A migration story in stitch

One of my favourite objects in the museum’s collection is a charming needlework sampler made by 19-year-old assisted immigrant Julia Donovan on board the Carnatic in January 1879. Immigration records show that Julia arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, from England on 5 February 1879, and presumably went into domestic service in the growing port town.

Needlework sampler made by Julia Donovan on board Carnatic en route to Australia, 1879

Needlework sampler made by Julia Donovan on board Carnatic en route to Australia, 1879

From the 17th century, embroidered samplers were used to teach young girls the essential art of needlework, incorporating a repertoire of stitches and motifs that would be used to mark household linens and garments. While samplers typically featured a combination of letters of the alphabet in upper and lower case, numerals, geometric borders and small emblems, the specific arrangement of motifs was often highly personal to the maker.

Julia Donovan’s sampler is hand embroidered in cross stitch using green, blue, red and purple wools on a square piece of cloth. It includes the alphabet, numbers 1 to 17 and two sprays of blue flowers. Julia’s sampler is particularly special as it is signed and dated, and connected to her journey on Carnatic through the following verse that reveals a migration story in stitch:

Dearest Matron we must part you
On that strange and distant shore
For though across the stormy ocean
With great patience you us bore
May the seasons richest blessing
Rest within your home and heart
Peace and love and happiness possessing
And may all troubles from you part.

The sampler was probably given by Julia as a gift to the ship’s matron, Alice Wadley, who worked as a stewardess and matron on board migrant ships on the Australian route from 1879 to 1887. It illustrates the friendship between the matron and her young charge over the three-month voyage, while also highlighting broader themes such as late 19th century attitudes to the role of women, colonial education and domesticity, and the way in which gendered skills were transferred across cultures and continents – from a familiar land to ‘that strange and distant shore’.

Julia Donovan’s sampler is just one example of the intriguing intersection between needlework, craft and maritime history in the museum’s collection. Over the next few weeks I will be looking at some other wonderful examples of nautical craft at the museum. Next time – sailor’s woolwork pictures or ‘woolies’!

Kim Tao
Curator, Post-Federation Immigration

Lost at sea, my uncle John Messenger – ERA HMAS AE1

John Messenger - Photo Courtesy Vera Ryan

Photo – courtesy Vera Ryan

My uncle John Messenger, known as Jack, was born in Ballarat, Victoria. He became a fitter and turner and studied to be a draughtsman. He was the eldest son, with six siblings. My father Albert was the second youngest. Jack was 20 when he was born.

Jack moved to Melbourne and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a crew member on the Australian Station in 1909.

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Vale Ernest Alfred Flint – MBE OAM ED

Ern Flint at the opening of the Mission-X ANMM Exhibition, 2013 - Photo by Andrew Frolows

Ern Flint at the opening of the Mission-X ANMM Exhibition, 2013 – Photo by Andrew Frolows

Ern Flint, who died on 3 July at the age of 88, lobbied for many years to earn recognition for the service of the more than 3,000 Australian civilians who risked life and limb serving under contract in the US Army Small Ships Section during World War II.
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Warwick Hood AO 1932–2015

Dame Pattie full sail - photo by Douglas Baglin

Dame Pattie under full sail – Photographer Douglas Baglin 00029529 ANMM Collection

Naval architect Warwick Hood AO passed away at Erina on the NSW Central Coast early in July, shortly before his 83rd birthday. To the general public and the yachting scene in particular he was well recognised and highly respected as the designer of Australia’s second America’s Cup challenger, the International 12-Metre class yacht Dame Pattie. This design was very significant in its own right, but was a part of Hood’s long career in naval architecture that was also filled with remarkably varied work that reflects wide interests along with an ability to manage diverse marine projects.

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Gervais Purcell: hats, photography and fashion of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

Gervais Purcell - model in beach hat

Woman modelling a hat, Gervais Purcell 1949

Cock your hat.
An angle is an attitude

– Frank Sinatra

Its hat week this week – for myself it’s an excuse to kit up for winter but among the vast collection of images by respected Australian commercial photographer Gervais Purcell the hats are generally more about form than function.

