About curatorialassistant

Nicole Cama and Penny Edwell (the artist formerly known as Penny Hyde) work as Digital Curators at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. We blog about events, people and most importantly – the museum’s collection. We hope to open up the museum’s collection to virtual visitors, blow off the dust and reveal some of the wonderful objects and stories held in the archives and storage rooms of the museum.

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

MYRA TOO has arrived!

Back in late 2012 when vessels curator David Payne began drawing up designs for the build of a replica 18-footer, I doubt he could have foreseen the fun we were going to have along the way with this wonderful project.

Myra Too 2nd and 3rd rigs, drawing by David Payne

Myra Too 2nd and 3rd rigs, drawing by David Payne

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East meets West: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

Chinese magician and acrobat Long Tack Sam with his company of artists c 1936 Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

Chinese magician and acrobat Long Tack Sam with his company of artists 1936
Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection*

There was once a man who could ‘take needles out of his mouth for half an hour at a time’, who could make ‘beautiful vases appear’ from thin air. He was a magician, and the people of a Northern Chinese village would watch spellbound as he ‘performed a hundred magic feats’. One day a little boy asked him if he could turn stones into bread as food was scarce. The magician told the boy that he would only conjure bread in front of his pupils, so the boy pleaded with the magician to teach him. The boy was taught the art of magic and went on to become a great magician, revered by the likes of Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin and performing in theatres around the world.

Image from Ann Marie Fleming's graphic novel The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

Image from Ann Marie Fleming’s graphic novel The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam.
Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

This forms one of the many myths surrounding one of the most successful magicians of the early 20th century – the world renowned Chinese acrobat and vaudeville performer, Long Tack Sam. Lurking in the storage rooms of the museum, you’ll find a cabinet containing a black and white nitrate negative taken by another famous Sam. Samuel J Hood’s photograph depicts Long Tack Sam no longer a boy in 1880s China but a man in 1930s Sydney, posing with his company of artists reading The Telegraph newspaper.

Long Tack Sam Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

Long Tack Sam
Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

When I first saw this image in the collection, I was curious. It remained a mystery until one of our Flickr followers identified it and opened up Sam’s amazing story. I got in contact with his great-granddaughter, writer and filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, who has worked tirelessly over the past several years to resurrect a story long forgotten. In her award winning film The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, and graphic novel of the same name, Ann Marie pieces together the story of her famous ancestor… Continue reading

#HoodsHarbour: May’s ‘People’s Choice’ winner

Sydney Harbour ferry approaching Circular Quay, 1901-1953 Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

Sydney Harbour ferry approaching Circular Quay, 1901-1953
Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

I’m pleased to announce the May winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition. Robert Osborne chose this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. Robert noted the picture ‘reminded me of the Manly Ferries as I used to spend the journey looking into the engine room from the passenger area and soak up the sights and smells‘. He composed a poem, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:

A memory of the past,
the glorious days of old.
The smell of oil and steam,
the shine of brass.
Gone, but still a dream.

People's Choice winner

Robert’s favourite Hood photograph currently on display in #HoodsHarbour
Photo: Nicole Cama, ANMM

Congratulations to Robert and thanks to all those who participated in our #HoodsHarbour competition. It was a museum first for us and was aimed at engaging visitors by allowing them to explore our historic photographic collection online as well as participate in the exhibition process. We hope you enjoyed it just as much as we did! 🙂

 

#HoodsHarbour is open at the museum until 9 June 2014.

Nicole Cama
Digital Curator

The ‘March of the Gallant Five Thousand’

Australian Light Horse saluting the Governor-General

Australian Light Horse saluting the Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, and riding along Macquarie Street in Sydney, 24 April 1915.
Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

At about 2pm on 24 April 1915, 5,000 Australian troops marched through streets of Sydney. Symbolising the State’s official farewell to the troops, it wasn’t until a few months later that they finally embarked for war. On this day, 99 years ago, over 200,000 people flocked to the city to bid farewell and a safe return to ‘Our Boys in Blue’ and ‘The Khaki Men. It was a goodbye seemingly unaware of the horror that would unfold the following day – the day Australian and New Zealand forces commenced a devastating 8-month conflict; the day they landed at what is now known as ANZAC Cove. Continue reading

#HoodsHarbour: April’s ‘People’s Choice’ winner

#HoodsHarbour competition entry winner

April’s #HoodsHarbour competition entry winning image and label from Myleah Bailey, currently on display
Photo: Nicole Cama, ANMM

I’m pleased to announce the first winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition for the month of April. Myleah Bailey from Victoria has chosen this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. It depicts crowds at Circular Quay, Sydney welcoming home the crew of HMAS Sydney II on 10 February 1941. The ship had left Australia 10 months previously for battle in the Mediterranean and relatives were keen to see their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, husbands, fiancées, boyfriends and friends again. Myleah told us why this was her favourite from the Hood collection, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:

The faces and fashions change, but be it 1941 or 2014 the heartfelt message, and title, of this image remains the same – ‘Welcome Home’.

