The Australian national Maritime Museum was built more than 25 years ago, as a key attraction in the massive regeneration of the former port of Darling Harbour. The blueprint used for this waterfront rejuvenation was first employed in the 1970s by town planners in Baltimore Harbour, USA, where instead of a national maritime museum, they built a national aquarium.
Our museum lies within the country’s busiest tourist precinct, which receives more than 25 million visits a year, and is also the Australian government’s most visible national cultural institution in Sydney. But the Darling Harbour area is again undergoing massive redevelopment. In the 1980s Darling Harbour was conceived of as a series of low-rise waterside buildings, but now is rapidly evolving into a high-rise entertainment precinct. Importantly, when this latest transformation is complete, the museum will no longer be at the outer edges of Darling Harbour, but instead at the very centre.
In the past decade, more than $15 billion of public and private funds has been poured into nearby projects, most notably the International Convention Centre (ICC) and Barangaroo. Much of it has gone to create a rejuvenated hospitality and entertainment precinct that reflects Sydney’s staggering growth in tourism. These recent additions have had an extremely positively impact on the museum. Now more than 800,000 visitors a year come through our doors, mostly in response to a range of new visitor experiences and facilities. Over the last five years we have developed a program of international travelling exhibitions, built the state-of-the art Action Stations experience and a new 3D theatre, and expanded our program of experience-led exhibitions. I believe there has never been a better time to look afresh at how we communicate with all our visitors about what they can expect from a modern and forward-looking museum.
For more than five years, major change has been well under way both inside and outside the museum, and this month we unveil the next stage of its revitalisation – a bold, new, attention-grabbing logo and striking colour scheme inspired by the sea. The museum’s staff, volunteers and visitors have a common bond – our passion and connection with the sea and its many stories – so our new brand has taken the word SEA to its heart to create a stronger emotional connection. Over the next 12 months this new logo and colour scheme will inform the design and feel of everything – from new staff uniforms, major external signage, a new museum website and the design of Signals, right the way through to a new foyer and museum store.
Today, museum visitors expect to have a very personal relationship with their museum. To do this we need both to deploy new technologies and ensure we have a clear and consistent message that’s evident in everything we do, from our merchandise to our exhibits. We also need a distinct way of speaking and communicating in order for the museum to be better heard, quickly recognised and, most importantly, easily remembered. These days there is heightened competition for people’s time, so it’s more important than ever to stand out in the crowded cultural marketplace of Sydney, which I sincerely believe our fresh new look will do.
- Kevin Sumption PSM
Director and CEO
Australian National Maritime Museum