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Michelle, Curator, Australian National Maritime Museum

Hi, I’m Michelle, I’m one of the curators at the Australian National Maritime Museum, and this display behind me is an interactive that is part of our new exhibition Charles Darwin — voyages and ideas that shaped the world.

The idea for this exhibit was to allow visitors to find out that there are multiple stories associated with any particular object. So, this is a range of objects we have here. One of them is a paint box which was owned by John Lort Stokes, who was actually a commander on the third voyage that the Beagle took. So not actually Darwin’s voyage but a later voyage.

The idea behind this interactive is that there’s different people talking about the object, you meet different people, so you can pick up a headset and listen to an account from the manufacturer of the paint box whose name was Elias Wolf, and he was working in London in the mid 19th century. And we also have another account by a voyager actually who would have used a paint box potentially similar to this one.

And the other object is a crab, one that was collected by Charles Darwin himself in Mauritius, and the idea is to engage visitors with fictional stories based on historical facts but instead of just reading the label in the showcase they can imagine what the object may mean to a different person.

One thing which we thought might just be a little bit humorous is to write an account from the perspective of the actual crab. So we have used a bit of licence here, imagining what the crab may have been feeling or doing in Mauritius at the time before he was collected by Darwin on the Beagle, so running on the beach, what he would have eaten, who he would have associated with, etc.

So…. and the other account is by the owner of the, the curator of the Oxford University of Natural History at the time that he acquired the crab for the collection and he purchased it from another collector.

For schools, I guess it is to enable students to understand that to look at the historical context that the object comes from and to imagine that any object can tell different stories, so it is about analysis and about communication and about perspective and all of history is really about that as there’s always going to be different perspectives about a particular event.