Welcome to The Allan Cunningham Project

Dedicated to the history of Allan Cunningham Botanist Explorer  1791-1839

Allan Cunninghams Portrait 1817

Botanist Explorer 1791-1839
Pen and Ink Drawing by Phillip Parker King
National Library Canberra

The Allan Cunningham Project is made up of several parts, all with the same aim, which is to document accurate information related to Allan Cunningham (botanist and explorer 1791 – 1839) and make it accessible via the internet.

Keeping a record of what he witnessed, discovered and documented will ensure that our generation and future generations will have access to historical information related to the Australian landscape and its flora between 1816, when he first arrived in Port Jackson and 1839 when he closed his eyes for the last time.

When seeking to understand the colonial past of Australia, Allan Cunningham’s story is one to experience. As you travel through it you will discover that he was a person who knew many of the characters who populated the Australian colony in its early days. As you get to know him you will also meet them. He participated in many of the events that shaped his world, most importantly for us, he saw the pristine Australian wilderness in its natural state and wrote about it, leaving a treasure trove of information for those that followed and cared to know what it looked like and what grew there.

Although he was often a support player, he was right in the middle of everything. He counted some very influential people among his friends including Phillip Parker King, John Oxley, the Macarthur family, Robert Brown the Botanist who sailed with Matthew Flinders and Alexander Macleay, the Colonial Secretary of NSW. His patron was Sir Joseph Banks.

His beliefs were firmly grounded in the philosophy of the British Enlightenment resulting in his dedication to the pursuit of knowledge resulting in a precious collection of botanical specimens that still exist in the herbariums of the world.

When Allan applied for the position of Botanical Collector in 1814, he wrote a postscript on the application which states quite clearly how he intended to live his life:

“it is a love of plants and to search for them in their
wild state, and a wish to make myself useful in the
capacity of a collector . . .  it shall be the highest ambition
of my life to exert myself in the perform[ance] of the
requisite duties that constitute a collector, so that the
Royal collection at Kew may exceed all other collections
in the riches of new, beautiful and desirable plants.”

Allan Cunningham to Sir Joseph Banks 1814

Source: Gilbert, Lionel Arthur. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney: a history, 1816-1985. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1986. Print.

Many wonderful resources are planned for The Allan Cunningham Project in the future. Keep returning every few months when you will find more enhancements providing you with a deeper understanding of why the 19th century plant explorer, Allan Cunningham, dedicated his life to science.

Note: This project is archived within PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive at the National Library of Australia.

The Allan Cunningham Project includes the following:

    A series of articles recording a journey gaining knowledge of the botanist explorer, Allan Cunningham.
    We’ve pieced together a journal which includes extracts from Allan Cunningham’s original journal and other related historical facts from several sources
    Our library contains several books, manuscripts and magazines written by and about Allan Cunningham. Our Library includes the following:
    An index of the plants mentioned in Robert Heward’s 1842 Biographical Sketch and Ida Lee’s “Early Explorers in Australia”.
    A list of books, journals, articles and documents upon which Allan Cunningham’s story is based.
    A gallery of images from our articles

Future plans for The Allan Cunningham Project

The Allan Cunningham Project is a web-based historical resource, educational and entertaining, dedicated to documenting accurate information related to Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer 1791-1839.  His story is a “hub” (similar to six degrees of separation) from which we can learn about life, botany and the wilderness at the beginning of the 19th century in Colonial Australia between 1814 and 1840. The idea that drives this project is the expectation that it will become an important educational web-based resource.

It is the intention of this project to publish on the internet, all articles, journals, reports, letters, botanical references, portraits, maps and images sourced from items written by Allan Cunningham and other people related to his story.  The web site content will be enhanced with web design techniques, deep URL linking, images and indices which will make the information more accessible and enjoyable for the reader.  Many of the items are treasures stored in the vaults of the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

The web-site is currently hosted by www.artuccino.com however I am hopeful that The Allan Cunningham Project may eventually be attached to an Australian Federal or State government website to ensure its longevity and will be expanded over the years with the assistance of volunteers i.e. “The Friends of Allan Cunningham”.

Meanwhile we, here at Artuccino, will continue enhancing and expanding The Allan Cunningham Project as we have for the last five years.

Listed below are some of the items that will be incorporated into The Allan Cunningham Project in the future:

written by Allan Cunningham or others related to his story:

  • NARRATIVE OF A SURVEY by Captain Phillip Parker King c1820
  • More extracts from Allan Cunningham’s Journals
  • Letters related to Allan Cunningham, to and from:
    • Sir Joseph Banks, “father of Australia”
    • Phillip Parker King, Admiral
    • John Oxley, Explorer
    • Hannibal Macarthur, pastoralist
    • Patrick Leslie, pioneer of the Darling Downs
    • Governors Macquarie, Brisbane, Darling, Bourke and Gipps
    • Robert Heward Botanist
    • Robert Brown Botanist
    • Jules Dumont d’Urville French Explorer
    • Emel’yan Korneyev, Russian Artist
    • Fedor Shtein, Russian Naturalist
    • Rev. William Colenso, Botanist New Zealand
    • Richard Cunningham, Botanist and brother to AC
    • Allan Cunningham Senior, Head Gardener at Wimbledon House
    • and many more items of correspondence.
  • The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol . II., p. 99, 1832 ; and
  • Proceedings of the Geological Society of London, Vol. II., p, 109, 1834-5

Many wonderful resources are planned for The Allan Cunningham Project. Keep returning every few months when you will find more enhancements providing you with a deeper understanding of why the 19th century plant explorer, Allan Cunningham, dedicated his life to science. Use his story as a “hub” (similar to six degrees of separation) you will learn about life in Colonial Australia at the beginning of the 19th century.