nevin's photographs bearing his name and/or studio stamp, not two. For example:

A full-length studio portrait of two men, hand-tinted, which is inscribed verso "Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town", and listed as QVM:1985:P:0005. These two men were clients of T. J. Nevin who were photographed at his Hobart studio before 1876. Samuel Clifford reprinted portraits of Nevin's clients after 1876 when Nevin entered the civil service with the Hobart City Council as Hall and Office Keeper, Hobart Town Tall. It was published in Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995:34).

The second catalogue number QVM:1987:P:0220 refers to a photograph by Thomas Nevin titled "View of the Hobart to Launceston coach, 1872, Tasmania" which is stamped verso with his government contractor stamp encircling the Royal Arms insignia. It is a landscape format cdv of Samuel Page's Royal Mail coach, taken for official records.

The third cdv, listed as QVM:1985:P:0131, is a photograph in a buff mount of prisoner William Smith per Gimore (3). This is typcal of the several hundred extant prisoner identification photographs taken by Thomas Nevin for police and prison records,1872-1886.

Above: Recto and verso of photograph of prisoner Wm Smith per Gilmore (3) 
Verso with T. J. Nevin's government contractor stamp printed with the Royal Arms  insignia. 
Carte numbered "199" on recto 
QVMAG Ref: 1985.p.131

Comments by Chris Long 1995
That makes three 1870s photographs bearing the name of Thomas J. Nevin, not two There are many more, of course, not sorted, catalogued or digitised bearing Nevin's stamp in the QVMAG's holdings, neglected or ignored for reasons known only to those involved. Several comments by Chris Long in a letter to Nevin descendants 1984 indicated that the QVMAG holds quite a few photographs by T. J. Nevin:
"Most of his work was commercially commissioned - business premises and commercial products. He photographed the coaches used by Page's coach lines in about 1873."
Chris Long stated on p. 36 of Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory that  there are " a number of convict photographs with the commercial stamp T. J. Nevin" (p. 36). He was in fact referring to the whole collection of more than 140 convicts' photographs at the QVMAG which the curator and researchers attributed to Thomas J. Nevin in 1977.

With reference to statements in the letter from the QVMAG (2005), the only reason for re-attributing their collection of photographs of convicts from T. J. Nevin to A, H, Boyd was based simply on "comments" by Chris Long, in this sentence in their letter  - " ... in accordance with comments by Chris Long". What comments exactly, and has the QVMAG ever investigated their veracity? The source given by the QVMAG is pages 35-36 of the TMAG publication, Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995), and in that entry on pp 35-36 the writer Chris Long DOES NOT attribute the Port Arthur photographs to A. H. Boyd.

On page 35, Chris Long said:
The authorship of these photographs is difficult to trace. Cato attributes offical convict photography to 'various studios in Hobart and Launceston ... (Jack Cato 1955:164)'.
The authorship was not difficult to trace. John McPhee, curator of the QVMAG exhibition in 1977, Geoff Stilwell, Special Collections, State Library of Tasmania and Professor Joan Kerr , University of Sydney, had ascertained Thomas J. Nevin as the photographer in preparation for the QVMAG exhibition, 1977. Their considered expertise on this issue was published in Kerr (ed) The Dictionary of Australian artists : painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870, (1992, pp 568-9). But Chris Long was not familiar with John McPhee at all - his letter to Nevin descendants in 1984 referred to a Carl McPhee, not John McPhee.

The "authorship" comment by Chris Long is a segue into a somewhat arrogant dismissal of Jack Cato's seminal early work The Story of the Camera in Australia, whose publication in 1955 preceded the 1977 exhibition and contains no information on these Tasmanian convict portraits. Long then proceeds to dismiss the possibility of convict photos taken by photographer W.P. Dowling in Launceston (fl. 1859-18740 (also Cato's suggestion p. 165) because it seemed  -
... highly unlikely as the work would have been associated with the establishment at Port Arthur (p.36)
The use of "associated with the establishment at Port Arthur" does not in any way confirm the assumption Chris Long then makes that these Port Arthur convicts were in fact photographed at Port Arthur. Several of the "convict photographs" are inscribed on the verso with the prisoner's name, the date of his transportation and the ship's name. Some also bear the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874". But Long includes copies of TWO photographs and their versos - one of prisoner Job Smith alias Campbell alias Boodle - which DOES NOT bear the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874", and another of prisoner Samuel Blore per Lrd Petrie which does bear the familiar "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874". So one of the photographs - Job Smith's - cannot be said to be "associated" with Port Arthur, whatever Long wants to imply by the notion "associated with" And there are many such photographs.

