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Norfolk Island Significance Assessment

View over Slaughter Bay from Kingston Jetty towards Nepean Island

View over Slaughter Bay from Kingston Jetty towards Nepean Island

Ewen McPhee recently undertook a significance assessment for the Norfolk Island Museum. The Norfolk Island Museum holds collections and provides historical interpretation from four distinct periods of Norfolk Island History:

  • Polynesian Settlement – 700 – 1500
  • First Settlement (penal) – 1788 – 1814
  • Second Settlement (penal) – 1825 – 1855
  • Third Settlement (Bounty mutineer descendants from Pitcairn Island) – 1856 to present.

The Norfolk Island Museum displays and stores collections in the following locations:

  • The HMS Sirius Museum
  • The Commissariat Store
  • No 10 Quality Row
  • Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery (Pier Store)
  • Guard House (research centre, paper, photographs and books)
  • Anson Bay Offsite Storage Facility

Consultation was undertaken with key stakeholders on Norfolk Island regarding the issue of national significance. This resulted in replacing the more commonly used National Significance level with Pacific Significance. This was done in order to reflect the importance of Norfolk Island’s location and its relationship to other Pacific nations. The level of Pacific Significance is seen as the same as National Significance if the assessment was undertaken within Australia.

Norfolk Island is part of the Australian Convict Sites listing that was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2010. This means many of the collection items were assessed as having International Significance as well.

Key significance findings included:

The HMS Sirius Museum

The archaeological collection from the HMS Sirius displayed in the HMS Sirius Gallery is of International Significance for its ability to document the purpose of the First Fleet coming to Australia, the role that it played as the sole defence vessel for the New South Wales Colony and through the role that it played in the development both physically and psychologically on the early settlement of Sydney Cove. The collection is also of international significance for its ability to document the story of survival and resilience on Norfolk Island and in Australia before, during and after the wrecking event as well as documenting the early phase of European Pacific Island occupation and exploitation. Finally, the HMS Sirius collection is Internationally Significant as it adds to historical research, archives, and museum collections by providing additional and complimentary data to inform collections, research and exhibitions. This is particularly the case for research into the development of the First Settlement at Norfolk Island and the subsequent Second Settlement.

The Commissariat Store 

The KAVHA Collection associated with the Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) held in the Commissariat Store is of International Significance for its ability to provide archaeological evidence for both the Polynesian settlement and the site of the earliest European settlement from Australia to the south west Pacific. It is Internationally Significant through its ability to provide archaeological evidence on the role that the KAHVA site played in the evolution of the colony of New South Wales and later Australia. The KAVHA collection also details the convict settlement, living and working conditions at the beginning of European occupation of Australia (the First Settlement), and the planning and operation of a nineteenth century penal settlement (the Second Settlement). The collection is Internationally Significant through its documentation of the initial flax industry and its subsequent failure including the kidnap of Tuki and Huru. It also provides archaeological evidence of remote island survival and subsistence and the natural history through the fauna remains. The Third Settlement is also represented through the evidence of the arrival of the Pitcairn islanders and their material culture.No 10 Quality Row

No 10 Quality Row

The objects associated with the collection at No 10 Quality Row are primarily of Local Significance with a number of key objects being of International Significance. The International Significance objects include examples of early convict furniture making and indicate style, method and timbers used. Ceramics from the KAVHA collection on display are also of International Significance. The period furniture on display within No. 10 Quality Row is of Local Significance documenting the furniture styles and uses on the Island during the Third Settlement period. Domestic items and agricultural processing objects such as the spinning wheel, arrowroot grinder and corn husker are all of Local Significance and tell the important story of living and domesticity on a remote island.

Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery (Pier Store)

The Norfolk Island Museum Trust (NIMT) collection objects associated with the HMAV Bounty and those from Pitcairn Island, housed in the Pitcairn Gallery within the Pier Store are of International and Pacific Significance. The internationally significant objects document shipboard technology and life aboard HMAV Bounty and objects that were actively salvaged from the wreck of the HMAV Bounty for use on Pitcairn Island by the mutineers. In some cases these objects were prioritised and deemed important enough to the community to bring with them to Norfolk Island like the Codex of Laws. The objects with personalised marks are of particular interest, particularly the ones where the practice was carried forward into the Third Settlement. The objects of Pacific Significance include the contemporary souvenirs from Pitcairn Island and the ability to document the start, scope and history of the Norf’k language from the arrival of the Pitcairn Islanders on Norfolk Island. The Third Settlement objects housed within the Norfolk Gallery in the Pier Store are primarily of Pacific and Local Significance. The Pacific Significance objects document the reasons for the departure from Pitcairn Island and the arrival on Norfolk Island. They detail the use of the KAHVA site during the Third Settlement along with the expansion to other areas of Norfolk Island. They demonstrate the participation in industries such as whaling, fish factory operation and other maritime related activities such as lighterage and the import and export of goods to the Island. The objects tell the story of the locating and influence of the Melanesian Mission, early Pacific tourism and the military usage of the Island during the Second World War. The Locally Significance objects document the spread of the agriculture industry, education, religion, Island democracy and the annual commemoration days.

