Five years ago today the Flickr Commons was launched. Since then, about 250,000 images from 56 different libraries, archives and museums have been uploaded, promoting the world’s photographic collections in all its splendour. I don’t think any of us envisioned the response it has elicited from audiences around the world. In particular, from a large group of elite photo investigators, people the National Library of Ireland refers to as the ‘Flickeroonies’ and who we often call the ‘super sleuths’. This group have invested hours upon hours of thorough research identifying people, places and key events, adding new meaning to the images on The Commons. To celebrate The Commons’ 5th birthday and, as a hats off to these contributors, The Library of Congress sent out a call for the most viewed, commented or favourited images on The Commons. We, and quite a number of other institutions, answered the call and the result was a fascinating array of snapshots from the past.Continue reading
Ever since the museum joined Flickr Commons in 2008, we have gleaned a wealth of invaluable information related to photographic items from the collection. Flickr users have scanned images noticing the tiniest details, such as barely discernible ship names and locations. With their generous help we have been able to attach names to faces, found their stories and retold them with the aid of stunning photography particularly from the Samuel J Hood and William J Hall collections. One such example of the power of the Flickr Commons community was in the investigation of the Hall photographs of the lower Hawkesbury River region taken around 1900. A simple comment left by a Flickr user lead to correspondence with a historical society in an effort to learn more about the photographs. This was followed by a personal quest to explore Hall’s Hawkesbury and imagine what travelling the area may have been like for the man with the glass plate camera. Continue reading
In a sea of faces, some worried, some jubilant, Private John Michael Hassett poses for a picture. It is October 1916, Melbourne, and Hassett and other members of his battalion are just about to board the troopship Nestor to leave for war. Hassett kneels in the front row, his hat turned to the side and his kit bag rolled forward to expose his name and service number. Perhaps he intended his name to be recorded when posing for the camera – perhaps not – however this is exactly what happened.
My latest research efforts have been focussed on an American shipping family, headed by shipowner and master, Captain Edward Robert Sterling. During the 1900s to the 1920s, Samuel J Hood would take his trusty Folmer & Schwing Graflex camera to Sydney Harbour to photograph vessels and their crew and passengers. Hood relied on the income produced from portraits he took of captains and their families before he moved on to photojournalism. The Sterling family were one of those families, and what a fascinating family album he produced! A thorough search of census, birth, marriage and shipping records later revealed a vibrant family life that seems all the more animated through Hood’s photographs. Continue reading
In case you hadn’t yet heard, the Olympics are just about to roll around again. As July comes to a close the Olympics will commence, captivating the world as it showcases the physical heights of human potential and creates history in its wake. Clearly this is an excellent opportunity for museums such as ours to combine a very Australian love of sports with a little history.
As a museum it is our role to collect objects, documents and photographs that have been generated within our culture, by our culture, that hold some significance or are deemed to be representative in some way. As a museum that is themed around Australia’s interactions with water, it is perhaps not surprising that a lot of what has made its way through this selection process and into our collection is related to sport and the achievements of our sporting champions. Continue reading
Who is superstitious about Friday the 13th? Personally I am not, well, I can’t be – I was born on the 13th and lived a good 13 years in house number 13 (which we do think was haunted by a friendly protective ghost!). I decided long ago that 13 is my lucky number.
I’m also a lover of cats. So for this ‘lucky Friday the 13th’ I’ve searched through the museum’s photographic collection for as many black cats I can find.
For all of those who like to push superstitious boundaries, read on… For those of you who refuse to walk under a ladder, it may be best to stay away from our blog… just for today!
Today is the 100th birthday of one of the museum’s oldest friends – in several senses. Happy birthday to Carl Halvorsen, of the famous Halvorsen boatbuilding dynasty.
The Halvorsen name is best known for the elegant pleasure cruisers that the family designed and built in their Sydney boatyards, and for the fleet of Halvorsen hire boats that operated on Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River for many decades, providing happy holiday memories for countless families.
Carl Halvorsen was born on 9 July 1912 in Helle, Norway, into a line of shipwrights and seafarers. He migrated to Australia 1924 with his father Lars, mother Bergithe, four brothers and two sisters. All of them went to work in the family boatbuilding business that would become synonymous with quality and style, producing countless yachts, cruisers and work boats over many decades, including hundreds of military craft during WW2.
Carl’s working life was spent with the firm, including a period marketing its luxury motor cruisers to Hollywood celebrities in the USA. He married Glenagh Brown and enjoyed a long happy family life with their daughter Verity. At the age of 76 he hand-crafted the masts and spars for the museum’s historic yacht Kathleen Gillett, a Norwegian design that was in the first-ever Sydney Hobart race in 1945, and was restored as Norway’s Bicentennial Gift to Australia in 1988. Carl was a successful yacht racer who skippered 5.5s well into his 90s, after winning RPAYC’s Division 1 series aged 89.
This great Norwegian boatbuilding family’s heritage – and that of its centenarian, Carl Halvorsen – is preserved at the museum in the Lars and Harold Halvorsen Collection, named after Carl’s father and elder brother. This collection contains a treasure trove of design drawings and photographs of the family’s enormous Australian output, as well as shipwright tools and other memorabilia. The family story was told in our 2004-05 museum exhibition Dream Boats and Work Boats – the Halvorsen Story.
– Jeffrey Mellefont, Publications manager
During early February in 1893 the south-east of Queensland had seen a week of unusually heavy rainfall. The Brisbane Courier newspaper reported that ‘disastrous floods’ had caused an ‘unprecedented rise’ in the Brisbane River, and on the 6th of February residents awoke to read that the flooding had finally ‘reached the magnitude of widespread calamity’.