Sharing the collection on Google Cultural Institute

A selection of the museum's collection displayed on Google Cultural Institute

A selection of the museum’s collection displayed on Google Cultural Institute.

The museum is excited to be among the 14 major Australian museums, archives and galleries to recently join Google’s Cultural Institute — the world’s biggest online museum.

Google’s online platform, which includes the Google Art Project, allows visitors to search and virtually explore high resolution images of artworks and artefacts from around the globe. So far, 673 international museums have joined, contributing digital collections, online exhibitions and even virtual tours made possible with Google’s Street View technology.

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Operation: Torpedo

The 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21" MK9.

The 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21″ MK9.

Working as a registrar at the museum often requires one to think outside the box, and today was no different. Today’s task was to organise the return of a 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21″ MK9 to the Naval Heritage Collection – simple, right? The only problem was that the NHC storage facility is located on Spectacle Island…and it’s an island. Solution? Call in the Navy.

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You have to be in it to win it – trophies from the collection

A selection of trophies from the ANMM collection.

A selection of trophies from the ANMM collection.

When I finally held the trophy, it was just how I imagined it would be.

Gabriela Sabatini, US Open Winner, 1990

I have never won one and at my age I do feel that the chances of me ever winning one are fast slipping way. In my mind I know exactly where I would put it – front and centre of the room so no one could miss it. I would casually and modestly dismiss it and then proceed to tell the winning tale behind it. Ah, yes, a trophy. Continue reading

A pilot steamer for the collection

Model of Pilot Steamer Captain Cook III

Model of Pilot Steamer Captain Cook III. ANMM Collection, bequest of David Radford.

In 2014 the museum was very fortunate to receive a bequest of a model of the pilot steamer Captain Cook III made by David Radford. The pilot ship was constructed at Mort’s Dock in Balmain and was in service from 1939 until 1959, providing a valuable service to both cargo and passenger vessels. A pilot boat is used to transport pilots between land and the inbound or outbound ships they are piloting. Marine pilots typically have extensive seafaring experience and their job is to manoeuvre ships through dangerous or congested waterways such as harbours or river mouths. Continue reading

The last performance

The museum has an extensive collection of broadsheet ballads covering 100 years and every topic that our modern barrage of social media would also relish: death, drama, shaky morals, heroism, political activism, nationalism, murder, the royals, and the occasional happy ending love story. Continue reading

Tidings at sea

“And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.”
– ‘Christmas At Sea’, Robert Louis Stevenson, c.1888

Whether by choice or by obligation, spending the festive season on the water is part of many people’s lives. From early journeys when Christmas was celebrated by a devout few, to modern times when Christmas is widely celebrated in so many different ways, thinking of the shores of home seems part of every Christmas spent at sea. Continue reading

A dog’s life at sea

ANMM Collection Crew of the SS Stratherry and their pets.

ANMM Collection
Crew of the SS Stratherry and their pets.

Although the sailor, while at sea, is obliged to do without nearly all of the home attractions which even the poorest landsmen indulge in, he is allowed to cultivate to a limited extent his fondness for domestic pets…It affords him deep pleasure to hold in his loving though rough embrace the innocent creature who either by a cheerful wag of the tail or a responsive purr assures him that his attentions are appreciated…
(New York Times – November 2, 1884)

We love them. Their loyalty, good humour and appreciation for simple pleasures—dogs are quite simply the ultimate companion. And for hundreds of years, sea farers have also thought so. Other pets such as monkeys, cats, birds and even goats may have their place, but dogs and boats are truly a match made in maritime heaven.

ANMM Collection A crew member of the steamer SS SUEVIC

ANMM Collection
A crew member of the steamer SS SUEVIC

ANMM Collection

ANMM Collection

The museum has many photos capturing the unique friendship between sailors and their dogs. Whether it be captains, crew, cooks, explorers or passengers, dogs were never far away. Although the life these ship-board dogs led may not have involved parks or yards, their small on-board world was one filled with affection, attention and camaraderie. They were a welcome relief from the monotony and tension of sea life, and despite their earlier uses as ratters, it was their endearing nature that has kept them happily afloat.

History has also proven that no matter what the maritime triumph or disaster, dogs could be found on board. From the sinking of Henry VIII’s ship the Mary Rose, the Titanic and even HMAS Sydney, dogs were on board and suffered the same conditions and fate as the ship’s crew.

