The Museum has a long tradition of interest and support for the artists associated with Ntaria/Hermannsburg in the Central Desert, acquiring its first watercolour in 1975, an untitled landscape by Claude Pannka (1928 – 1972). Gifted by Miss ME Wharmby, the watercolour is one of some 200 works from the region.
Research and collecting at Flinders University from the mid 1980’s led to the development of The Heritage of Namatjira, a major exhibition curated by Angela Tidmarsh and JVS Megaw that toured nationally between 1992 and 1993. This initiative and the accompanying publications (both catalogue and richly illustrated book of the same name edited by Jane Hardy, M Ruth Megaw and JVS Megaw) provided the first comprehensive scholarship on the art, life and legacy of Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira (1902 – 1959), the most famous of the Ntaria/Hermannsburg painters.
The Museum’s collection consists of watercolours and artefacts by artists from first generations such as Albert Namatjira and his sons Oscar, Ewald and Maurice, as well as Clem Abbott, Walter Ebataringa, Cordula Ebataringa and Wenten Pengarte Rubuntja. The Museum’s continued support and interest in Arrernte watercolours is evident in the development of the recent exhibition, Tjina Nurna-Ka, Pmarra Nurna- Kanha, Itla Itla Nurna-Kanha: Our Family, Our Country, Our Legacy, curated by Marisa Maher, Nic Brown and Madeline Reece for presentation at the Art Gallery of South Australia and FUMA for Tarnanthi 2019. The exhibition, Hermannsburg: echoes in the landscape, 2011, presented in collaboration with Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra ‘Many Hands’ Art Centre and curated by Alison French, traced the origins and efflorescence of the Hermannsburg School from its beginnings in the late 1930s to 2011. Recent acquisitions include emerging artists Benita Clements and Vanessa Inkamala.