Lace and the displaced

Handmade silk bobbin lace handkerchief with ‘RK’ monogram for Otto Strauss’ mother, Roesle Kahn, early 1900s. ANMM Collection 00046629.

This handmade silk handkerchief with bobbin lace was made in the early 1900s and brought to Australia in 1938-39 by the Strauss family, Jewish migrants fleeing Nazi Germany. The centre features a circle of silk fabric with the embroidered initials ‘RK’ for Roesle Kahn, mother of Otto Strauss. ANMM Collection 00046629.

The 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht

Today marks 80 years since Kristallnacht (‘Crystal Night’), the night when the Nazis targeted, arrested and murdered Jews across Germany and parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia. This coordinated attack on 9–10 November 1938, also referred to as the ‘Night of Broken Glass,’ takes its name from the shattered glass that filled the streets after thousands of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were vandalised or destroyed.

More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to concentration camps in Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. Kristallnacht represented a turning point in the Nazi persecution of Jews and led to a marked increase in Jewish emigration from Germany.

At the museum, we hold a delicate collection of laces and textiles that provides the only tangible link to the experiences of German Jewish immigrants Otto Strauss and Ilse Strauss (née Gimnicher). After Kristallnacht, Otto’s older brother Franz was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, while Ilse’s father and uncle were thrown into prison on trumped-up charges. Tragically, most of Ilse’s family would perish in the Holocaust. Their collection evokes the fragile traces of displaced lives.

Continue reading

William Bradley’s log of HMS Sirius

Bradley’s notes and coastal profiles of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), made on 8 January 1788, less than three weeks before the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove. ANMM Collection 00055232.

Bradley’s notes and coastal profiles of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), made on 8 January 1788, less than three weeks before the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove. ANMM Collection 00055232.

An extraordinary gift to the nation

An extremely generous donation to the museum has brought an important early colonial record back to Australia.

Earlier this year I flew to England a examine a previously unknown log of HMS Sirius, written by First Lieutenant William Bradley, covering the period from the departure of the First Fleet from Portsmouth, UK, in May 1787 to the return of the ship’s crew to England in April 1792 aboard the Dutch vessel Waakzaamheydt. It was a formative period in Australia’s colonial history and the logbook, signed by William Bradley, written in his neat hand and illustrated with maps and small coastal profiles, is an extraordinary gift to the nation.

Continue reading

Monsters of the deep

Sea monsters. Not too far off the mark this engraving, from 1621, had the right idea of what was really lurking beneath the world’s oceans. ANMM Collection <a href="http://collections.anmm.gov.au/objects/29824/engraving-depicting-saint-brendan-saying-mass-on-the-back-of?ctx=d19a5c20-8539-4f29-a049-977fb903bcd9&idx=0">00019658</a>.

Sea monsters. Not too far off the mark this engraving, from 1621, had the right idea of what was really lurking beneath the world’s oceans. ANMM Collection 00019658.

What is lurking in the water?

Living life as an adult means shedding many childhood ‘truths’. Christmas elves, Easter bunnies and the tooth fairy don’t stand up to hard questioning, so our belief in them falls away. We lose our concept of another world filled with wonder and mystery as every phenomenon is explained by science instead. But, for some reason, this logic does not apply to the things that scare us…

No, horror stories hang around so much longer. The terror of ghosts, creeping creatures of the night and otherworldly happenings can last into adulthood. Even if it’s just a shiver down your spine before logic returns to its guard post.

Continue reading

Governor Bligh, Loyalists and Usurpers

Signatures to a petition to Lieutenant Governor Paterson 'disapproving of the present measures', April 1808. <a href="https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ADLIB110579470&amp;context=L&amp;vid=SLNSW&amp;search_scope=EEA&amp;tab=default_tab&amp;lang=en_US" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Banks Papers/Series 40.114</a>, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Signatures to a petition to Lieutenant Governor Paterson ‘disapproving of the present measures’, April 1808. Banks Papers/Series 40.114, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

A long history of petitions

When then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked his parliamentary colleagues to sign a petition over his leadership in August 2018, the connection may have been lost on many, but petitions have some long historical parallels in the Turnbull family, going back to the so-called ‘Usurpation’ of Governor Bligh in 1808.

Among a list of signatures from Hawkesbury settlers in support of Governor Bligh, who was deposed in the ‘Rum Rebellion’ of January that year, there is one John Turnbull. So dear to his heart was the deposed Bligh that John and his wife began a tradition of giving the middle-name ‘Bligh’ to their children — a tradition that went on through the family including Australia’s 29th Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull.

Continue reading

Searching for junks and sampans

‘<a href="http://bishop.slq.qld.gov.au/view/action/singleViewer.do?dvs=1540263437073~326&amp;locale=en_AU&amp;metadata_object_ratio=14&amp;show_metadata=true&amp;VIEWER_URL=/view/action/singleViewer.do?&amp;DELIVERY_RULE_ID=10&amp;frameId=1&amp;usePid1=true&amp;usePid2=true" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sailing from Goondi to Geraldton</a>’, circa 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Sailing from Goondi to Geraldton’, circa 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Volunteer researcher Aliza Chin shares her investigations of late 19th-century Chinese vessels built in Australia.

