Communicating information about where maritime museums are, when they’re open and the collections they manage is a difficult matter when they vary so much in size and are scattered around Australia’s vast coastline. Yet, so many people within and outside museums want to know more about Australia’s maritime history as well as the people and organisations that manage and explore it.
The Australian Maritime Museums Council was established over 25 years ago. It was designed as a special interest group of Museums Australia, the professional body for the museum industry, to provide a forum for interested parties to share information on maritime history and develop their museums. The AMMC is now a membership-based not-for-profit company, although still with affiliation to Museums Australia.
The group has grown tremendously from its first annual round-the-table, one hour meeting, to an organisation today with a membership of some 200, with a new series of regional workshops twice each year and a periodic full-scale conference. From its beginnings, the AMMC has canvassed issues of significance for maritime heritage organisations as well as providing a forum for information and dialogue between maritime professionals and volunteers.
Our membership is diverse and includes those working directly in major Australian maritime museums, as well as in regional museums, volunteer run local museums, maritime heritage organisations and ship preservation groups.
This breadth of membership allows us to gauge how much maritime history has changed in the eyes of the general public – maritime history includes not only the stuff or trade, commerce and exploration, of men and their boats, but also the leisure lifestyles of Australians – in boats and on beaches. People today are visiting maritime museums in ever greater numbers to explore and experience this new vision of maritime history, and to discover afresh Australia’s maritime stories – stories of an island continent with its critical stretch of rivers and waterways.
This is, in part, the reason for this organisation. All museums and AMMC members share the common goal of presenting themes in maritime history – by preserving historic material, from boats, to shipwreck artefacts, to marine art, and to the intangibles of documenting people’s emotional experiences of migration for example – in the field of oral history. Our collective aim is to make this material more accessible – to show our holdings and to get them out into our various communities.
But the AMMC also serves as a forum for members to share information, to get in touch with each other, to share exhibitions, to arrange internships between museums and to meet at AMMC workshops and conferences to share professional information and social interaction.
All too often, people see their history only in great events and national icons. Yet our real stories are out there – in regional museums, historical societies and interest groups, clubs and communities.
In that regards, the AMMC gives voice to members’ common goals of taking Australia’s diverse maritime history to our visitors: those who come in the door, and those who use our programs – from outreach services to virtual exhibitions on the net.
An organisation like this is only as good as the contributions from members. Accordingly we invite all members and supporters to update their information and to share news of their activities through AMMC’s newsletters and website.
To those of you who are not members and share a passion for things maritime, please join up. Membership for smaller institutions and individuals is free in 2016-2017.