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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Aboard the TINGIRA : Our Navy’s Nursery

HMAS TINGIRA, Rose Bay c 1920. Photographer William Hall. ANMM Collection ANMS1092[083]

HMAS TINGIRA, Rose Bay c 1920. Photographer William Hall. ANMM Collection ANMS1092[083]

On 25 April 1912 the fledgling Royal Australian Navy commissioned its very first naval training ship, HMAS Tingira. Three years to the day before the historic landings at Anzac Cove, the white ensign was hoisted onboard HMAS Tingira and marked the beginning of a new era for both the navy and the vessel. Continue reading

The sport of turtle riding and ‘the Greatest Liar on Earth’

Louis de Rougemont died a long way from Australia, the place that made his name. He died a long way from Switzerland, the place in which he was born. In fact when he died, penniless and forgotten in London in June 1921, Louis de Rougemont was no longer his name at all. It was just a name that had once been famous.

It was also a name that came to be synonymous with a very strange and short-lived sport; turtle riding:

'De Rougemont's Lie', Western Mail, Thursday 12 March 1931, page 19

‘De Rougemont’s Lie’, Western Mail, Thursday 12 March 1931, page 19

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Alone on the wide, wide sea : The voyage of the SPRAY

Mine was not the sort of life to make one long to coil up ones ropes on land, the customs and ways of which I had almost forgotten… I was born in the breezes, and I had studied the sea…

(Joshua Slocum Sailing Alone Around the World, page 4)

In the midwinter of 1892, a sailor by the name of Joshua Slocum arrived in the seaside town of Fairhaven, New Bedford, to view a ship. Heading away from the water, he set out to a nearby field where, propped up and under a cover of canvas, was an antiquated sloop called Spray. Continue reading

Billy Barnett, Master Shipwright of Sydney Harbour

It seems that some skills take more than a lifetime to gain – they have to be inherited, in the blood. This is certainly the case with many boat builders and none more so than Bill Barnett, one of Sydney Harbour’s finest wooden boat builders and the man who designed, built and raced his 18-footer Myra Too to glory in 1951.

The Australian National Maritime Museum has recently been assisting with a project to build a replica of Barnett’s Myra Too, however the success of this yacht in Barnett’s expert hands forms only a small chapter in a life full of achievement on and off the water.

Bill Barnett, crew member of the 1967 America’s Cup challenger DAME PATTIE, c 1967. Copyright. ANMM Collection Gift from Graeme Andrews

Bill Barnett, crew member of the 1967 America’s Cup challenger DAME PATTIE, c 1967. Copyright. ANMM Collection Gift from Graeme Andrews

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The Pittwater Regatta

Away, away to Broken Bay!”

Australia is not short of beautiful waterways and in the 1920s, around Christmas time, scores of boats would begin heading north from Sydney Harbour to visit one such spectacular site and to take part in one of the most important events on the New South Wales yachting calendar – the Pittwater Regatta.

Sloops under sail, possibly at the Pittwater Regatta. ANMM Collection 00011562

Sloops under sail, possibly at the Pittwater Regatta. ANMM Collection 00011562

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Mystery solved! The pretty woman is…

Portrait of Hera Roberts

Miss Hera Roberts on board HNLMS Java, 10 October 1930
Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

This is one of my favourite photographs by Samuel J Hood. It is also one of the most beautiful portraits that I have seen from the museum’s collection. For quite some time though, the identity of the subject remained a mystery. Time and time and again I would go back to this photograph, zooming in and back out, trying to spot that elusive clue that would miraculously lead to a name; a name and then hopefully a story. So imagine my surprise when I came back from the holiday break and saw that someone had found exactly that. A name and a story… Continue reading

Flickr Commons turns 5!