Our winner told me she ‘was very surprised to receive it! I really enjoyed seeing the pictures in the exhibition and there were many beautiful ones displayed.’ Congratulations Myleah!

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Warships, storyworlds and the story so far

I’ve walked through our Oberon-class submarine many times. Before the visitors arrive, it’s quiet. You can hear the creaking of the ropes that secure the sub to the wharf, and sometimes the far away voices of people in Darling Harbour. Remnants of life onboard remain – the boardgames in the mess, the roster on the wall and the ingredients in the kitchen – settled and silent. I’ve also been onboard the patrol boat Advance and climbed up and down from the bridge to the kitchen, avoiding its sharp corners and examining the menacing-looking Bofors guns on deck. I’ve walked onboard our destroyer HMAS Vampire many times before too. It smells like the 70s. There’s linoleum throughout, a faint scent of oil and what might be the remaining tendrils of thousands of cooked dinners served in the mess. There’s a sense of chasing someone else’s long-forgotten memories down the lengthy corridors and through the maze of tunnels and ladders.

In the past nine months, in the course of researching these three vessels, I’ve also spent many hours speaking with naval personnel about their time serving on HMAS Onslow, Advance and Vampire. Through their stories, photographs and records, I got glimpses of three very alive, very dangerous and very exciting worlds. One submariner described to me the sounds that the ocean makes when it wakes in the morning, how you can hear the animals stir and react to the sun the same way that birds do at dawn. Another described the feeling, through your feet, of the submarine dashing away from the surface and diving beneath the waves. It sounded to me like the feeling of taking off in a small airplane – just going in the other direction. One ex-submarine commander talked sparingly of his involvement in covert operations onboard Oberon submarines, responding to our questions with silence and a smile.

HMAS VAMPIRE at sea, image courtesy of the Sea Power Centre Australia

HMAS VAMPIRE at sea, image courtesy of the Sea Power Centre Australia

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Patriotic inspiration: The tale behind a wartime image

Every now and then, a story comes forward from within the museum’s collection that astounds us. For a long time the identity of the young woman depicted in this World War II propaganda poster was a mystery. Staggeringly, just two months ago, the woman on the poster came forward. This is a snippet from Weslee D’Audney’s story which has featured in the museum’s latest issue of Signals. The exhibition Persuasion: US  propaganda posters from WWII closes on 20 March 2014.

“I HAVE NEVER BEEN FAMOUS, though my face adorns a famous poster that blanketed America during World War II – and even now pops up almost weekly in a new form. I’m probably the only person alive who remembers its creation.

Become a Nurse your country needs you. Weslee Wootten D’Audney as a young woman. This poster is part of the museum's exhibition Persuasion: US propaganda posters from WWII, closing 20 March 2014

‘Become a Nurse your country needs you’
Weslee Wootten D’Audney as a young woman, ANMM Collection. This poster is part of the museum’s exhibition Persuasion: US propaganda posters from WWII, closing 20 March 2014


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1951 beginnings, 2014 endings

If anything proves that the digital is not just for Generation Y – it’s this story.

In March last year, 81-year-old Brian Stewart was surfing the web when he came across the photographic collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum on the photo-sharing site Flickr. Here he found images of legendary 18ft skiff Myra Too, taken during the 1951 sailing season in which the vessel won the state, national and world titles. Among Myra Too’s champion crew that year, and visible in the photographs, was Brian – the vessel’s 19-year-old bailer boy.

18-footer MYRA TOO on Sydney Harbour, 1951. Photo by William Hall, ANMM Collection

18-footer MYRA TOO on Sydney Harbour, 1951. Photo by William Hall, ANMM Collection

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#HoodsHarbour: Our super sleuths inspire an exhibition

Portrait of Hera Roberts

The inspiration for our exhibition #HoodsHarbour – Hera Roberts 10 October 1930,
Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

The day has finally arrived for the opening of our #HoodsHarbour exhibition! Showcasing a small selection from our Samuel (Sam) J Hood collection, #HoodsHarbour pays homage to the work of a group of individuals we call our ‘super sleuths’. Thanks to their efforts on our Flickr Commons page, we were able to solve the mystery behind the image that formed the inspiration for this exhibition – the lovely Hera Roberts. The story of this discovery symbolises the way that our followers have enriched our collection, unearthing its secrets and finding its hidden stories. Hood’s photograph of Hera remains the highest viewed and most favourited on the museum’s Flickr Commons photostream to date. More than 80 years after it was taken, Hera continues to captivate and inspire our audiences. Continue reading

Greetings from the Lowest Place on Earth

Miles away from my office at the Australian National Maritime Museum and the lapping waters of Darling Harbour, is my temporary workspace in the south east corner of the spectacular Jordan Rift Valley. Here, rimmed by ancient and multi-coloured mountains, the valley descends to the salty shores of the Dead Sea. At over 400m below sea level, this is the actual lowest place on the earth’s surface.