A research adventure

For the past two months, I have been a volunteer researcher at the Museum. I have become an explorer who conducts archival deep dives, a decipherer and editor of Trove auto-text, an appraiser of photographs stored away in digital collections, swinging between feelings of elation and frustration, in between clicks and scrolls. If you don’t know Trove, it is an Australian online library database aggregator; a free faceted-search engine hosted by the National Library of Australia,[1] in partnership with content providers including members of the National & State Libraries Australasia.[2] It is one of the most well-respected[3] and accessed GLAM services in Australia, with over 70,000 daily users.

To say that the experience has equipped me with new skills in my field would be an understatement, but this blog entry is not about me. Rather, it is about the issues and new sources encountered and uncovered in the little-studied area of Chinese shipbuilding; specifically, vessels that were made here in Australia between the 1870s and early 1900s. Dr Stephen Gapps has been researching sampans and junks for a while and invited me to help with this project.

Continue reading

Caring for collections at ‘Maat’ Lighthouse

"We care about the island. Even if we never go there we want to know that the historic buildings are being conserved, the Aboriginal heritage is acknowledged and respected, and the Islands animals, plants and marine environment are protected for future generations" - Friends of Maatsuyker Island (FOMI). Image: James Stone

“We care about the island. Even if we never go there we want to know that the historic buildings are being conserved, the Aboriginal heritage is acknowledged and respected, and the Islands animals, plants and marine environment are protected for future generations” – Friends of Maatsuyker Island (FOMI). Image: James Stone

Ailsa Fergusson is a committee member of Friends of Maatsuyker Island. In 2012, Friends of Maatsuyker Island received funds as part of Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS) to complete the first stage of cataloguing the heritage objects of the Maatsuyker Lightstation, light tower and from the island. Last year, another grant helped finish the catalogue*.

What does it take to the care for a historic light station?

Maatsuyker Island, or ‘Maat’ as friends know it, lies 10 kilometres off Tasmania’s South coast. This remarkable light station opened in June 1891 and was run as a manned station until 1997, when the light was automated. Following this, management of the Island was handed to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and a volunteer caretaker program commenced.

Maatsuyker Lighthouse is Australia’s southernmost lighthouse and it is acknowledged on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its “historic heritage significance because it represents the principal characteristics of a group of Late Victorian Lightstation Buildings, including the remains of a rare supply haulage system and unusually intact lighthouse.”

Continue reading

A tale of two watches

This experimental Rolex watch was attached to the bathyscaphe <em>Trieste </em>when it reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep, on 23 January 1960. Image: ANMM. On loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

This experimental Rolex watch was attached to the bathyscaphe Trieste when it reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep, on 23 January 1960. Image: ANMM. On loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

Timekeepers of curiosity

Peering through the small porthole, Lt Don Walsh USN saw a cloud of floating silt. It had been kicked up by the bathyscaphe’s less than gentle landing, 10,916 metres below the surface of the ocean. Walsh and fellow pilot Jacques Piccard hoped the milky white soup would clear quickly so they could take photos of what lay beyond.

Outside the porthole, the experimental Rolex ‘Deep Sea Special’ wristwatch was attached to the outside of the bathyscaphe. The unusual high glass dome of the timepiece protected the face of the watch as it continued to tick away, keeping time even under immense pressure.

Twenty minutes later, the thick fog persisted, drifting in slow motion. Reluctantly, Don and Jacques decided to begin their ascent. It took three hours for the Trieste to return to the surface, completing a record-breaking journey: Don and Jacques were the first humans to reach the deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

Continue reading

Operation diorama

One of two dioramas created by volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait. Image: Geoff Barnes.  

One of two dioramas created by volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait. Image: Geoff Barnes.

Volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott have once again used their impressive model making skills to create a unique diorama for the Museum, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait.

Building Operation Jaywick in miniature

As a volunteer guide at the Museum, I noticed that Krait would be absent from display for quite some time due it’s extensive restorations. Luckily, an Australian model ship company, Modellers Central, released a laser-cut wooden 1:35 scale model to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid. Roger Scott and I proposed an exhibit of Krait in miniature so the Museum could have a ‘Krait’ display in Action Stations even when the real ship was in slip.

Continue reading

Three ways to embrace your inner sea scientist

in 2012, Cameron would piloted his own single person submersible, <em>DEEPSEA CHALLENGER</em>, to the deepest point of the ocean, the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. Image: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic Creative.

In 2012, Cameron piloted his own single person submersible, DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, to the deepest point of the ocean, the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. He is one of only three people who have been the deepest part of the ocean. Image: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic Creative.

Science shouldn’t be kept to the realm of fiction

Four times as many people have walked on the moon than have successfully ventured to the deepest part of our own world. Humanity might be on the cusp of a second space age but we have yet to fully explore our oceans. So here are three ways to embrace your inner science nerd, from someone who has been to the alien world beneath the waves: James Cameron.

Continue reading

60 years since the end of the dictation test

Shocked survivors from the wrecked ship Clan Ranald sitting amongst rocks at Troubridge Hill on the Yorke Peninsula. Some are wrapped in blankets and a policeman stands with them. Courtesy State Library of South Australia.

