It is hard to discern what is the truth and what is fiction when it comes to tales of the Tasmanian tiger.
That mystery is part of the extinct, iconic animal’s allure.
And it was a characteristic that Kylie Eastley kept at the forefront of her mind when curating The Tiger Room.
The room is part of the recently relaunched Wilderness Gallery, at Cradle Mountain.
In the centre of the gallery space is a large timber and glass cabinet.
The cabinet itself holds history, gallery curator Ms Eastley says.
It was part of the Websters farm, and comes from the colonial era.
It used to proudly display the winning fleece at agricultural shows around the state.
In its new home, it holds a different wealth of history – a series of thylacine artefacts from the private collection of sculptor David Hurst.
Pelts, skulls, books, newspaper clippings and more are displayed throughout the cabinet.
But don’t take everything at face value.
“We’ve really played with the idea of what’s fake and what’s real,” Ms Eastley said.
“What’s fake are the thylacine coats. They’re made from felt.
“What is real is the golden possum buggy rug, which is from about the same era as the thylacine buggy rug.”
“There’s history and sets and original art, and there’s the Tasmanian story. It’s a real conversation around that.”Wilderness Gallery curator Kylie Eastley
Ms Eastley handles a thylacine skull, which Hurst used to create bronze casts of the animal’s head.
These casts are also featured in the gallery, in standalone glass cases, allowing a 360-degree exploration of the creature’s facial features.
The room invokes history, art, and imagination to create a dedicated space to tell the tiger’s story.
Ms Eastley said she envisaged the room would appeal not just to interstate and international visitors, but to Tasmanians as well.
“So many people have a story [about the tiger],” she said.
“There’s history and sets and original art, and there’s the Tasmanian story.
“It’s a real conversation around that.”
Ms Eastley wanted to make viewers feel like they were entering the tiger’s habitat when they entered the room.
The lights are dimmed, a soundtrack recorded in the Tarkine is playing, and the temperature is set just a few degrees below the rest of the gallery.
It is designed to immerse the patron in the Tasmanian landscape.
In the corner, a light flickers behind a blind-style structure.
If one lingers long enough, they can begin to see Tasmanian wildlife emerging from behind tree trunks within the hut.
The installation is the work of Darryl Rogers, a set designer and museum design consultant, who worked with Ms Eastley on the bringing The Tiger Room together.
The design features holographic-style appearances from quolls, wombats, devils, and of course, a tiger.
“It’s a trick of reflection,” Rogers said of the installation.
Rogers explained that the trickery arose in the 1600s, but found popularity in the 1800s, thanks to one Professor John Pepper, who used it to make science more appealing to the masses.
The technique would go on to be called Pepper’s Ghost, and still makes a name for itself today – long-dead rapper Tupac Shakur was brought back to life at the 2012 Coachella music festival through the reflective trick.
“It looks like a hologram but all it is really is a reflection in plates of glass,” Rogers explained.
The devils footage was filmed at the nearby Devils @ Cradle wildlife sanctuary, and the quoll and wombat at Trowunna wildlife sanctuary.
To recreate the tiger’s predatory prowl, Rogers linked up with a Spanish designer online, they tag-teamed on creating the clip.
Rogers’ idea to show all these animals walking through Tasmanian bushland together – all at varying degrees of extinction or population danger – is to prompt a sense of responsibility in wider society.
“This is all an attempt to make this story a little bit more real,” Rogers said.
“The whole idea is that we take on board what we’ve done; we’ve been irresponsible with our ecosystem.
“There’s an opportunity (now) to take notice, and say, ‘We’ve got to stop’.”
The Tiger Room is part of the Wilderness Gallery at Cradle Mountain Hotel, which was relaunched by Tasmanian Governor Kate Warner on July 3.
Other aspects of the gallery include five spaces, dedicated to Tasmanian artists – including to the late wilderness photographer Peter Dombrovskis. It will also host artists in residence, workshops, and tours.