Flying home: How to make a zoetrope

Spinning, swirling, flapping, flying, a single line, a blur of blue, a flickering image, a zoetrope.

Spinning, swirling, flapping, flying, a single line, a blur of blue, a flickering image, a zoetrope.

For this month’s craft spot we were inspired by the subjects of acclaimed author and artist Jeannie Baker’s new book Circle, showcased in an exhibition of her collages opening this Thursday. Circle follows the journey of the Bar-tailed Godwit bird, an at-risk species of shorebird that undertakes the longest unbroken migration of any animal, flying from their breeding grounds in Alaska to Australia and New Zealand.

Here we’ve created a paper craft zoetrope of flying Godwit birds. Originally developed as a simple animation toy in the 19th century, the zoetrope relies on the persistence of vision to create the illusion of movement, making it perfect to display these beautiful creatures on their journey “flying on and on, for nine nights and nine days, flying without rest” ( Jeannie Baker, Circle).

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Golden doubloon spice cookies for peckish pirates

10 finished cookies

Yo, yo ho, a pirates life for me! A bottle of rum, a cargo of spice, eat up me hearties yo ho!

This month we’ve been inspired to cook up a little something special for the craft spot to mark the auspicious International Talk Like a Pirate Day and give a nod to historical golden age piracy as we prepare for our summer Pirates exhibition.

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Raiders and Reindeers- How to make Viking gingerbread

finished gingerbread scene

We may have gone a little bit nuts on all things Vikings and all things Christmas here but we are hoping you are as a much a fan of craft that’s equal parts beautiful and edible as we are.

If you’ve ever tried to make a gingerbread 3 dimensional anything ( house, boat, tree) as an activity with small children you will remember how difficult it can be to accomplish said 3 dimensional object with little hands whose strength are not quite up to the challenge of icing cement and building with easily breakable biscuit walls.

So here we’ve crafted our very own spin on this festive and fun activity in a more kid friendly and conveniently thematic design. These stand-up gingerbread forms are great for a holiday activity or can even be wrapped up to give as a gift.

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Conservation gets dirty

These are paper conservators.

Senior Paper Conservator Caroline Whitley and Head of Conservation Jonathan London line a fragile watercolour with Japanese repair tissue.

Senior Paper Conservator Caroline Whitley and Head of Conservation Jonathan London line a fragile watercolour with Japanese repair tissue.

This is a textiles conservator.

Two women inspecting muslin dress

Senior Textiles Conservator Sue Frost (right) undertaking a condition assessment of a gown with Jane Donnelly, Property and Facilities Co-ordinator, The National Trust of Australia (NSW)

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Remembering the Forgotten Fleet

In late 2013 a new display will open to the public in the museum’s USA Gallery. This World War 2 story remembers the service of over 3,000 Australian civilians employed by the US Army Small Ships Section between May 1942 and January 1947. Many objects and photographs selected for display have been borrowed from individuals or from the families of those who served with the US Small Ships. The US Army Small Ships Association Inc has been instrumental in helping museum staff with the development of this project.

So why are we telling this story?

It is a fascinating and little known part of the Allied war effort in the Pacific. The US Army Small Ships Section played a crucial role in transporting supplies to Allied troops fighting in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and other South-West Pacific campaigns. Sailing under the American flag, they carried food, water, ammunition, mail and building and medical supplies. They collected the wounded and repatriated the dead.

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Unloading supplies from a US Army small ship, Papua New Guinea, about 1943.
Photographer Neil Sandery

Nothing about this fleet was conventional.  The vessels were largely skippered and crewed by Australian civilians considered too old or too young or medically unfit to join the Australian Armed Services. Some were as young as 15 while others were 70 years old. A small group of US Army officers led by Captain Sheridan Fahnestock co-ordinated the charter and requisitioning of vessels from Tasmania, mainland Australia and New Zealand. It was essential for these ‘small ships’ to have shallow draft so they could navigate the uncharted coastal waters of Papua New Guinea where larger vessels could not safely go. This ‘raggle taggle’ fleet included fishing trawlers, sailing craft, tugs, private launches, speed boats, ferries, landing craft and some larger ships such as freighters. This fleet grew to over 3,000 by war’s end due to an ambitious vessel building program.

