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Did you know that the earth’s natural movement, traffic, and building works can sometimes create vibrations within buildings?  

The State Library’s buildings are not immune from this and sometimes things within the buildings can move over time. In many displays within the Mortlock Chamber there have been times when a toy soldier has fallen from a shelf, a record cover has wiggled out of place, or the giant world globe rolled to show a different location on the map. When things move in the night, the State Library’s Conservation team corrects the displaced objects. 

Sometimes items on display within the Mortlock Chamber need a bit of TLC, as we all do at times! Recently we said goodbye to the Globe and Eagle display, which has been present in the Mortlock Chamber since its restoration in 2004. It was time for both items to be ‘rested’, and to undergo conservation work for their future preservation. 

Globe and eagle display in the Mortlock Chamber, removed in April 2023.
The globe and eagle display in the Mortlock Chamber, removed in April 2023. Photo taken by Nanette Reid.

Why was there an Eagle in the State Library? One of the first public buildings to be built in South Australia was the Institute Building on North Terrace. The Institute building housed the State Library, Museum, and the Art Gallery of South Australia under one roof. To show the linked history between the Library and Museum, the Eagle was loaned from the South Australian Museum in 2004 and sat a-top the globe since. You can read about the time when there was a tiger and taxidermists in the Mortlock's basement.

Malby’s Terrestrial Globe, was made in London by Edward Stanford, a prominent cartographer, in the early 1800s. The globe’s acquisition dates to the very beginnings of the State Library, when Robert Gouger lobbied the British Government to found a new settlement in Australia, to be known as South Australia, in the 1830s. By 1834 the South Australia Act was passed and Gouger formed the South Australian Literary and Scientific Association, which saw its members donate books for the settlement’s Institute Building, which later became the public library. Along with books, other donated items included the globe in 1859. Read more about how our State Library began as a trunkful of donated books

William, later Sir William Sowden, was a journalist in South Australia during the late 1800 and early 1990s and was something of an amateur geographer. He discovered the globe had a non-existent island in the Great Australian Bight. An extract from ‘A trunkful of books: history of the SLSA and its forerunners’ (Wakefield Press, 1986) tells the tale. 

‘Inquiries at the Admiralty revealed that there were several conflicting reports from early navigators. Further investigation showed that it was actually a mirage of a cape some forty miles away. So, the island was expunged leaving a spot that resembled 'a volcanic eruption'. Repairs to the globe in the 1960s removed the volcano, but one spot is still obliterated - countless Adelaidean fingers have rubbed bare an area about a centimetre round, right where the city of Adelaide should be!’ 

The globe has been on permanent display for almost 175 years, in various locations within the State Library’s buildings.   

Artlab Australia helped the Library’s Conservation team to remove the globe, which will then be checked and cleaned and placed into a crate for storage, and a well-deserved rest at the State Library. 

Removal of the globe came with some challenges. The first being opening the display cabinet’s large glass door to allow for its removal. The glass door is heavy and needed support during the globe’s removal. The next challenge was to make sure the globe could fit through the Mortlock Chamber doors. The final challenge was that the giant globe had to be carried by hand down the foyer stairs, which took four people. 


The town of Port Gawler was eagerly advertised in 1839, but never built. A hand-coloured manuscript map of the town is a new addition to the  State Library's collections, and has an extraordinary tale to tell. 

Generously presented by the Friends of the State Library of South Australia, the Town of Port Gawler map was created by surveyor Philip L.S. Chauncy, showing all the facilities expected of an English-style settlement. Dig deeper into the story of this proposed town, and you will find a scandalous tale of brotherly betrayal, colonial price gouging and legal intrigue which gripped the early Adelaide community, over land and waters traditionally owned by the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. 

This never-before-seen manuscript map on display in the Mortlock Chamber

Can’t get into town? No problem – you can read the whole story online.


Written by Laura Wolfe, Digital Engagement Coordinator and Peter Zajicek, Senior Conservator