Five years ago today the Flickr Commons was launched. Since then, about 250,000 images from 56 different libraries, archives and museums have been uploaded, promoting the world’s photographic collections in all its splendour. I don’t think any of us envisioned the response it has elicited from audiences around the world. In particular, from a large group of elite photo investigators, people the National Library of Ireland refers to as the ‘Flickeroonies’ and who we often call the ‘super sleuths’. This group have invested hours upon hours of thorough research identifying people, places and key events, adding new meaning to the images on The Commons. To celebrate The Commons’ 5th birthday and, as a hats off to these contributors, The Library of Congress sent out a call for the most viewed, commented or favourited images on The Commons. We, and quite a number of other institutions, answered the call and the result was a fascinating array of snapshots from the past.

Baby and a dog on a sailing ship, c 1910. By Samuel Hood, ANMM Collection 00023789

Baby and a dog on a sailing ship, c 1910. By Samuel Hood, ANMM Collection 00023789

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A Special Kind of Bluebird

For many years to come Australian women will be judged by you… Just as each soldier should fight as if the results of the battle depended upon his individual effort, so each one of you will do her work for something else besides the love of it, for the reputation of our great country. (24.08.1916)

With these words Lieutenant Colonel A. B. Brockway of the Army Medical Corps heralded the start of WW1 service for a group of exceptional Australian nurses.

They were known as the ‘Bluebirds’, so called because of their distinctive dark blue uniforms with pale blue piping and hat band. The Bluebirds were not members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, rather they were a small group of selected professionals funded by the Australian Red Cross Society as a ‘gift’ to the French Government for whom nurses were in short supply.

Australian Red Cross nurses and their French tutor Josephine Niau beside KANOWNA, Melbourne 1916. 00027608 ANMM Collection

Australian Red Cross nurses and their French tutor Josephine Niau beside KANOWNA, Melbourne 1916. 00027608 ANMM Collection

The Bluebirds left Melbourne on the troopship KANOWNA on 4 July 1916, keen to fulfil Brockway’s expectations of them as representatives of Australian women in a role that allowed a level of female participation in war that others could not come close to. This vital service saw women serve close to the front lines, share in the harsh conditions and deal directly with the effects of war as they fulfilled their nursing duties. Continue reading

From Brunswick to Bullecourt

In a sea of faces, some worried, some jubilant, Private John Michael Hassett poses for a picture. It is October 1916, Melbourne, and Hassett and other members of his battalion are just about to board the troopship Nestor to leave for war. Hassett kneels in the front row, his hat turned to the side and his kit bag rolled forward to expose his name and service number. Perhaps he intended his name to be recorded when posing for the camera – perhaps not – however this is exactly what happened.

22nd Btn waiting to board HMAT NESTOR, Hassett is kneeling, second from right, front row. #00027618 ANMM Collection

22nd Btn waiting to board HMAT NESTOR, Hassett is kneeling, second from right, front row. #00027618 ANMM Collection

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The Lady Rowers of the YWCA

Crew of YWCA Four outside Gardner’s Boatshed

Crew of YWCA Four outside Gardner’s Boatshed Sydney. Trixie Whaling possibly second on right. 00042417 ANMM Collection Gift from the Estate of Trixie Whaling

In case you hadn’t yet heard, the Olympics are just about to roll around again. As July comes to a close the Olympics will commence, captivating the world as it showcases the physical heights of human potential and creates history in its wake. Clearly this is an excellent opportunity for museums such as ours to combine a very Australian love of sports with a little history.

As a museum it is our role to collect objects, documents and photographs that have been generated within our culture, by our culture, that hold some significance or are deemed to be representative in some way. As a museum that is themed around Australia’s interactions with water, it is perhaps not surprising that a lot of what has made its way through this selection process and into our collection is related to sport and the achievements of our sporting champions. Continue reading

Mystery Men

Portrait of a man holding a bottle

Portrait of a man holding a bottle. Reg #00013712, ANMM Collection Gift from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron

Portrait of a man

Portrait of an unidentified man. Reg # 00013263

Can YOU help?

These portraits are part of the museum’s William J Hall collection, a little-known Sydney photographer whose varied portfolio includes images of sailing and harbour scenes, landscapes, and livestock and agriculture photography.