ANMM Collection Crew and dog aboard the Discovery on their way to  in 1901.

ANMM Collection
Crew and dog aboard the Discovery on their way to Antarctica in 1901.

Crew of the submarine HM Ursula and their dog Peter, 1943. (Wikimedia)

Crew of the submarine HM Ursula and their dog Peter, 1943.
(Wikimedia)

Incredibly dogs were also kept on board some submarines. Surely a less dog-friendly environment would be hard to think of. There is a story of one such dog called Garbo who lived aboard the USS GAR. One crew member recalls:

“Under the heaviest depth charge attacks, when the gauges were leaking, light bulbs breaking, and fires breaking out, Garbo remained as playful as ever. Bunn said, “She should have gotten a medal for keeping our spirits and morale up when we needed it most.”

Whilst they were commonly known as mascots, dogs proved to be so much more. They provided comfort and courage, loyalty and affection, and a chance for crew to be human in circumstances that often asked them to forget their humanity.

- Myffanwy Bryant, Curatorial Assistant

 

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Who said sand paper was dull?

In 2012 the museum acquired a vast collection of negatives of Australian commercial photographer Gervais Purcell (1919-1999). Purcell worked for a variety of clients such as David Jones, P&O, Ansett Australia, Jantzen and many others.

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ANMM Collection


In the past few months, I have been cataloguing his ‘swimwear’ work that mainly contains negatives of models wearing swim and beach wear shot in studio settings, beaches and other outdoor locations during the 1940 – 1960 period.

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ANMM Collection


Through these photographs I have witnessed the evolution of swimwear styles, starting with the fairly conservative 1940s one piece.

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With fabric shortages during the war time, the US Government issued the L-85 order that basically made smaller swimming suits patriotic. Manufacturers in countries like Australia followed suit introducing the cut outs in midriff and bikinis.

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As the swimwear evolved, so did advertising. In the 1950s, ‘Golden Era’ of Cinematography and ‘Golden Age’ of Television, advertising became even prominent and daring.
Informed by market studies, agencies started positioning their ads to address the perceived consumer needs of safety, belonging and success. They also capitalised on featuring scantily-clad young ladies, which noticeably improved ad content and sales scores.

ANMM Collection

ANMM Collection

ANMM Collection

ANMM Collection

I can just imagine the people at the 3M abrasives and sandpaper company branch, looking for ways to make their abrasive paper products look sexy and appealing to the masses. What a better way than ask Gervais to take two bikini beauties to a lovely beach and make them interact with… yes, sheets and disks of sand paper!

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And didn’t they do a fantastic job? I’m not sure if the masses were running to their nearest hardware shop to get their hands on a box of sand paper, but what I can see is the models and perhaps, even Gervais, having a giggle at the crazy ways to accommodate abrasive material into a perfect beach scene!

4 x 18 = 72

Simple stuff: 4 x 18 feet = 72 feet.

72 feet x 1/3.281 = about 22 metres (in French).

But if you put the four 18-foot skiffs currently on display at the museum in a line, their long bowsprits and booms make the line closer to 120 feet or 37 metres long. Imagine this impressive sight as their big rigs tower over the 5.5-metre long hulls.

Enough maths! In a rare opportunity, the museum has four classic 18s on display at once. Britannia, Yendys and Taipan have been visited by the replica of Myra Too, the quartet covering a wide section of the 18-foot skiffs’ colourful class history.

Britannia on Sydney Harbour during the1920s

Britannia – William Hall Collection – ANMM

Britannia makes a terrific starting point. It has a big eight-foot (2.45-metre) wide hull, seam batten planked in Queensland cedar, strong thwarts and tabernacle—everything that these mighty craft began with in the 1890s as open boats racing with Mark Foy’s Sydney Flying Squadron. It was built in 1919 by the legendary ‘Wee Georgie’ Robinson. ‘Wee Georgie’ and his team from Balmain raced Britannia hard and its career spanned the next few generations of gradual developments until it retired after World War II. In that time it carried one of the largest rigs ever put on an 18. That rig was rebuilt when the vessel was restored in the late 1980s and is how it is displayed in the Watermarks exhibition at the museum.

