Program to mark 250 years since Cook’s 1770 voyage to the Pacific

Main photo: HMB Endeavour under full sail on a voyage from Hobart to Sydney. February 2019. Image created by photographer David Knight, from the perspective of the rescue boat.

The Museum is currently running Encounters 2020, a 14 month program to mark the 250 years since the 1770 voyage of James Cook and the Endeavour crew charting the East coast of Australia.

Encounters 2020 will see a range of activities; exhibitions, educational resources, film and digital projects and a travelling exhibition by land and sea around the coast of Australia – looking at our earliest European history from dual perspectives: from the ship and from the shore.

“It is the nature of historical study to always investigate with new eyes and seek out all points of view. As a cultural institution we believe it is our role to continually analyse our history and broaden our country’s knowledge,” said Museum CEO and Director Kevin Sumption PSM.

“In the 250 years since Cook arrived we really have only looked at it from one perspective, that from the ship. We want to take this opportunity to also to look at it from the perspective of the First Australians on the shore.

“We want to separate myth from fact. We can acknowledge Cook’s achievements and impacts, and clarify the role he played in Australian history.”

The Encounters program will feature a range of exhibitions, objects and artworks at the Museum in Sydney throughout 2020, including a variety of film and digital resources that will explore both Cook’s achievements and views from Indigenous communities on the history of the voyage. Furthermore, a national education program will provide resources for primary and secondary teachers to offer new insights to Australian students.

The element of the program with the largest outreach however, is Encounters Around Australia.

“Encounters Around Australia is where we simultaneously set sail and hit the road. From April we will have the replica Endeavour undertaking a series of voyages to 38 destinations around Australia. Combined with this will be a travelling exhibition of First Nations’ art that will form a focus for discussion, and together will help bring the dual perspectives theme to as many Australians as possible,” said Sumption.

Alison Page, leading Indigenous artist and Museum Council Member said “At its heart, this is a program about truth telling. Over many years the Museum, as the National Museum of the Sea, has investigated the rich cultural history of our coastal First Nations and brought their stories to contemporary Australians. Encounters 2020 is a continuation of this. By opening up discussion and bringing together the stories from the ship and the shore, we are building a richer cultural legacy for a shared future.

“As the custodians of the Endeavour, we understand that the ship is a symbol that elicits strong feelings – but it is important that we hear the voices and stories, we know they are difficult conversations but they are conversations we have to have.”

The Museum acknowledges the Australian Government’s $8.5 million contribution towards its Encounters 2020 program, which includes the voyaging of Endeavour around the country. The Museum is currently fundraising and seeking partners to help defray costs of the additional program, as well as selling berths on the voyage.