The day has finally arrived for the opening of our #HoodsHarbour exhibition! Showcasing a small selection from our Samuel (Sam) J Hood collection, #HoodsHarbour pays homage to the work of a group of individuals we call our ‘super sleuths’. Thanks to their efforts on our Flickr Commons page, we were able to solve the mystery behind the image that formed the inspiration for this exhibition – the lovely Hera Roberts. The story of this discovery symbolises the way that our followers have enriched our collection, unearthing its secrets and finding its hidden stories. Hood’s photograph of Hera remains the highest viewed and most favourited on the museum’s Flickr Commons photostream to date. More than 80 years after it was taken, Hera continues to captivate and inspire our audiences. Continue reading
In Australia’s past, there were many unsung heroes whose quiet achievements deserve to be remembered, and it is often only by chance that they are brought to light. I recently came across a simple sketch of a remote and windswept piece of coastline in South Australia, and would have continued reading if I had not noticed the handwritten note on the top, “Spot where Captain Barker was murdered”. Although the area, particularly nearby Kangaroo Island, had been sporadically used by sealers since the mid 1700s, there was no settlement there in 1831 when Captain Barker visited. It seemed an unusual place for a murder to happen. As it turned out, not only was it a most unlikely location but Captain Barker was a most unlikely victim. Continue reading
Some of the most interesting items in the museum’s collection are the personal accounts of life’s experiences. Whether a voyage, a ship’s log or a diary these firsthand accounts are a priceless record. I recently came across one such journal written by 20 year old serviceman Allan Witt Edwards from Victoria. Edwards was sent to England in 1916 aboard the troopship HMAT Shropshire. His journal is a very personal account of what was a massive undertaking by Australia and is very endearing in its simplicity. For Edwards, as with all the troops, life on the ship was a new experience for them and I would imagine it embodied much of what they had envisioned the war to be. The camaraderie, the new sights and the thrill of seeing the surrounding warships in action must have been as exciting as they had hoped. For most however, it would be as good as war would ever get. Continue reading
As the XXII Olympic Winter Games begin tomorrow in Sochi, Russia, the museum will celebrate Australia’s success at last year’s summer Games in London by featuring one of Australia’s gold medal boats, the International 470 class dinghy Practical Magic.
With Olympic insignia blazing on its mainsail and hull, the dinghy will be on display in the museum foyer, along with a special showcase for the gold medals and apparel from its team – skipper Mathew Belcher and crew Malcolm Page.
Hi! My name is Geneviève Bourgon or ‘Gwen’ and I’m a museum studies student at the University of Sydney. I am currently interning in the Registration department of the Australian National Maritime Museum.
My project is to digitise an archival collection of photographs, postcards and sailing programs associated with Britannia, an 18ft sailing vessel and its builder, owner and skipper ‘Wee’ Georgie Robinson. Digitising a collection makes all the information about the objects more accessible, 22,000 collection objects have been release on the museum’s collection website for everyone to access.
The collection I am cataloguing dates from the 1920s through to the 1960s. The majority are sailing programs of weekly sailing competitions on Sydney Harbour, special championships and anniversary regattas. They begin as a single page and double sided program and evolve into massive 100 page booklets filled with interesting events surrounding the regatta and advertising.
First, I scanned the items using a flatbed scanner, and then I created an image and a PDF of pages scanning them as an optical character recognition (OCR) file to enable searching through the text on individual pages which are combined to form a single PDF document. Information is added to the collection management database where all 140,000 objects in the museum’s collection, are catalogued.
Second, I update any missing cataloguing data from the records such as: the object measurements, update its title, what it’s made of, and what it looks like. Continue reading
The museum’s award-winning digital projection Waves of migration returns this Sunday, Australia Day, to once again illuminate the museum’s iconic roofline with a rich tapestry of migration stories drawn from our collection.
Waves of migration explores the history of migration to Australia and the compelling stories of those who’ve come across the seas – from British convicts and early settlers, to Jewish refugees and displaced persons; from post-war European migrants and Ten Pound Poms, to Indochinese boat people and seaborne asylum seekers from Afghanistan. Continue reading
The global influence of a beloved brew
‘By the sea, drinking tea’, by researcher and former assistant curator Mariko Smith. From Signals 103 (June-August 2013).