Creating photohistory fiction: the A. H. Boyd furphy
Chris Long's speculation then continues with this curious statement which is now known to be nothing more than hearsay:
A.H. Boyd, Superintendent at Port Arthur from June 1871 to March 1874, was a very keen amateur photographer and is known to have had a room fitted up in his garden as a studio and darkroom.  (p.36)
Where's the source? It appears not here in Chris Long's entry but in a Masters thesis submitted to the ANU by Warwick Reeder. Reeder notes (1995:70) that -
Chris Long was the first to suggest that they [Port Arthur cartes 1874] might have been taken by A.H. Boyd.
Warwick Reeder states clearly in his thesis (1995:69) that the Boyd attribution arose from hearsay about a story circulating at the Port Arthur Historic Site where a Boyd descendant recalled seeing a camera at the Commandant's house:
Boyd's niece, E. M. Hall, nee Giblin, recalls that while Boyd was in charge of Port Arthur, he "had a room fitted up in the garden [of the Commandant's house] and was always on the lookout for sitters, [she being] a proud and constant occupant of the only available chair." (footnote 65, Ibid, Reminiscences of E. M. Hall, Crowther Library, State Library of Tasmania in Glover, Margaret, Report on the physical fabric of Port Arthur, n.d.).
Not only is this a piece of legally inadmissable hearsay, Reeder and Long are seriously proposing that a FICTIONAL children's tale about a holiday at Port Arthur, delivered as a talk to a literary society in 1930 by a niece of Boyd's, E.M. Hall, and extant only in typescript, titled "The Young Explorer" (submitted to the State Library of Tasmania in 1942) can function as an authentic historical document and reference. There is no reference to this children's tale in the cited article by Margaret Glover (1991). The children's tale is not a personal memoir, its author makes no reference to either Boyd by name or to the photographing of prisoners at Port Arthur. It was written by a 62 year old woman in 1930 with the intention of giving her young readers a taste of old Port Arthur. These two "researchers", Chris Long and Warwick Reeder, with nothing to offer apart from this ridiculous "research" are principally responsible for the creation of the Boyd furphy. Clearly their "evidence" is nonsense.

However, having put this "evidence" in place, Chris Long then continues with the citation of three "notes contained in the Mitchell Library's Tasmanian Papers" [Ref:320].

30/7/1873 - 288 photographic glasses sent to Port Arthur
12/8/1873 - 1 case of photographic equipment sent to Port Arthur
2/4/1874 - sent from Port Arthur to A.H. Boyd, Hobart - one photograph stand and one photograph tent.

Investigation at the Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW, Sydney)  ascertained exactly what these "notes" indicate. They are in fact the dates of three way bills or cargo and passenger lists for the delivery of goods to and from government stores at Hobart and Port Arthur on board the government schooner Harriet.

The government schooner Harriet carried hundreds of passengers and tonnes of cargo to and from Hobart and Port Arthur while in service during these years. The names of professional photographers appear frequently on the passenger lists during 1873 and 1874, including Samuel Clifford's and Thomas Nevin's. Private goods were usually listed as simply packages, parcels, or boxes, while government cargo was usually detailed by its contents. The Civil Commandant or his proxy signed against the lists of both types of cargo.

Examination of the three original way bill documents revealed no data that could be used to determine that Boyd was the photographer - or "author" to use the photo historian's misuse of the literary term - of the convicts while Civil Commandant of the Port Arthur prison. Chris Long's is a spurious argument underpinned by nothing more than speculation about the ownership of a photograph stand and tent listed as household goods destined for Hobart on the Harriet's way bill dated 2nd April 1874.

The name of  Boyd appears twice on this particular way bill list against cargo designated as "private", firstly as a general signature against 300 or so items of goods, some of which are identified by the owner's name, eg. "1 Umbrella ... Mr G.B. Walker". The photograph stand and tent are NOT identified by the owner's name.

