Charting the journey of a rare gift to ANU

9 November 2017

"I now have a personal connection to ANU through these maps."

In 2017, Emeritus Professor Clive Kessler donated seven maps from his extensive collection of rare Southeast Asian maps to the ANU college of Asia and the Pacific. They include a 17th century map of Southeast Asia by the Venetian master cartographer, Vincenzo Coronelli. He has also generously donated his entire personal collection of 70 maps as a bequest to ANU.

A rare gift to ANU

Clive's journey to becoming a map collector began when he was a young boy at Double Bay Public School in the 1950s. He would gaze out his classroom window at the seaplanes landing and taking off from Rose Bay, sparking a lifelong fascination for travel and other cultures.

"I can remember when my father used to come home from bookshops with old voyage of discovery books that would absolutely fascinate me."

It was also his parents who gave Clive his first map and awakened a passion for cartography which has lasted over three decades.

"When I finally completed my academic work in New York and defended my thesis in London, my parents bought me a little map of early 19th Century Southeast Asia by Lapie."

Clive says that his collection grew based on happenstance and personal interest, charting an emotional rather than a systematic interest.

His decision to donate to ANU came about because of two significant women in his life with strong connections to ANU: ANU Emeritus Professor Virginia Hooker and his deceased sister, Naomi Kronenberg, who worked at ANU for many years after arriving in Canberra in the 1960s.

Clive says that he is grateful for Professor Hooker's professional support after she arranged for him to spend some sabbatical leave at ANU and that, through visits to his sister, ANU came to feel like his neighbourhood university.

"I now have a personal connection to ANU through these maps."

In her introduction about Clive in Malaysia: Islam, Society and Politics Clive's sister Naomi wrote:

"In the maps' blend of words and images, their figurative rather than direct representation of topography, as well as in what they tell us about people's attempts to know the world and their place in it, Clive has found a distillation of many of his own passions."

The many maps that adorn the walls of Clive's Sydney apartment continue to enchant him.

"I still get pleasure from my maps at home. Sometimes I'll climb up on a stepladder with a magnifying glass to study a detail on the map."

Clive's donated maps, which are currently on display in the Coombs extension building at ANU, provide a further positive association between Clive and the University:

"It is my pleasure to know that the maps will live happily ever after here at ANU. You know you've done the right thing when it just feels good. It feels good to know that other people will get pleasure and learn from them."

Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of NSW. He has been researching and writing about the politics of resurgent and militant Islam, in Southeast Asia and globally, for half a century. He has also held academic positions at the London School of Economics, the University of London and Columbia University.

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