Finding Elizabeth Pope

Elizabeth Pope worked at the Australian Museum for over 33 years from 1939 to 1972.  Pope spent her life investigating the seashore in coastal towns all over Australia. As a public figure and head of the department of Worms and Echinoderms at the AM, Pope enthused and connected with intellectuals and interested amateurs over the minutia of seashore life. Her success as an educated female scientist stands out as unique. Rumored to have been of formidable character and forthright disposition, Pope worked hard to match her male colleagues, eventually becoming Deputy Director of the Australian Museum in 1971. The Australian Museum’s archive provides some semblance of her life and career. Of particular interest is the two road trips she took with  scientists William J. Dakin and Isabel Bennett  along the East coast of Australia, in 1946. These collecting trips surveyed a range of sea animals and their distribution on the rocky shore, and many of the findings were eventually published in the popular seashore guide ‘Australian Seashores’ (1952). The unpublished data from this trip is a scientific, literary and visual record that neatly demonstrates why her work should be considered of enduring significance to scientific, historical and heritage contexts.
It has been a pleasure working with the Australian Museum archives department to flesh out Pope’s story and make her materials more available to future researchers.

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