The Voyage Game: launches today!

SplashPage am.pngToday we are officially launching our educational game, The Voyage, at the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery in Hobart.

The Voyage is a ‘serious’ game based on the transportation of convicts from Britain to Van Diemen’s Land in the early nineteenth century. The project is a joint venture between the museum and roar film Tasmania, the University of Tasmania, Screen Australia and Screen Tasmania. The Voyage takes players on a journey from London to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania) where, in the role of the ship’s Surgeon Superintendent, they are rewarded for the number of healthy convicts they deliver to the fledging British colony. The game is based on detailed historical data, utilising documented ship paths, convict and medical records and diaries.

Why a game for a museum? Research has shown that digital games have an enormous impact on the lives of children but their potential to improve learning has not yet been realised. Salen (2012) recognised the synergies between gaming and learning: “We see a huge intersection between games and learning, partially because the way game environments are structured is a lot like what good learning looks like”. However, relatively little is known about the ways in which students respond to different types of educational games, in different types of educational contexts, for different types of discipline or subject areas. This includes a lack of information about the difference between playing an ‘educational’ game at home, at school, or in another environment, such as a museum.

To investigate these issues further the museum partnered with Griffith University to undertake a series of studies with students in Year 9 (aged around 14–15 years) looking at their responses to playing games generally and their reactions to The Voyage specifically through questionnaires and focus groups. Some of the student comments included:

  • “[the game] combines audio, visual and kinaesthetic learning in a way that helps children, especially younger children who aren’t too interested in reading big blocks of text, to better absorb the information.”
  • “If you were to play the game in primary school and then you were to revisit the topic in high school, you’d have a better foundation which would help you just do better in history I guess, and appreciate history.”
  • “I did it [convicts topic] in Year Four. The method used was just sit in front of PowerPoint and try and take notes. I don’t know, but I retained just as much information from that game as I did from six hours of sitting in front of a PowerPoint learning information.”

The game is accompanied by online resource materials for students and teachers and a small pop-up exhibition with four text panels to accompany the game when on tour, as well as a series of four films to provide further context to the game:

  • The Descendants: descendants of convicts discuss their ancestors and how discovering their stories provides historical context about their life
  • The Historian: some of Australia’s leading convict historians dispel some of the myths about the voyages and convict life in general
  • Women and Children: Convict historians talk about the experience of women and children convicts
  • The Creators: game developers talk about some of the challenges involved in making the game fun but also historically correct

You can play the game online now. Enjoy!

Special offer for teachers – Horrible Histories

Horrible Histories Pirates banner

The Pirates are coming! HORRIBLE HISTORIES® – PIRATES: THE EXHIBITION will be arriving on our shores Wednesday 16 December.

For the first time in Australia comes an interactive, hands-on exhibition based on the bestselling HORRIBLE HISTORIES® series.

Teachers, we have a special offer for you. Contact us before Wednesday 16 December to make a booking for Term 1 2016 and receive a 50% discount. Normally $7.00 per student, we can offer teachers a special price of $3.50 per student.


  • take command of a pirate ship
  • design and project your own pirate flag
  • try out different weapons from cutlasses to cannons
  • find your fate on the wheel of misfortune
  • discover the best loot to steal and splat rats in the quayside tavern.

Along the way, discover why the pirate women were just as wicked as the men and learn to talk the patter of a pirate. Learn about the ships they sailed on, the punishments they suffered and the rules they lived by.


Full of lively illustrations, foul facts and gruesome games, HORRIBLE HISTORIES® – PIRATES: THE EXHIBITION is a rollicking ride back in time to the days when putrid pirates ruled the water and gave merchant sailors jelly-legs!

Author Terry Deary and illustrator Martin Brown’s unique approach to storytelling comes to life in this blockbuster family exhibition especially for children 6–12 years of age.

Book now!

Email call 9298 3655 or Tweet to us @ANMMedu

Lord Howe Island by flying boat: a golden age in colour and B&W, c 1951

A black and white 1950s photo of a crowd of people on shore at Lord Howe Island, looking at a flying boat that has just landed. There are push bikes in racks, a VW car and a Fiat Bambino car parked near a jetty.

A crowd of people on shore at Lord Howe Island, looking at a flying boat that has just landed c1951 ANMM Collection: object number 1404[004] by Gervais Purcell, courtesy of Leigh Purcell.

