History of Crowther and Lanne

    Who was William Crowther?

    William Crowther was born in Holland in 1817 and moved with his family to Hobart in 1825. He went on to become a surgeon, naturalist and parliamentarian. He was briefly Premier of Tasmania (1878-1879). Crowther is controversial figure because he is known to have desecrated the remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal man William Lanne in the 1860s.

    Who was William Lanne?

    Willliam Lanne (aka Lanney) was born around 1835 near Coal River in southeast Tasmania. He was well regarded as an advocate for his community and became known as King Billy – the native plant the ‘King Billy Pine’ is named after him. He was a Hobart resident and respected by many. He died in 1869.

    What did William Crowther do to William Lanne’s remains?

    Crowther was an honorary medical officer at the Hobart General Hospital. But he was suspended in 1869 over charges of twice “mutilating the body of William Lanne”, first at the Colonial Hospital and then at the cemetery on the night of the burial. Crowther removed Lanne’s skull and sent it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London where it remained for over 120 years.

    What happened to Lanne’s skull?

    Tasmanian Aboriginal people fought a long battle to have Lane’s skull returned from the UK and buried in accordance with cultural practice. This happened in 1991, over 120 years after Lanne’s death.

Crowther Reinterpretation Project

    Why is this arts project happening now?

    The William Crowther statue has long been a painful reminder for Tasmanian Aboriginal people and others aware of this history. Concerns about the statue have been raised numerous times by local Aboriginal people in City of Hobart consultations for other community and arts projects.

    City of Hobart felt it was the right time to explore this contentious part of the City’s history. This follows from the City’s Community Vision and Capital City Strategic Plan.  Following these documents, additional interpretation for the Crowther statue was a specific action listed in the City’s Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan (ACAP), which was launched at the start of 2020.

    Are you doing this project in response to the Black Lives Matters movement?

    This project is not a direct response to the Black Lives Matters movement. Concerns about the statue have been raised repeatedly over time by local Aboriginal people in City of Hobart consultations for other community and arts projects.

    However, recent events around the world have clearly underlined a very widespread and ongoing concern about racial equality in our societies. It would be a positive outcome for the whole community if this project contributes to healing past wounds and to building a fairer society.

    Why can’t you just leave the past in the past?

    This arts project is in response to ongoing concerns about the statue from members of the community, especially by many Tasmanian Aboriginal people. For many, the desecration of the remains of William Lanne needs to be acknowledged before we can move on as a society.  Therefore, what happened in the past has consequences now. The City hopes that this project will allow the community to move forward into the future, together.

    Why is the City of Hobart leading this project?

    The Crowther statue is owned by the City of Hobart and it sits in a City-owned park. Additional interpretation for the Crowther statue was a specific action listed in the City’s Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan (ACAP), which follows from the City’s Community Vision. It is our job to manage the arts project to ensure that it is done well and done respectfully.

    Will this be a one-sided debate?

    City of Hobart is launching this project to encourage broad public conversation about this contentious part of our city. We’re hoping to hear a wide range of views respectfully expressed about the issue over the coming months from all sides of the debate.

    Crowther was a great figure – why can’t you focus on that rather than dragging him down?

    It is true that Crowther was very active in nineteenth century Tasmanian public affairs. He served in the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council and was the first medical practitioner to serve as Tasmanian Premier. He was also a noted surgeon and naturalist. These are all commendable achievements which is why a statue was installed to him in the first place. 

    Sadly, he also chose to desecrate the remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal man William Lanne. Something for which he was punished at the time (by being suspended as an honorary medical officer at the Hobart General Hospital) and for which he is still criticised today.

    Despite Crowther’s achievements in public life, his mistreatment of Lanne’s remains understandably is a source of distress for Tasmanian Aboriginal people in particular. They have expressed their discomfort about the statue and their desire for something to be done to recognise Crowther’s treatment of Lanne’s body. And that is why this arts project is happening now.

    Why are they temporary public art projects?

