Searching for junks and sampans

‘<a href=";locale=en_AU&amp;metadata_object_ratio=14&amp;show_metadata=true&amp;VIEWER_URL=/view/action/;DELIVERY_RULE_ID=10&amp;frameId=1&amp;usePid1=true&amp;usePid2=true" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sailing from Goondi to Geraldton</a>’, circa 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Sailing from Goondi to Geraldton’, circa 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Volunteer researcher Aliza Chin shares her investigations of late 19th-century Chinese vessels built in Australia.

A research adventure

For the past two months, I have been a volunteer researcher at the Museum. I have become an explorer who conducts archival deep dives, a decipherer and editor of Trove auto-text, an appraiser of photographs stored away in digital collections, swinging between feelings of elation and frustration, in between clicks and scrolls. If you don’t know Trove, it is an Australian online library database aggregator; a free faceted-search engine hosted by the National Library of Australia,[1] in partnership with content providers including members of the National & State Libraries Australasia.[2] It is one of the most well-respected[3] and accessed GLAM services in Australia, with over 70,000 daily users.

To say that the experience has equipped me with new skills in my field would be an understatement, but this blog entry is not about me. Rather, it is about the issues and new sources encountered and uncovered in the little-studied area of Chinese shipbuilding; specifically, vessels that were made here in Australia between the 1870s and early 1900s. Dr Stephen Gapps has been researching sampans and junks for a while and invited me to help with this project.

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