Windjammers is the newest addition to the SA Maritime Museums permanent exhibitions.

It explores the lives of the young crew who sailed enormous four-masted square-rigged ships, transporting South Australian grain during the final days of commercial sail.

Sailing yearly from the Åland Islands, in the Finnish Baltic, Windjammers arrived in the South Australian summer to collect grain. They also collected young South Australians keen to learn the ropes.

With small crews of 25-30 sailors, the youngest about 13 years old, skilled Captains sailed the enormous ships east and south passing through the tumultuous seas of Cape Horn where the ships of iron and steel 90 metres long, rode waves that loomed like walls of water.

The gallery includes an immersive and interactive cinema experience, presents windjammer objects from the South Australian History Collection and for those who wish to delve deeper, a selection of short films and digitised sailors journals are available via iPad kiosk.

The exhibition is supported by temporary exhibition, Pamela and thDuchess which tells the story of life, love and loss on the high seas through intimate photographs taken by British journalist, Pamela Bourne aboard the Herzogin Cecilie.

The Windjammers immersive experience was developed by the South Australian Maritime Museum in collaboration with the University of New South Wales Centre for iCinema.


Cat’s Out of the Bag! – School Holidays

Remember Captain Flinders’ trusty tomcat, Trim?

Every sailing ship needed a cat on board to keep the rats under control. Unfortunately, the Museum’s puss population is now out of control. It’s a cat-astrophe!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to follow the clues and find all the seafurrers hiding in our galleries. We’re not kitten around – this is fur real.

Count the ship’s cats and report your tabby tally to the front desk to receive your cat-catcher badge!

Where: SA Maritime Museum | 126 Lipson St, Port Adelaide
When: Dec – Jan School Holidays
Time: Every day from 10 am
Cost: $6 admission per child (activity free with entry)

Download your booklet HERE.

History Matters: Webinar Series for Teachers

Make your Wednesday afternoons a time of listening, learning, reflection and challenging historical concepts and understandings.

Wednesdays 4 – 5 pm, 22 July – 23 September 2020
FREE Webinar series via Zoom

This series of masterclasses will explore, discuss and analyse the history of what is now known as South Australia. Uncle Mickey O’Brien, Senior Kaurna man will work alongside historians and educators from the History Trust of South Australia team to share knowledge, expertise and ideas.

These sessions will be open forums and participants encouraged to ask questions and explore history. There will be a Q&A at the end of each session with our expert guests and presenters.

Australian Curriculum links will be included and attendees will receive a Certificate of Attendance you can use for PD records. We will also discuss some of the many school programs and resources teachers can access through the History Trust and its museums. Preservice teachers, lifelong learners and other interested historians also welcome.

Sessions may be recorded (depending on the presenters(s) permissions) and will be made available to registered participants.

Registrations via Eventbrite

Presented by the History Trust of South Australia in partnership with HASS SA.

Full Program:

Week 1: July 22

Introduction and opening of the masterclass series with Greg Mackie, AO, CEO History Trust of South Australia

Time Immemorial with Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: People on this continent forever: “History didn’t start at colonization “

Week 2: July 29

Early encounters with Dr Adam Paterson and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: Who came, what records are there? when they came, what they did, new names and records and what was happening at this time on this continent

Week 3: August 5

The new colony of South Australia with Mandy Paul

AC links: The planning of the colony of SA and the founding documents – the who and the thinking/context at the time

Week 4: August 12

The first arrivals from England with Lindl Lawton and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: 1836 First 9 colonial ships – who came, why they came, conditions on the ships, impact on First Nations People, the process of building democracy, primary sources of information

Week 5: August 19

Technology of the time (STEM focus) with Dr Adam Paterson and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: Explore the vessels – pre-industrial revolution technologies driving movement of peoples

Week 6: August 26

Learning locally: Community museums near you….Amanda James, Corinne Ball and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: 19-century migration to SA 1836-1901 – English, Cornish, Welsh, German including Afghan cameleers, Chinese and linking this to working with community museums

Week 7: September 2

The new century and nationhood with Michelangelo Bolognese and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: Industrialisation, Federation and the White Australia Policy

Week 8: September 9

Post White Australia policy with Michelangelo Bolognese, Dr Birgit Heilmann and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

What changed? Why did it change? What impact did it have?

AC links: Waves of Migration post WW 2, push and pull factors

Week 9: September 16

Refugees and Migrants: why did we come to South Australia? invited guests (TBC)

AC links: push and pull factors of the migration experience

Week 10: September 23

South Australia now, with Mandy Paul, Corinne Ball and Uncle Mickey O’Brien

AC links: The 21st Century migration experience, COVID 19 pandemic and the impact on temporary migration

Closing and where to from here?

History Festival Schools Poetry Takeover

Throughout May 2020, South Australian students in years 4 to 11 are invited to participate in the History Trust’s first-ever online poetry challenge.

During May 2020, the History Trust of South Australia invite’s young people to take inspiration from the collections that the History Trust and other museums and galleries hold on behalf of South Australia. We encourage them to engage with objects, think creatively, connect those thoughts to the theme ‘change’ and then develop a poem of any kind.

Submit your poem in writing, or as an audio or video file, along with a picture of the object that inspired you. The History Trust will share the poems in their Poetry Gallery and on the History Festival Poetry Takeover Facebook page.  Be sure to tell your family and friends to read your poem online and take part in the Community Choice voting in June.

How to enter

  1. Choose an object or artwork that you love! It could be a work that makes you feel something or maybe you’re excited by the colour, texture, form, or content of the work. Pick anything that draws you to it. Start here with the Resources Page.
  2. Develop a poem inspired by the object and relating to the theme ‘change’. Think about the different kinds of poetry: It could be a haiku, a limerick, free verse (no rules!), spoken word/slam, a sonnet, anything!
  3. Submit your poem and object image from 1-31 May 2020 on our Submissions Page. The Poetry Takeover is open to anyone in South Australia in years 4-11.