The second appearance of  (Mrs?)  Boyd's name specifically brackets four items which included "1 child's carriage, 1 package Deer Horns, 1 Hat Box, Leather, 1 package of Buttons [?]". These FOUR items were bracketed as Boyd's personal property, but the photograph stand and tent DO NOT appear here. Therefore, the stand and tent cannot said to be Boyd's personal property: to argue for attribution to Boyd as the photographer of Tasmanian convicts on the basis of unproven ownership of two pieces of photographic equipment, is patently absurd. A cursory glance at the Tasmanian Pioneers Index (AOT) shows hundreds of Boyds alive in Tasmania in the 1870s, and not one of those Boyds has ever been documented as a photographer in their own lifetime or subsequently. Even A. H. Boyd's predecessor in the position of Commandant at Port Arthur, James Boyd (no relation, apparently), who was the owner of stereoscopic equipment auctioned from his house in Battery Point in 1873, has never been documented as either an amateur or skilled professional photographer. Ownership of cameras does not presuppose authorship of photographs.

A.H. Boyd's only connection with Thomas Nevin was through the Attorney-General, William Robert Giblin. Boyd was Giblin's brother-in-law. He married Giblin's sister Henrietta Selina Giblin (b.1839) in 1871. Thomas Nevin photographed W. R. Giblin while contracted as the Hobart prisons and police photographer. Giblin chose Nevin as his photographer for a personal portrait [AOT Ref: NS1013/1971], he also chose Nevin as his official photographer. The photograph stand and tent, far from being Boyd's personal property, would have been returned ultimately to Attorney-General Giblin's care, if they had been used for official purposes, and there is nothing to indicate who used them, when, where or for what purpose.

A. H. Boyd was not even at Port Arthur in April 1874. His tenure as Commandant terminated in December 1873 under allegations of corruption and nepotism levelled at his brother-in-law Attorney-General W.R. Giblin in the Parliament through June and July 1873. A. H. Boyd was a reviled individual whose bullying of employees attracted extensive comment in the Hobart Mercury over the period of his tenure as Superintendent of the Orphan School from which he was dismissed for misogyny in 1865; as Civil Commandant at Port Arthur  from which he was forced to resign prematurely in December 1873; and lastly as Superintendent of Paupers at the Cascades Invalid Depot. He pleaded for a pension from the government to no avail, and died prematurely from a fall from a horse while drunk. His obituary makes no mention of photography, nor is there any official document which associates A. H. Boyd with the provision of photographs specifically taken by him of prisoners. Further, Boyd's descendants have not proffered one photograph in their family collection to support their claim he took photographs despite five decades of opportunity since this issue arose.

The government schooner Harriet's way bills for the remainder of 1874 detail Dr Coverdale's journeys several times a month to Hobart accompanying groups of prisoners on their way to prisons in Hobart, as the process of closing down Port Arthur continued. Most of the prisoners returned from Port Arthur to Hobart had been sent there in 1871 at the discretion of the Hobart Gaol Sheriff Thomas Reidy. Sixty had already returned to Hobart by July 15th 1873, noted by Giblin and tabled in Parliament  on that date, July 15, 1873. The remaining 49 on the list tabled in Parliament on that date were back in Hobart by October 1873. On their arrival back in Hobart, the prisoner was bathed, shaved and clothed in standard gaol issue which included a black leathern cap. Two photographs by Nevin of prisoners wearing this cap are held at the Mitchell Library, NSW, stamped verso with his government contractor warrant. The prisoners' records were updated with a photograph taken by T. J. Nevin, the only contracted commercial  photographer to provide this service. His commission was paid out by Treasury, and appeared in the 1874 documents pertaining to expenses for the year 1873. T. J. Nevin had already photographed some of these men at their Supreme Court trials from February 1872 at the adjoining Supreme Court.

The fact that no government documents such as these were sought and sourced by Chris Long or Warwick Reeder pertaining to  the prisoners' photographs is indicative of the problems art-trained photo historians bring to attribution issues.

