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MathildeHK at ICMM – International Congress for Maritime Museums

You like old Warships,

You are interested in Maritime archeology,

You like History,

Lecture part of the ICMM HONG KONG – November 6 2015.


I attended the final talk of the 17 th edition of the ICMM at Hong Kong Maritime Museum. The subject was highly interesting and dealt with doing research and extending the missions of Maritime Museums. The lecturers were from Europe, coming from major museums such as: Klas Helmerson, retired from the Vasa Museum, Fred Hocker from the same Vasa Museum and Christopher Dobbs from the Mary Rose Tust. they discussed the issue of ” Connecting the past to the present : Maritime Archeology”


Main research question: Why maritime museums need research programme?

The talk was devided into 2 sections, one dedicated to the VASA and the other to the MARY ROSE.


The vasa museum,

I the VASA – 17th century Canons and ballistics – Sweden by Fred Hocker

“THE MAIDEN VOYAGE … On Sunday, the 10th of August, 1628, Vasa lay rigged and ready for sea just below the royal palace Tre Kronor. Ballast, guns and ammunition were all on board. On the quays and shores along Strömmen, an excited public waited to watch the ship leave Stockholm and celebrate her departure.Over a hundred crewmen were on board, as well as women and children. The crew had permission to take family and guests along for the first part of the passage through the Archipelago.” by Vasa Museum
According to Fred Hocker, there are good reasons why Museums should do research rather than other institutions:
The main one would be the proximity with the objects. Ex : the museum sold 15000 copies for the Vasa research catalogue. Another book also found some public: The archeology of a swedish warship of 1628. Research creates new knowledge in the museum to enlarge the audiences. Its showing all collections, not just the pieces on display and its also a way to get new sponsors.


Project 2015 : the canon project.


The research dealt with how to understand the capabilities of waepons and why the warship sank after 55 min in 1628.
In 1626, the king wanted to encourage canons and fire weapons. Ballistics was not perfect. were canons responsable for the desaster?


The museum undertook research on ergonomics and munition. They decided to replicate an ordnance tablet and they recreated the alloy for the weapon making and the gun of the canon. They replicated the different ammunitions as well to recreate the whole canon. Fred explained us they also needed to find gun shooters. They called the members of an american association…so they could study the impact of bullets on a replicated flank of the Vasa. the smell, the noise and the results were amazing.

The project has cost half a million USD, they did a total of 54 rounds with 125 kg powder. All staff could actually fire it and get trained. Fred Hocker looked very satisfied of that attend and claimed the influence of the Mary Rose Trust…

II Recreating life on board – Christopher Dobbs – Mary Rose Trust

Built in 1510 by Henri VIII, the Mary Rose was a warship from 1510 to 1545 and sank in wars against the French, with  only 35 survivors. The Mary Rose trust was created in 1979 to promote and bring ashore the ship on display in Portsmouth.In 1982,  the mary rose raised. Brought to a structure just newly renovated in 2013 – reports. Biggest excavation under the sea.


Christopher Dobbs explained how important it was for him to avoid replicas. The Museum display matches the display undersea. The boat is on the one side and the galleries with objects on the other side.During undersea research, the team found a big pile of bricks. Some were still together: there were the ovens. The museum decided the reconstruction of the cauldrons. They built a fule scale replica outside the museum in order to explain the visitors about the everyday life on board.The showcase also show the way they found things in the sea with the way they rebuilt them. The museum also tells personal stories  since they found personal boxes in the ship. Museology and research programmes are true successes since the museum is welcoming over a million visitors per year!


According to Christopher, the Main three best excavating, curating and showcasing instances of Maritime Museums are the VASA, excavated in 1961 in Stockolm, the MARY ROSE found in 1982 in UK and the NAN HAI I found in 2012 in China.


The world is stil waiting for the Chinese ancient warship to emerge from its bath…