Maritime rescue is needed

NEW VOYAGE: President of the Newcastle Maritime Museum Ian Jones pictured in the museum. The volunteer run organisation is facing stormy conditions.
NEW VOYAGE: President of the Newcastle Maritime Museum Ian Jones pictured in the museum. The volunteer run organisation is facing stormy conditions.

NEWCASTLE Maritime Museum is in the “ideal” location, according to president of the volunteer-run organisation Ian Jones. 

However, it would be “financially irresponsible” to continue to operate on the Honeysuckle wharf given the challenges it faces.  

“There is a lot of artifacts, and this is only a small percentage of them [on display],” Mr Jones said. 

“The collections process over the years has been vast, we have taken a lot of stuff on board.”

The collection holds more than 7000 artifacts. Pieces not on exhibition are in storage at the former BHP site. 

Among the collection and behind closed doors is the 18 tonne Victoria, a wooden rescue boat.  

Also, a horse drawn cart used by the Rocket Brigade to conduct sea rescues is hidden away in a back section of the museum. 

There is no budget to display them properly. 

“We have art works, model boats, cutlery and crockery sets from old boats that are in mint condition,” he said. “They are put away in containers.” 

With the lack of funds, it has also been impossible to update displays. 

“This issue with the museum is it has remained the same … since opened it up,” Mr Jones said.  “Nothing has changed.

“A lot of it is highly relevant to the port, but it needs to be rotated.”

Mr Jones said the story of the port needs to be better told so the exhibition pieces are understood and appreciated. The best way to do this would be through digital technologies. 

“If you have an active and interactive museum … it attracts kids and young adults and satisfies their curiosity,” he said. 

Despite a recent grant to engage digital technology, it would not cover the full cost. 

“We need help from the higher powers,” Mr Jones said. “That may be the council and HDC (Hunter Development Corporation).”

The collection itself needs to be professionally assessed, Mr Jones said. This process would see artifacts that are not relevant to the Port of Newcastle moved into more appropriate collections. 

Additionally, works on the footings of the HDC owned wharf, and other works, need to be undertaken. The museum would need to move out for as long as 12 months. 

The museum’s lease expires in May and its BHP storage site will also soon no longer be available. 

“I just don’t see it as being financially responsible to sign another lease to go on for another 15 years when we have no possible prospect of anyone being a benefactor or offering support,” he said. “Financially, we aren’t in a dire situation, but we certainly need help to continue.”

The organisation is committed to keeping the collection in public hands.