Hidden gems rediscovered – Wharf 7 comes to life with stories of Australia’s maritime past

Concealed in the storage rooms of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Wharf 7 Maritime Heritage Centre in Pyrmont, are thousands of objects within the collection waiting to be unearthed for exhibition. Only a privileged few gain access to these areas and much of the collection has remained undiscovered by visitors to the museum…until now.

Bales of wool being loaded on board Magdalene Vinnen March 1933
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

The museum has developed this project, in association with Sydney Heritage Fleet, to exhibit an array of objects not available for viewing in the museum. Photographs depicting commercial shipping, sailing races and seaside workers adorn the walls. One example is an image of the visit of the German steel barque Magdalene Vinnen, highlighting the vibrant maritime scene of Woolloomooloo wharf in 1933.

Watercraft from the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) seem to float on air, carefully poised in the foyer area. Social and cultural icons of Sydney Harbour such as skiffs, dinghies and rowing shells are featured. The 18-foot skiff Yendys, which was restored to its former glory between 1977 and 1982, appears majestic with its discernible anchor ensign emblazoned on its sails. Also displayed is a scale model of the hull and keel of Ben Lexcen’s ‘secret weapon’, Australia’s famous 1983 America’s Cup winner, Australia II.

Pyrmont and the waters surrounding it also contain a fascinating Indigenous cultural heritage, steeped in the traditions of the Gadigal people. Drawings from the early 1800s illustrate Aboriginal people using rock shelters under cliffs and cooking fish caught in bark canoes or nawi.

All these stories add to Australia’s diverse social and cultural history. They also allow more of the museum’s precious gems to be unveiled in a way that both captures the essence of our maritime past and inspires our imagination.

On 30 May, the museum is hosting the first conference on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander watercraft, Nawi.

For more information on the museum’s development of the ARHV, in consultation with Sydney Heritage Fleet, click here.

Nicole Cama, curatorial assistant

Yendys, 1924
restored 1977-1982
Sydney Heritage Fleet
Photographer: Zoe McMahon ANMM

Tank-test model 5854B scale model of hull and keel of Australia II 1981
ANMM Collection
Photographer: Zoe McMahon ANMM

Wharf 7 redevelopment
Photographer: Zoe McMahon ANMM

3 thoughts on “Hidden gems rediscovered – Wharf 7 comes to life with stories of Australia’s maritime past

  1. Its great to see the Heritage Centre Wharf 7 project evolve. Are the grand opening plans and a date set?

  2. Hi David van Kool, as yet there are no plans for a launch, but the fit out will be complete by the end of May and the multimedia will be installed later in the year. We will also be running guided tours later in the year. Exciting times ahead!

  3. Thanks for that, Nicole. My interest is as a member of the Vols Magazine All Hands which is awaiting info from Daina Fletcher for an article in the June issue. This should remind guides of what is imminent and I hoper inspire them to the new opportunity.
    As a James Craig guide who will be involved in the shared guiding I am concerned to discover who will prepare guide notes and when they will be available.
    As a long time lamenter about the slow development of the foyer area i hope that the multi-media material will help enliven the new display. There must be facebook or similar material material available for historic skiffs and I know such material is available for ‘Foiler’ Moths , unless Moths have been deleted from the display.
    It needs more than Guides to turn an esoteric display into something involving visitors.

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