A voyage into registration standards: insights from a registration intern

The exterior of the Nautilus in Voyage to the Deep

The exterior of the Nautilus in the exhibition Voyage to the Deep

“Nature’s creative power is far beyond man’s instinct of destruction.”
― Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Every Monday and Friday since the beginning of February I have assisted the Registration Department as a student intern, cataloguing the in-house travelling exhibition Voyage to the Deep.

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Creating art from ghost nets

When I first heard about Ghost Nets Australia and its work collecting discarded marine and fishing waste and human-made debris, I was intrigued. As I learnt more about the organisation’s inspiring, creative and innovative environmental projects, I began to appreciate the deeper complexity and change-making effect of their work.

Turtle caught in ghost nets

This turtle was found barely alive during patrol by Dhimurru Rangers. Photo by Jane Dermer. Courtesy Ghost Nets Australia.

Ghost Nets Australia is a multi-faceted organisation dedicated to rescuing and protecting marine environments from ghost nets—fishing nets which are lost at sea and collect marine organisms as they float in the oceans and wash onto shores. Working with Indigenous Ranger Groups and volunteers, Ghost Nets Australia collects massive amounts of discarded ghost nets and marine debris from coastal areas, creating art from it, educating people, collaborating with communities, collecting data and bringing about lasting change.

Ranger freeing a turtle from ghost nets

Senior Nanum Wungthim Ranger, Phillip Mango cutting free a juvenile Hawksbill turtle. Photo by Matt Gillis. Courtesy Ghost Nets Australia.

Ghost nets are a major threat to marine fauna and flora. Marine debris such as thongs, plastic bottles and cans are also collected. Most ghost nets come from discarded fishing vessels from the Indonesian region and Arafura Sea, and the majority are from from trawl fisheries and gill nets. The data collected by Ghost Nets Australia shows that most nets are found in the far north of Australia, especially the Gulf of Carpentaria where 90% of the nets are found. The Gulf of Carpentaria is one of the last remaining ecosystems for endangered marine and coastal species such as six of the world’s seven marine turtle species, dugongs and sawfish. Ghost Nets Australia prioritises rescuing turtles, which represent 80% of marine life caught in the nets, with over 300 turtles rescued so far. Since 2004, over 13,000 nets have been removed from Australian beaches and estuaries.

Ghost Nets Australia and the Ghost Nets Art Project aims to transform the destructive ghost nets and marine debris materials into artworks. A major part of this work is community collaboration and community workshops, predominantly held where ghost nets are found. This not only benefits the environment, but has wider positive effects for communities and for educational purposes.

Sue Ryan from Ghost Nets Australia

Sue Ryan, Director of the Ghost Nets Australia Art Project, working on the initial structure of the bommie at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The museum is excited to be working with the Ghost Nets Australia on a collaborative sculpture of a coral reef ‘bommie’, or coral outcrop, which will be part of our upcoming exhibition Voyage to the Deep: Underwater Adventures. In September, we hosted a week-long workshop with visiting artist Karen Hethey and Ghost Nets Art Project Director Sue Ryan, who helped create the structure of the bommie. The sculpture recreates the seafloor environment and coral reef ecosystem, using collected ghost nets and marine debris, all stitched together using fishing line.

Making marine creatures for the bommie sculpture

Artist Karen Hethey working on marine creatures made of thongs and marine debris for the bommie at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The sculpture is an ongoing project. Staff, volunteers and museum visitors have assisted over the past few months, adding coral made of ropes, marine creatures made of thongs, fish made of bottles, ropes and ghost nets. Members of the public are also invited to contribute.

Bommie sculture in progress at the museum

Progress: museum staff and visitors contributing to the bommie sculpture.

Ghost Nets Australia’s projects educate on a wide-reaching scale, and this has ongoing positive impacts on the environment, local communities, and has a significant role in influencing lasting change for present and future generations.

See the bommie at Voyage to the Deep, open from 9 December 2014 to 27 April 2015. Read more about ghost nets on the Ghost Nets Australia website.

To learn how to make your own marine creatures for our ghost net bommie, stay tuned for part two of this blog.

