Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Protecting and Preserving our Maritime Heritage

The Historic Shipwreck Act 1976 requires all owners of shipwreck material older than 75 years to register their objects.  Registration simply records the details of your shipwreck material and in no way interferes with your ownership.  On Norfolk Island the museum is the agency to contact to register shipwreck material.

The purpose of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 is to protect maritime objects. It is also to ensure that historic shipwrecks are protected for their heritage values and maintained for recreational, scientific and educational purposes.  It seeks to control any actions which could result in damage, interference, removal or destruction of an historic shipwreck site or relic.  It does not prevent private ownership of relics, or their sale or disposal, but it does regulate their transfer and disallows further removal of objects from wreck sites or disturbance of sites.

The reasons to register your material are not only that it is a legal requirement, but that without registration you cannot sell or transfer your material.

The registration form is a relatively simple one page form that includes your contact details, a description of your relics and information such as: (if known) where the relic was found, what historic shipwreck it is associated with,  where it is stored and its condition. Aside from getting a copy at the museum, you can download it from   http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/historic-shipwrecks/possessing-exporting-historic-shipwreck-relics  see the link under Notification to find ‘Notification custody of shipwreck relic’.

Registering artefacts isn’t a new concept on Norfolk Island.  Many owners of HMS Sirius objects were brought forward for photographing, identification and recording during the 1985 Sirius Expeditions.  They were then included in the expedition reports, enabling us to revisit them in recent years to take additional photographs, reconfirm the provenance or associated stories, conserve them and return them back to their owners. 

We also urge you to record whatever information you have about your objects. Norfolk Island is surrounded by maritime events and many relics have been recovered from our seas and shores over the years including from our convict and whaling heritage to name just two.  The value we place on an object often relates to its connections to a story or a place.  An object by itself may tell you where or when it was made, but knowledge of its story or place is much more meaningful. 

If you have any shipwreck material older than 75 years (even if you’re unsure of its age) please contact us at the Norfolk Island Museum to process your registration and answer any questions that you have.

Our photo shows a fine example of a shipwreck relic: The bell of the Mary Hamilton in repose at the Norfolk Island Central School, no longer directing the students throughout their day with its ring. The Mary Hamilton was on a twelve month whaling cruise when she called at Norfolk Island on 19 April 1873 to load wood and water. Her master went ashore but as she was being brought around from Cascade to Kingston by the Mate she struck a rock off Nepean Island; bilged and eventually sunk.


 Janelle Blucher