reCollections : journal of the National Museum of Australia
National Museum of Australia
Place of publication
It is widely known that the so-called Cooks' Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens, relocated from Yorkshire to Melbourne in 1934, was never inhabited by Captain James Cook. Yet a subliminal nationalism, sustained by the ancient traditions of contagious magic, feeds the conviction that the dwelling must be directly connected to Australia's foundation hero — a relic that the great man touched — or else it is meaningless. This paper tracks a sequence of managerial–interpretive strategies derived from a chronology of knowledge systems to make meanings at the cottage. It introduces evidence of the original shape of the building in its Great Ayton location, and observes the consequences on management and interpretation of an older demolition and consequent rebuilding of only half the cottage in Melbourne. Much turns on changing ideas about authenticity, as management strategies fail to engage the popular taste for a hero via the magic of faith. The result is a set of opposing principles in presenting the cottage: the role of the historical record as it has enlarged, and the desires of visitors who expect a simple connection between myth and materiality.