Ester Sarkadi-Clarke, Ghost Nets Project Intern

Sailing away into Sydney Harbour’s past with Britannia

Hi! My name is Geneviève Bourgon or ‘Gwen’ and I’m a museum studies student at the University of Sydney. I am currently interning in the Registration department of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

My project is to digitise an archival collection of photographs, postcards and sailing programs associated with Britannia, an 18ft sailing vessel and its builder, owner and skipper  ‘Wee’ Georgie Robinson. Digitising a collection makes all the information about the objects more accessible, 22,000 collection objects have been release on the museum’s collection website for everyone to access.

The collection I am cataloguing dates from the 1920s through to the 1960s. The majority are sailing programs of weekly sailing competitions on Sydney Harbour, special championships and anniversary regattas. They begin as a single page and double sided program and evolve into massive 100 page booklets filled with interesting events surrounding the regatta and advertising.

Flat bed scanner

Flat bed scanner

First, I scanned the items using a flatbed scanner, and then I created an image and a PDF of pages scanning them as an optical character recognition (OCR) file to enable searching through the text on individual pages which are combined to form a single PDF document. Information is added to the collection management database where all 140,000 objects in the museum’s collection, are catalogued.

Second, I update any missing cataloguing data from the records such as: the object measurements, update its title, what it’s made of, and what it looks like. Continue reading

Son of a Shipwright

I’m Sydney University Museum Studies student Dimity Kasz, and with Courtney, I am completing an internship here at the Maritime Museum. We’re registering the Lake Collection of shipwrights’ tools. Registering a collection includes accessioning, cataloguing, cleaning, and photographing the objects so they can live happily inside the museum with a full catalogue record to their name.

Selection of shipwright tools

A selection of the Lake shipwright tools. ANMM Collection

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Musical Mallets – the sing song sounds of caulking tools

What on earth is caulking? This is just one of many ‘What the…?’ moments I had when I first delved into the world of shipwright’s tools as part of my internship experience at the Australian National Maritime Museum. I’m a student at The University of Sydney  working toward my Master of Museum Studies degree and with fellow intern Dimity Kasz – for our recent internship project at the museum we have registered the Lake collection of shipwright’s tools. This collection of several hundred tools were owned by father and son Alfred and Bernard Lake date from around 1890 to 1950.

Registering a collection involves researching the objects and their context, cataloguing them and recording details such as general description, dimensions, markings and interesting features and assigning each object with a unique identifying number and collection record. To our surprise, we found this to be a very interesting set of tools, many of which were hand-made, passed from father to son.

But what exactly is caulking? Continue reading

Raine Island: it never Raines, it pours…

Hey, it’s Oli here again to tell you about another one of my tasks as an intern here at the museum: research!!

Early next year (2013), the museum plans on making a trip to the tip of Northern Queensland in the hope of investigating, surveying, and possibly excavating some endangered artefacts from the reef-riddled waters surrounding the infamous Raine Island. Perhaps the word ‘infamous’ is a little strong these days, but if there is one thing this research has taught me, it’s that Raine Island was absolutely treacherous for sailors during the 19th century, with around 40 known shipwrecks in the area immediately surrounding the island (one article I found stated that there had been 51 wrecks in the area in 1854 alone).

“Disaster at Sea”, Woven by the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, concept by Murray Walker, Ausrtalia, 1989. ANMM Collection

From the late 1700s onwards, Raine Island represented an opening in the Great Barrier Reef, and the start of the passage through Torres Strait for ships attempting to voyage from the East coast of Australia to Asia, India, and Europe. Once past the island, ships could enjoy the protection of the reef, and relatively calm waters safe from the furious surf of the Pacific Ocean. However, before ships could take advantage of this calm, they had to navigate waters riddled with small and large reefs, and if a crew failed to properly identify a certain landmark, or else allowed themselves to deviate slightly from the established path, they were almost guaranteed to spend the rest of their voyage in a lifeboat (if they were lucky).

Alongside attempting to discover various facts about the ships’ destination and cargo, I am looking for accounts of the actual wrecking events in the newspapers of the period. This has exposed me to some amazing stories of death and survival, the like of which I would not otherwise have imagined were possible in the Australian context.