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US Army Small Ships in Papua New Guinea about 1943. Photographer Neil Sandery

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US Army Small Ships personnel in 1943 Neil Sandery, second from right. Photographer Robert Bruce Irving

While researching the story of the US Small Ships, I was struck by a series of photographs taken by Neil Sandery (1917- 1946) who joined the US Small Ships in 1942. He was a keen amateur photographer and his evocative images provide an insight into the hazards and hardships of daily life as part of the US Army Small Ships service. Sandery takes the viewer on board the vessels he skippered as well as the places he visited. His is but one of many compelling stories to emerge from researching the history of the US Small Ships service during World War 2.

Sandery was the skipper of the Timoshenko, one of two trawlers involved in the advance landing of US Army troops at Pongai, Papua New Guinea, in October 1942. Timoshenko and King John were mistaken for Japanese vessels and attacked by an American bomber. Two men were killed and 18 wounded in the attack.

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US troops on board the trawler Timoshenko enroute to Pongai 18 October 1942. Photographer Neil Sandery

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Unidentified bombers overhead, Papua New Guinea, about 1943.
Photographer Neil Sandery

This exhibition would not be possible without the generosity and assistance of individuals who served with the US Small Ships Service, the US Army Small Ships Association Inc and its President Ernest A Flint, and the efforts of others who have previously researched and written about this fascinating subject.

Penny Cuthbert

Suggested Reading
Lunney B and Lunney R Forgotten Fleet 2, Forfleet Publishing, 2004
Reday L The Raggle Taggle Fleet , US Army Small Ships Association 






Elysium Antarctic Visual Epic – opens 13 April

Antarctica, a place I dream of exploring, but like so many of us, it seems so out of reach. That’s why I can’t wait to for the exhibition Elysium Antarctic Visual Epic to open at the museum this Saturday.

Photo of man in icy water

Videographer braves below-zero waters, Danco Island. Steve Jones/

The exhibition follows a team of 57 explorers from 18 countries that set out on a unique scientific and artistic expedition to Antarctica in 2010 to document the environment and record any evidence of climate change. Continue reading

A week away, working in the UK

Over the last week of February I travelled to the UK as part of my work at the museum, where my first appointment was to attend the meeting of the International Congress of Maritime Museums’ (ICMM) International Historic and Traditional Ships panel. I have been a member of this panel since it was brought together in 2011, and the broad aim is to be an advocate on behalf of historic and traditional ships in relation to their various survey and regulation issues, including both operational and static craft.  We met in Greenwich, hosted by Martyn Heighton from National Historic Ships UK, which manages a register similar to our Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV)  and works from the National Maritime Museum (NMM). In practical terms we were there to coordinate progress from the two working parties, and as Convener of Working Party Two I had a detailed report to present, with discussion and further actions to move forward with. Continue reading

Meet Kieran Hosty, manager of maritime archaeology

Our education team recently caught up with Kieran Hosty, the museum’s manager of maritime archaeology, to find out more about his job and upcoming expedition to Ferguson Reef, off the coast Queensland.

Kieran wearing scuba gear sitting on boat at sea

Kieran Hosty, manager of maritime archaeology

What does your role at the museum involve?

Over the last 12 months my position at the museum has changed from that of a curator with a primary responsibility of managing a collection to that of full time manager of the museum’s expanding maritime archaeology program. When I was a curator I was responsible for immigration, ship technologies and marine archaeology. My work includes research, documentation, site survey and assessment of underwater cultural heritage, along with museum exhibition concept, design and installation. Continue reading

Two men in a boat – Opening of 2013 Sydney Festival

According to the media reports there were 60,000 people watching.  From my position, in the back of a canoe with Matt Doyle full blast on his didgeridoo in the front, I was too busy paddling and keeping it upright to notice just how many were watching us, taking pictures or filming.

