Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Ballarat gold diggings

Date: c 1853
Overall: 505 x 720 mm
Medium: Watercolour on Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00006881
Related Place:Ballarat,

User Terms

    This watercolour depicts the scene of a miner's camp at the Ballarat diggings in Victoria, at the height of the Australian gold rush in the 1850s. The gold rush attracted tens of thousands of immigrants to Australia from a variety of nations, including China, Great Britain, the United States and France, as evident by the national flags depicted in this watercolour. This landscape scene is believed to have been produced by a Chinese artist or miner working of the diggings in the early 1850s.
    SignificanceThis uniquely Australian scene depicts the Ballarat goldfields with Australian eucalyptus trees. It represents the diversity of nationalities present on the diggings and is a valuable visual record of the miner's camps and the conditions they lived in.
    HistoryIn many ways the discovery of gold in Australia echoed the California gold rush of 1849, bringing people and wealth to both countries and dramatically changing their societies and environments. Edward Hargraves discovered gold in New South Wales in 1851 after returning from California, and then the subsequent discovery of more deposits in Victoria increased the momentum of the gold rush. As a result the Australian population tripled in just 10 years with a diverse mix of miners coming from Britain, Europe, America and China. This mix of people instigated changes in Australian social values, politics, economics and technology.

    Living and working on the gold diggings was a harsh and dirty existence. The landscape was often stripped of trees that were used for firewood, huts and building mine shafts. The extremes in weather conditions and sanitation were a major issue for the large number of people living and working together. Washing for gold added to the pollution of streams and rivers. Holes in the ground held both sewage and refuse. Infections and diseases spread readily under these conditions with influenza and pneumonia being a common cause of death for miners of all ages and genders. Many children suffered from scarlet fever and diphtheria. If they did not die from the disease, they were often killed by the 'cures' - many of which were poisons.

    Only a small number of miners made a real fortune in the Californian Gold Rush. It was easier and more common to gain wealth by establishing businesses and trade related to the diggings. Many unsuccessful miners turning to razing cattle, fruit plots or running stores selling over-priced goods, supplies and services. Some of the miner’s camps developed into permanent settlements with the demand for food, housing and supplies fueling the Australian economy.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Watercolour on paper of Ballarat diggings, the scene depicts a row of tents forming a horizon and flying in total 11 different flags

    Web title: Ballarat gold diggings

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.