National Science Week at the Museum

National Science Week 2014 is fast approaching and it will be a week packed full of discovery, experiments and adventure for all ages. SO, if you seek to learn new things, try something different and above all, have a fantastic fun-filled time, then the museum is for you.

Open to all Apple users, (just present the Tag Town app at our front of house desk for entry): ‘Hide, Seek, Dive and Peek @Anmmuseum’ is on from 16th of August to the 19th of August.  Users can start playing “Tag Town” – a photographic scavenger hunt where pictures lead players, assisted by GPS, to discover real locations. Played in the real world via mobile app, players swipe through the image clues on their mobile device and when they find the location in the real-world, they snap and upload their own photo of it. Tag Town taps into the fun and creativity of photography and builds an expanding collection of shared photos of the local area’s most interesting features and locations.

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Black Sailors – Indigenous service in the navy during WWI?

Black Sailors on HMAS Geranium in 1926.  National Library of Australia

Black Sailors on HMAS Geranium in 1926. From an album compiled by crew member Petty Officer A A Smith. National Library of Australia nla.pic-an23607993

NAIDOC Week (celebrating National National Aborigines and Islanders Day) is held every second week in July. The NAIDOC theme for 2014 is ‘Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond.’ The theme honours all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of country.

While we are starting to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought as Black Diggers during World War I, what do we know of any Indigenous sailors?

The image above shows Aboriginal sailors on HMAS Geranium when it was conducting a mapping survey of waters across the north and west of Australia in 1926. They may well have been recruited for their intimate knowledge of the area. The title ‘Black Watch’ – while a reference to the famous Scottish regiment – may also refer to their role and skills in surveillance. Continue reading

Reading prayers at the bottom of the sea – The harrowing journey of submarine AE2

AE2 at Portsmouth, England, 1912

AE2 at Portsmouth, England, 1912

The first images of the interior of submarine AE2 were shown on ABC television on 3 July 2014 – almost 100 years since the vessel was scuttled in the Sea of Marmara on 30 April 1915.

While interest grows in what the wreck might reveal about the RAN submarine that was the first vessel to breach Turkish defences of the Dardanelles Strait, an account of the incredible voyage written by Stoker Petty Officer Henry James Elly Kinder sheds a human light on the story. Kinder’s account, a memoir written after he returned from several years in Turkish prison camps, has not been published.

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Univative at the museum!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Manager of Registration, Sally Fletcher, taking students through the collections

This year we were asked by Sydney University to be a host organisation for the Univative program, an inter-university consulting competition where students engage with real organisations and work in small teams to solve actual business problems. It offers students the chance to gain valuable experience and insights into an organisation, while practicing their skills in developing a creative business proposal and in research.

We are lucky enough to have three teams from the University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales and Sydney University working on our project called Citizen Science – audience participation or source of free labour? By way of background to this question: we are finding that museums and other scientific organisations are increasingly turning to citizens to assist in a range of projects and scientific research efforts, in a collaborative process called “citizen science”. Yet, how much should organisations be reliant on this form of (usually free) labour? In order to address this question we have asked the teams to:

  • Review what’s happening in the field
  • Undertake a SWOT analysis of the uses of citizen science in museums and like institutions
  • Identify up to four citizen science projects and write up as case examples
  • Identify opportunities, options and resource implications for the ANMM in embarking on a citizen science project

We met with the students yesterday morning, introduced them to the museum and the project and took them on both a collections tour and general museum tour to get a sense of who we are and what we’re about.

A panel of three staff will judge their reports at the end of July and award the winner so we’ll post the results from the successful team then.

Stampin up (a whale of) a storm!

finished stamps

Whether it’s tusk-duelling narwhals, a barnacle-headed mumma whale or a declaration of love for the majestic giants of the aquatic world…there is something just plain delightful about the instant printmaking produced by the humble stamp.

This month we decided to craft up a few easy foam stamps inspired by our whale season exhibitions. Perfect for making your own stationary, hand-printed fabrics, bespoke scrapbooks and collages, stamps are just as as fun and usable for toddlers as they are for all the grown-up kids!


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Volunteer Week 2014!

Frank and Ross on HMB Endeavour gangway

Frank and Ross on HMB Endeavour replica gangway today
Photo: Renae Sarantis, ANMM

The Australian National Maritime Museum has one of the biggest volunteer programs in Australia with almost 500 volunteers and up to 35 each day! Our Volunteers do a wide range of jobs from guiding the public on the vessels HMAS Vampire, HMB Endeavour replica and submarine HMAS Onslow to helping our conservation team with objects, being in the members lounge and maintaining our historic fleet.

