Western Australian Maritime Museum

Graeme Henderson


Western Australian Maritime Museum

Cliff St Fremantle, Western Australia 6160


Redevelopment of the Western Australian Maritime Museum

Our institution.We are a State museum, established in the port city of Fremantle in 1979 as a branch of the Western Australian Museum. Starting with shipwreck archaeology,we expanded in 2002 with a harbour-side facility exhibiting broad maritime heritage. Our attractions comprise the Shipwreck Galleries, the new Western Australian Maritime Museum at Victoria Quay, and the submarine Ovens.

History of the project:rationale, objectives, aims? In the 1980s we began collecting maritime heritage, emphasising wooden boats. We sought a new facility to showcase the expanded collection. Our 1992 strategic plan envisioned a maritime heritage museum, working with the community in a maritime precinct and developing interstate and international relationships.

Idea conception? Where the support came from? In what forms? The incoming 1993 State Government committed to revitalise the historic West End of Fremantle, declare Australia's first maritime precinct and expand the Museum with a maritime industries museum. The Australian Prime Minister announced his intent to return the Americas Cup winning yacht Australia II to Fremantle.The State Premier committed to house the vessel. A site was chosen and architects contracted in 1997 to develop a Masterplan for a Waterfront Precinct, with a new Museum as focal point.

The professional and social philosophy? Relevance for national and community development? Does it help quality of living? The Masterplan sees the new Museum as a landmark Precinct feature, communicating achievements and celebrating our maritime heritage and culture.Government statements refer to stimulation of investment, revitalisation of the western end of Victoria Quay, increased connectivity between port and city, and tourism. Museum professionals see also a more constructive relationship with community and tourists. Quality of life is improved through community/Museum cultural engagement.

The particular quality or innovation that deserved to be awarded? The Museum won two categories of the State Tourism Awards: New Tourism Development, and Significant Tourism Attraction. We scored highest on Product, Marketing, and Business Plans questiond. In the Australian Tourism Awards we won the New Tourism Development category. Further development of our product within the framework of a new, precinct-based iconic building deserved to be awarded.
Is the project different from the others or better than them? The judges scored our product higher than the others.What sets us apart from our competitors is the unique shipwreck and general heritage products, staff expertise in research and interpretation, an iconic building on a working port, and our location in a unique heritage and mixed-use precinct in the State's most popular tourist city.We pride ourselves on attracting visitors who do not normally visit museums.

Human resources?Who was engaged and what we re the experiences? We had several HR advantages. Firstly, carriage of construction was conducted by another agency, Housing and Works, who had extensive experience in major capital works yet allowed us the necessary input to design/construction issues - it is very much a purpose-built facility. Secondly, our tenured staff continued day-to-day operations while joining with a contingent of fixed-termers bringing new ideas and approaches.The building was handed over to the Museum on completion of construction and we had full carriage of the fit-out. This arrangement worked well. Our close relationship with the architects gave us the building we wanted, aesthetically and functionally.

The difficulties? Was anything easy? Difficulties for the builders included a contaminated site, and harbour setback requirements to avoid ship collision. Fitout difficulties included a short schedule, a staff unused to major projects, professional debates about light levels and ls"hands on' components of the exhibits, and staff accommodation. The project seemed easy because of the shared pleasure in building and fitting out a beautiful construction in a dynamic environment. Next time? The project is an enormous success.Next time I would follow a similar path, aware of the need to acquire more recurrent funding, and sufficient land for future operations. Experiences you would never repeat? Debates over the kitchen area were difficult. The project started with the understanding that this would be a limited facility, but with changes, some asked if the result would be a restaurant with a museum attached. The solution adopted - a quality kitchen with a panel of preferred caterers - works well.

Define professional excellence? Professional excellence requires a visionary approach, a cutting-edge level of knowledge within that profession, the ability to conceptualise outside that profession, the absence of relevant personality flaws, and persistence, persistence, persistence
Advice for all who will enter some similar experience? Ensure that you have the best available support mechanisms, and combine that with professional excellence, such that at the end of the project you can celebrate the achievements with a broad grouping of internal and external stakeholders.


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