Vintage 1950s Australian nostalgia is the theme of the latest set of commercial photographs from the emerging Gervais Purcell archive at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Continue reading

‘You are all my friends’. Indonesia’s first Prime Minister addresses the Australian people in 1945

Prime Minister Sutan Syahrir (right) visited by Lord Killearn and Australian diplomat Thomas Critchley

Prime Minister Sutan Syahrir (right) visited by Lord Killearn and Australian diplomat Thomas Critchley, October 1946. Credit: Indonesian Press Photo Service (IPPHOS), National Library of Australia, nla.obj-143216454

In November 2015 the Australian Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, visited Indonesia. Prominent in government discussions were trade and economic opportunities between the two countries. Exactly 70 years ago, in an address to the Australian people by the first Prime Minister of Indonesia, trade and economic opportunities were also on the agenda.

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The Pentateuch that made three voyages on the SS Great Britain

Jewish School and Family Bible. The First Part containing the Pentateuch

Jewish School and Family Bible. The First Part containing the Pentateuch. ANMM Collection 00018158

I have just finished reading Geraldine Brook’s masterfully written People of the Book (Fourth Estate, London, 2008), in which Brook describes the fictional quest by an Australian paper conservator to track down the previous history of the Sarajevo Haggadah ­– an extremely rare and highly significant illuminated Jewish manuscript – that was written in Barcelona, Spain, around 1350.

This quest by Brook’s fictional conservator reminded me immediately of a Jewish object in our collection at the Australian National Maritime Museum which also has an intriguing story to tell.

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Who do I think they are? Searching for copyright

Throughout my internship I have been investigating various diaries and logs to gain access into the lives of the authors, quite literally. Who were these people? Where did they live? In what country? Did they have any relatives? Children? A spouse? When was their birthday? Do they talk about their occupation? These are just a few questions running through my mind as I read and research. But while this process is important to conducting a thorough search into the object to understand provenance and historical background, there is another increasingly overlooked reason to conduct this research – copyright.

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How to make…a buttercream battleship or delicious destroyer cake

There are many things that come to mind when you think of a warship. Big guns, secret missions, white uniforms, badges, officers, ranks, commands and coded ciphers. Buttercream frosting? Not so much.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by none other than our new Action Stations experience, just launched. In much the same way (and not the same way at all) as how Action Stations is all about making the experience of our navy vessels more surprising, immersive and delicious, making an edible delectable destroyer or battleship cake embraces a little something of the surprising (a sweet and squishy rendition of a mean machine), the immersive (you enjoy its appearance, eat it up and experience all the goodness it has to offer) and the delicious — of course. And perhaps it’s also a good way to celebrate and salute to all things navy and nautical, just as we are doing every Family Fun Sunday this month.

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Indonesia’s Gallipoli — Heroes’ Day 10 November 2015

Indonesian historical reenactors. Image courtesy Djokjakarta 1945

Indonesian historical reenactors. Image courtesy Djokjakarta 1945

Hari Pahlawan or Heroes’ Day in Indonesia, like Anzac Day here, is taken very seriously. Every 10 November it is marked by a nationwide public holiday and surviving veterans and families of fallen soldiers march in parades across the country, very much like Australia’s Anzac Day parades.

Both events commemorate a military defeat. Australians commemorate the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign on the fateful day the Anzacs landed, 25 April. Indonesia’s Heroes’ Day commemorates the start of a three-week battle that was also a terrible defeat for the Indonesian forces involved.

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“She will be the first woman that has ever made it.”

In 1766 Louis-Antoine Bougainville, a 37 year old French army and navy veteran, received his wish from King Louis XV to become the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe. In a time of European rivalry, Bougainville’s journey would be an ‘enlightenment expedition’ – not only searching for new lands and the power and glory they would bestow of France, but also of learning. To help him achieve this he took with him the botanist and physician, Philibert Commerson.

Commerson was a man passionate about his field of study and he bought with him a keen sense of observation for all new discoveries – natural, cultural and scientific. He also bought with him something that no one on the expedition could ever have foreseen, a woman.

Philibert Commerson, the botanist who relied so much on Jeanne Baret

Philibert Commerson, the botanist who relied so much on Jeanne Baret

Women were of course explicitly forbidden on French naval ships and Commercon and his “assistant” had gone to great lengths to conceal her true identity. Her name was Jeanne Baret and she was a skilled and knowledgeable botanist. Whilst never formally trained, Jeanne’s skill as a herbalist had made her a valuable assistant to Commercon prior to his acceptance of Bougainville’s expedition.

Jeanne and Commerson had lived together after the death of Commerson’s first wife. It seems initially Jeanne acted as Commerson’s housekeeper and nurse due his continuous ill health. But clearly intelligent and gifted, Jeanne also became an assistant in Commerson’s botanical studies. Jeanne had given birth to a child that many believe was Commerson’s and yet social conventions and class restrictions seemed to prevent them ever marrying.