Tea can be considered as the first global commodity for mass consumption, and the maritime industry was crucial to this achievement by transporting chests of tea between ports around the world. Key players in the supply and demand for tea included large multinational merchant companies in Europe, most notably the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) and Britain’s own East India Company, which dealt in important trade goods such as tea between the Far East and Europe from the 17th to 19th centuries. These companies played important roles in exploration and discovery as well as commercial trade. Ships of exploration and commerce, they can be all considered as vessels of change: they brought significant social, cultural, economic and political transformations to nations such as Britain and Australia, simply through importing this fragrant cargo.
According to BBC Radio 4’s In our time profile on tea in 2004, Britain’s trade in tea began with a modest official import of just two ounces (60 g) during the 1660s, and grew to an annual supply of some 24 million pounds (11 million kg) by 1801. By the turn of the 20th century it was one of the most widely consumed substances on Earth; rich and poor alike were sipping an average of two cups a day and every Briton was using on average six pounds (3 kg) of tea leaves per year. Tea’s ability to transcend class was not lost on commentators such as English merchant philanthropist Jonas Hanway, who warned European society in an essay written in 1757 that ‘your servants’ servants, down to the very beggars, will not be satisfied unless they consume the produce of the remote country of China’.
- When I first came across this photo of Commander Henry Stoker and Lieutenant Geoffrey Haggard of the AE2 submarine in the museum’s collection, I was struck by how confident and relaxed both men look, quite different to other military portraits I had seen.
Once I looked into the story of the AE2 I began to think of the extraordinary experience these men had shared side by side. They had bought the AE2 out from England together just prior to WW1, at the time the longest voyage ever undertaken by a submarine. So confident in his crew and sub, it was Stoker who argued in April 1915, that the AE2 could breach the Dardanelles and enter the Sea of Marmora, despite previous failed Allied attempts. The Admiralty gave authority to do so and the general order to ‘run amok’.
All the crew must have felt the trepidation and fear as they entered the Dardanelles, being hunted by Turkish forces from above, and the quiet jubilation of entering the Sea of Marmora. But the disappointment and agonizing decision to sink the submarine must have been particularly wrenching for Haggard and Stoker.I can only imagine the frustration and despair as they realized there was no way out.The two men managed to save the lives of the rest of the crew and were the last to leave the AE2 as she was scuttled. By one account, they escaped only just in time.
‘Ships’ diaries’, by former technical services librarian Jan Harbison. From Signals 104 (Sept-Nov 2013).
This narrative is dedicated to my dear wife and children for their amusement and my employment and as it is most agreeable to me to sometimes hold converse with them, it is only intended for their eyes or those akin to them.
So begins the diary of Captain John Buttrey of the brig Dart in 1865. He could not know that nearly 150 years later, his diary might be accessed by a worldwide audience through the Internet, as are the blogs of today.
The museum’s public research facility, the Vaughan Evans Library, has many diaries written by travellers, immigrants, crew members, sea captains, naval men, ships’ surgeons, whaling captains, a captain’s wife, a matron and a convict. Some are very brief and factual, while others are beautifully descriptive and often very personal accounts revealing emotions and humour. Some have been donated by family members who might have found the diary in an attic; others have been purchased by or donated to the museum.
The diary quoted at the beginning of this article is a wonderful one. Captain Buttrey commanded a brig that travelled to the South Sea Islands in 1865 to collect bêche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) and tortoiseshell. As well as writing letters home to his family, he kept the diary, which gives an insight into life at sea, interactions with the islanders, and his life at home, with frequent references to what his wife and four boys would be doing at that time of day. It is a diary full of affection for his family. He looks at their ‘likenesses’ every day:
I have [been] looking at your likenesses again today and have been pictureing [sic] you all at home. Our time is about 10 minutes in advance of Sydney so I say now they are at breakfast. Baby looks as if he was trying to imitate Lister with his mouth – Bateson looks as if he were brim full of mischief … Marshall appears as a staid gentleman & one of deep thought. The principal one Mama looks indescribably loveable.