    Having several temporary public art projects (rather than one permanent artwork) allows for a number of different approaches and will prompt different kinds of discussions and engagement from the public. It also allows for responses from diverse arts practitioners.

    Why are there four different public art projects?

    There are differing opinions on the statue. So it is important that a number of different voices are heard in discussing the monument.

    What will happen to the statue long-term?

    The artistic commissions and the responses of our community to them, will help inform a permanent response to the statue within the next two years. The permanent response to the statue does not form part of the current arts project and the nature of the permanent response is still unknown.

    Will you remove the statue?

    At this stage the City does not plan to remove the William Crowther statue, but the permanent response will be informed by this project.

    Why are you giving priority to Aboriginal artists?

    Priority was given during the selection process to Tasmanian Aboriginal artists. We welcomed applications from all arts practitioners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, and committed to at least two of the four proposals selected being by Tasmanian Aboriginal people. This is appropriate given that the project came about as a result of Crowther’s mistreatment of the remains of Aboriginal man William Lanne and the Aboriginal community’s long-standing call for a response to the statue.
    Ultimately, the panel for this project selected four teams/solo artists that all include Tasmanian Aboriginal artists. Selection was based on a set of three criteria that addressed the strength of the proposal, the relevance and strength of past work and the capacity of the artist to complete the commission.

    Will the artworks damage or desecrate the statue?

    No. The temporary works will be installed around or even on the Crowther statue. But the selected works cannot damage the William Crowther sculpture in any way or be indecent or offensive. They must also avoid damaging the sprinkler system or landscaping in Franklin Square.

    What will you do if someone vandalises the temporary artworks?

    Repairs will be made to the work as and when needed, under the guidance of each of the artists.

    How much is being spent on this project?

    Each of the artists is being paid $5,000 for the delivery of their temporary art works, which includes artist fees and all costs associated with installation of the work (materials, engineering, fabrication etc). With four projects, the total cost is $20,000.

    Why are you spending money on an arts project – aren’t there more important things to spend money on right now with COVID-19?

    We believe the creative industries are extremely important to Hobart, and the City has a role in supporting artists. The creative sector employs a large number of people in Hobart and is a key economic contributor that has been significantly impacted through COVID. The creative industries and arts sector provides us all with many important things including connection, enjoyment and insight. The planning and allocation of resources for this project have been underway since the launch of the ACAP in January 2020.

    Why are you worrying about an old statue – aren’t there more important things to think about right now during COVID-19?

    This arts project is in response to ongoing concerns about the statue from members of the community, especially by many Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Naturally, we’re all concerned right now by COVID-19. But our many other concerns have not gone away during the pandemic. It's important that we do not ignore those other concerns, even while we are focused on COVID-19.

ARTWORK 4 Something Missing. 2021 by Jillian Mundy

    How long will Jillian’s work be on display?

    Something Missing is the fourth temporary artwork in the Crowther Reinterpretation project. It will be displayed from November 18, 2021 until the middle of January 2022 in Franklin Square. 

    What does the artwork mean?

    Jillian Mundy has made a film that is predominantly comprised of vox pop style interviews with users of Franklin Square who pass by the Crowther statue on a regular basis.  
    The following is her artist statement about the work: 

    Immortalising individuals who have done terrible things is not good practice by most people’s standards in 2021. Many colonial statues are offensive, some more than others. This is the case of the statue of Crowther in Franklin Square - a statue on a massive pedestal - yet details of his gory deeds are missing, just like much of lutruwita’s (Tasmania’s) history. Do people that go into that park know who he is? Do they care? Would they even notice if he is missing? Do they want the statue gone? Are they ashamed of missing history?  
    Something Missing explores answers to these questions from people who pass through the park every day and the work will continue, or perhaps hasten, the conversation about what we do with these chunks of metal.

    What materials is the work made of?

    With the exception of an added side panel, some water proofing and one can of paint, the viewing enclosure is made with repurposed materials -  a former promotional recycling box from the Hobart Airport. It was repurposed with the assistance of the Karadi Mens shed and is weighed down with used containers from Unpacked in Kingston. 

