Maiden Voyagers: Exhibiting the Autonomy of Travelling Women to Western Australia, 1818-1830

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Arts and Science)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Professor Deborah Gare


My thesis appraises critical problems of current museum practice concerning women, particularly interpretations of the physical female form and autonomous behaviours, through a wide-ranging field work study and in-depth analysis of recent Australian museum exhibitions and surveys of international exhibitions online. A working understanding of New Museology and empathetic museum practice was derived from this fieldwork experience and complemented by an academic study of museological theory to formulate future museum best practices. The second part of the thesis critiques written records and other artefacts to investigate autonomous behaviours in the experiences of European women who travelled to Western Australia in the early nineteenth century, in particular Rose de Freycinet and Mary Ann Friend. A critical analysis of Relational Autonomy theory was applied to these experiences and informed the treatment of the archival material in the third part of the thesis. Part three determines achievable methods of curating and displaying authentic representations of historical women in museum exhibitions and includes the design of a museum exhibition that applies empathetic best museum practices to stories of Freycinet, Friend and other autonomous travelling women.

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