Sea Gypsies to Sultans: Meeting the mariners of the Java Sea

Arriving at Pasongsongan, Madura, to inspect a flamboyant fishing fleet returned from its nightly fishery on the Java Sea. All photography by Jeffrey Mellefont.

Arriving at Pasongsongan, Madura, to inspect a flamboyant fishing fleet returned from its nightly fishery on the Java Sea. All photography by Jeffrey Mellefont.

Thirty years ago, field-research for the museum took me to a remote little Indonesian island called Raas in the Java Sea. It was so far off regular motor-ship routes that I took passage on an engineless trading prahu propelled by a huge lateen sail. Prahus like these, called lete-lete, provided transport and livelihoods for Raas and adjacent islands, and some of them were sailed on long-haul fishing expeditions into northern Australian waters. The museum, which at that time was just beginning to develop its collections and first exhibitions, wanted to learn more about various types of maritime contacts linking Australia and Indonesia.

This autumn I returned to these same waters, leading a small group of visitors from Australia, the UK and Canada who were eager to meet some of Indonesia’s least-known maritime communities, in a region of the Java Sea where tourism has not yet arrived.

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Crafting a sensory forest

Finished craft: A sensory jungle. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Finished craft: A sensory jungle. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Feathers, fur or fins,

shell or skin or scale,

if it walks on legs or flys on wings,

if it runs or crawls or slithers or swims…

I’m not sure if the timeless lyricism of Don Spencer echoes in anyone else’s mind when they behold the stunning selection of images that make up this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year but they sure do for me (possibly just a side effect of life in the kids programs lane – there is a catchy tune for almost everything!) Mischievous lizards catching tiny birds on the tip of their tongues, frenzied swarms of cuttlefish, grinning foxes, a veritable feast of tones, textures, unbelievable moments so magical and yet so vivid you feel like you could reach out and touch them.

Inspired by the Wildlife Photographer exhibition and our upcoming Sea-side Strollers sessions this month’s craft spot is devoted to wilderness themed sensory play resources, it’s a craft activity that is not necessarily done with kids but crafted for very young children.

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The Batavia tapestry

Melinda Piesse with her Batavia tapestry

Textile artist Melinda Piesse with her Batavia tapestry. Photographer Kristina Kingston, reproduced courtesy Melinda Piesse

Last week we unveiled a new large-scale embroidered work by Melbourne textile artist Melinda Piesse at the museum. Known as the Batavia tapestry (2017), it illustrates the tragic story of the wreck of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) flagship Batavia in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Western Australia, on 4 June 1629 and the sorry fate of the ship’s company.

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Casting the past: How to make cheap, easy moulds and casts

Casts, copies, the real and the replica. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Casts, copies, the real and the replica. Image: Annalice creighton / ANMM.

Casting and mould making are simultaneously the stuff of specialised artistic and scientific endeavours and the backbone of mass production. From fountain heads and amulets to the haunting plaster figures that are now synonymous with this ill-fated city, this month’s craft spot is inspired by the use of casting and moulds in ancient times to create the artefacts featured in our new exhibition Escape from Pompeii.

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Ken Warby and life lessons

SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA driven by Ken Warby on Blowering Dam. ANMM Collection ANMS1163[291], courtesy of Graeme Andrews.

SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA driven by Ken Warby on Blowering Dam. ANMM Collection ANMS1163[291], courtesy of Graeme Andrews.

Museums are truly wondrous places. Reminding us all where we have come from. Our shared history and what humans have experienced. I have always been constantly inspired by these stories but I now find myself using them as life lessons to be held up during moments of parental pressure. Continue reading

Governor Phillip’s ‘Portsmouth Gig’

This watercolour 'Ban nel long [Bennelong] meeting the Governor by appointment after he was wounded by Willemaring in September 1790' by The Port Jackson Painter shows Governor Arthur Phillip being rowed out to meet Bennelong to attempt a reconciliation after the Governor had been gravely wounded by a spear at Manly. Bennelong has his nawi (bark canoe) paddle raised. Watling Collection, Natural History Museum, UK.

This watercolour ‘Ban nel long [Bennelong] meeting the Governor by appointment after he was wounded by Willemaring in September 1790’ by The Port Jackson Painter shows Governor Arthur Phillip being rowed out to meet Bennelong to attempt a reconciliation after the governor had been gravely wounded by a spear at Manly. Bennelong has his nawi (bark canoe) paddle raised. Watling Collection, Natural History Museum, UK.

In January 1788, life for people in Sydney was transformed dramatically and forever. The first inkling of change was the appearance of two ship’s boats in the harbour. This was the advance party of the 11 ships anchored at Botany Bay, exploring what Captain Cook had called Port Jackson in 1770 as a better site for the establishment of a British colony. Little did the people of Sydney know what was to follow in the wake of these ship’s boats. Within 12 months a small bridgehead of British colonisation had taken hold around Warran, or Sydney Cove, and at least half the Indigenous population had died from disease, their bodies littering the foreshores of the harbour in May 1789.

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Endeavour sails and so could you

 

With just days to go, there is still lots of work to prepare HMB Endeavour Replica for its upcoming voyages. Apart from organising bookings, logistics and crew, the ship is being made ready, and last-minute maintenance and painting scheduled.

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Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrives at the museum

Guaya enters Sydney Harbour 8 January, 2016 - harbour bridge to the right on a sunny day.

Guayas enters Sydney Harbour, 8 January 2016. Photo Jude Timms/ANMM

The Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrived at the Australian National Maritime Museum this morning to an enthusiastic welcome from members of the Ecuadorian community and museum visitors and staff.

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A woolie mermaid

Sailor's woolwork picture of Mermaid, 1870s

Sailor’s woolwork picture of the convict transport Mermaid, 1870s. ANMM Collection, 00004596

Last week I started exploring the fascinating intersection between needlework, craft and maritime history in the museum’s collection, examining an embroidered sampler made by young British migrant Julia Donovan in 1879. Today I will be looking at the sampler’s first cousin – the sailor’s woolwork picture or embroidered ship portrait, affectionately known as a ‘woolie’.

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A migration story in stitch

One of my favourite objects in the museum’s collection is a charming needlework sampler made by 19-year-old assisted immigrant Julia Donovan on board the Carnatic in January 1879. Immigration records show that Julia arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, from England on 5 February 1879, and presumably went into domestic service in the growing port town.

Needlework sampler made by Julia Donovan on board Carnatic en route to Australia, 1879

Needlework sampler made by Julia Donovan on board Carnatic en route to Australia, 1879

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