Photo of giant inflated yellow rubber duck on water

Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck enters Cockle Bay

So how does a curator end up here, in Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour, paddling his self-designed-and-built plywood version of an Arnhem Land derrka, sitting behind Matt Doyle who is painted up, wired up and playing didgeridoo? We are opening the 2013 Sydney Festival event on Darling Harbour, which is featuring Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck installation. Continue reading

100 stories from the museum’s collection

On 29 November 2012 the museum celebrates its 21st year – cue the celebratory fireworks! As part of this milestone we have published a new book 100 Stories from the Australian National Maritime Museum

The book is a treasure trove of tales related to our collection, working on the premise that every object has a story. From the remarkable Saltwater Collection of bark paintings from Arnhem Land to surfboards inspired by the Bra Boys and the 2005 Cronulla race riots, the book reveals the diversity of our collection and Australia’s rich maritime history.

Over the next week or so, we will share some of our curators favourite excerpts from the book, giving you a sneak peek into the publication.

The book is available for purchase on our new online store or as a free eBook for iPad. Head to our website for all of the deatils.

The following excerpt was written by our curator Kim Tao. We hope you enjoy.

Door to freedom

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Valerie Lederer’s front door key to the family’s house in Vienna, 1938

A few days before boarding the Orient liner SS Orama for Australia in June 1939, Jewish migrant Arthur Lederer wrote ‘Doors’, a poem reflecting on his family’s desperate search for a new home away from Nazi-occupied Europe:

Some doors have hearts it seems to me
They open so invitingly;
You feel they are quite kind – akin
To all the warmth you find within…
Oh, may mine be a friendly door;
May all who cross the threshold o’er
Within find sweet content and rest,
And know each was a welcomed guest. Continue reading

Grants available for diverse maritime heritage projects – due 31 August.

The diversity of projects seeking to be funded by MMAPSS is really rich.  A wave of applications come in each year and give the Selection Committee a snapshot of the amazing organisations all over Australia who are passionate about caring for Australia’s maritime heritage.

The subject matter is diverse with examples of past projects including oral histories, a journal, a diving outfit, a map, river charts, ships portraits, photographic collections, and of course vessels; bark canoes, pearling luggers, skiffs, flying boats.

The funding is for grants up to $10,000 and this year there is extra pool of funding for grants up to $5,000 specifically for organisations that want to develop educational or public programs.  Internships are also available for up to two weeks with funding up to $3,000.

MMAPSS funding is not just for maritime museums.  All non-profit, incorporated organisations that care for and provide access to maritime items of historical and national significance are encouraged to apply.  This includes for example, museums, indigenous organisations, historical societies, local governments, religious organisations and community clubs.

Head over to the MMAPSS website for a list of past grant recipients; application forms, details about the application process, key dates and eligibility.

Balmoral Beach Club used the funding they received last year for the development and preservation of their archives.  The club is nearly half-way through this six stage project to digitise and preserve over 90 years’ worth of club materials with a plan to be completed by 2014.

This great photo showing a group of swimmers in the early 1920’s was among the items that have been digitised so far.

Balmoral Beach Club - swimmers early 1920s

Balmoral Beach Club: ‘Digitisation of the Collection’ project – swimmers early 1920s

The club is steadily preserving their records and plan to use the information in a centenary book in time for the celebration of their centenary year in 2014.

Among the individual and season race records were the results of a race from 1928 (which you can see in the picture).  It was a freestyle race ‘From beach to buoy and return’ with men and women racing together.

Balmoral Beach Club - swimming race results 1928

Balmoral Beach Club: ‘Digitisation of the Collection’ project – club swimming race results 1928.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the grant program or the application process. You can find my contact details on the MMAPSS website.