One of the most morbidly interesting is the story of the Charles Eaton, which was a barque out of Sydney bound for Singapore with around 40 people on board. On 15 August 1834, the barque mounted a reef and stuck fast under the heavy surf of the Pacific Ocean. Five members of the crew, including the ship’s carpenter and boatswain, immediately abandoned ship on the only boat that was still usable, but the others refused to join them because it seemed utterly hopeless for the little boat to get away. The five managed to survive and navigated their way right across the top of Australia to Timor where they were immediately robbed, and were almost murdered, but for the kindness of an elderly man, who nevertheless held them captive for over a year.

The rest of the crew on board the Charles Eaton set about making a raft from the components of the ship (after the storm had subsided) and finally succeeded in making a vessel large enough to carry around 10 people including three young boys: George and Willy D’Oyley, and William Sexton. The raft was set adrift, and the crew paddled for some days before meeting a man in a canoe, who invited them onto a nearby island, where he promised them turtle meat. Upon landing, the group were attacked by a large number of men, who decapitated all of them, except for the three boys, who were to be assimilated into the community (George D’Oyley and William Sexton were, however, beaten to death around two months later). Meanwhile, the rest of the crew still aboard the Charles Eaton had constructed another raft which would be capable of holding them all. This final vessel was cast off, and paddled around for a full week before also landing on an island at the direction of a man in a canoe. As the crew collapsed, exhausted upon the sand, they were attacked and butchered, and all were decapitated save another young boy who was also subsequently adopted into the community (the very same people who dealt likewise with the other raft).

The cover of a book in the museum’s collection, which is a narritive written by William Sexton some time after the shipwreck ordeal. It tells of his adventure, and some fond memories of his time on the island.

The fate of the Charles Eaton was an utter mystery for many months, before the five remaining crew managed to escape from their captivity in Timor, and sail to Batavia to alert authorities to the wreck. At this point, a rescue ship was sent out, but failed to discover the whereabouts of the survivors until the captain of another vessel reported sighting a white child in an indigenous family. The rescue vessel located them, along with a number of skulls identified as belonging to the crew of the Charles Eaton. The two boys were taken back to Europe, and provided witness to the whole event some two years after it had occurred (despite now having a slightly limited grasp on the English language).

Another interesting (and somewhat shorter) story was that of the Norna, which left for Hong Kong from Newcastle in 1861 under a cloud of controversy surrounding the murderous behaviour of the previous captain. The Norna was wrecked on a reef described merely as being 14 miles away from the wreck of the Constant. The ship and crew had been missing for some time before a search was sent out in the form of the Sphinx, which started searching islands around the Coral Sea, and managed to find a note in a glass bottle buried on a tropical island under a tree with a plaque reading “NORNA”. The note was written by the Second Officer of the Norna, and described the wreck event, and the subsequent months of being marooned on the island. The captain and his family had left after a week on the island, never to be heard of again. The rest of the crew intended to make for the ‘Pellew Islands’ in the remaining boat, but were not found there by the rescue vessel.

After further searches were made of the surrounding islands, the crew of the Norna were located on an island, but in the captivity of the indigenous people who refused to release their captives or negotiate with the would-be rescuers. As a result, the crew of the Sphinx burned down all the villages on the island, and held the the local chiefs hostage until eventually the surviving crew of the Norna were handed over.

These accounts, and others like them, provide an amazing insight into the extraordinary stories emanating from Australia’s maritime history, and the fact that many of these vessels are yet to be properly investigated (let alone discovered) convince me that the maritime archaeologists here at the museum have some of the most remarkable jobs in Australia!

Dunbar: Dun and Dusted

Hi, it’s Oli again. This time I’m going to tell you about another one of my tasks as an intern at the museum in the curatorial department, which is writing about the infamous Dunbar wreck.

As one of the most significant wrecks in Sydney’s waters, it is important for the museum’s history of the wreck to be complete and accurate. To this end, I found myself reading Kieran Hosty’s book Dunbar 1857, Disaster on Our Doorstep, which paints a fascinating history of the wreck, according to the archaeological discoveries from the wreck site (just south of The Gap, near South Head, Sydney). I am tentative to admit the fact that I didn’t get much work done that day was on account of the book, which is complete with hundreds of images of various artefacts salvaged from the wreck, and provides a vivid insight into a tragic page of Sydney’s past.

