The Tost and Rohu Collection
The Tost and Rohu Collection consist of approximately 130 ethnographic objects acquired by purchase and exchange between 1886 and 1925 from Jane Tost and her daughter Ada Rohu, professional taxidermists who worked in Sydney, and sold natural history and ethnographic material in their Sydney studio.
Jane Tost (c. 1817-1889) and Ada Rohu came from a family of English taxidermists. Tost emigrated with her family to Tasmania in 1856, and began working as a taxidermist, first in Hobart and then Sydney. Jane Tost was probably the first woman in the Australia colonies to be employed in a museum. She worked alongside her husband Charles at the Australian Museum from 1864-1869, and supplied the museum with specimens after her departure.
From 1872 to the 1930’s, Jane and her daughter Ada (c. 1845-1928), a performer and married to Naturalist and artefact collector Henry Rohu, founded Tost & Coates, later becoming Tost & Rohu, a Fancy Work Depot and Taxidermy Studio. As well as taxidermy, items sold included Berlin wool, feather flowers and glass domes. Tost and Rohu also ran lessons in taxidermy and fancy work, and exhibited their work, winning numerous awards. It was during the late nineteenth century that the company focused on selling furs and ethnographic material. From the 1890’s the company claimed to stock the largest collection of Pacific Islander and Australian material in the country. During the early 1900’s, a museum was created above the shop, and during the 1930’s Tost & Rohu, Taxidermists, Furriers and Curiosity Shop was known as “The Queerest Shop in Australia”.
The approximately 130 artefacts acquired by the Australian Museum between 1886 and 1925 are largely Pacific in origin, including Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand and Niue, as well as artefacts from Australia. The artefacts include clothing, weapons, ornaments, wigs, domestic items, shell currency, human skulls and bark cloths. The artefacts illustrate both ornate and everyday objects used in the various cultures, and demonstrate the fashion for, and interest shown towards collecting ethnographic curiosities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Most Curious and Peculiar
Women Taxidermists in Colonial Sydney
Body ornaments; Indigenous artefacts; Taxidermy
Clothing; Tools; Weapons
New Zealand; Micronesia; Solomon Islands; Vanuatu; Australia; Hawaii; New Caledonia; Papua New Guinea; Fiji; Niue; Kiribati