    Who were the people interviewed?

    Jillian spoke with around 100 people who use the public spaces near the statue in vox pops style interviews. They were asked if they were happy to be filmed answering questions about the park. No interviews were prearranged, nor was anyone invited to the park. All conversations were voluntary and Jillian turned up a range of times throughout the day. While not all recorded footage  was included, responses that differed from the film makers were gratefully received as part of the work. 

ARTWORK 3 BREATHING SPACE, 2021 by Julie Gough

    How long will Julie’s artwork be on display?

    BREATHING SPACE is the third temporary artwork in the Crowther Reinterpretation project. It will be displayed from September 1 to end of October 2021 in Franklin Square. 

    What does the artwork mean?

    BREATHING SPACE is an intervention that disrupts the statue of Dr William Lodewyk Crowther within Franklin Square, and in doing so temporarily creates a break for those pained by its presence. This is Julie’s artist statement for this project: 

    Encased, crated and covered, the statue of William Lodewyk Crowther and its laudatory plaque is finally, albeit temporarily, removed from view. The man was monstrous. His legacy is Aboriginal grieving, that still persists in his and his progenies wake; infamously efficient body-snatchers much celebrated by the citizens of Hobart.  Let us use this time as relief, protected from his arrogant gaze, yet realize we don’t need to see the face of evil to know it is always there, haunting and testing the measure of society.

    What materials is Julie’s sculpture made of?

    Julie’s work is made of stained plywood. Metal straps are used to hold the plywood plinth cover in place.

    Will Julie’s installation damage the statue of Crowther?

    The work has been designed to simply sit in place around the existing statue, using protective material at any of the points where it touches the stone of the statue. The box will not actually touch the bronze of the statue, it will simply encase it. 

ARTWORK 2 The Lanney Pillar, 2021. A collaboration by Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman

    Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman’s Artist Statement

    The Lanney Pillar:

    The life of Aboriginal Tasmanian William Lanney [1835-1869] has been overshadowed by what happened to him after his death. Few of us know anything about his extraordinary life.  

    A statue of the man who stole his remains from the Hobart morgue is perhaps the only public icon that may lead us to Lanney's story. The statue of that man - William Crowther - erected by his colleagues with the blessing of the British Crown, now stands in Hobart’s Franklin Square along with that of King George V11 and Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania [1786 - 1847].

    But nothing of Lanney’s life or death is marked on Crowther’s statue. You would have to dig into the archives or online to find out about the remarkable events of Lanney’s life -  a life which offers deep insights for us today into the turmoil C19th Van Diemen’s Land - Tasmania - lutruwita.

    William Lanney was one of the last Tasmanian Aboriginal children born on the traditional Country of their ancestors. In 1842 Lanney and his family were exiled by the Governor to Wybalenna on Flinders Island.

    As a young man, Lanney joined the crews of the whaling ships sailing the Southern Ocean to Chile and beyond. Lanney’s shipmates called him 'King Billy’. In 1867 he sailed to England to meet Queen Victoria and later in Hobart he met with the Duke of Edinburgh, advocating for his people.

    Lanney was an independent man, respected by the people of Hobart Town who lined the streets for his funeral. When Dr. William Crowther snatched his body from the morgue, Lanney’s dignity was also stolen - by a scoundrel whose statue still stands before you. Where is the memorial to Lanney’s extraordinary life?

    This Pillar offers the public an alternative narrative, seeking to reclaim the story of Lanney’s life from under the cloak of the scoundrel Crowther up there on his bronze statue next door.

    Images of Lanney’s life on the rear of the Pillar tell of his connection to his country, his exile and his whaling life.

    The Lanney Pillar has a 3 minute movie evocation of Lanney the countryman, his exile and whaling life, in Pillar viewer box.

    The QR coded 12 minute film The Whaler’s Tale that can be viewed online tells his extraordinary story and the absurd reasons Europeans like Crowther had for stealing Tasmanian Aboriginal bones for their English masters in London. 

    How long will The Lanney Pillar be be on display?