Aesthetic judgement and personal taste also cloud Chris Long's "comments". Because he judges the nature of the convicts' poses" to be "amateurish" he speculates that -
"... it is quite possible that Boyd may have been the photographer."
But A. H. Boyd was NOT a photographer. Chris Long has not established here or anywhere else that Boyd took a single photograph. As Kerr and Stilwell stated in 1992 (p. 568),

" ... no photographs by Boyd are known."

Government contractor Thomas J. Nevin
T. J. Nevin, however, does receive accreditation by Chris Long for "a number of convict photographs" bearing his "commercial stamp "T. J. Nevin". (p.36)

The stamp Thomas J. Nevin used was not his commercial stamp, it was in fact printed for him as government contractor with the seal of the Royal Arms insignia, but Chris Long had not personally inspected it so had not understood its purport. As Chris Long says, his "belief" about Boyd was based on "an interpretation of the known facts" but the circumstantial "facts" he has established are simply these: some photographic materials were listed as cargo for Port Arthur in 1873. A photograph stand and tent were returned to Hobart on 2nd April 1874. Boyd's supposed "ownership" of a stand and tent is all that Chris Long offers as argument for a Boyd attribution. In itself, it is indeed a slender argument. As unproven, in any case, it is seriously nonsensical.

The other "fact" which Long believes is his own creation of a darkroom belonging to the Commandant, also derived from the children's tale by the Boyd descendant. The "room" which the child narrator mentions in the FICTIONAL children's tale  has become a "darkroom" in Chris Long's imagination. He says:
It is highly likely that the photographs were taken at Port Arthur, and highly unlikely that there would have been a darkroom there apart from the commandant's own. (p.36)

Above: page 36 of Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (Long, 1995)

"Belief" and "interpretation" do not constitute evidence. In personal communication with Nevin descendants in 2005, Chris Long stated that he "never said Nevin was not the photographer".

Cronyism at the National Library of Australia
So, why has the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery set about so assiduously to suppress Thomas Nevin's attribution as photographer of their holdings of Tasmanian convict photographs?

Their ill-considered decision was based on a misreading of Chris Long's "comments", as the letter dated 2005 above indicates. It would seem, however, that the QVMAG and particularly the National Library of Australia are implicated in cronyism.

A concerted effort by Chris Long, and particularly by Warwick Reeder has influenced these institutions into promoting the A. H. Boyd attribution, either through misplaced trust or opportunism. Clearly, recapitulation by both Chris Long and Warwick Reeder is difficult while their error of judgement regarding A. H. Boyd remains in print. Warwick Reeder, in particular, has used his (former) collegiate status as valuer to influence Pictorial staff at the NLA. Why? Because he circulated copies his Master of Letters sub-thesis - a student essay, a minor event in academic terms - to the Mitchell Library NSW and to the National Library of Australia, and he is now aware of its major flaws, unsubstantiated claims, and errors concerning Thomas J . Nevin's family life and professional career.

Far from wishing to issue or attach statements of errata to the thesis, Warwick Reeder would rather see the national heritage compromised than his own "reputation". He would rather see Thomas J. Nevin's name written out of the "official records" than his own name (as stated in so many words in an email to a Nevin descendant). Cronyism is a form of corruption. Compromising historical fact, and the national heritage, is the way the future will remember these public servants in public institutions, who seem to overlook the basic fact of their existence - they are servants of the public. Warwick Reeder's investment extends deeper: he is a self-publisher.

So one reason at least for the National Library of Australia's change of attribution from T. J. Nevin to A. H. Boyd this year, 2007, "on the basis of research by Julia Clark" has become apparent. It would seem at first that the NLA had been swayed by a confused and error-ridden essay containing deliberate obfuscations about Nevin, written by Clark at the Port Arthur Historic Site, and acted on it by effectively removing Thomas J. Nevin's long-standing attribution from their digitised holdings of Tasmanian convict photographs. Their revised full-record URLs for the 25 convict portraits displayed this notice between April and August 2007:

"Formerly attributed to Nevin, Thomas J., 1842-ca. 1922. Attribution changed in 2007 to A.H. Boyd on the basis of research by Julia Clark, Manager Interpretations and Collections, Port Arthur. See TRIM R07/44377."

