Miss E. A. Bayfield: an early employee and contributor to the Perth Museum  

by Rebecca Repper

In the official Museum Management Committee Minutes it is noted on the 19th July, 1895 that a ‘Miss Bayfield’ would be engaged at £3 a week to ‘assist in arranging collections and write catalogue of collections’ (S1549 cons1035 1 ‘Minutes – Museum Management Committee, 9-10. State Records Office of WA). In the Annual Report of that same year, a ‘Scientific assistant (temporary)’ position is listed, but no name given. Her employment does not seem to extend beyond 1896: the last mention of her in the minutes is on 24 January 1896 when ‘The Curator States that he expected that Miss Bayfield would have the Catalogues finished up to date within three months’ (S1549 cons1035 1 ‘Minutes – Museum Management Committee, 18-19. State Records Office of WA). As my research engages with the information management side of our institutional history, I was quite curious who was responsible for the Perth Museum’s first data entry.


With the help of the Museum Librarian at the WA Museum archives, I found a few references to a Miss Bayfield – in fact, two Miss Bayfields! In the Loans Collection Book for 1895-1953 (ARCH 276 Bay 5, Shelf 3, WA Museum Archives) for August 1, 1895, textile fabrics, jewellery and ‘curios’ from India are listed as loaned from ‘Miss Bayfield’, and in May 1896 a Miss E. A. Bayfield of Perth loans a water colour of ‘Lent Lillies’ by a Miss F. J. Bayfield of Norwich.


These are correlated in the newspapers reporting on the Museum (which at that time did incorporate a small collection of Art, but did not become the ‘The Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery’ until 1898).[i] At the new opening of the ‘Geological Museum’ in 1895, Miss Bayfield is referenced directly as having donated the Indian material on display, and acknowledged as an invaluable assistant in the arrangement of the galleries along with the other Museum assistant at the time, the taxidermist Mr Otto Lipfert (The New Geological Museum. The Opening. Western Mail, 2 August 1895, 23-24). The watercolour ‘Lent Lillies’ is listed as donated to the museum in Western Mail, Fri 12 June 1896, 6.


Another work by Miss F.J. Bayfield, ‘Roses’, is listed as loaned for exhibition in the Annual Report for 1896-97, and is noted as having been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891 (Perth Museum. Curator’s Report for 1896-97. The West Australian, 1 Nov 1897, 3). Through this nugget of information, I was able finally to know a full name: ‘Miss Fanny Jane Bayfield’ of Bracondale, Norwich (Graves, Algernon, A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their work from its foundation in 1796 to 1904, Vol 1 Abbayne to Carrington, The Royal Academy of the Arts, London, 1905, 148). Her residence at Bracondale pointed me to her family home, and allowed me to identify her as daughter of archaeology and natural history enthusiast Thomas Gabriel Bayfield.


Through the information in Thomas Gabriel Bayfield’s obituary I was finally able to connect the dots as to how our Miss Bayfields came to be involved with the Perth Museum! There it stated that Thomas Gabriel Bayfield was married to ‘the eldest daughter of the late Samuel Woodward’ and leaves behind a son and two daughters (Thomas Gabriel Bayfield, of Norwich. Geological Magazine 10 (5), 1893, 240-240). Thomas Gabriel Bayfield was the uncle of Bernard Woodward, Curator of Perth Museum, thus making Bernard Woodward the cousin of the two Miss Bayfields. (Of course it was only after this very circuitous route that I found the direct reference of ‘Miss Bayfield of South Perth’ as the cousin of Mr Bernard Woodward in a newspaper’s ‘Perth Prattle’ section! (The Ladies' Section. Sunday Times (Second Section), 6 April 1913, 13).


On closer inspection of the early acquisition and loan records for the Perth Museum, the type of material Miss E. A. Bayfield donates or loans gives a picture of a collector of ‘Curios’ other than Australiana, particularly from India, but also South Africa and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Whether these items were the act of Miss Bayfield’s collecting, or items she may have inherited from her father’s collecting activity, I have not ascertained. Miss Fanny Bayfield’s contributions at first report seem predominantly the product of her own hand, her watercolours (in addition to the two mentioned above, a further two works, ‘Peaches’ and ‘Anemones’ were loaned in 1896 from Woodward (Correspondence. The West Australian, 9 March 1896, 6)). However, Fanny Bayfield was also involved in exchange or supply of faunal specimens, including a Rabbit (Lepus cuniculus), Garrulus glandarius (Eurasian Jay), Perdix rufus (Guernsey Partridge), and Erithacus rubeculus (European Robin) (Register 1896-1900 (PRE-M #1), listed December 9, 1899, WA Museum Archives). These may correspond or be in addition to specimens listed in a letter signed by Miss F. J. Bayfield which is not very legible due to the bleeding of the wet contact copy (x124, Letter Books 5A, no. 18, WA Museum Archives).


The two Miss Bayfields can be recognised as contributors to these early foundational years of what was to become our State Museum and Art Gallery, today represented by the WA Museum and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. They were connected to the burgeoning institution through a direct familial connection to Bernard Woodward. These types of familial contacts can be thought of as part of the broader networks that connected the museum and art worlds at a time of considerable engagement between professional and intellectual individuals globally. These networks facilitated the professional trade and collection of Western Australian material into international collections, and the creation of Western Australian collections of worldly material. The Bayfields contribution, though perhaps small in the larger scheme of things, is one I am happy to have stumbled across. To me they represent how at the end of the nineteenth century small contributions, from family and friends, aided the development of the Perth Museum alongside the official government administration and professional collectors. I find these small stories illuminating facets of the larger research on collections of Western Australia we are conducting.


[i] The art collection and museum collections were separated through legislation to become the WA Museum (WAM) and Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) in 1960. Any of Fanny Bayfield’s artworks that remained in the collection would have passed into the collections of AGWA.