Harriet and Helena Scott were Australian scientific pioneers. With collecting boxes, notebooks and paintbrushes in hand they became two of 19th Century Australia’s most prolific natural history illustrators. The Australian Museum has just released an iPhone app showcasing their work.
Their work is beautiful in the way that science used to be: The paintings are detailed scientific studies while also being fascinating and wonderfully composed. Moths and butterflies are good subjects, but to capture them by hand with this level of detail and beauty takes real talent.
While the works are wonderful and the sisters’ life interesting, the app is only so-so. Like so many of these ventures it’s hard to see why it’s an app instead of a website. The technology to create an app is becoming so accessible that it’s tempting to go for the cool app every time. But the question really ought to be: What value do I add with an app over a website? The answer might well be ‘more publicity’, but that seems to be an ephemeral benefit. In this case the app works fine, but adds little to the experience. The downside of choosing an app is that, right now at least, it is iPhone only. So it is not available for Android, nor even optimized for the iPad which would be a much better viewing platform for the wonderful illustrations.
Anyway, the drawings are beautiful and the app is free; if you have half an hour to immerse yourself in life and science from another era it is absolutely worth a look.
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Image: Australian Museum.