In September 2007, the NLA amended the full record with this statement:

"No photographer name or studio stamp appears on these photographs. It is likely that the photographer was either A.H. Boyd or Thomas J. Nevin. An essay supporting attribution to Boyd, prepared by Julia Clark, Manager Interpretations and Collections, Port Arthur Historic Site, is on file (TRIM R07/44377); copies available on request."

Why leave the reference to such a poorly researched and facticious essay, an essay padded with irrelevant convictism and singularly intent on deceiving the reader? Clark's essay is not bona fide research, she has written it and forwarded it to the NLA with malicious intent. Not one proposition in this entry about Boyd is even plausible. The NLA holds a file of ephemera relating to Nevin and their holdings of the Tasmanian convict cartes, cited as:

Record Id: 41137628 (Australian Library Collections)
Nevin, T. J. : photography related ephemera material collected by the National Library of Australia].
Description:1 folder of miscellaneous pieces.
Series:Australian photographer files
Contents:File contains material such as accession sheets, listings of works biographical material and correspondence related to convict portraits.
Subjects: Nevin, Thomas J., 1842-1923.Photographers -- Australia.
Libraries that have this item: National Library of Australia. National Library of Australia (ANL) 3821234 Australian photographer files

The essay by Clark has now appeared in this file of Nevin's work created in 1900. Not only is the essay unfinished and unsigned, it violates our copyright of photos and text copied directly from this weblog.  It is a student essay, it contains nothing of significance that has not appeared in publications, so why is it referenced in the NLA catalogue when no other essays by students have received similar treatment across the board? Anything with Clark's name attached is a waste of the reader's time.

Sadly, Ms Clark - who does not even appear on the PAHS website staff lists nor is her position there in any way guaranteed (jeopardised, rather, in the face of this episode) - has not conducted "research" which proves A. H. Boyd as the photographer of the Tasmanian convict/prisoner photographs held at the NLA, some of which are dated by the NLA for 1884 not 1874 and were taken at the Hobart Gaol where Thomas Nevin's brother Constable John Nevin continued with the provision of prisoner ID photographs, nor does she come anywhere near to proving that Boyd ever produced a photograph on any subject. Her deliberate obfuscations are in some cases outright falsifications of statements found in readily available publications and documents (e.g The Mechanical Eye; Intersections). Clark's "research" is also full of Warwick Reeder's claims.

Some examples from Clark's "basis of research" which the NLA has found so compelling concern incorrect statements about the NLA's own history of involvement. This paragraph in the essay from Clark, for example, makes these baseless claims:

Claim A: wrong
Some further confusion has arisen because the NLA holds an album known as the ‘Nevin Album’. I, and it would seem some others, assumed that this was an album that Nevin himself had compiled or that was at least composed of work known to be Nevin’s.
Claim B: wrong
In fact, the NLA compiled it from cdvs in preparation for an exhibition on colonial photography at the National Library in 2003, ‘In a New Light; Australian Photography 1850s-1930s’, curated by Helen Ennis.
Claim C: wrong
In doing so, they were following their attribution of these images to Nevin; the source of this attribution is lost in the mists of time but may have been obtained from QVMAG. This object has now developed a power of its own, such that NLA staff had come to believe that each cdv bore Nevin’s stamp.
Claim D: wrong
However, when the album was taken apart it was discovered that not one of the images bore this stamp. Interestingly, the Curator Helen Ennis attributed the images to Boyd in 2000 in Mirror with a Memory.

None of these claims by Clark observes known and knowable facts. Assumptions made by Clark or by anyone else are not legally tenable evidence. The album of convict cartes held at the NLA was originally sighted by Nevin descendants at the QVMAG Launceston exhibition in 1977, again at the QVMAG as the same and as a complete entity in 1984, and again at the NLA, Canberra in 1996 and in 2000, so far from being a compilation, its integrity up until 2003 had remained complete and intact.

The source of the "Nevin album" as the staff in the Pictorial section of the NLA might have called it - they had a map drawer labelled "Thomas Nevin" containing photographs of NSW prisons which were NOT correctly located or attributed, however - was the QVMAG via the National Gallery of Victoria, deposited by curator John McPhee in the 1980s. The NLA staff stated in 2000 to a visiting Nevin descendant that the versos of the cartes in their "Nevin album" were printed or inscribed, but whether with a photographer's stamp or simply with handwriting, was largely unknown because they had not disassembled the album. A few loose items were paper copies from a much larger donation of prisoners' ID photographs from government estrays deposited at the NLA by Dr Neil Gunson in the 1960s. The 19th century album, however, was not dismantled until Helen Ennis used several cartes for the NLA exhibition "In a New Light: A Love of Order " in 2003, and then her attribution to several cartes was "photographer unknown". This exhibition is online at the NLA.

