Preserving the traditional craft of natural history illustration in the digital era has reached an impressive 30 year milestone at the University of Newcastle.
The Bachelor of Natural History Illustration is the only one of its kind offered in Australia. Graduates are amongst just a handful worldwide who can illustrate with absolute accuracy across a diverse range of fields including medicine, taxonomy and archaeology.
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Christine Sanders, said photographs could rarely replicate the very fine detail offered through a natural history illustration.
"Where a photograph's lighting and angle can sometimes distort an image, natural history illustrations offer precision. Often our students use microscopes to accurately illustrate every aspect of their subject such as each tiny hair on a spider's leg or the minute detail of a flower's ovary.
"This level of detail is critical to the work of scientists and others who rely on the accuracy offered through natural history illustrations."
Graduates of the three-year undergraduate or one-year honours program are in demand in Australia and overseas from a range of organisations including scientific, medical and educational institutions; publishers; libraries; and galleries and museums.
The University's program is recognised internationally with students coming to Newcastle from as far afield as Greece, the United States, the United Kingdom and Bermuda. The program's reputation has even extended as far as a United States correctional facility with an inmate contacting the University inquiring about enrolling in an external program.
"The Smithsonian Institute in Washington recommended us to him. Unfortunately we were not able to help as the program is not offered externally but it did go to show just how far our reputation has reached," said Ms Sanders.
The University will celebrate 30 years of natural history illustration with a special exhibition dedicated to Professor Graham Gilchrist, who first introduced the discipline of natural history illustration to the University in 1979. The discipline was developed into a degree in its own right in 2003.
The exhibition - Drawn from Nature - will feature 77 works from past and present staff and students.
Drawn from Nature will be officially opened by Mr Brian Gilligan, former Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service at 5.30pm on Friday 8 February 2008 at the Lovett Gallery, Newcastle Regional Library. The exhibition will run until Saturday 22 March 2008. Gallery hours are Monday to Wednesday 9.30am to 8pm, Thursday to Friday 9.30am to 5pm, and Saturday 9.30am to 2pm.
Photo opportunity: Media will be able to photograph and film the artworks from Wednesday 6 February. Arrangements via Ms Christine Sanders. Electronic images also available.