Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Very Speical Loan

Next year the Norfolk Island Museum celebrates its 25th Anniversary. During the last few months we have been thinking about a range of things that we can do to celebrate this achievement, including displaying objects that will have special significance and meaning to the Norfolk Island community. We are very pleased to announce that a loan has been made with the Museum of Tropical Queensland for a quite special object that will be displayed throughout 2013.

The object is a Tahitian food pounder or pestle, or, as it was known in Tahiti, a penu. It was recovered from the wreck site of the Pandora and is thought to have been confiscated from one of the ‘other’ mutineers on the Bounty who did not sail on to Pitcairn Island with Fletcher Christian and the rest of the mutineers. The men it has been associated with are mutineers Peter Heywood and George Stewart who were taken into custody in Tahiti.
L-R: David Buffett, Lisa Richards, Phillip Smith

Heywood and Stewart along with another fourteen mutineers were captured in Tahiti after Captain Edward had been sent by the British Admiralty to find the Bounty ‘pirates’ and bring them home for trial and punishment.  The Pandora arrived at Tahiti on 23 March 1791. Within twenty-four hours eight of the mutineers had given themselves up leaving another six men at large (another two had been killed earlier in a feud). Armed parties were sent out to hunt them down and in a matter of days they were found.

On board the Pandora the mutineers were placed under arrest and shut in a specially built wooden box on the deck, measuring 11 by 18 feet (3.3 x 5.4 metres) and known as Pandora’s Box. This was unusually harsh treatment of prisoners at sea but Captain Edwards had a reputation amongst naval officers for brutality.

On the return voyage to England the Pandora was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Thirty four men drowned including four mutineers, one of whom was unable to escape from the wooden box. George Stewart was amongst those that drowned.

The survivors of the shipwreck, including ten mutineers, finally reached Timor in open boats following the route taken by Bligh in the longboats. When they arrived back in England the captives were imprisoned to await trial for mutiny. Four of the mutineers were pardoned following written evidence by Bligh that they only remained on board the Bounty because there was no more room in the longboat. The remaining six were sentenced to death. Peter Haywood and William Morrison were pardoned. William Musprat was released on a technicality but three mutineers Thomas Ellison, Thomas Burkitt and John Millwood were hanged in October 1792.

The simple and beautiful pounder that will be on display in the Pier Store was used to mash, amongst other things taro, which is cooked and then fermented to become a starchy food staple called poi. It would also have been used to pound breadfruit and bananas.

Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland very kindly brought the pounder to Norfolk with him when he travelled here to work on the HMS Sirius collection re-housing project. Prior to departing last weekend he presented it to the Norfolk Island Museum in the presence of the Chief Minister, and Minister for the Museum, Mr David Buffett.

We are very thankful to the Museum of Tropical Queensland for their support in helping us secure this loan. It is not yet on display as the finishing touches to a display case take place however it will be within the next few weeks and will be found on the ground floor of the Pier Store Museum. As a result of the removal of the HMS Sirius collection from the Pier Store, both floors of the building now display the Bounty story and artefacts together with the stories of Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island. It is a museum that celebrates the history, stories and culture of the people of Norfolk Island. We hope that many people will enjoy viewing the pounder with its special connection to Norfolk’s foremothers and fathers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The HMS Sirius Collection is Moved!

It has been a big few weeks at the museum. On Thursday 8th November the amazing team of Phillip Smith, Franklin Randall, Caine Henderson, Winton Stephens, Brent Jones, Pumpkin and Brett Berganin took the Sirius anchor, carronades and other artefacts from the Pier Store to their new home in the former Protestant Chapel. This was no easy task for the anchor in particular. Not only did they have to take the 1.7 ton anchor out through the gantry doors in the Pier Store (that are shorter than the average door and thinner than the width of the head of the anchor) they also then had to manoeuvre it in through the compound side door, attach it to a wooden stock and leave it free standing in the middle of the room! Hopefully some of the pictures will reveal the level of skill and ingenuity required to successfully carry this out.

Our sincere thanks to Franklin Randall for doing it all again! and providing his expert knowledge to the whole process. Caine Henderson brought his ‘Dial a Digger’ machinery and team who worked together for the entire day meeting every challenge without a hitch. What amazing Norfolk men!

We have been so lucky to secure the services of Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland who has so much experience with this type of work. Prior to the move of the major artefacts, Phillip worked with Brent Jones putting up the 5 metre long replica fibre-glass hull. Fitting the difficult bow sprit and figurehead were no problem for these two! Phillip and Brent will continue working on this museum and the Pier Store through next week as all the interpretation panels are hung and new displays installed in the Pier Store. As always we had our amazing volunteer Sue Brian doing anything and everything and more that was asked of her.

 This exciting re-housing of the HMS Sirius collection is of course only possible due to funding from a grant through the Commonwealth Your Community Heritage Program and the Norfolk Island Government. We have a long way still to go before the new museum will open its doors – but the major and most difficult task of moving those precious artefacts has been successfully achieved.

The photo's really capture the action, skill and incredible accomplishment of the 'move team'. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Move - Day 2

The move of the HMS Sirius collection continues. We had a great day yesterday as the anchor stock and cabinets were delivered to the museum and the replica hull had the bowsprit attached. Our 'full-time' team of Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Brent Jones, Sue Brian, Janelle Blucher and Lisa Richards were on hand - and also Franklin Randall from KAVHA and Caine Henderson from Dial a Digger! Caine's team will be also be managing the move of the major items such as the anchor and carronades on Thursday.

The following pictures tell the story of the day:

Monday, November 5, 2012

We're on the Move!

All of the work of the last five months is coming to a head this week and next as the HMS Sirius collection is moved into the Protestant Chapel. This “HMS Sirius Collection – Re-housing Project” has been made possible with funding through the Commonwealth’s Your Community Heritage Program and the Norfolk Island Government. It is a very large and exciting project and one that will importantly result in the Nationally Significant HMS Sirius collection being housed in vastly improved environmental conditions. As the flagship of the First Fleet, the Sirius is Australia’s most important shipwreck and as a result of this project Norfolk Island will have a dedicated museum to display her story and remains.

A lot of work has been undertaken to get us to this point. The building has been modified to include a workroom/office, painted and had the floors sanded and re-sealed. New interpretation panels have been designed, written, printed and mounted onto backing panels. Cabinets have been custom made and the replica hull that stood in the old museum has been cleaned up ready to be installed. The anchor stock has been cleaned and oiled ready to stand once again attached to the anchor. A touch-screen with a database on all of the nearly 1,400 people of the First Fleet is underway as is a First Fleet Wall that will eventually contain individually inscribed wooden disks for each of the 1,400.

Not only that, but new displays have also been developed to fill the ground floor of the Pier Store which will be left empty when the Sirius collection is moved out. The Pier Store will be closed for a period towards the end of next week and will then re-open with a focus on the stories of the mutiny on the Bounty, Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island from 1856.

Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ) has arrived to work with our local men on the move. Phillip was last here in 2010 to build a fibreglass replica Bounty cannon used while we completed conservation work on the original. At the MTQ he is a Display Officer with responsibility for the mounting of displays and moving objects throughout the museum. He is also a specialist in dinosaur creations! He recently made a life size replica dinosaur that moved by remote control to the delight of children visiting the museum’s dinosaur exhibition. We are excited to welcome Phillip back to the island and to work on this important project. Our sincere thanks to the MTQ for releasing him from his work and allowing him to come – and also to his wife Claudia and small son Lennox for letting us take him away from home for the fortnight!