The May Vale Timber Collection consists of 84 Victorian timber samples hand painted by May Vale (1862-1945). Each timber panel was painted with representative flowers, foliage and seeds for each species, under the direction of the Government Botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller. The timber panels were commissioned by the Industrial & Technological Museum director Cosmo Newbry in 1885 in accord with the Museum Board's role of overseeing preparations for the great exhibitions.
May Vale's technical skills as an artist were quite exceptional and well-regarded. It is significant that she was appointed while still a student at the Gallery School. A few other factors may also have influenced her selection: the close proximity of the Gallery School to the Museum, and the fact that her father was the commissioner of Exhibitions.
Like the wider Economic Botany Collection the timbers were chosen to inform and expose the glory and possibility of Industry in Victoria, and to profile the ground breaking work of Mueller on Victorian Eucalyptus. It is presumed that Vale originally painted approximately 100 but a number of samples were discarded in 1952. As seen in the featured image, the timbers were part of a large display that toured first to the 1886 Indian & Colonial Exhibition in London and later to the 1887 Jubilee Exhibition, Adelaide, the 1888-89 Centennial Exhibition, Melbourne and the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Eventually the timbers formed part of the permanent display at the Museum, exhibited in a similar manner to their original intention on the balcony in Queen's Hall.
When the Museum moved to its new location the timbers were removed from permanent display.
Art Exhibitions, Artists, Australian Native Flowers, Economic Botany, Eucalypts, Exhibitions: Adelaide Jubilee International, 1887-1888, Exhibitions: London International, Colonial & Indian, 1885-1886, Exhibitions: Melbourne International Centennial, 1888-1889, Flora, Industrial & Technological Museum, Museum History, Timber Samples, Women's Work