Here are some highlights from the story of the Dunbar:

After a fast voyage from England to Australia, Dunbar approached Port Jackson on the night of 20 August 1857, in a rising gale and bad visibility. The Macquarie Light could be seen between squalls, however the night was very dark and the land almost invisible. Shortly before midnight the veteran Captain Green estimated the ship was six miles away from the harbour’s entrance and ordered the vessel on, keeping the Macquarie Light on the port bow.

Buckles removed from the Dunbar wreck, now preserved at the museum.

Shortly afterwards breakers were sighted ahead, and Captain Green, believing the vessel had sailed too far towards North Head, ordered the helm hard to port. Dunbar struck the cliffs just south of the Signal Station at South Head, and the ship immediately began to break up. All 63 passengers and 58 of the crew perished in the disaster.

The sole survivor was James Johnson, an able seaman on watch at the time of the wreck. He was hurled into the surging ocean, where he was thrust by the waves into the cliffs and onto a rocky ledge – he climbed as far up the cliff-face as he could, and managed to get out of the reach of the waves. Johnson would remain there for two days, before being hauled up by a rope lowered over the cliff-face.

Many Sydneysiders knew the people on the ship and large crowds were drawn to the scene of the wreck to watch the rescue of Johnson, the recovery of bodies, and the salvage of cargo – newspapers were filled with graphic descriptions of the wreck for weeks after.

A small selection of the vast number of coins removed from the Dunbar wreck, now preserved at the museum.

The victims of Dunbar were buried at St Stephens Church in Newtown, and an estimated 20,000 people attended. Banks and offices closed, every ship flew their ensigns at half-mast, and minute guns were fired as the procession went past. Later, there was an outpouring of letters demanding the upgrade of the lighthouses, and the issue was raised in Parliament and recommended by the jury of the Dunbar inquest. This recommendation was followed in 1858 when Hornby Lighthouse was constructed.

The museum has a fascinating collection relating to this disaster and my job has been to proof the entries in our collection management system to ensure all the information is correct.

NB. Many of the artefacts in the museum’s Dunbar collection were removed from the wreck by hobby divers during the 1960s and 1970s, before the advent of laws protecting significant historical maritime sites.

Divine Provenence

My name is Oliver O’Sullivan, and I am currently completing an internship at the museum, working in the curatorial department at Wharf 7. I started on 25 July, and on the first day Lindsey Shaw, my supervisor, assigned me a few tasks which I am now going to tell you about.

One of the main issues with working at a museum of this size is the number of artefacts which accumulate over time, and the difficulty resulting from the constant need to keep the information we have on the various items up to date. With this in mind, my first task was (and still is) to update the database in relation to eight of these artefacts, and attempt to establish their history and also their significance within the Australian context.

One of the items which I found quite interesting was a book that had been donated to the museum during the 1980s by Keith Wingrove. It was called A Narrative of the Loss of the Royal George at Spithead, August, 1782, by Admiral Sir C P H Durham, 1840, and whilst the actual contents of the book do not concern Australia particularly, the background of the book itself is fascinating. The story of the Royal George is of an enormous man-o-war which sank whilst undergoing routine maintenance in an English port, taking possibly upwards of 1000 lives with it to the bottom.

The front cover of the book features a piece of the orginal wood deck from the Royal George

The book in the collection is a relic of the wreck, as it has a section of the decking from the actual ship for its front cover (the back cover was probably replaced).What makes the book significant to Australian history, however, is the fact that the book was also one of the few personal possessions carried by John Stannage, who was a radio operator, and one of only three people on board the Southern Cross airplane when it completed the world’s first east/west trans-Atlantic flight in June 1930, under the pilotage of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935), the Australian aviation pioneer. The book was given by Stannage to a friend of his, who in turn passed it on to Norman Lindsay (1879-1969), one of Australia’s most famous and enduring artists. Lindsay retained the book for many years before passing it on to Keith Wingrove, his close personal friend.

Internal image of the book

A Narrative of the Loss of the Royal George at Spithead, August, 1782, by Admiral Sir C.P.H. Durham, 1840

Such interesting provenance is rare.

A treasure trove of shipwright’s tools: exploring the Higham collection

Greetings my name is Candice Witton and I am working with Roxi Truesdale as an Intern in the Registration department at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Roxi and I have been accessioning the Higham shipwright tool collection into the museum database. I will be profiling some of the fascinating tools we have uncovered.