However, within this extensive collection there are also a series of striking studio portraits. A nun, a priest, babies and brides, grooms, soldiers, sailors and costumed performers are all part of the impressive line up of subjects and, unfortunately, they are all unidentified.

Group portrait of three unidentified men

Group portrait of three unidentified men. Reg# 00013308

Recently we have had some success in identifying people and places that feature in some of the museum’s photographs. The ladies who stylishly attended the foreign naval visits in Sydney Harbour in the 1930s are slowly making themselves known to us, as are the landmarks photographed by William F Hall around the Hawkesbury River in the late 1800s. Over on our Flickr page knowledgeable members of the public have been contributing to the Australian National Maritime Museum’s collection by suggesting names, locations, dates and events that relate to our photographic records. In doing so they have been adding invaluably to the wealth of information in the museum’s records. Like many museums, we are trying to make more of our collections available online, not only so we can provide information, but so we can collect it. The objects, records and photographs of museums are created by and collected for the communities around them – so who better to assist with our research?

So, can you help us solve some of these little mysteries? Do you know the man in the hat? The guy with the pipe or the masonic apron? Who’s the man with the banjo and the lady with the veil? More importantly, who was their optometrist? If you have answers, or just want to view some amazing photos, head on over to our Flickr site!

Penny Hyde

Curatorial assistant

Group portrait of three women

Group portrait of three women. Reg# 00013339

Portrait of a man holding a banjo

Portrait of a man holding a banjo. Reg# 00013213

How to park a lightship

In the misty rain of an early Sydney morning the museum’s fleet section moved CLS4 – aka Carpentaria lightship – from the main museum wharves back to its normal berth at Wharf 7.  Nudged along by our tug Bareki and towed by the Arvor workboat the operation was seamlessly completed before most people arrived at work. All in a day’s work for fleet!

Carpentaria lightship is carefully moored at Wharf 7

Commonwealth Lightship No. 4, also known as CLS4 or Carpentaria is a riveted, steel hulled, unpowered and unattended vessel fitted with a light and bell to act as a light vessel or light ship. It was built in 1917/18 at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney – one of four sister ships designed by D & C Stevenson of Edinburgh, Scotland for the Commonwealth Department of Transport in 1915.  CLS4 spent most of its service life on Merkara Shoal in the Arafura Sea at the top of the Gulf of Carpentaria with the name Carpentaria emblazoned in large black letters along both sides of its red hull. It was last stationed in the Bass Strait oilfields just north of Wilson’s Promontory serving as a Traffic Separator until it was retired from service in 1985, and transferred to the Australian National Maritime Museum the following year.  CLS2 is displayed at the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane.

– Lindsey Shaw, Senior Curator

Come perform at the museum

Lyneham High School band from the ACT performed recently at the museum.

Lyneham High School performs outside the museum on 22 September 2009.

The museum loves music and encourages school bands to perform on its forecourt. So far we’ve had school bands from South Australia, Coffs Harbour and recently Lyneham High School from the ACT. We’d love to hear your school band perform. It’s a great way to get performance experience and show Sydney what your school band is made of.

If you’d like your school band to play at the museum, please contact us at events@anmm.gov.au

The Charlotte Medal

On public display for the first time in over 20 years the celebrated Charlotte Medal is one of the few objects still in existence from the voyage of First Fleet.   Convict Thomas Barrett engraved the 74 mm silver Charlotte Medal on board the transport ship Charlotte when it was anchored in Botany Bay in January 1788. Along with the rest of the fleet Charlotte was awaiting Governor Phillip’s decision to sail north to strike the first European settlement at Port Jackson.

On public display for the first time in over 20 years the celebrated Charlotte Medal is one of the few objects still in existence from the voyage of First Fleet. Convict Thomas Barrett engraved the 74 mm silver Charlotte Medal on board the transport ship Charlotte when it was anchored in Botany Bay in January 1788. Along with the rest of the fleet Charlotte was awaiting Governor Phillip’s decision to sail north to strike the first European settlement at Port Jackson.