Perhaps it was Jeanne’s own sense of adventure and scientific interest , a love for Commerson or a sense of responsibility to care for his health and assist in his studies, that saw the pair convince Bouganville that she, now known as “Jean”, was a Commerson’s male assistant. They were allocated a shared cabin aboard the Etoile where they could work, sleep and store their equipment. This alleviated many of the practical problems of keeping herself disguised from the crew. Nonetheless, suspicion grew on board that all was not quite what it seemed with “Jean”.

Jeanne Baret as

Jeanne Baret as “Jean”

Whilst on shore, Jeanne acted as Commeson’s eyes and legs. He was still plagued by leg ulcers and it is unlikely he could have walked the vast distances required to collect specimens. She carried all their equipment and often trekked the terrain alone and armed to ensure no further suspicions would be raised by any perceived lack of strength on her part.

The great reveal came whilst the Boudeuse and the Etoile were at Tahiti. Interestingly it seems it was the local inhabitants who exposed “Jean” rather than the dubious crew. Faced with the situation, Bougainville had no choice but to address it.

'Bougainville at Tahiti' by Gustave Alaux ANMM Collection 00000921

‘Bougainville at Tahiti’ by Gustave Alaux, 1930,  ANMM Collection

In his book ‘A Voyage Round The World In The Years 1766, 1767, 1768 and 1769’  Bougainville gives a very low key account of the event:

Some business called me to the Etoile and I had an opportunity of verifying a very singular fact. For some time there was a report in both ships, that the servant of Commerson, named Bare, was a woman. His shape, voice, beardless chin, and scrupulous attention of not changing his linen, or making the natural discharges in the presence of anyone, besides several other signs, had given rise to and kept up their suspicion. But how was it possible to discover the woman in the indefatigable Bare, who was already an expert botanist, had followed his master in all his botanical walks, amidst the snows and frozen mountains of the Straits of Magalhaens, and had even on such troublesome excursions carried provisions, arms, and herbals, with so much courage and strength, that the naturalist had called him his beast of burden?”

Bougainville's account of the journey which includes the story of Jeanne. This first English edition is part of the ANMM collection and was originally from the library of Matthew Boulton, associate of Sir Joseph Banks

Bougainville’s account of his journey which includes the story of Jeanne.  ANMM collection

What happened immediately after the discovery is not known for certain. Bougainville states that “after that period it was difficult to prevent the sailors from alarming her modesty” and certainly most accounts acknowledge serious physical repercussions against Jeanne by the crew. She claimed initially that Commerson had not known her or her gender before the expedition and it was her own interest in the journey and a lack of money at home that had caused her to act as she did.

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the expedition leader who would become an unlikely ally to Jeanne

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the expedition leader who would become an unlikely ally to Jeanne

Despite the illegality of her ruse, Bougainville seems to have had some sympathy and good will for both Commerson and Jeanne. Once the expedition reached Mauritus, he arranged with Pierre Poivre, the governor there, to ‘acquire the services’ of Commerson to carry out a survey of possible medicinal plants on the island. Poivre, an avid botanist himself and a forerunner in the area of conservation, became a patron of Commerson and provided him with a “huge apartment in his house where he could prepare and conserve his plants, birds, insects.. [Poivre] hosted him at his table, lent him his servants and rewarded his talents in the most generous possible way.”

There is no mention of Jeanne. Can we assume she stayed with Commerson? Safe now in Poivre’s house? It seems she was again pregnant with another son that she adopted out but she was certainly still in Mauritius when Commerson died in 1773.

After this, with Commerson’s death and Poivre replaced as governor, Jeanne was alone. One account tells that she found work as a herbalist or tavern maid and married a French solider. They made their way back to France in 1774 or 1775 and by doing so, Jeanne became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. She took the considerable trouble to bring back with her the specimens and notes she and Commerson had compiled and the collection became part of the Musee du Roi in Paris.

Jeanne had been left some money by Commerson in his will and although her achievements were not acknowledged publically, she did later receive a small pension from the government in acknowledgment for her work on the expedition. There is one theory that it was Bougainville, who rose to great heights under Napoleon, who ensured this pension was paid to her. While some suggest Bougainville had wanted to distance himself from the fact a woman had been on his expedition, I rather think he admired her for it.

He does acknowledge in his book that in going around the world:

she will be the first woman that has ever made it, and I must do her the justice to affirm that she has always behaved on board with the most scrupulous modesty.”

Jeanne died in 1807 at the age of 67 but it was not until 2012 that a fitting tribute to her was created. Eric Tepe named a new plant species from southern Ecuador and northern Peru after her. In his dedication of ‘Solanum baretiae’ Tepe says:

“We believe that this new species of Solanum, with its highly variable leaves, is a fitting tribute to Baret.” They describe the plant’s namesake as “an unwitting explorer who risked life and limb for love of botany and, in doing so, became the first woman to circumnavigate the world.”

