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From Submerged to an internship 

As a Friends of Tasman Island volunteer, in 2018, I was excited to be offered an internship at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, where the top of the Tasman light resides.

In May 2017, I met with the Assistant Director of Operations of the National Maritime Museum, Peter Rout, at a seminar, in Tasmania, for the set-up of the new travelling exhibition Submerged. It was an ambitious project to relay stories of Australian shipwrecks by imparting and gathering information from workshops around the Country, enabling many people to be involved in the making.

Peter asked where I lived and what was my connection/ interest. I replied, 'I live on the Tasman Peninsula and I am a volunteer with the Friends of Tasman Island, where the surrounding waters have had many shipwrecks hence the need for the Tasman Lighthouse. In fact the top of our Lighthouse is in your museum. Give it back!’

The Tasman Light, on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney. Image: Rachel Chesmer.

I wrote a story about SS Nord for Submerged. The Nord sunk near Tasman Island back in 1915, and it is an amazing story: pigeons sent by the Lighthouse Keepers alerted the rescue boats. The wreck is now a popular dive site.

SS Nord sunk near Tasman Island back in 1915. Pigeons were sent by the Lighthouse Keepers to alerted the rescue teams, as the cliffs were too steep to scale. Image: Friends of Tasman Island, via Rachel Chesmer.

Although the story on the Nord was not in the top fourteen, included in specially designed pop-up banners, that are now travelling the country and it is amongst those posted on the website and was included in the exhibition in Dover, Tasmania opened by the Governor in February 2018.

My involvement with Submerged, inspired me to apply for an internship through the Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS) at the Museum so I could create a travelling exhibition and set up education programs linked with the history of the Lighthouse keepers and their families on Tasman Island. 

Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse, with Westfield Tower in the background, at the Museum in Sydney. Image: Rachel Chesmer. 

A week behind the scenes 

The internship enabled me to go to Sydney and have a week at the Museum where the Tasman light is displayed. Over the several days I experienced a deluge of talks, tours and meetings that sent my head spinning. It was like having a year’s worth of knowledge and experience condensed into a week. What a rush!

I felt inspired and empowered by the incredible experience and to have the opportunity to meet so many experts willing to share their knowledge and experience. The talks gave us the perfect opportunity to understand the roles of the different experts everything from Directors, Curatorial, Interpretation & Design, Indigenous, Conservation, Creative, Education and Retail. Tours gave us the hands on opportunity to appreciate and critic the different exhibitions with the privilege of having a specially guided talk by the person involve with its creation. One on one meetings gave us a high powered unique opportunity to receive personal advice and information.

I mention 'us' as I was at the museum along with a number of other MMAPSS interns and that was also an interesting experience to feel we could support and advice each other.

Although glad to back in Tasmania, and a gentler pace of life, I feel geared up to work together with the friends of Tasman Island team and make progress with the ambitious plan to set up a travelling interactive exhibition promoting knowledge and understanding about Tasman Island, lighthouse and keepers for visitors and schools. 

Rachel Chesmer looks forward to sharing her new skills with the rest of Friends of Tasman Island. Image: Friends of Tasman Island. 

I recommend applying for an internship: If you are interested in learning how to change your museum or establishment from the archetypal bland and boring rows of specimens and artefacts in displays, to a great place with inspirational exhibits and interactive learning and fun for all ages, this an great program. It has given me a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. My only regret it was only a week, but I did get to see the bark painting exhibition (with my own special guide), go aboard Kay Cottee’s boat (she wasn’t there to offer me a cuppa), danced on the Endeavour and stood under the original Tasman light.

HMB Endeavour at sunset. Image: Rachel Chesmer. 

— Rachel Chesmer, volunteer with Friends of Tasman Island

Do you have a potential MMAPSS project? Find out more about the grants scheme.

The Australian National Maritime Museum welcomes several interns each year to support and contribute to research and programs.


The Australian National Maritime Museum welcomes several interns each year to support and contribute to research and programs.