Buckets of fun

Child’s toy sand bucket, manufactured by Chad Valley Toys and featuring the boat ‘Saucy Sal’, circa 1930. ANMM Collection 00001533.

Child’s toy sand bucket, manufactured by Chad Valley Toys and featuring the boat ‘Saucy Sal’, circa 1930. ANMM Collection 00001533.

Where does Australians’ love of the sea first start if not at the beach as children? Absorbed for hours by the sand, ignoring the heat and discomfort of constantly wet swimmers, they diligently build and rebuild imagined cities and swimming holes, filled up by countless trips down to the water’s edge to return with slopping buckets of seawater.

In the big scheme of the museum’s collection, they are not your standout items. Overshadowed by bigger and bolder objects jostling for gallery space, the collection of beach buckets sits in storage protected from the rigours of the outside world. But they are very much part of the fabric of Australian maritime history.

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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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Lucy’s Adventures

Lucy's Adventures iconThe museum’s first children’s app has been unleashed.  Lucy’s Adventures is a puzzle infused version of fuzzy-felts for the digital generation.   Instead of pastel coloured boards children choose form a selection of richly illustrated backgrounds and their own photos.  They can drag-and-drop imaginary characters, museum and fantasy objects on to the different backgrounds, change the weather and time of day to create a scene.

The adventure really starts when kids opt to animate and record the goings on in their fantasy world.  The best bit for me is the weather.  Snow stormLighthouse background day time on a desert island, no problem just dial it up. However, I’ve been quite intrigued to see how children in the target age range will respond.

The app is intended to be educational.  Introducing children to museum objects and fantasyLucy's Adventure lighthouse night time characters in a fun way and giving them opportunities to improve their fine motor skills and boost their confidence and creativity.  Educational milestones for children under 7 are vague, focusing on overall skill acquisition instead of defining specific skills for each age group.  This makes sense as children develop skills in different areas at different rates.

Lucy’s Adventures is aimed at children between 3 and 8 and works on different levels allowing children to be immersed in and delighted by different aspects of the app.   Children can dress the main character, Lucy, in her Viking costume or as many variants of the Viking costume as they can dream up.

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Stories of growing up in Australia

Earlier this month I was delighted to receive a copy of the new book by award-winning author Nadia Wheatley called Australians All: A history of growing up from the Ice Age to the apology (Allen & Unwin 2013). The book explores the history of growing up in Australia through 80 personal stories, ranging from prominent people such as Ethel Turner and Eddie Mabo, to many lesser-known Australians.

Australians All cover

Australians All by Nadia Wheatley. Courtesy Allen & Unwin

The stories are set against a chronology of significant events including the arrival of the first boat people, the gold rush, the Great Depression, the two world wars, the Vietnam War and the national apology to the Stolen Generations. They are woven together with a rich selection of historical images as well as evocative new illustrations by artist Ken Searle.

In Australians All, Nadia Wheatley has effectively situated personal lived experiences within a broader context of local, national and international histories. This helps to reinforce the notion that history is not a series of disparate events but a fascinating intersection of stories, causes and effects that have resonance in both local and global communities. Wheatley has also succeeded in drawing out shared childhood experiences across place and time, cultures and generations, and because of this I think Australians All will become a very valuable social history resource for young readers today and in the future.

Tu Do by Ken Searle

Illustration of Vietnamese refugee boat Tu Do. Copyright Ken Searle. Courtesy Allen & Unwin

One thing that makes this book even more special is that it features the story of sisters Dzung and Dao Lu, who fled South Vietnam with their family in 1977 in the fishing boat Tu Do, which is now part of our museum’s floating vessel collection. Dzung and Dao’s father, Tan Lu, had built Tu Do (meaning ‘Freedom’) at the end of the Vietnam War, specifically to escape life under the new communist regime.

Lu family on Tu Do

Tan Lu (left) and Dzung and Dao (standing and sitting on hatch) on Tu Do, 1977. Photographer Michael Jensen. ANMM Collection

Prior to departure in September 1977 Tan staged an engine breakdown so that surveillance of Tu Do would be relaxed. He installed a more powerful replacement engine and his group of 38 passengers set off in the dark. Dzung, six, and Dao, four, had been given cough medicine to keep them quiet, and chaos erupted several hours out to sea when they realised Dzung had been left behind! They returned to find her, crying and mosquito-bitten in the mangroves. The voyage resumed, with Tu Do eventually making landfall near Darwin on 21 November 1977. The Lu family were transferred to a migrant hostel in Brisbane and were later granted asylum.

Dao, Dzung and Tuyet Lu

Dao and Dzung Lu with their mother Tuyet, 2010. Photographer Andrew Frolows. ANMM Collection

Dzung and Dao Lu were among the 137,000 Indochinese refugees who were resettled in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. Their story, along with others in Australians All, highlights the importance of childhood journeys and experiences in shaping, and understanding, our national history. The museum is pleased that this story will be more accessible to younger audiences.

