Museum acquires Mawson’s medicine chest

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Mawson’s medical chest.
Photo: Jason McCarthy / NMA

A MEDICINE chest supplied to Douglas Mawson’s 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic expedition has been donated to the National Museum.  

It is one of four “Tabloid” medicine chests prepared for the expedition by Burroughs Wellcome & Co (now GlaxoSmithKline, which has made the donation).

Bottles from Mawson’s medical chest. Photo: Jason McCarthy / NMA

In welcoming the “extraordinary object” to the museum, director Dr Mathew Trinca said it was a valuable addition to its Australian Antarctic exploration collection.

Curator Cheryl Crilly said the medicine chest, which did not travel to Antarctica, is in excellent condition with original medicines and bandages intact.

“Burroughs Wellcome & Co made their name as suppliers of safe and convenient medical products in the late 19th century, a period considered the golden age of exploration,” she said.

“Their ‘Tabloid’ brand medicine chests were supplied free of charge to explorers and famous travellers and served as convenient and portable promotional tools for the company.”

Only three of the chests were on board the “Aurorawhen Mawson’s expedition left Hobart to establish three bases in Antarctica where teams conducted detailed scientific and meteorological observations.

The Australasian Antarctic expedition “Tabloid” medicine chest and contents. Photo: Jason McCarthy / NMA

The donated chest is on display in the museum’s Studio gallery, as one of eight objects in program of creative workshops.

“Collections Up Close”, The Studio, until Friday May 10. Book at

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