Museum of Tropical Queensland Display Officer Returns from Norfolk Island

17 September 2010

Museum of Tropical Queensland display officer Phillip Smith has returned from Norfolk Island, where he created a replica of the Norfolk Island Museum’s treasured cannon from the infamous HMS Bounty.

Mr Smith’s duplicate is now on display in the Norfolk Island Museum while the actual Bounty cannon is conserved.

The cannon was on the Bounty when Captain William Bligh set sail to the South Pacific in 1787. After Fletcher Christian and his followers mutinied and cast Bligh adrift, the Bounty sailed to Pitcairn Island and was burned to avoid detection.

In 1845, the Norfolk Bounty cannon was raised from its watery grave and in 1856 transported to Norfolk where the entire population of Pitcairn Island was relocated.

Not having received any treatment since the 1980s, the cannon is now being conserved thanks to a grant from the National Library of Australia’s Community Heritage Grants Program.

Mr Smith’s role was to mould and cast the cannon prior to treatment to make a record of its condition. He was sought for the task because of a wealth of experience in creating museum-quality replicas.

In the past he has moulded another Bounty cannon belonging to Pitcairn Island, along with a host of items including snakes, fossils, historic artefacts and human bodies.

In 2002 the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. invited Mr Smith to be part of a select team moulding, casting and remounting their large iconic dinosaurs. In 2003 he travelled to the United States to carry out work on Stegosaurus and Ceratosuarus.

In Townsville, his work can be found inside and outside the Museum – he created Nibbles the Dinosaur and Spinderella the Spider which can be seen on Flinders Street East in front of the building.

Museum of Tropical Queensland Director Peter McLeod said the Museum was committed to actively contributing to the museum industry.

“Sharing our expertise is one way in which the Museum of Tropical Queensland is building relationships with other museums throughout Australia and the world,” Mr McLeod said.

“The Museum’s collection too has an important link to the Bounty story with some of our most treasured items recovered from the wreck of the Pandora, sent in search of the Bounty mutineers.

Mr Smith said the opportunity to work with the cannon was a highlight of his career.

“Handling an historic treasure like the Bounty cannon, with its connection to William Bligh and Fletcher Christian, is a humbling experience,” Mr Smith said.

During his two week visit Mr Smith created a two-part mould from a layer of silicon spread over the cannon and reinforced with an outer fibreglass shell.

The mould was then used to form a sturdy fibreglass cast of the fragile cannon. When painted, it takes an expert eye to distinguish a replica from the original.

Entry to the Museum of Tropical Queensland is free for locals through the Council Community Pass, supported by Townsville, Burdekin, Charters Towers and Hinchinbrook councils.

The Museum of Tropical Queensland, part of the Queensland Museum, is open from 9.30am - 5pm daily.

Media Contacts:    Mei Nee Cheong 4726 0603 or 0414 264 987
                             Stephen Wilson 4726 0604 or 0431 334 583