The Guardhouse

The collections housed within the Guardhouse are of International, Pacific and Local Significance through their associations with the First, Second and Third Settlement phases. This collection contains photographs, oral histories, maps, diaries, letters, records, books, newspapers, subject and biographical files and has outstanding research significance, is in good condition and is both rare and representative.

To find out more about the museum, visit their website: http://norfolkislandmuseum.com.au/

International Museum Day: Museum collections making connections

2014 International Museums Day Poster

2014 International Museums Day Poster

Every year, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) celebrates International Museum Day on or around the 18th of May. The theme for 2014 is: Museum collections make connections.

This year’s theme aims to promote the way museum’s contribute to the development of society through the use of shared memory, community and cultural heritage storytelling. It reflects the desire for museums to create links between visitors and the objects in collections, and rejuvenate an understanding of the traditional methods museums use to involve their communities and stay relevant.

Right across Queensland the MDOs are working with museum volunteers and collecting groups on projects that reflect this theme and the associated goals. Here a just a few of the inspiring projects that museums are working on in Far North Queensland:

  • Cairns Historical Society are in the process of re imagining displays for Cairns Museum, and working with the community to ensure their relevance.
  • Cairns and District Chinese Association (CADCAI) are preparing to undertake an oral history project to capture community memories of the Lit Sung Goong Temple.
  • Gordonvale’s Mulgrave Settler’s Museum is planning a new community-based competition to boost it’s public standing.
  • Menmuny Museum at Yarrabah is working to update and rejuvenate displays.
  • Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council is hoping to undertake a significance assessment of its collections.
  • Carpentaria Shire Council is working on the interpretation of significant heritage buildings along its main street.
  • Cape York Heritage House in Coen and James Cook Museum in Cooktown are developing displays to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Queensland Police.
  • Ravenshoe Visitor Information Centre is opening a new Ravenshoe Heritage Gallery to showcase the region’s photographic material culture.
  • And regional councils, museums and historical societies in Cape York, Torres Strait, the Atherton Tablelands region and the reformed Mareeba Shire and Douglas Shires are planning a range of projects to commemorate the centenary of World War One.

Museums are a great industry and community to be involved in!

The theme for 2015 is: Museums for a sustainable society.

Leather turtle miners caps – material evolution…

Leather turtle miner's cap, also known as the Flexoband Cool Cap. Picture from the collection of the Historical Society of Mareeba. Image: Dr Jo Will.s

Leather turtle miner’s cap, also known as the Flexoband Cool Cap, in the collection of the Historical Society of Mareeba. Image: Dr Jo Wills.

When we look at modern day miners, all of their protective head wear is made from plastic or other more stable materials. But it wasn’t always the case. Early miners wore canvas hats with brackets for attaching lights and peaks to keep the dust from their eyes. Following WWI, an American company, Bullard, developed ‘hard boiled hats’ made from canvas, glue and black paint. They were called hard boiled because of the steam used to manufacture them.

In the 1930s, a new type of hat emerged. Made from thick soled leather boiled in water or wax, the leather turtle miner’s cap is another early form of  protective head wear used, particularly, by coal miners. Also known as a Flexoband Cool Cap, it was patented by Albert A Strauss in 1933. The ridges in the leather allowed miner’s heads to stay cool, while the bracket on the front was for attaching a carbide lamp.

The Historical Society of Mareeba has one of these caps in their collection. This is fitting, as the Mareeba region is well known for it’s mining history and coal around Mount Mulligan. The MDO for FNQ, Dr Jo Wills is working on a significance assessment of the collection and has found a similar item in the National Museum of American History’s online collection.

Perhaps you have one of these in your collection? If so, let us know! We’d love to hear from individuals or groups in Queensland with some background information about these objects.

Bronwyn’s Diary: Tambo Teddies beyond the Black Stump

Tambo Heritage Precinct

Recently I visited Blackall and Tambo to help the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council and the Tambo Heritage Group identify future directions for two key heritage collections. First stop was RamPark in Blackall.  This is a Read the rest of this entry