Despite the bare and beautiful mountains and a sea void of life, communities have flourished in this region for tens of thousands of years. The rich history of those people who have lived by the Dead Sea is now the focus of a brand-new purpose built-museum: The Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth.

The Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth with the Dead Sea visible in the background. Photo: Peter Edwell 2013

The Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth with the Dead Sea at its lowest point visible in the background. Photo: Peter Edwell 2013

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Japanese flapper lands on Australian shores!

Kono San at a Movietone event on board SS Sierra, 8 August 1929 Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Kono San at a Movietone event on board SS Sierra, 8 August 1929
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

I am constantly amazed at the array of discoveries that are being made in the Australian National Maritime Museum’s collection. Some of them are just what you might expect from a maritime history collection, and others are just downright unusual. Until recently, the above photograph was catalogued as ‘unidentified Japanese woman’ posing on board the San Franciscan liner SS Sierra at an event celebrating the arrival of Australia’s first Movietone News truck on 8 August 1929. However, as one of our Flickr Commons followers demonstrated, Sydney photographer Samuel J Hood photographed his fair share of interesting characters from far away shores. Continue reading

Bathing in a dead whale : crazy or cure?

Rheumatism sufferers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were bombarded with many strange potions, lotions and pills – all claiming to cure their complaints. None were perhaps as strange, or stomach churning, as the curious cure practiced in the seaside town of Eden, Twofold Bay.

‘When a whale is killed and towed ashore and while the interior of the carcass still retains a little warmth a hole is cut through one side of the body sufficiently large to admit the patient, the lower part of whose body from the feet to the loins should sink in the whale’s intestines, leaving the head, of course, outside the aperture. The latter is closed up as closely as possible, otherwise the patient would not be able to breathe through the volume of animoniacal gases which would escape from every opening left uncovered.’

The Whale Cure for Rheumatism in Australia, published by The Graphic, illustrator William Ralston, 31 May 1902. ANMM collection.

The Whale Cure for Rheumatism in Australia, published by The Graphic, illustrator William Ralston, 31 May 1902. ANMM collection.

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More than just a pretty face

Since coming across this striking portrait a year ago, the anonymity of its subject has given me plenty of room to reflect on its beauty. The dark and lovely creature peering intensely at the photographer in this image from our historic William Hall collection seemed entirely suited to the shroud of mystery surrounding her identity.

Actress Phyllis Baker, 1927. Photographer W.J. Hall. ANMM Collection 00013207

Actress Phyllis Baker, 1927. Photographer W.J. Hall. ANMM Collection 00013207

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Special Event : The Discovery of the Oldest Boats in Egypt

Archaeologists working at the cemetery site of Abu Rawash, Egypt, found a boat dating to 2950 B.C. © Abu Rawash Expedition, IFAO

Archaeologists working at the cemetery site of Abu Rawash, Egypt, find a boat dating to 2950 B.C. © Abu Rawash Expedition, IFAO

Just prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, legendary French archaeologist Pierre Montet was working to excavate several mudbrick tombs (or mastabas) of the wealthy in the extensive cemetery complex at Abu Rawash, just north of Giza in Egypt. In his reports Montet noted that one of the tombs had an unusual feature – a wooden floor.

Nearly 100 years later, Egyptologist Dr Yann Tristant (Macquarie University) found himself reading Montet’s reports, mystified by this particular detail. No other archaeologist had ever reported finding wooden floors around mastabas and with his curiosity piqued, Tristant directed his excavations to the area where Montet had originally worked. The investigations paid off when his team re-discovered the wooden floor.

Because it wasn’t a floor at all – it was a boat.

20 ft long, wooden and designed to the technique of lacing ligatures, the boat was one of a number found by Tristant and his team during the 2012-2013 excavation season, buried with their wealthy owners in the tombs at Abu Rawash. The boats were transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum where they underwent conservation treatment and C14 dating to establish their age. At nearly 5,000 years old, they are now confirmed as the oldest boats ever found in Egypt. Continue reading