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Remembering AE1: A National Speech Competition for Year 9 Students

Impression of AE1 Memorial (Image ANMM).

Impression of AE1 Memorial (Image courtesy Artist Warren Langley).

Win one of two $300 cash prizes and a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney!

On 14 September 1914, in the first few months of World War One, Australia’s first submarine HMAS AE1 disappeared without a trace off Duke of York Island, near present-day Papua New Guinea. All thirty-five Australian and British officers and crew members were lost. To this day, AE1 has not been found.

To commemorate this tragic event, the Australian National Maritime Museum presents the Remembering AE1 National Speech Competition. It is open to Year 9 students who would like to investigate the story of AE1 and offer their insights on ideas of commemoration, war and the place of this tragic yet unsolved event in Australian history.

Two winners will each receive a $300 cash prize and be flown to Sydney to present their speeches as part of the official opening of a commemorative art installation on Monday 14 September.

The art installation, The Ocean Bed Their Tomb, will appear to float on the water outside the museum’s new Warships Pavilion (due to open in November, 2015) to commemorate the loss of AE1 and the thirty-five men aboard, and encourage visitors to reflect on its meaning. The form – a wreath – is also about loss in general, and so can speak to anyone who has lost someone at sea in war service.

Click here to enter, and for more details about the competition. HURRY, just three-and-a-half weeks to go – entries close 12pm Thursday 6 August.

Celebrating NAIDOC week 2015 – Michael Cook’s Undiscovered

Photograph by Michael Cook titled Undiscovered

Undiscovered #4, © Michael Cook, ANMM Collection

The Australian National Maritime Museum is celebrating NAIDOC Week 2015 with the launch of our new exhibition Undiscovered, a collection of 10 photographic prints by renowned Aboriginal artist Michael Cook. This year’s NAIDOC theme is “we all stand on sacred ground”, so we feel that it is very fitting to see the photographic works set on the shore (sacred ground).

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Touring the museum on mobile – the new ANMM app

The Australian National Maritime museum's mobile app

Are you planning a visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum? You can now take a self-guided tour with our newly-released mobile app, built on the Google Cultural Institute platform. Users can swipe, scan and scroll their way through collection highlights as they wander in and around the museum, or use it to virtually explore our exhibitions from anywhere in the world.

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A new artificial reef at the Australian National Maritime Museum

James Hunter guides one of the Reef Balls.

James Hunter guides one of the Reef Balls under the Australian National Maritime Museum’s north wharf. Photo: Lee Graham.

Next time you visit the Australian National Maritime Museum, make sure you take a peek under the north wharf for a glimpse of our new artificial reef. Last week we installed a series of six Reef Balls® — purpose-built artificial reef habitats for sea creatures donated by the NSW Department of Primary Industries. They’re actually half-balls (hemispheres) and are hollow, with several small holes that provide shelter for fish and invertebrates. They’re made of concrete with a special additive that strengthens them, while lowering the pH to encourage the settlement and growth of marine organisms.

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Remembering submarine AE1: ‘…the ocean bed their tomb’

Artist’s view of the work in the museum basin, courtesy Warren Langley

Artist’s view of the work in the museum basin, courtesy Warren Langley Artist: Warren Langley Materials: stainless steel, LED lighting, PVC piping 2015. Supported by a grant from the Federal Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.

On 14 September 1914 the 55 metre submarine HMAS AE1 disappeared with all hands, 35 Australian and British sailors, while patrolling German waters off Duke of York Island in present day Papua New Guinea.

On 14 September this year, 101 years on, a major art installation will be unveiled at the Australian National Maritime Museum to commemorate the loss in a work entitled ‘…the ocean bed their tomb’. The work is currently under construction at the workshop of the artist Warren Langley where descendants of those officers and crew, submariners and naval historians gathered recently to view it.

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