Australian National Maritime Museum
History and museums
The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) is a federally operated maritime museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. After considering the idea of establishing a maritime museum, the federal government announced that a national maritime museum would be constructed at Darling Harbour, tied into the New South Wales State government's redevelopment of the area for the Australian bicentenary. The museum building was designed by Philip Cox, and although an opening date of 1988 was initially set, construction delays, cost overruns, and disagreements between the state and federal governments over funding responsibility pushed the opening back to 1991.
One of six museums directly operated by the federal government, the ANMM is the only one located outside of the Australian Capital Territory. The museum is structured around seven main galleries, focusing on the discovery of Australia, the relationships between the Australian Aborigines and the water, travel to Australia by sea, the ocean as a resource, water-based relaxation and entertainment, the naval defence of the nation, and the relationship between the United States of America and Australia. The last gallery was funded by the United States government, and is the only national museum gallery in the world funded by a foreign nation. Four additional gallery spaces are used for temporary exhibits. Three museum ships – the HM Bark Endeavour Replica, the destroyer HMAS Vampire, and the submarine HMAS Onslow – are open to the public, while smaller historical vessels berthed outside can be viewed but not boarded.
Of the six museums operated directly by the Federal government (the ANMM, the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, and Questacon), the ANMM is the only one located outside the Australian Capital Territory.
In June 1985, the federal government announced the establishment of a national museum focusing on Australia's maritime history and the nation's ongoing involvement and dependence on the sea. Proposals for the creation of such a museum had been under consideration over the preceding years. After lobbying by New South Wales Premier Neville Wran, the decision was made to situate the new museum at Darling Harbour, and construct it as part of the area's redevelopment. The building of the ANMM was seen by both the federal and New South Wales State governments as an important feature of the redevelopment, as it would be a major drawcard, and help fuel the commercial success of the precinct.
The museum building was designed by Philip Cox, Richardson Taylor & Partners. The roof was shaped to invoke the image of billowing sails: the corrugated metal roof stands over 25 metres (82 ft) tall on the west side, but drops significantly on the east.
During development, the museum ran into a series of difficulties. In March 1998, the three top members of the ANMM interim council were sacked by the federal government and replaced. Later in the year, the Department for the Arts informed the museum that its staff would be reduced by 30% and it would undergo budget cuts, forcing the ANMM to rely on contracted security and conservation staff, along with volunteer guides and attendants. The acceptance of a US$5 million grant for a dedicated gallery showing the links between the US and Australia resulted in the displacement of much of the staff and research areas. Most of these were later established in the nearby Wharf 7 building.
The museum was initially slated to open in 1988, but by October that year, construction delays had pushed the planned opening date to September 1989, and the project was already $12.5 million over the $30 million budget. Construction was completed on 17 November 1989; the cost of the museum's construction had increased to $70 million, and although the Federal government was willing to pay the initial $30 million, there were disagreements between the state and federal governments over who had to supply the additional $40 million. It was resolved that New South Wales was responsible for the additional funding, and in October 1990, the museum building was handed over to the Federal government. The ANMM was opened on 30 November 1991.
In order to achieve commercial sustainability, the ANMM was directed by the federal government to institute entry fees: the second Australian national museum to do so after Questacon was opened in 1988. The entry fee for the museum itself was dropped in 2004 (although access to the museum ships was still charged), then was re-added in December 2011.
During the museum's first ten years of operation, 3.3 million visitors attended.
In 2010, London's The Sunday Times listed the ANMM in its "World's 10 Coolest Museums".
At the start of 2014, the ANMM announced that is would build a pavilion to showcase exhibits related to the Royal Australian Navy. The pavilion, which will be located near the museum's naval vessels, will be built between July 2014 and September 2015.
Permanent exhibitions at the museum are focused around six gallery spaces:
In addition, there are four other gallery spaces in the museum. The Tasman Light gallery contains the original lenses from the Tasman Island Lighthouse, and is used for temporary photographic exhibitions and as hireable space for functions. The other three galleries (two along the eastern side of the top level, and a third offset from the main body of the museum) are used separately or together to host temporary exhibitions.
Other items on display inside the museum, but not associated with any particular gallery, include Spirit of Australia, the Water Speed Record-holding motorboat, and an anchor from HMS Sirius, flagship of the First Fleet.
The ANMM's collection of museum ships focuses on three vessels that are open for public inspection: the HM Bark Endeavour Replica, the destroyer HMAS Vampire, and the submarine HMAS Onslow. In addition, the 19th century barque James Craig is moored nearby and can be toured with a museum ticket.
During the mid-1980s, it was proposed that a replica of explorer James Cook's ship, HM Bark Endeavour be constructed for the museum. Funding for construction was initially provided by the Bond Corporation, and construction began at the start of 1988. However, in 1990, the company ran into financial difficulties, and construction was unable to continue until a charitable trust was established in 1991 to complete and operate the replica Endeavour. The vessel was completed in 1994, and spent the next ten years sailing around Australia and the world before ownership was transferred to the ANMM in 2005.
The Daring-class destroyer HMAS Vampire is the only ship of her class to be preserved, and was the last gun-destroyer to serve in the Royal Australian Navy. Vampire was commissioned into the RAN in 1959, and served until 1986. The destroyer was loaned to the ANMM on its opening in 1991, and was transferred completely to museum ownership in 1997. The Oberon-class submarine HMAS Onslow was introduced into RAN service in 1969. She was operated until early 1999, and was given to the ANMM that year. Despite no longer being in naval commission, Vampire and Onslow have permission to fly the Australian White Ensign. Prior to Onslow's acquisition, the former Russian submarine Foxtrot-540 was on display at the museum from 1995 to 1998. The submarine had been purchased in 1994 by a group of Australian businessmen, and was placed on display for the duration of the lease purchase contract, after which the submarine was relocated to California.
Other vessels on display (but not open for public boarding) include:
The 1874-built Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse, originally located at Cape Bowling Green, near Townsville, Queensland, was relocated to the ANMM site in 1987.
The Vaughan Evans Library is the research library attached to the ANMM, and is a collecting agency on maritime matters.
The Welcome Wall is a bronze wall located on the northern side of the museum, which lists the names of immigrants who arrived by sea to settle in Australia. Having a name engraved on the wall requires an application to the ANMM, and the paying of a fee. As of the end of 2011, the wall contained 24,000 names.
A Harding safety lifeboat and davit is fitted on the water's edge. This lifeboat, of a design commonly used aboard offshore drilling platforms and tanker ships, is used by the Sydney Institute of TAFE for maritime training.