Maritime history, archaeology and museums: a case study from Australia

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"Maritime historians, archaeologists and curators all seek to interpret and 'present' the way in which people lived in past times to people in the present day. Yet each of these parent disciplines has a slightly different approach and seeks to utilise different sources to meet this goal. Maritime museums, for example, are most comfortable with curators who acquire objects and develop exhibitions and are used to dealing with museum collections rather than archaeological collections. Archaeologists, on the other hand, frequently excavate and seek information from a slightly different kind of 'material culture'. Historians are often intrigued by the whole concept of 'material culture', but have difficulty applying it to their histories, which instead draw primarily on text-based sources, and to a lesser extent the images beloved by art historians. Is this simply a question of 'labelling' or are there more fundamental differences in these ways of addressing the past? This paper will discuss these issues from the perspective of a historian running the maritime archaeology programme at the Australian National Maritime Museum. "
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalBermuda Journal of Archaeology and Maritime History
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Maritime museums
  • Maritime archaeology
  • Historians
  • Archaeologists
  • Material culture
  • Shipwrecks
  • Underwater archaeology


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