New film captures historical story of Scott Sisters of Ash Island.

Harriet and Helena Scott worked and grew up during the 1840s-1860s on Ash Island, which is now part of Kooragang Island, learning to be scientific illustrators.

Up until that point of time a lot of the artworks of animals were taken out of context, whereas they (the Scott sisters) didn’t do that. They wanted to say ‘this is where these butterflies live, this is what they eat, and this is their life.”

~ Dr Bernadette Drabsch, Artist & Lecturer, University of Newcastle

The Scott Sisters documented the flora and fauna of their island home in beautifully crafted images, recording the transformations of insects from caterpillars into moths and butterflies. Their work was world class, but women and girls of the time were unable to attain a University degree.

Their story has now been captured by the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections as part of the Stories of our Town series.

For many of their illustrations they would use a single hair in a paintbrush to make those tiny details on the moths and the leaves.

~ Sami Bayly, Author and Artist

The Stories of Our Town Project presents Newcastle’s key historic stories through Novocastrian eyes and points of view.

In April 2020, the University’s Cultural Collections/GLAMx team and its film maker partners Glenn Dormand and Tony Whitaker were among one of the five successful applicants sharing $1.2 million from the NSW Government’s Round Five of the Newcastle Port Community Contribution (NPCC) fund to help fund twelve films on the important historical stories of Newcastle and its port and estuary.

They were extraordinary for their time, to the extent that their drawings of butterflies and moths and other insects are used today by our entomologists here at the museum.

~ Kim McKay, Director & CEO, The Australian Museum

The Scott Sisters of Ash Island film is available here