The restored Tu Do at the museum

The restored Tu Do at the museum, 2012. Photographer Andrew Frolows

The fishing boat built by Dzung and Dao’s father is now displayed at the museum’s wharves and stands as testament to the courage, hope and ingenuity of all refugees. You might like to visit Tu Do during Refugee Week, which runs from 16-22 June 2013, and celebrate the many contributions made by refugees to Australian society.

Kim Tao
Curator, Post-Federation Immigration

Make your own potato block print pattern

Inspired by our new exhibition East of India – Forgotten trade with Australia and the traditional art of block printing, we have created step by step instructions for you to make a ‘block print’ at home, using simple house-hold materials, like potatoes! A perfect activity for the upcoming school holidays.

Wooden block printing has a long tradition in India where a design is carved into a printing block, the surface of the block is placed in dye and then printed onto the cloth. We found a great video on Youtube that shows more of the detailed process involved.

Important note: This is a great activity for children, but please make sure an adult does all of the cutting work.

All materials laid out, potatoes, knife, craft blade, chopping board, paint, paint brush, art paper

Prepare your workstation

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How to make… a search and rescue hat

One of the best things about a visit to the Maritime Museum for many kids is making crafty and creative souvenirs in our activity spaces and exhibitions to take home. Why wait until your next visit? Join us for some papercraft capers inspired by current exhibitions and all things maritime!

Boy wearing crafty rescue hat

Make your own search and rescue hat.

This week the Rescue exhibition is our thematic with a crafty take on the search and rescue head torch. Dazzling stripes of colour and a cellophane cup torch will brighten up any dress up costume or imaginative play game inspired by our favourite everyday heroes! Continue reading

The Molong Historical Museum

“orphan, flawed, brutal, bleak, holiday, lies, identity, scarred, survivors, cruel, stolen, happy, heartless”

These are all words I scribbled down as I read and listened to the oral histories of people who had come to Australia as child migrants. The topic is intriguing and compelling and I was particularly drawn to the history of Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, NSW, as this child migrant school is not far from my childhood home. The children of Fairbridge and I share the same childhood landscape – however our experiences could not be further apart.

Fairbridge Farm, Molong NSW. ANMM photo 2013

Fairbridge Farm, Molong NSW. ANMM photo 2013

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Christmas and the war effort

'The Sydney Mail' Wednesday 13 December 1916, Christmas Number, War Issue. ANMM Collection 00040698

‘The Sydney Mail’ Wednesday 13 December 1916, Christmas Number, War Issue. ANMM Collection 00040698

A woman watches her two young children, as they play in the sand at a beach, happily enjoying the Australian sunshine and thought that Christmas is near. A familiar image you might say? On 13 December 1916, The Sydney Mail published an illustration depicting this scenario in the ‘Christmas Number’, with one crucial difference… Continue reading

Costume dramas: Fishes, foam and fabrics

It’s just over three weeks till April school holidays and I’m on the phone with a costume-maker discussing the merits of various types of foam and fabrics being used to make fins. Can foam be painted onto? Should the fabrics be sparkly or matte? Stuffed or wired? Blue fish or red fish?  Decisions, decisions! The costumes are being custom made for our Autumn Kids on Deck program Fish Fantastic. Inspired by a selection of works in the upcoming exhibition FISH in Australian Art, they will allow children participating in Kids on Deck to dress up and recreate these famous artworks as tableau vivante or living pictures.

fish costume sketch based on Outhwaite's Elves and Fairies

Back before the wireless, the talkies and tv, a live pose to recreate a famous historical moment or classic work of art was the height of popular entertainment. Often part of a royal court ceremony, a special religious service or a theatre production, tableau vivante recreated images in painstaking detail, the participants often painted head to toe as well as costumed to reflect the particular qualities of a painting. While we may not be going to so much detail this time around we will have four special costumes inspired by Deborah Halpern’s Neon Fish, Kenneth Macqueen’s The Beach Fisherman, Anne Zahalka’s The Cook, and Ida Rentoule Outhwaite’s illustrations from Elves and Fairies to spark some imaginative pretend play.

Fisherman costume sketch based on Macqueen's The Beach Fisherman

Bringing paintings and sculptures to life will be just one of the fun and fantastic activities in this program being designed and produced by some creative friends and volunteers. Aside from our museum design team who often create spectacular paper craft for our children’s activity space, there are many minds and hands that contribute to the making of a Kids Deck program. We also have our faithful and very talented volunteers Jon and Terri producing handmade lino-cut prints of fish scales for printing onto calico bags. Jon and Terri have made all sorts of wonderful custom made designs for us over the years- shark rubbing templates, plastic stencils for Batik inspired by Indonesian folktales, prints inspired by the travels of Sindbad the Sailor and a suite of beautiful wooden toys.

neon fish costume sketch based on Halpern's Neon Fish

But back to the question of foam and fins…..we’ve decided to experiment and hope for the best. And yes to sparkles! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.