Shocked survivors from the wrecked ship Clan Ranald sitting amongst rocks at Troubridge Hill on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, 1909. Some are wrapped in blankets and a policeman stands with them. Courtesy State Library of South Australia PRG 280/1/43/84.

Acts of the White Australia policy

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the abolition of the controversial dictation test, which was a central feature of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. This was one of three pieces of legislation, together with the Pacific Island Labourers Act and the Post and Telegraph Act, which were passed after Federation in 1901 and colloquially known as the White Australia policy. Together these acts placed restrictions on immigration and sought to remove prohibited immigrants, namely those from Asia and the Pacific Islands, from the new Commonwealth. On 8 October 1958, the Immigration Restriction Act was replaced by the Migration Act 1958, which introduced a simpler system of entry permits.

The dictation test required non-European immigrants to write out a passage of 50 words in any European language (later any prescribed language) as dictated by the immigration officer. Since the choice of language was at the discretion of the officer, undesirable immigrants were destined to fail the test. They could then be declared prohibited immigrants and deported. One of the most infamous cases of the application of the dictation test dates to 1909 and involved the Scottish cargo ship SS Clan Ranald, its Asian and Indian crew (known as lascars), and one of South Australia’s worst maritime disasters.

Continue reading

Restoring Krait

<em>Krait</em> on 25 September 2018, with the last few details being worked on ready for the event to mark 75 years since Operation Jaywick. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

Krait on 25 September 2018, with the last few details being worked on ready for the event to mark 75 years since Operation Jaywick. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

Commemorating Operation Jaywick

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick, a joint Australian and British raid on Singapore Harbour — one of the most audacious and successful commando operations deep inside enemy territory during World War II. Krait, a former Japanese fishing boat, took three teams of Commandos and their folding canoes to Singapore Harbour. They attached magnetic limpet mines to the hulls of seven ships and fled the anchorage undetected. Early the next morning, six explosions shattered the darkness and six Japanese ships – 35,000 tonnes – were sunk or severely damaged. It was a significant blow to Japanese confidence and morale.

Continue reading

Welcome Wall

The unveiling of panels 80 and 81 on the Welcome Wall. From left: Kevin Sumption PSM, Director and CEO of ANMM, Melissa Oujani, Sonia Gandhi, Eva Rossen (Szwarcberg), Dr Ish Sharma and Donna Ingram. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

Unveiling of panels 80 and 81 on the Welcome Wall. From left: Kevin Sumption PSM, Director and CEO of ANMM, Melissa Oujani, Sonia Gandhi, Eva Rossen (Szwarcberg), Dr Ish Sharma and Donna Ingram. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

Welcome Wall unveiling 23 September 2018

The Welcome Wall pays tribute to the migrants who have travelled the world to call Australia home. More than 200 countries are represented on the Welcome Wall, which faces Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Bay, where many migrants arrived in Australia.

503 names were added to the Welcome Wall during Sunday’s ceremony including families from Albania, Argentina, Austria, Burma, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Rhodesia, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Syria The Netherlands, The Philippines, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, USSR, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe. There are now a total of 29 957 names on the Welcome Wall.

Continue reading

What percentage of goods do you think travel by sea?

What percentage of goods do you think travel by sea? DP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World Australia.

What percentage of goods do you think travel by sea? DP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World Australia.

By the numbers

Shipping accounts for over 99% of Australia’s total merchandise trade by mass. A staggering 7.8 million containers move through Australian ports each year. In today’s global world you may have had coffee from Brazil or a smoothie containing frozen fruit from China. You could be wearing clothes made in India, watching a TV made in Japan while sitting on a sofa containing wood from Argentina on a laminate floor manufactured in Sweden. All of this has been made possible by a rectangular steel box – the humble shipping container.

Continue reading

Seeking the lost Browne boys: Spiritualism and grief

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in-between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths. Images: National Library of Australia.

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths. Images: National Library of Australia.

Communing with the dead

In tasteful parlour rooms across the world, the mood was set. Accompanied by soft lighting and gentle music, people quietly gathered, waiting not for romance but in the hope of receiving messages from the dead. The appearance of a well-known historical figure would cause a stir but generally, it was messages from loved ones who had passed on which audiences waited breathlessly for.

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths.

Continue reading

Saving a life at the beach

Surf Life Saving Handbooks from 1940 to 1946 at the Vaughan Evans Library. Vaughn Evans Library Collection.

Surf Life Saving Handbooks, from 1940 to 1946, at the Vaughan Evans Library. Vaughn Evans Library Collection.

Surf Life Saving handbooks of yesteryear

The first week of September is history week and the theme for 2018 is ‘Life and Death’.

Each weekend, many Australians flock to the sea for fun, sport and recreation. It is part of the Australian way of life – a place of work and play. At the same time, the sea can be harsh, unpredictable and deadly. A true symbol of life and death at sea is the Australian Surf Life Saving movement, a group who work tirelessly to prevent death at sea and ensure Australians can safely enjoy all that a coastal lifestyle has to offer.

Continue reading