Love token commissioned by Thomas Allsop (transported in 1833). Photo by Jason McCarthy, NMA.

Love token commissioned by Thomas Allsop (transported in 1833). Photo by Jason McCarthy, NMA.

Exhibition Space - most memorable dozen

Captivating objects from the nation’s history are the focus of an innovative project, as Paris Lord reports.

When convict Thomas Allsop was due to be transported from England to Australia in 1833 for stealing sheep, he commissioned a love token.

He knew he'd probably never see his mother again, so he left the token for her.

It is now one of 12 very special objects chosen to tell the story of the Australian nation.

It’s a daunting task to choose items that reflect thousands of years of Aboriginal culture, as well as those that tell a story about early European settlement, along with modern inventions.

The challenge of selecting this most memorable dozen was taken up by ANU historian Professor Bruce Scates and Monash University sociologist Dr Susan Carland over the past three years.

The result of their work is Australian Journey, a project that uses videos to explain the select dozen.

The objects include the Gweagal shield, believed to have been taken from the Gweagal people by Lieutenant Cook when the Endeavour voyage of 1770 visited Botany Bay; a pelt of the now extinct Tasmanian Thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger; Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie letter, a detailed justification written in prison of his actions including the murder of three policemen; and a prototype of the Holden sedan.

Of the dozen objects, the love token creates a strong resonance with Carland.“I love this object because it embodies a paradox – it's a very small, very strong, hardy object, and yet it conveys such a big, such a tender message,” she says.