Of the 180 or so objects in the Higham collection we have had great success (so far) identifying the many (at first) boggling variations of tools. We have had some amazing reference material from the Vaughan Evans Library which we are so grateful for. Without this, we may have been left referring to the many different varieties of caulking irons as ‘chisels’ and helical auger drill bits as ‘spiral drills with screws on top’. Thankfully we have now been exposed to the fascinating world of shipwrighting, and the process of caulking.

Caulking is simply the method of sealing joints or seams. Caulking irons are used in a similar manner to chisels, hammering a fibrous material into the joints between wooden planks. This is done to make the vessel watertight and leak free.

Caulking Irons

Sharp caulking irons

Here we have two caulking irons from the Higham collection. On the left is a significantly older model than the relatively newer iron on the right. Traditional caulking on wooden vessels uses fibres of cotton and oakum – usually a material such as hemp fibre soaked in pine tar. These specific irons are known as sharp or butt irons, and they are used for forcing the caulk into narrow areas.

Reefing Irons

Reefing irons

Here are two reefing or clearing irons from the Higham collection. The left iron is an older model than the one on the right. Reefing irons were used to scrape out old oakum, to clean the seams to make way for new caulking.

Helical auger drill bit
Helical auger drill bit

The Higham tool collection contains many variants on auger drill bits. Here is a standard bit, which features a rotating helical blade and a screw to pull it into the wood. This bit is to be used in a hand-brace, and is effective at moving wooden material out of the hole being drilled.

Cold Chisel

One object in the Higham tool kit remains a bit of a mystery. This object seems quite unusual, and after consultation with tool experts we were left stumped. It is most possibly a variation on a cold chisel, and after doing extensive online research this is what it most closely resembles. Regardless how I phrased my searches, I still returned numerous references to Jimmy Barnes!

Cold Chisel

What is also curious are the manufacturers logos “Plumb (Aust) PT” on one side, “Fern Tools” with fern frond on the other. I discovered W H Plumb Australia is of axe making fame, but beyond that we haven’t had a lot of luck!

So there you have a small sample of some of the many, many interesting tools of the Higham tool collection. You can read Roxi’s awesome blog detailing our first contact with the tool collection, and curator Stephen Gapp’s fascinating blog on the origins of the collection. Stay tuned for more intern blogs as we explore the time and place that these tools were used.


Registration Intern

A treasure trove of shipwright tools: putting the pieces together

Hi, my name is Roxi Truesdale and I am working together with Candice Witton on an internship project within the Registration department of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Interns with shipwright tools

Interns Candice (left) and Roxi (right)

Our project involves registering a collection of shipwright tools that belonged to a father and son, Thomas and William Higham, which curator Stephen Gapps has previously written a wonderful post about.

When I first set eyes upon the collection I had no idea where to start. The extent of my knowledge of tools was being able to tell the difference between a flat head and Phillips head screwdriver. However, after a couple of weeks with the Higham collection I am now relatively convinced that I could build a boat. (It would probably sink once it got into the water but at least it would resemble a boat.)

It would be safe to say that Candice didn’t know much more than I did about tools and so this has been quite the learning experience for us both. While we have been educating ourselves on which tools do what, we have had to resort to coming up with a few nicknames in the meantime. So, at the risk of truly exposing my ignorance I will share them with you now.


A tube spanner

Tube spanner

This tool had us completely puzzled. We could not find it in any of our shipwright tool reference books. Before learning the name of this incredibly common tool thanks to some handy friends on Facebook we referred to it as a ‘flute’. This might have been in part inspired by the fondness for dancing and music that we had discovered in shipwright documentaries from the mid-20th century.


A spokeshave


While we were able to find this tool eventually within our reference books we did give it another name previously and it continues to be known fondly as the ‘space invader’.

A spoke shave that looks like a space invader

However, despite its otherworldly appearance this tool is not an alien from an 80’s videogame and was used by shipwrights to smooth out and shape pieces of wood.


A multi wrench


And finally there were the tools that we had a pretty good idea of what they were but couldn’t help letting our imagination get the better of us.

A multi-wrench with a triceratops drawn over the top

We knew that this tool was some type of wrench but until we found out its exact name it was the ‘triceratops’, despite it looking less prehistoric than some of the other tools in the collection.

