A Classic Map of Australia

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The National Library of Australia’s Mapping Our World exhibit in Canberra is a big hit and runs until 10 March. I spoke about my own mapping interest at the library in late November and admitted that despite my long involvement in map I’m not a collector and certainly don’t have anything to compete with some of the amazing maps loaned to the exhibit by collectors.

Coast hanger map of Australia 271◄ ‘But I do have a fine example of a uniquely Australian map,’ I said.

‘Back in the 1970s, car radio aerials were still a telescoping wire, popping up from a position on your car’s wing/fender. Inevitably age, accidents and vandals would take their toll and when your vehicle had achieved a sufficient state of decrepitude that a proper replacement was no longer justified the standard repair was to take a wire coat-hanger, straighten out the hanger hook and plug it into the aerial base. The makeshift replacement would often give just as good reception as the original equipment. It probably made no difference to the reception, but the authentically dinky-die coat-hanger aerial would first be bent into the shape of a map of Australia. Like this one,’ I continued.

It got a laugh from the audience and a double laugh when I pulled out a paperclip Tasmania to add additional authenticity. When I finished my talk I must have left the map behind, because I later got a very nice email from Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Director-General of the National Library: ‘The coat hanger ‘map’ of Australia, including Tasmania, with which you came armed for your conversation with Alex Sloane, is now in the National Library’s map collection because, when we checked, we did not have an exemplar of that fine Australian tradition of map making in the collection.’