Ron greeting visitors at the Cape Bowling Green Light house

Ron greeting visitors at the Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse today
Photo: Renae Sarantis, ANMM

The volunteer program at the museum offers training, the chance to meet like-minded people and help connect not only with local community but the world has we have many overseas visitors that come to the museum. The museum’s volunteers enjoy many benefits with eligibility which include discount at the Store and Yots café, volunteer outings and attendance at the annual volunteer party.

We couldn’t run the museum without their help and we are so lucky to have a group of amazing and dedicated volunteers. We are currently seeking volunteers and more information can be found here.

Peter at the Quarter Masters Desk on HMAS Vampire

Peter at the Quarter Masters Desk on HMAS Vampire today
Photo: Renae Sarantis, ANMM

So to all the volunteers THANK YOU for all that you do and a happy Volunteers Week! :)

Renae Sarantis
Public Programs and Events

Make your own narwhal softie

finished narwhal softie

I am grey and mottled and a little bit mysterious. I have the largest canines of any animal. Vikings used to trade my big tooth for gold. My tusk was also mistaken for the horn of the mythical unicorn and believed to have magical healing properties. I live in the arctic.  I am actually a medium sized whale.

I am…the narwhal.

For this month’s craft spot inspired by our new temporary exhibition- Amazing Whales, we couldn’t resist the adorable, fascinating and wackiest of all the whale species– the narwhal as the subject for our huggable, loveable, bedazzled and up-cycled fabric softie.

materials needed


  • Sharp scissors
  • Upholstery thread in grey/black/white
  • Large darning needle
  • A few dressmakers pins
  • Some grey/white/black sequins, beads or buttons
  • Pillow stuffing/ polyfill
  • Unwanted socks/ t-shirt or tights in grey tones
  • Extra felt or iron-on interfacing for lining your softie panels
  • Small scraps of white, blue, black felt or fabric for the eyes
  • Small scrap of white felt for the tusk
  • Print outs of our narwhal softie pattern  ( A3 version or page 1 A4 and page 2 A4)

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Australian-Chinese junks and sampans

Trinity Bay junks

Chinese junks, made in Australia. This photograph, suggested as being taken around 1907, shows three junks on Trinity Bay, Cairns, in Queensland. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 16203

Every Sunday and Wednesday mornings we would watch for the sails of the Chinese junks to come sailing up the river one behind the other. Red, white & black beacons guided them. Some sails were snowy white, some had …huge patches on and some were old and yellow.

D.E. Griffith ‘A Little history [of Cairns]’ 1959

When we think of the history of ship building in Australia, Chinese junks probably don’t spring to mind. Yet for a period from the 1870s to the early 1900s a fleet of junks operated in northern Queensland. At least some, if not all of the estimated ten to fifteen known junks, were made locally, in places such as Cooktown.

And in terms of smaller boats, it may surprise many maritime historians that hundreds if not thousands of sampans – smaller, often poled, barge-like vessels – were made across the north of Australia, particularly around Cairns and in Darwin.

My interest in these vessels began when I came across reference to a ‘Water Picnic’ that was held at Innisfail (then known as Geraldton) for Federation celebrations in 1901. News reports mention that the centre-piece of the water picnic was to be a flotilla of ‘around 400 sampans’. That’s a lot of sampans gathered together for one small north Queensland country town festival.

With further research it became clear that junks and sampans (often mislabelled by European observers who sometimes used ‘junk’ and ‘sampan’ as a catch-all for any Chinese vessel) were not just a common sight on northern Australian coastal waters and rivers, but were in fact critical to the development of the north. But why were they there? Who were these Chinese shipwrights? How and why did they make junks and sampans in Australia?

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Apologies, anniversaries and hidden histories

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the British Government’s apology to former child migrants who were sent to Commonwealth countries through government-sponsored child migration schemes.  It also marks the return of our travelling exhibition On their own – Britain’s child migrants for a final showing at the museum before it begins a UK tour later this year.

On their own - Britain's child migrants

On their own – Britain’s child migrants

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A mystery solved – Photographs from the Australia Station

A Pacific island scene from a photograph album of images by a Royal Navy officer on the Australia Station around 1910

Possibly Trinity Bay, Cairns, from a photograph album of images by a Royal Navy officer on the Australia Station around 1910. Photograph album : Australia Station Volume 1, Compiled by [George Herbert Cockey] ca. 1894-1908, Vaughan Evans Library

Jennifer McLaren is a Masters of Research student at Macquarie University who has been working as a museum volunteer assisting with research for the upcoming Test of War – Royal Australian Navy in WWI exhibition. Here she recounts a search to find the people behind a set of early 20th century photograph albums in the museum’s library collection.

The upcoming Test of War exhibition will showcase some photographs from the personal collection of a British Royal Navy officer posted to the Australia Station in the years before World War I. When the Australian National Maritime Museum Vaughan Evans Library acquired the photograph albums from an antique bookseller, they came with no record as to who had owned them or taken the photographs – their origin was a mystery.

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