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Australian National Maritime Museum brings history to your place

To celebrate History Week, the Australian National Maritime Museum will launch a series of online sessions featuring some of Australia’s most celebrated historians.

The History@Home series will explore a diverse range of topics related to maritime history including previous pandemics and quarantine, vintage fashion, shipwrecks, pirates, smugglers and ocean heath.

Each session will run for around 45 minutes and give virtual attendees a chance to ask questions. Check out some of the sessions that will live stream as part of the programme, below.

Shore of the Past?
Surprising Short Stories from our Maritime Collections
Tuesday 7 September 4pm – 4:45pm

A Lifelong Voyage: This presentation explores the common Nineteenth-century practice of naming children born at sea after the vessel that brought them to the colonies. Blending maritime, family and local history, this presentation also introduces a cast of characters who spent their lifelong voyages named after a famous vessel.

Current Fashions: This is the story of one of Australia’s first celebrity fashion labels. In the early 1920s, as conflict flared on North American beaches over what constituted socially acceptable swimwear for women, an Australian entrepreneur was promoting her personal brand through a type of bathing suit that sought to free women in their athletic and recreational endeavours. The Annette Kellermann label became a phenomena: the swimmers who adopted this style of functional one-piece suit became known generically as ‘Annette Kellermanns’.

Speaking of History: Buried within the catalogue of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Vaughan Evans Library lies an intriguing set of stories on minority nationalism in East Timor. These oral history recordings focus on periods of Portuguese colonisation, Indonesian occupation and the eventual liberation of Timor-Leste in 1999. They examine the role of underground radio transmission between Australia and East Timor during the independence movement, and profile the migration stories of key figures such as Natalina Ramos Horta.

Does quarantine really work?
Tuesday 14 September 4pm – 4:45pm

Speakers: Dr Peter Hobbins with epidemiologist Associate Professor David Muscatello

In conversation with epidemiologist Associate Professor David Muscatello from the School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney, Dr Peter Hobbins asks the question on everyone’s lips – can quarantine really save us from pandemics? From smallpox to ‘Spanish’ flu, and SARS to Covid-19, Australia has relied on maritime and shore-based quarantine to spare us from infection. But how often has it worked, and what can we do when it goes wrong?

The Great Big Pirate Quiz
Friday 17 September 7 – 8pm

Presented by the museum’s resident pirate Captain Grognose Johnny.

Sail through the sea of COVID lockdowns with a quiz to challenge your inner pirate. A-Ha Me Nasties, it’s time to cast off, hoist the Jolly Roger, put on your eye patch to take to the high seas with the museum.

Vintage fashion and the Titanic
Tuesday 21 September 4pm – 4:45pm

Speaker: Inger Sheil

What did you wear on a trans-Atlantic liner crossing in 1912? Assistant Curator and historic clothing enthusiast Inger Sheil takes us on a journey through the fashions of the late Belle Époque and the nuances of what was worn and when on liners such as Titanic.

Save our seas: how to secure the ocean’s future
Tuesday 5 October 4pm – 4:45pm

Speakers: Emily Jateff and Cay-Leigh Bartnicke

So much remains to be discovered about our seas, yet one thing is certain: they are all at risk. From ‘dead zones’ to rising temperatures, marine creatures, cultures and environments are equally endangered. In this presentation, Emily Jateff and Cay-Leigh Bartnicke share the latest ideas on saving our seas as presented in the museum’s upcoming exhibition One Ocean, Our Future. They will chat with leading ocean experts who will share ideas and inspirations for what we can do to help as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Smuggled – An Illegal History of Journeys to Australia
Tuesday 12 October 4pm – 4:45pm

Speakers: authors of Smuggled Ruth Balint and Julie Kalman

People smugglers are the pariahs of the modern world. There is no other trade so demonised and, yet at the same time, so useful to contemporary Australian politics. But beyond the rhetoric lies a rich history that reaches beyond the maritime borders of our island continent and has a longer lineage than the recent refugee movements of the twenty-first century. Smuggled recounts the journeys to Australia of refugees and their smugglers since the Second World War – from Jews escaping the Holocaust, Eastern Europeans slipping through the Iron Curtain, ‘boat people’ fleeing the Vietnam War to refugees escaping unthinkable violence in the Middle East and Africa.

Based on original research and revealing personal interviews, Smuggled marks the first attempt to detach the term ‘people smuggler’ from its pejorative connotations, and provides a compelling insight into a defining yet unexplored part of Australia’s history.


People wanting to participate must pre-register for History@Home on the museum’s website sea.museum/history-at-home.

But don’t worry if you can’t make the live session because all talks will be available on the museum’s YouTube channel following the live stream.

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