Echoes of Anzac at Lemnos

Cheryl Ward’s play Through These Lines tells the moving story of Australia’s WWI army nurses. The 2014 production, directed by Mary-Anne Gifford, has its Sydney season at the Museum, 25-28 September and 3-5 October.

As part of the research for the play, Cheryl travelled to Lemnos to walk in the nurses’ footsteps. Using period photographs and diaries crammed full of invaluable eyewitness accounts, Cheryl was able to turn back the clock 100 years.

No. 3 Australian General Hospital, Lemnos, then and now. Photo A. W. Savage, C. Ward & B. de Broglio.

No. 3 Australian General Hospital, Lemnos, then and now. Photo A. W. Savage, C. Ward & B. de Broglio.

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East meets West: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

Chinese magician and acrobat Long Tack Sam with his company of artists c 1936 Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection

Chinese magician and acrobat Long Tack Sam with his company of artists 1936
Samuel J Hood Studio, ANMM Collection*

There was once a man who could ‘take needles out of his mouth for half an hour at a time’, who could make ‘beautiful vases appear’ from thin air. He was a magician, and the people of a Northern Chinese village would watch spellbound as he ‘performed a hundred magic feats’. One day a little boy asked him if he could turn stones into bread as food was scarce. The magician told the boy that he would only conjure bread in front of his pupils, so the boy pleaded with the magician to teach him. The boy was taught the art of magic and went on to become a great magician, revered by the likes of Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin and performing in theatres around the world.

Image from Ann Marie Fleming's graphic novel The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

Image from Ann Marie Fleming’s graphic novel The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam.
Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

This forms one of the many myths surrounding one of the most successful magicians of the early 20th century – the world renowned Chinese acrobat and vaudeville performer, Long Tack Sam. Lurking in the storage rooms of the museum, you’ll find a cabinet containing a black and white nitrate negative taken by another famous Sam. Samuel J Hood’s photograph depicts Long Tack Sam no longer a boy in 1880s China but a man in 1930s Sydney, posing with his company of artists reading The Telegraph newspaper.

Long Tack Sam Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

Long Tack Sam
Image courtesy of Ann Marie Fleming

When I first saw this image in the collection, I was curious. It remained a mystery until one of our Flickr followers identified it and opened up Sam’s amazing story. I got in contact with his great-granddaughter, writer and filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, who has worked tirelessly over the past several years to resurrect a story long forgotten. In her award winning film The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, and graphic novel of the same name, Ann Marie pieces together the story of her famous ancestor… Continue reading

Japanese flapper lands on Australian shores!

Kono San at a Movietone event on board SS Sierra, 8 August 1929 Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Kono San at a Movietone event on board SS Sierra, 8 August 1929
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

I am constantly amazed at the array of discoveries that are being made in the Australian National Maritime Museum’s collection. Some of them are just what you might expect from a maritime history collection, and others are just downright unusual. Until recently, the above photograph was catalogued as ‘unidentified Japanese woman’ posing on board the San Franciscan liner SS Sierra at an event celebrating the arrival of Australia’s first Movietone News truck on 8 August 1929. However, as one of our Flickr Commons followers demonstrated, Sydney photographer Samuel J Hood photographed his fair share of interesting characters from far away shores. Continue reading

More than just a pretty face

Since coming across this striking portrait a year ago, the anonymity of its subject has given me plenty of room to reflect on its beauty. The dark and lovely creature peering intensely at the photographer in this image from our historic William Hall collection seemed entirely suited to the shroud of mystery surrounding her identity.

Actress Phyllis Baker, 1927. Photographer W.J. Hall. ANMM Collection 00013207

Actress Phyllis Baker, 1927. Photographer W.J. Hall. ANMM Collection 00013207

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