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Mission reveals its secrets

30 Apr 2012

Mission reveals its secrets Image

By Callie Morgan

Docklands’ historic Mission to Seafarers is applying for museum accreditation after 150 years of service.

If successful, museum accreditation from Museums Australia (Vic) will mean dozens of boxes of ancient items found at the Mission to Seafarers in Flinders St will now be stored with maximum conservation techniques and appropriate research.

The Mission to Seafarers’ heritage collection manager, Monica Cronin, said she was relieved “all the dusty old boxes of stuff weren’t just thrown out”.

“I came in after I was contacted by the Mission’s CEO Andrea Fleming and was amazed that there were stories here from around Melbourne’s first settlement through until today,” Ms Cronin said. “Now we’re in the process of cataloguing everything and identifying what we’ve got.”

Six interns from Deakin University and Melbourne University are currently helping Ms Cronin read every letter and study hundreds of photographs in order to understand their significance.

Ms Cronin said the interns had to study the mission’s collection of letters, some of them dating back to 1865, pinpoint important dates and research them more thoroughly.

“When you look through these things you get a who’s who of Melbourne and it’s really quite impressive to see some pretty big names,” Ms Cronin said. “We’re building this gorgeous timeframe of what was happening and who was involved.”

Ms Cronin said one of the mission’s most impressive displays was its collection of letters sent from a 16-year-old sailor to his mother at the end of World War II.

The letters, written by Alan Quin, reveal amazing stories of his adventures at sea.

“It’s fantastic because we get this very personal understanding of seafaring life,” Ms Cronin said. “Embedded in amongst all the adventure are things like ‘Mum, can you please wax my surf ski’?”

Hundreds of photographs taken around the world have also been discovered at the mission.

Ms Cronin said the amazing pictures were “a snapshot of time”.

“There are hundreds of photographs of America in the early 1900s and it is a completely different place today.”

Ms Cronin said she was hoping the museum accreditation would create an awareness of the importance of the Mission to Seafarers’ building.

“People may know what the building is but they don’t know what happens behind the facade,” Ms Cronin said. “Seafarers are crucial to economic stimulation but they have a pretty lonely and isolated situation to be in and that is why we are here.”

“We think it’s all pretty special because it’s not just the mission’s story, it’s Melbourne’s story,” Ms Cronin said.

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