Ludwig Leichhardt’s life is inextricably bound with the European exploration of Australia. His first expedition (1844–1845) found a viable route between the east and north coasts of the colony and established Leichhardt’s reputation as the “Prince of Explorers.” In 1848 he set out on an expedition to cross the continent from east to west; the entire expedition party disappeared and was never found. Ludwig Leichhardt’s travelogue and his natural history collections are of both scientific and historic importance; his mysterious fate has turned him into a figure of legend. Seventeen letters sent by Leichhardt from Australia to his relatives between 1842 and 1848 document his stay in Australia and open up new perspectives for the environmental history of the land.

In 1907 the geophysicist Georg von Neumayer gave the collection of letters to the archive of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. The letters were digitized by the Deutsches Museum, translated by Nadine Zimmerli with reference to the German transcription (Aurousseau 1968), and proofread and edited by Brenda Black.

About the author

Heike Hartmann is a museum curator and researcher in the field of cultural studies with a focus on visual culture, postcolonial criticism, and the transcultural history of science and archives. She was a member of the ATN-DAAD research project “Leichhardt’s Legacies: Locating the Disappeared,” curator of the exhibition “‘Gut möglich, dass meine Knochen für immer auf den Ebenen dieser Kolonie bleichen werden’: Der Australienforscher Ludwig Leichhardt” (Marstall Schloss Branitz, Cottbus, 2013), and editor of the accompanying volume Ludwig Leichhardt: Spuren eines Verschollenen.

Heike Hartmann is currently curating an exhibition on German colonialism at Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. She has contributed to a number of exhibitions, including Bilder verkehren: Postkarten in der visuellen Kultur des deutschen Kolonialismus (2005) and Karl May—Imaginary Journeys (2007), and she is coeditor of the volume Menschen—Orte—Zeiten: Fotografie am Deutschen Historischen Museum (2009).


Heike Hartmann curated the exhibition and wrote the commentaries. She is grateful to all those who contributed their time and knowledge during the research process, in particular:

  • Dr. Robert Vogt, Head of Herbarium Collections, Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Rod Fensham, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland
  • Dr. Clemency Fisher, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museums Liverpool
  • Dr. David Lawrence, Resource Management in Asia Pacific Program, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Gabrielle O’Loughlin, Senior Project Officer, Cultural Program, Kakadu National Park
  • Pina Giuliani, Research Officer, Museums and Art Galleries Northern Territory, Department of Arts and Museums, Northern Territory Government
  • Kirsten Blair, Community and International Liaison, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation


  • Dr. Matthias Röschner, Acting Director, Archives, Deutsches Museum
  • The State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, and its employees
  • everyone else who loaned the books and documents that have made this exhibition possible

as well as

  • Prof. Dr. Paul Erker, Abt. für Neueste Geschichte und Zeitgeschichte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München,
  • The reviewers and the Environment & Society Portal team, especially Dr. Kimberly Coulter, Project Director; Eliza Encheva; Oliver Liebig; Amanda Norrlander; and Emilie Perault.

The exhibition commentaries were translated by Brenda Black and edited by Stephanie Hood of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.


How to cite

Hartmann, Heike. “Ludwig Leichhardt: A German Explorer’s Letters Home from Australia.” Commentaries translated by Brenda Black. Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2015, no. 1. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. https://doi.org/10.5282/rcc/6348.

ISSN 2198-7696 Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions

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