Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Acquisitions

Every time a visitor purchases a ticket to see the museum’s historical play, “The Trial of the Fifteen” they unwittingly support many areas of museum activity. Thanks to an Agreement originally initiated back in 2005 by the play’s author Peter Clarke, all profits from the play must be used for projects and purchases outside of normal museum expenditure. Each year the current copyright holder, Peter’s son Stephen Clarke, and the Museum Trust together agree on what these projects and purchases will be. Funding for the acquisition of new artefacts is included in the current year and some wonderful new purchases have just been made.

Many on Norfolk would remember Richard Swansborough who lived here for a period of time in the 1980s and took the underwater footage of the four HMS Sirius expeditions to recover the material that is now in our Sirius Museum. That footage was used to make the movie “The Search for the Sirius” which we show and sell at the museum. Richard recently had a number of items from his diving career for sale and the Trust purchased several with significance to Norfolk Island. Included was the purchase of the original film reels and copyright to the “Search for the Sirius” which will free us from having to purchase future copies as well as allow us to copy and sell to other retailers. This single purchase will provide long term income to the museum.

 A bottle Richard retrieved from the Port Vila shipwreck site of the Resolution is one of three artefacts purchased. The Resolution was locally built in 1925 as a whole of community effort by Islanders trying to take control of their economic destiny by getting their fresh produce to market in the midst of a lack of shipping. She sadly ran into debt soon after and was purchased by the Burns Philp Line who used her on the New Hebrides run until in 1948 she sank at her mooring. Her wheel and bell are in the Pier Store Museum and this bottle will add to our telling of her story.

A pair of beautiful scrimshaw are perhaps the most outstanding items. In the 1800s sailors on long whaling voyages would pass the time by carving elaborate designs into the teeth of whales that had been killed on the voyage. The carved teeth, and other carved pieces of ivory, became known as scrimshaw. Norfolk was regularly visited by whaling vessels during the entire 19th century and into the 20th century. This pair has been made to stand together with a male and female beautifully dressed looking towards each other, the man holding a scroll. 


The last object purchased is also from our whaling past - the inner ear of a whale that Owen Evans gave to Richard. Together with other whalebone pieces and samples of whale oil currently in our collection, this piece adds to our whaling story. Whaling was of course such an important industry on Norfolk with beginnings not long after the Pitcairners 1856 arrival.

 The artefacts purchased will eventually be put on display in the Pier Store Museum. Together, they add to our capacity to carry out the museum’s role of presenting our Islands heritage and stories. With no other current funding available for acquisition of artefacts, we are very thankful to Stephen Clarke, the Museum Trust and all those visitors who attend “The Trial of the Fifteen”.

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