As we walk into the Wharf 7 foyer, on our right is Sydney Heritage Fleet’s Yendys. A rival of Britannia, Yendys was built in 1925 by Charlie Hayes for Norm Blackman. This big hull is also built in the traditional heavy scantlings, but it illustrates an early piece of innovation, its transom bow. Hayes had another legend working for him at the time, Charlie Peel, who had been successful with transom bows on 14-foot skiffs in Victoria. As well, the 1920s was the time when the Restricted 21s showed how fast a lighter-keel boat could go, and Hayes and Peel were in the thick of this class too. Out comes Yendys, with its sawn-off profile and veed bow shapes, a sort of restricted-class yacht crossed with a skiff and with the bow overhang squared off. Despite the odd mix it went pretty well too, but although another two snub-nosers were built in that time, the idea did not catch on. It did show there was room to move in the rules, though, and the Queenslanders took on both innovation and the establishment at the same time.

Yendys with all sails set

Yendys – William Hall Collection – ANMM

The 1930s ‘galloping ghost’ from Queensland, Aberdare, was a narrow seven-foot (2.15 metre) beamer that won many races and championships. It was so unpopular with traditional sailors that two new clubs were set up that allowed seven-foot beamers to race – the New South Wales 18-Foot Sailing League and the Brisbane 18-Foot Sailing Club – and the politics spawned by that divide raged on for decades.

Six feet (1.83 metres) became the new seven feet in the 1940s. Sailing in the 1951 season, Billy Barnett and Myra Too from the Sydney Flying Squadron won everything – states, nationals, worlds – the lot. The Myra Too replica, sitting on its rigging cradle on the Wharf 7 floor, and built a little differently from the original, is still a showcase of how the lighter construction had taken hold of the class post-war, finally shutting the door to the big-boat era of Britannia and Yendys.

The new boats were planing, the crew were swinging out on trapezes, and just when they thought they were the bees’ knees of skiff and dinghy sailing, along came Bob Miller and the plywood Taipan in 1959. This was another Queensland revolution that caused heartache and resistance in New South Wales but became the origins of today’s flyers. Here it is, elevated for all to see the end plates and fences on the appendages – the things that led Bob Miller, who had by then changed his name to Ben Lexcen, to the controversial features on Australia II that ultimately helped snare yachting’s greatest trophy, the America’s Cup, in 1983. Taipan was rebuilt in 2007 to its 1959 configuration that caused as much local stir in its own time, even though it only won a few races and had many gear failures. When it worked, it often won with big margins. Taipan had the speed and performance that the crews wanted, and they never looked back.

Taipan during the 1960 world championships in Auckland

Taipan – Courtesy Robin Elliot

To complete this, but not on display, the ANMM collection also has a 1970s Bruce Farr design, KB, the type that bedded down the three-hander, and then Colorbond, from 1985/86, a showcase of where it all went ballistic. Getting back to numbers here, the 18-foot skiffs sported bowsprits and extensions that made them around 40 feet (12 metres) long and more than 20 feet (six metres) wide and enabled them to do powerboat speeds on the harbour—and the cost of all this yearly high-tech building spree finally blew the lid on development in the class.

The skiffs on display are three survivors rebuilt to their former glory and a fourth built as a replica to race on and carry the heritage of the class into the future. Did the four skiffs on display ever sail on the harbour together? Not likely, but in a lovely moment captured on film, we have the original Myra Too running downwind to eventually pass the seven-foot beamer Jantzen Girl that’s just in front, and there off to the side is a little motor launch with a mast­—it looks like it could be Britannia which was converted by ‘Wee Georgie’ to be the club’s starting boat—and it’s trying hard on one cylinder to keep up with progress.

Myra Too at sea

Myra Too – Bill Barnett Collection – ANMM

 – David Payne

Curator, Historic Vessels

The ‘triumphant procession’ of the ANMEF

troops of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, marching on Randwick Road

Contingent of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, marching on Randwick Road, 18 August 1914.
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

On this day, 100 years ago, a contingent of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) marched through Sydney for final embarkation. Fourteen days after Britain declared war on Germany, the ANMEF contingent made their way through streets flooded with tens of thousands of well-wishers. It would be the start of many marches to come throughout the war, and one of the many photographer Samuel J Hood captured with his Folmer and Schwing Graflex camera. Yesterday, a service was held at Government House and re-enactment of the march took place. As Royal Australian Navy (RAN) cadets marched down a soggy Macquarie Street, they paid homage to the ‘khaki clad contingent’ who had taken the same steps a century before under a clear blue sky. Continue reading