What to submit

  • Your poem: written (up to 25 lines) or recorded audio/video (up to 3 minutes).
  • An image of your chosen object. Ensure you acknowledge the source of your object image. If you include music in audio/video entries, please ensure it is copyright-free.

Entries open on Friday 1 May and close 5 pm Sunday 31 May 2020.

Download the information packs for Museums & Schools.

For more information, visit the Poetry Takeover website.

School Holidays: Happy Birthday Play School Exhibition

Join us at the museum during the school holidays. All your favourite Play School characters are sailing in to the Maritime Museum this December for an exhibition that brings all your childhood memories alive!

Happy Birthday Play School is a highly entertaining and engaging exhibition celebrating Australia’s longest-running children’s television program. Visitors will find all their favourites like Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty, Jemima and the Rocket Clock at the museum. New arrivals to the world of Play School will have a sense of wonderment as they look through the Round, Square and Arched windows.

WHEN: 13 December 2019 – 28 January 2020 (Christmas holiday break)
COST: $6 per child
INCLUDES: The Play School exhibition, a lighthouse climb and time to explore the Museum.

EXTENDED – Happy Birthday Play School Exhibition

All your favourite Play School characters are here to stay – for a little while longer!

Take a cardboard box, a paper hat, a whole lot of imagination, and you can be sailing the high seas, tackling mythical sea creatures as an explorer, a pirate or the captain of your own ship. This is the kind of creative learning and fun that the iconic Australian TV show Play School has offered for more than fifty years.

To celebrate, a landmark exhibition marking the program’s milestone 50th birthday is coming to South Australia and will be exclusively at the Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide. It’s the exhibition that brings all your childhood memories alive!

Happy Birthday Playschool: Celebrating 50 Years is a travelling exhibition from the National Museum of Australia developed in collaboration with the ABC.

ABC KIDS' Play School presenters Miranda Tapsell, Teo Gebert, Karen Pang and Alex Papps. © Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2018
Noni Hazlehurst. © Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2018
Collection of toys ready for Happy Birthday Play School. © Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2018

Messing about in boats

150 Years of Sail

In 1869, seven amateurs met in a Port Adelaide pub to establish the South Australian Yacht Club.  They held their first race on New Year ’s Day 1870 and built a tin shed in the swamps of Outer Harbor to serve as their clubroom several decades later.  The Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron is still growing.

It was also 150 years ago that Alexander McFarlane built his boatyard, bringing to Port Adelaide a heritage  that was forged on Scotland’s River Clyde.  Others joined him, jostling for space along the Inner Harbor and carving out a community that shared traditions and tools.

One hundred years ago, Falie was launched. It was bought by a group of South Australian farmers and worked the coast until 1982.  It was one of Australia’s last sail traders, lightering grain to windjammers and later carting fuel and gypsum. Portraits by photographer Annette Willis highlight the personal stories and precious mementos of seafarers and boat builders connected to our Port’s long history of messing about in boats.

The exhibition will open at the South Australian Maritime Museum on 22 May 2019 and closes on 10 November. 

Lustre: Pearling & Australia

Lustre: Pearling & Australia delves into the human story of pearling, weaving together intersecting strands of Aboriginal, Asian and European histories to reveal insights into one of Australia’s oldest industries. Discover the intriguing stories behind Australia’s unique pearling tradition. Immerse yourself in the qualities of the shell itself, its evolution and habitat, and the people who have collected and harvested these treasures from Saltwater Country.

More than pearls, Lustre explores the beauty, significance and intrigue of pearls and pearl shell across time and cultures covering some 20,000 years.

Developed by the Western Australian Museum in partnership with Nyamba Buru Yawuru.

You can also download an audio trail to listen to while walking through the exhibition.

Leviathan: An astonishing history of whales

Around the globe and across centuries whales have inspired awe and wonder. Leviathan takes you on a voyage through the science of whales in their environment and the astonishing history of whales and humans.

Augmented reality brings to life a giant whale skull to reveal the anatomy of whales and their amazing senses for navigation and communication. In a series of stunning projections, whales dwarf visitors as they swim across the gallery walls.

Leviathan reveals the surprising place of whales in the cultures and the spiritual life of peoples in Asia and the Pacific. It presents a rich collection of artefacts from across the Pacific, Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand and beautiful artworks from Ngarrindjeri and Mirning artists in South Australia.  It includes an extraordinary collection from Lamalera, the remote Indonesian island where subsistence whaling is still practiced.

Leviathan explores the brutal history of whaling in Australia – surprisingly the colony’s first export industry – tracing it from whalers risking their lives in fragile open boats to the industrial slaughter of the 20th century which drove whales to the edge of extinction. The exhibition traces the success of the environmental movement stopping whaling and of whale populations recovering. It offers hope the recovery will continue – if ocean environments are protected.



Mosquito Fleet

South Australia’s ketches linked town and country from the nineteenth century to the 1970s. They carried farm products, grain and minerals to the city and took anything to rural ports, from groceries to machinery.

They were rough working craft crewed by tough seafarers. Small vessels, they had centre boards instead of keels and flat bottoms so they could negotiate shallow waters. The ketches were dubbed the mosquito fleet because of their ability to flit across the mudflats.

The fleet peaked in the 1880s and 1890s when more than 70 ketches and schooners traded out of Port Adelaide. They endured past the introduction of steamships, railways and roads, to remain one of the last fleets of commercial sailing vessel working the Australian coast. In the 1950s there were thirty ketches working out of Port Adelaide and it was as late as 1982 that the last two working ketches, Nelcebee and Falie, were retired from service.