The Journeys gallery explores the journeys of people to and from Australia and the social, political and economic impacts of those journeys. Here are some of the highlights from the 750 objects on show in the gallery. These objects are from the National Museum's collections, unless otherwise stated.
All photos by George Serras, Lannon Harley, Dragi Markovic and Dean McNicoll, unless otherwise stated.
Image Gallery Page Navigation
Page 1 of 5
Makassar fishermen's journey to Australia
From at least 1700 until 1907, hundreds of fishermen sailed each year from Makassar on the island of Sulawesi, now in Indonesia, to the northern Australian coast. They voyaged to this place they called 'Marege' in search of a valuable delicacy known as trepang — edible sea cucumbers.
Fishermen arrived each December and camped along the Arnhem Land coast, catching, boiling and drying trepang. They met, traded and worked with local Aboriginal people. Then, each April, as the monsoon winds began to blow, the fishermen returned to Makassar with their holds carrying trepang to be traded north to China.
Trepang include several species of the class Holothuroidea. They live mostly in tropical waters and are usually 10 to 50 centimetres long, although some grow to more than a metre.
Listen to 'From Makassar to Marege' to the Museum: Trepang processing industry in Arnhem Land' audio
Curator Alison Mercieca detailed her research on the trepang in a presentation at the National Museum on 9 July 2008.
Indigenous journeys of exchange
For thousands of years the Indigenous people of northern Australia traded shells, ochre, feathers and other materials with their neighbours on the continent and beyond it.
Baler shell was collected in the Gulf of Carpenteria in Australia's north and traded south and west across Australia. With each exchange the value increased. On the coast, shells were used for water carriers and scrapers. In Central Australia they became sacred and ceremonial objects.
This exchange connected Aboriginal people in Australia's north to others in Central Australia and as far south as the present-day Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
This baler shell, cut through the whorl section, is from the early 1900s.
Captain James Cook's magnifier
Navigating the Pacific
This tortoiseshell magnifier was used by British naval officer Captain James Cook, probably to look closely at maps or specimens.
Cook sailed to the Pacific three times in the 1770s, charting and claiming places previously unknown to Europeans, including the east coast of Australia.
The magnifier came into the possession of astronomer William Bayly on Cook's last voyage. Bayly sailed twice with Cook, taking observations that would assist British navigators to establish their longitude.
Despite what the inscription says on its elaborate silver case, the magnifier may not have been a gift. After Cook was killed in Hawaii in 1779, his possessions were auctioned 'before the mast' and Bayly may have bought the memento then. This was a common way of raising money for a dead sailor's family.
Embroidered map samplers
European voyages of discovery
These samplers were probably sewn by a young Englishwoman in about 1800. She drew her maps onto the silk from a pattern created to teach ladies geography. The maker has added her own touches, tracing Captain James Cook's three voyages into the Pacific with tiny stitches. The samplers show the new British settlement in Australia at Port Jackson, founded in the wake of Captain James Cook's voyage.
Sitting in an English drawing room, the embroiderer has sewn the coastline of 'New Holland or Terra Australis' from the accounts of Spanish, Dutch, French and British sailors.
Launch the Voyaging with a needle - Flash interactive (Flash 9 compatible – download Flash )
Sir Andrew Snape Hamond's Pembroke work table
A First Fleet journey
In about 1790 First Fleet Surgeon-General John White sent his patron, Sir Andrew Snape Hamond, some planks cut from a tree growing near the new settlement at Port Jackson.
He probably hoped a gift of rare, exotic timber would help retain Snape Hamond's good favour — the British naval officer could exert a powerful influence over White's career.
In New South Wales, the colonists called the timber 'beefwood', because the freshly cut logs resembled salted meat. In London, a cabinet-maker sliced the precious timber into thin veneers to top this small Pembroke work table. It sat in the drawing room of Snape Hamond's home in Norfolk, England for more than 200 years, before being purchased by the National Museum of Australia in 2006.
Thomas Lock's convict token
A convict's token of remembrance
Some 160,000 convicts were sent to the Australian colonies from 1788 to 1868.
One of those convicts was Thomas Lock. He was convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to 10 years' transportation to New South Wales.
Before Lock left England, as he waited in prison for his sentence to be carried out, he used a penny to make a token of remembrance to leave behind. The inscription reads:
WHEN / THIS YOU / SEE / REMEMBER /
ME WHEN / I AM FAR / FROM the[e] /
THOMAS / LOCK / AGED 22 / TRANSPed /
Lock gave this memento to a loved one when he sailed for Australia. He arrived in Sydney in September 1845. It is not known if he ever returned to England.
Listen to 'Stories of sadness and loss' audio
Collector and consultant Peter Lane detailed his research on convict tokens in a presentation at the National Museum on 13 June 2009. The talk also covered the Alexander Mussen ambrotype and the Muriel McPhee trousseau.