Solanum baretiae The plant named for Jeanne in 2012.

Solanum baretiae
The plant named for Jeanne in 2012.

 Myffanwy Bryant


P&O makes history in Sydney Harbour. Photographs by Gervais Purcell

A vintage photo of passengers queuing to board a P&O Liner

Passengers boarding a P&O liner c1950/1960s, ANMM Collection, ANMS1404[927]

Historic photographs for P&O Cruises Australia by Gervais Purcell give an insight into commerce, fashion, interior design and technology of the day and depict some well-known liners including SS Oriana, SS Himalaya, SS Orcades and the Princess of Tasmania. Captured are the crowds that flocked to the cruisers, either to sail on board or to celebrate the spectacle, as well as advertising images designed to attract prospective travellers.

Among the most historically significant of Gervais’ P&O images are a small set of aerial views of the SS Oriana arriving in Sydney Harbour on its first line voyage.

a vintage photo of SS Oriana and tug boats in Sydney Harbour 30 December 1960

SS Oriana arrives in Sydney Harbour 30 December 1960. ANMM Collection, ANMS1406[265]

SS Oriana was the last passenger liner commissioned by Orient Steam Navigation Company and was the first British-built liner to pioneer a bulbous bow with bow thrusters, and a much publicised television system.

A vintage photo of SS Oriana at the International Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay - aerial view with Harbour Bridge in the frame

SS Oriana docked alongside the newly opened International passenger Terminal at Sydney Cove. Photo taken 30 December 1960, ANMM Collection, ANMS1406[283]

Built by Vickers-Armstrongs (Shipbuilders) Ltd Yard at Barrow-in-Furness, England, it was the fastest ship at the time to make the crossing from Southampton to Australia, cutting the trip by seven days. The arrival documented by Gervais in Sydney was part of Oriana’s Southampton round-trip stopping at Melbourne, Sydney, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Setting out on 3 December 1960, SS Oriana arrived in Sydney 30 December 1960 and was the first ship to dock at the newly built International Passenger Terminal in Sydney Cove.

This BBC Movietone news reel offers a flashback to Oriana’s approach to Sydney, highlighting the ship’s cost, size, speed and amenity.

Australian connections were symbolically planned and incorporated into Oriana’s branding. Princess Alexandra of Kent, fresh from a royal visit to Australia, officiated at the launch and a bottle of Australian wine was among the three used in the naming ceremony. A portrait of the Princess was also commissioned for the ship from an up-and-coming Australian painter, Judy Cassab (1920-2015).

In an interview with James Gleeson dated 1 January 1978, sourced from
the National Gallery of Australia, the late Judy Cassab* gives an amusing account of her experience. Cassab explains how a director of P&O who bought a painting from her first solo exhibition in London (1959) happened to show it to then Chairman of P&O, Sir Colin Anderson (also chairman of the Tate Gallery Trustees). On Cassab’s return to Sydney, having been sworn to secrecy and informed of this inconceivable invitation to paint the Princess, Cassab describes a letter she received:

‘Her Majesty The Queen has given you the yellow drawing room in Buckingham Palace as your studio’. It was ridiculous—they asked me how many sittings, and whether I was I sure I would be out of there by 22 April. I said, ‘Yes, I hope so.’ They said, ‘Because on the 23rd General de Gaulle is moving in’. Princess Alexandra came every day and changed and posed for me. She was infinitely patient and full of good will, saying, ‘Don’t worry if you don’t finish it. I will come up to the office of Orient Line and continue sitting for you’. But I did finish it.

Another Movietone newsreel from the day shows a few good close-ups of some of the men who built Oriana and of the Princess.

But getting back to Gervais’ work, one of my personal favourites is a quirky promotional photo of a typical P&O bar. Like a well-orchestrated symphony, the actors and the photographer are perfectly synchronised, each interaction in the scene expressed and captured at that critical moment. Sadly for me, there were no images either side of this in the catalogue that hinted at a sequence, but perhaps, as more of the 3,000 images in the museum’s Gervais Purcell collection emerge, I will find others. For now I’m happy to imagine it as a single genius take.

A vintage promotional photo of a crowd at a P&O bar.

Promotional photo for a P&O bar scene c.1960, ANMM Collection, ANMS1406[318]

On 25 November 2015, five P&O liners will rendezvous in Sydney Harbour for a historic first. The museum is hosting a cruise to witness this contemporary spectacle. You can visit our events page to learn more about the cruise or to book a ticket – and take some photographs if you go.

— Gemma Nardone

Footnote: At the time of sending this article to press I was saddened to hear of the death of Judy Cassab. Judy Cassab CBE AO came to Australia as a refugee of World War II and became one of this country’s most celebrated and influential Artists. A biography is available on the Australian Womens’ Register.