    The Lanney Pillar was the second temporary artwork in the Crowther Reinterpretation project. It was displayed from June to August 2021 in Franklin Square. 

    What does the artwork mean?

    Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman have created the artwork to share an “alternative narrative” about the story of William Crowther and William Lanne. Through presenting evocative imagery, historical records and a film, they share what is known about the life of William Lanne, who he was, his relationship to Country and the facts of events that followed after his death.

    Why are there different spellings of Lanne and Lanney?

    William Lanne was known by many names. There are multiple references in history to different spelling of William Lanne’s surname including “Lanne”, “Lanney” and “Lanny”. His traditional tribal name is not known and he was given the European name of William when he was seven years old. Many Aboriginal names have multiple spelling due to errors in records and historical interpretations.

    What materials is the artwork made of?

    The sculpture is a free-standing timber structure that is fixed securely to the ground at its base. The artists have used timber, glass, paint and print. The sculpture includes a solar-powered LED screen displaying a short film. A QR code is visible on the sculpture’s base and can be scanned to view the full version of the film online. 

    Will the artwork damage the sculpture?

    No. The artwork will stand adjacent the statue of Crowther in Franklin Square. 

    How can I view the full version of the film, The Whaler’s Tale?

    The sculpture includes a solar-powered LED screen displaying a short film played on a loop. The film is a 4-minute excerpt of a longer film created by the artists called The Whaler’s Tale. The full version of the film can viewed online by using your smart device to scan the QR code displayed on the sculpture’s base or at the end of the film. Alternatively, the film can be viewed on The City of Hobart’s website at  www.hobartcity.com.au/thewhalerstale

    The film will also be displayed on the City of Hobart’s digital art platform, The Loop, for the duration of the installation period. Screening times can be viewed at www.theloophobart.com.au. 

    Does the film show real footage of William Lanney?

    Film maker Roger Scholes and academic Greg Lehman call the film, The Whaler’s Tale, an ‘evocation’ of William Lanny’s life. They have used a combination of historical records and images as well as film footage and music from contemporary sources and storytelling to create an artistic interpretation of what life might have been like for William Lanney. While the film includes some ‘real’ historical records of Lanney, including his portrait, the events of William Lanney’s life took place in a time when film was not available. The footage that appears in the film is from Roger Scholes’ career as a Tasmanian film maker and has been used to illustrate aspects of William Lanney’s life. 

ARTWORK 1 Truth Telling, 2021 by Allan Mansell

    When was Allan’s artwork in display?

    Allan’s artwork was the first to be displayed as part of the Crowther Interpretation project. Truth Telling was displayed in April – June 2021.  

    What do the different components of the Allan’s artwork mean?

    Each component of the work has been carefully considered to symbolise different aspects of the story of William Lanne and of William Crowther’s actions against Lanne in the 1860s.

    Allan’s artwork temporarily transforms William Crowther into a memorial for William Lanne. His head and hands are coated in red and he holds an Aboriginal flag in one hand, a saw in the other and has a bone at his feet. Allan has also covered up the text on the statue with an explanation of Crowther’s actions against Lanne.

    Following is from Allan’s statement for the artwork:
    "The representation of the red hands and red head is the decapitation of head and hands.
    The flag represents the strength of the Aboriginal people of Lutriwita.
     The bone represents Coorinna (the Tasmanian Tiger), again abused and driven out by the colonists. It calls the tiger to come collect the bone, take it away, bury it.... Come and collect your statue! Whoever!”

    What materials is Allan’s installation made of?

    The red head is a flexible vinyl printed with an image of Lanne’s face. The red hands are a rubberised red paint. The Aboriginal flag is fixed to an aluminium pole. The bone is representative and is actually a cow bone.

    Will Allan’s installation leave any damage to the statue?

    All of the materials and processes have been selected to be easily removable. For example, the vinyl is the same as that used on car and bus wraps and is made with a low “tack” to ensure ease of removal and the rubberised paint has been selected for its ability to be peeled away cleanly at the end of the installation