But for now I must get back to working out what the rest of these shipwright tools are. Keep an eye out for more posts from myself and Candice over the coming weeks.

Registration Intern.

From Collections to Connections – Insights from a Curatorial/ Web Content Intern

Hi there, Mariko here. I had a week off from my internship last week, and am now back at work again with my Indigenous Communities collection research project on a select group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their artworks.

I was very keen to get back to the museum – not just because I have heaps of work to do (which I really do…) – but also because I heard George Clooney was in town and hanging out at Pyrmont and Darling Harbour, tantalisingly close to the Wharf 7 building.

Unfortunately, George didn’t stick around long enough to fit in with this week’s internship schedule, however I managed to pull myself together and get on with the tasks at hand. This included continuing on with my object and artist record updating (for both the museum’s internal collections management system and for potential audience-facing material); kicking off the image reproduction approval process with emails; and working on a fun activity which will be the focus of this blog post today.

This activity marks the next stage of my project to combine object and artist biographical information in a geographical context, and plugging the research into the form of a Google map.

Since this is a prototype and still very much a work-in-progress, I haven’t included a visual of it here, but in case you’re not familiar with this great interweb tool – here’s a mock-up showing the museum’s (and George Clooney’s previous) location.

Google Map of Australian National Maritime Museum
View Australian National Maritime Museum in a larger map

We are hoping to use the finished product on the museum’s website to provide visitors with a way to connect the artworks with the actual physical locations they are related to – whether this may be the places they were made, or the places that inspired or featured in the artwork. The idea is to demonstrate that these objects have a life and presence beyond the museum and online space, and especially for many Indigenous Australians, showing the strong influence of country on life and culture. It is also something which could be easily replicated for other objects and collections.

Next week will be my last post for 2011, so I thought it would be fitting to do a re-cap of the Indigenous-related exhibitions the museum has been involved with this year.

Cheers, Mariko

PS – If you missed my last post, you can read it here.

From Collections to Connections: Insights from a Curatorial/ Web Content Intern

Hello, Mariko here again – this is my second week back at the museum and I’m already a quarter of the way through my internship (!).

So far, I’ve caught up with the lovely people here at Wharf 7 (where curatorial is based) and met new people in the main museum building (where web content development is located).  I also have been taking full advantage of the museum’s great harbourside location – having lunch outside in the sunshine on the Wharf 7 balcony, right next to the James Craig (being an intern sure is a tough gig).

Besides the dazzling social life and scenic views, things have been pretty busy here in curatorial, as well as for the museum generally. I’ve been “hot-desking” around the curatorial section, as we have a work experience student here this week working with the Australian naval history collection. Also, staff are gearing up for the opening of AQUA: A Journey into the World of Water this week, and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek into this sensational and very thought-provoking exhibition.

After leaving AQUA, I made my way through the Eora First People gallery – this is a core gallery showing a small selection of the museum’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural material. It presents a broad and diverse range of the various Indigenous communities the museum works with from across the country. This is much like my internship project’s selection of Indigenous artists.

Eora First People gallery

Eora First People gallery (Andrew Frolows, ANMM photographer)

For instance, Lola Greeno and the Saltwater collection artists – who are part of my internship project and also have work on display in Eora First People – come from different parts of Australia, and express their connections to the local water environments in a variety of ways. Lola Greeno is a Tasmanian Aboriginal artist from the Bass Strait region, and her works include intricate shell necklaces and water carriers made with sea kelp. The Saltwater collection artists are Yolgnu people who create bark paintings, which form detailed maps of the saltwater country and related law in northern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

In preparation for updating the museum’s internal object and maker records, I have been carrying out in-depth research on the artists and their works. This involves learning more about the Indigenous experiences, histories and knowledges that the artists had carried through into their work. Through this project, I hope to incorporate these themes into the records, so the works are seen as more than merely artistic or ethnographic objects of study.

On that note, I must get back to the research. Next time you’ll hear from me will be in mid-December.


PS: If you missed my last post, you can read it here.

Work experience with the fleet team

My name is Joel and I’m a 16 year old from Picnic Point High School. Over the past week I have been doing some work experience at the Australian National Maritime Museum as a way to learn more about my hopeful career in the Navy. For the past week I have been observing and helping, where I can, the fleet crew and numerous volunteers. The people have been so helpful, welcoming and willing to share their vast knowledge with me.