The cartes that were used in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Mirror with a Memory in 2000 were drawn NOT from the NLA but from the TMAG where Clark had worked, and where she had probably contributed to the Boyd mess of misattribution because her sole knowledge of these cartes was from the Chris Long  vague "belief" and careless speculations about A. H. Boyd in the 1995 TMAG publication, Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (page 36).

This statement in particular - "lost in the mists of time" - from Clark is a measure of the supercilious attitude she has towards her government position at the Port Arthur Historic Site where this so-called "research" is being funded. Far from being lost, Nevin's contractual employment as police and prisons photographer was common knowledge in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, his work was valued to the extant that his photographs of "convicts" were salvaged, copied and sold to tourists by later photographers such as John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle at Beattie's "Port Arhur Museum" located in Murray St. Hobart. The late 20th century validated the T. J. Nevin attribution at the QVMAG in 1977 with an exhibition documented in the press releases and reviews of the day, and in correspondence between researchers and curators at the State Library of Tasmania and the QVMAG. These documents are easily accessible to the public, and many (but not all key documents) have been visible on these Nevin family weblogs since 2003.

In the NLA publication Intersections, which appeared in 2004, Helen Ennis clearly attributed the photograph of convict John Moran taken from the NLA's "Nevin album" to T. J. Nevin.

Julia Clark has peddled her so-called "research" to public institutions holding these 19th Tasmanian convict photographs with the insistence that they suppress Thomas J. Nevin's name as the photographer of Tasmanian convicts. Poor Clark and her blatant opportunism in playing the events-of-1996-Port Arthur sympathy-card to get the attention of NLA librarians on what is only a minor error regarding Reeder's photographer misattribution to A. H. Boyd. She is to be roundly despised for lying to the administrators of public collections while seeking influence, and she should be sued for breach of copyright for stealing from the authors of these Nevin weblogs.

The rest of the Clark essay, written in the mode of hero discourse - she will rescue the cartes, she will save them etc - is equally silly, equally invalid, equally duplicitious and dishonest. Ideas for discussion and original documentation were - and continue to be - purloined and plagiarised from the writers of these Nevin family weblogs by Clark and then abused for whatever has suited her contrary arguments.

The National Library of Australia should and can be held accountable for this act of cronyism. It's not about whether their prisoner photographs are stamped verso by the photographer. Who would seriously expect police mugshots - in 1870 or in 2009 - to signify the photographer's "authorship"? Even without Nevin's stamp, which DOES appear on several of these Tasmanian prisoner cartes (for registration of his commission and contract renewal), there is ample evidence to be found in other documents and newspaper articles of his "authorship". The cry for a photographer's stamp by the NLA on current catalogue records is simply the subterfuge of a biased staff who have demonstrated the degree of contempt in which they hold the noble profession of librarianship, the time they are prepared to devote to obscure their errors, their laziness, and their bias, and the errors of those who flatter them; these are librarians who assume they can sanction the rewriting of history by any fool regardless of the readily available historical documents held within the National Library building itself, especially those which testify to T. J. Nevin's photographic duties as THE photographer of their "Port Arthur convict photographs 1874". These public servants are not interested in the effects of their abuse of the national heritage and of our bona fide and extremely generous research, nor of the confusion they inflict on the Australian public. The effect of whimsical cronyism might in the short term, if not checked, suppress the original and factually correct attribution to Nevin in "the official records"at the NLA, which was the expectation expressed by a desperate Warwick Reeder in an email to a Nevin descendant. But such action from the NLA only puts into question any claim they make about any of their holdings: it generates distrust, and ultimately earns them derision and calls for accountability. Descendants of the family of photographer Thomas J. Nevin with valuable research and collections have no option but to contemplate deposits elsewhere such as Britain or the USA.That, or just mount a civil suit.

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872