– Sharon Babbage, MMAPSS Coordinator

The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Applications for MMAPSS grants now open

The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (or MMAPSS) annual grants program is now open to support eligible Australian organisations that care for and preserve Australia’s rich maritime heritage.  The closing date for applications is 31 August 2012.

Grants of up to $10,000 are available for General Maritime Heritage Projects, and for 2012 only a separate category gives grants up to $5,000 for Education and Public Program Development projects.

Internships for up to two weeks are also available for staff and volunteers from regional and remote organisations; a great way to develop skills and knowledge and to create a valuable network of professional contacts.

The grant program focusses on the areas of collection management, conservation, presentation, education and museological training. Since 1995, the program has distributed over $900,000 to support organisations across Australia to run amazing and diverse projects.

Last year supported projects included an archaeological dig for shipwrecks, a traditional canoe building workshop and the analysis of a sea chest, untouched for almost 100 years!

Sea chest filled with medicine

Richmond River Historical Society: ‘Healing Sickness at Sea’ Project – A medicine chest from the SS St George. Photo & Clipping: Geoffrey Foley (RRHS)

If your organisation would like to apply, check out our website for details about the application process, key dates, eligibility and a list of past grant recipients (including a great Google map showing the spread of projects across Australia).

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the grant program. You can find my contact details on the website.

– Sharon Babbage, MMAPSS Coordinator

The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Endeavour re-opens to the public

HMB Endeavour replica will re-open to the public at the museum tomorrow, Saturday 23 June.

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HMB Endeavour replica at museum

This is the first time visitors in Sydney will be able to board the ship since arriving back after an epic circumnavigation of Australia! The ship will continue to be open everyday at the museum.

We look forward to seeing you on board.

Terrific Tugs Family Day – Sunday 24 June

This Sunday at the museum we are celebrating all the things we love about tugboats! We have a great day of activities planned, so we hope you can come along and join us.

Our ever popular Kids on Deck program will be running, where children can make their own model tug, play lots of games, along with character led tours of our wharves and museum!

On the wharves we will host five visiting tugboats, including Albert, the cute mini tug who will be zipping around the basin. Visitors are invited to climb aboard a working tug to learn how they operate.

Book cover featuring Heroic with Queen Mary as a troopship during world War II, on Sydney Harbour. Photographer Samuel Hood. ANMM Collection

Author Randi Svensen will also be speaking about her new book, Heroic, Forceful and Fearless: Australia’s Tugboat Heritage, and recount the memorable characters and the brave little vessels of our tugboat industry, past and present. Bring along your copy or purchase at the museum store for signing!

To find out more about Terrific Tugs Family Day, head to our website.

A life in service of Australia: The Sam and Lyla Landau Collection

The final layout for the showcase – it all fits!

Every four months or so we install a small display in our New Acquisitions Case – to highlight recently-acquired objects or collections.  Our current feature is the Sam & Lyla Landau Collection. Samuel Landau’s career began in 1936 as administrative assistant to the Secretary of Defence. He became First Assistant Secretary working with the war cabinet secretariat during World War II, travelling with several prime ministerial delegations during that time.

In the 1950s he was secretary to the ANZUS meeting in Pearl Harbor; a member of the Australian delegation to Manila; the Commonwealth Conference in London; and attended the Imperial Defence College in London in 1958. From 1963 to 1973 Landau was Secretary of the Department of the Navy. In 1974 his career in the defence system took him to Washington DC as Minister for Politico-Military Affairs at the Australian Embassy. With his wife Lyla he attended many commemorative events and was often presented with small gifts and mementos which have been donated to the museum by his family.

Putting the display together starts with the curator selecting the objects and then discussing their conservation and display needs with a conservator and designer; a preparator is brought on board to make special supports; and a showcase layout is then provided by the designer. It’s a team effort that works well.

The finished product!