Changing Pyrmont – guest post by Jane Bennett

Meet Jane Bennett, an artist whom you may see around the museum wharves from time to time. We invited Jane to contribute a guest blog post about her work and current exhibition at Frances Keevil Gallery.

Hi, Jane Bennett here.

I would like to invite you to the annual end-of-year show at the Frances Keevil Gallery where I will have three of my recent Pyrmont paintings on display.

I first started painting Pyrmont when I was in art school in the late 1970s, documenting Pyrmont’s original character that came from its industrial heritage – the workers’ cottages perched on the creamy sandstone escarpment above dark, decaying wharves and warehouses.

During the 1980s Pyrmont was discovered by developers and radically transformed from a once-neglected industrial suburb in a 19th-century time warp, to a sleek media and entertainment hub. Buildings were often demolished as fast as I could paint them. Almost everything that I have painted has either been demolished or has changed beyond all recognition – the pubs have been gentrified, working-class terraces are replaced by apartment blocks and old warehouses are converted into offices. Continue reading

Hidden gems rediscovered – Wharf 7 comes to life with stories of Australia’s maritime past

Concealed in the storage rooms of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Wharf 7 Maritime Heritage Centre in Pyrmont, are thousands of objects within the collection waiting to be unearthed for exhibition. Only a privileged few gain access to these areas and much of the collection has remained undiscovered by visitors to the museum…until now.

Bales of wool being loaded on board Magdalene Vinnen March 1933
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

The museum has developed this project, in association with Sydney Heritage Fleet, to exhibit an array of objects not available for viewing in the museum. Photographs depicting commercial shipping, sailing races and seaside workers adorn the walls. One example is an image of the visit of the German steel barque Magdalene Vinnen, highlighting the vibrant maritime scene of Woolloomooloo wharf in 1933.

Watercraft from the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) seem to float on air, carefully poised in the foyer area. Social and cultural icons of Sydney Harbour such as skiffs, dinghies and rowing shells are featured. The 18-foot skiff Yendys, which was restored to its former glory between 1977 and 1982, appears majestic with its discernible anchor ensign emblazoned on its sails. Also displayed is a scale model of the hull and keel of Ben Lexcen’s ‘secret weapon’, Australia’s famous 1983 America’s Cup winner, Australia II.

Pyrmont and the waters surrounding it also contain a fascinating Indigenous cultural heritage, steeped in the traditions of the Gadigal people. Drawings from the early 1800s illustrate Aboriginal people using rock shelters under cliffs and cooking fish caught in bark canoes or nawi.

All these stories add to Australia’s diverse social and cultural history. They also allow more of the museum’s precious gems to be unveiled in a way that both captures the essence of our maritime past and inspires our imagination.

On 30 May, the museum is hosting the first conference on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander watercraft, Nawi.

For more information on the museum’s development of the ARHV, in consultation with Sydney Heritage Fleet, click here.

Nicole Cama, curatorial assistant

Yendys, 1924
restored 1977-1982
Sydney Heritage Fleet
Photographer: Zoe McMahon ANMM

Tank-test model 5854B scale model of hull and keel of Australia II 1981
ANMM Collection
Photographer: Zoe McMahon ANMM

Wharf 7 redevelopment
Photographer: Zoe McMahon ANMM

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.