Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Norfolk Museums #3, June 26th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

Pier store museum

The tourist brochure about the Pier Store Museum has this to say:

The legendary mutiny on board the Bounty has been portrayed in no less than five Hollywood movies, but the true story is to be found here along with major Bounty artefacts.  Life on Pitcairn Island and the resettlement to Norfolk in 1856 are also told.  Today’s rich local culture, including Norf’k language, is revealed in this museum.

Which is to say that it’s a bit of a mish-mash, neither chronologically nor thematically coherent. Still, there’s some interesting stuff.

Journey of the longboat

There’s a scale model of the Bounty and its cannon, and a wonderful painting of the Journey of the Longboat, showing the fragility of the craft into which Bligh and his supporters were despatched by the mutineers.  How he ever got them safely to land (with just a sextant hurled to him from the ship) is a miracle, and one injustice which the museum seeks to rectify is Bligh’s reputation.  Signage tells us that he was actually quite enlightened for the times, that deaths onboard were rare, and that contrary to the dramatic scenes in the movies, he didn’t keelhaul anybody.  The amateur historian in me isn’t exactly sceptical, but I’m mindful that he’s the one who got back to England with a legacy to protect, and that when the mutineers landed on Pitcairn, all the Bounty’s logs were burned along with the ship to avoid detection.

There are also some miscellaneous bits and pieces, not authentic enough for the 2nd settlement period of the House Museum, but interesting in their own right.

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In marked contrast to the prominence given to WW2 history on New Caledonia where they have a whole museum dedicated to it, there’s only a little bit of signage about Norfolk Island in WW2. Due to its strategic position in the South Pacific, the island was used as a staging post for aircraft, a base for submarine patrols and as a refuge for aircraft in distress.  Perhaps because it was manned by Kiwis and not by a huge influx of US servicemen WW2 didn’t have the same social impact on Norfolk Island as it did on New Caledonia, where the racial mix today is evidence of fraternisation to say the least.  But as at New Caledonia the infrastructure built to service military needs was a great benefit to Norfolk Island although the signage gives very little credit to this.  Indeed, the only decent roads today are the ones built back then, and the 20-bed hospital was built then too.  (I keep getting reminders that there’s no money for community infrastructure in a tax-haven.) The biggest benefit was the building of the airstrip, which linked Norfolk Island to the world by air, enabling the growth of tourism and facilitating imports of fresh produce not available on the island.

WW2

There is also, inevitably, more about governance than any tourist wants to know…

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3 Responses to “Norfolk Museums #3, June 26th 2018”

  1. More about governance than any tourist wants to know! Haha.

    I must say I never really thought about the boat Bligh and co were put on. I reckon it’s sensible to be a bit sceptical about Bligh stories. I must say I’ve never read a serious history or biography of him, just bits and pieces about different aspects of his life.

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