Joel onboard Advance

Joel onboard patrol vessel Advance

I spent my first day working on a World War II raider ship cleaning, learning different knots and rope techniques, as well as getting to know everyone there. There’s a really interesting history to the ship and the guys were very welcoming and a lot of fun.

The next day I spent most of my time on HMAS Onslow submarine and HMAS Vampire destroyer with the guys that keep it running and the volunteers that run the tours and share their knowledge with visitors and me, as some of them are themselves ex-Navy.

Joel helping place the gangway to RV Whale Song

Joel helping place the gangway to RV Whale Song

I have spent some time learning the unique and interesting history behind the vessels I have been working on. I have experienced how dockyards work when observing the mast of Thistle, a ship from the 1900’s, being unstepped and craned up to the docks for further restoration. Later that day the fleet manager Phil took me around the harbour on a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) to see some of the Naval ports and stations. As this was one of my first real maritime experience, it was a lot of fun. I will also be accompanying an old Navy patrol vessel across the harbour, which will be a memorable experience.

I also got to have a look around the museum and the other Navy patrol boats learning all the maritime rules and little techniques from the shipwrights and workers. It has been a great and rewarding experience and I would like to say thank you to everyone that helped me: Phillip McKendrick, Jim, Jeff, Michael, Peter, Lee, Ben, Joe, Warrick, all the volunteers, and Gemma who made it possible for me to spend time here.


From Collections to Connections – Insights from a Curatorial/ Web Content Intern

Mariko Smith at her desk
Mariko Smith, Curatorial/Web Content Intern

Hi, I’m Mariko Smith, and I’ll be working at the Australian National Maritime Museum until late January 2012, as part of an internship course for a Master of Museum Studies at the University of Sydney.

This is actually my second internship at the museum – I completed my first one earlier this year in the curatorial department, working closely with the Indigenous Communities collection. This collection consists of various objects, mainly artworks, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. That internship involved reviewing and organising image reproduction approvals from various stakeholders, so the museum could use images of the objects in this collection on its online collections database resource, eMuseum.

This time around, I’m back in curatorial (even at my old desk), working with the Indigenous Communities collection, but with a new twist. To start off, I’ll be continuing my previous work on image reproduction approvals and updating internal object and maker records – this time for a specific selection of objects chosen by senior curator, Lindsey Shaw.

However, I will also be working with web content development officer, Carli Collins to share this interesting selection of traditional bark paintings and artefacts, contemporary artworks and shell jewellery with the public, through the museum’s website and social media streams, such as Facebook, Twitter and of course this blog!

Before I started here, I wasn’t really aware of how much the museum was involved with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their cultural heritage. Now I have a greater appreciation of the rich and diverse connections many Indigenous Australians have with water and the sea.

I look forward to sharing my experiences throughout this internship with you.

Stay tuned!


Insights from a Registration Intern – Shipwrecks and artefacts


Tamara, Registration Intern

Over the past couple months I have assisted the registration department at the Australian National Maritime Museum as a student intern. The internship is a component of my master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Sydney.


Coin from the shipwreck Batavia

At the museum I am involved in the lengthy process of meticulously documenting and photographing new objects in the collection. The group of objects I am working with are from three Dutch shipwrecks off the coast of Western Australia – Batavia, Zeewijk and Vergulde Draeck. The ships sailed from the Netherlands to trade goods in faraway lands before their voyages were cut short, off the western coast of the Australia in 1629.

In the 1970s the objects were excavated from the shipwreck sites. Over 1500 of these objects are now part of the museum’s collection. They include silver coins, cannons, cannon balls, bottles, pipes and elephant tusks. From these objects we can learn more about the trading patterns from the period.

The remaining objects to be registered consist of hundreds of coins. Each coin will need to be carefully described, measured, weighed, photographed and given a museum number before it is ready to be packed for storage.

ANCODS Collection

Selection of objects from the ANCODS collection.

My work at the museum follows on from a number of other internship students who have diligently been working to register the collection. A selection of objects from this collection can currently be seen in the recent acquisitions showcase in the gallery.

Registration Intern