Located in Sydney, the La Perouse Museum sits within a spectacular historic landscape on the northern headland of Botany Bay within the Kamay Botany Bay National Park. The dramatic view extends east to the Pacific Ocean, south across the sheltered waters of Botany Bay to the landing place of Captain Cook at Kurnell, and west to the distant industrial landscape of Port Botany.
The Museum is located in the historic 1881 Cable Station building, originally built for Cable Station staff operating the submarine telegraph between Australia and New Zealand. From 1917 it provided accommodation for nurses from the nearby Coast Hospital. From 1944 it was a Salvation Army refuge for women and children.
The Museum opened in 1988 and tells the story of the Laperouse expedition, its arrival in Botany Bay in 1788 and encounter with the First Fleet, and eventual tragic shipwreck in the Solomon Islands. The museum also looks at the Aboriginal, environmental and local history of La Perouse.
Significant heritage items may be visited in the immediate vicinity of the Museum and include the Macquarie Watchtower, the Laperouse Monument and the tomb of Father Receveur, the first Catholic priest to be buried on mainland Australia. Nearby is the historic Bare Island Fort, and several idyllic beaches and walking trails.
The La Perouse Museum collection is progressively being made available online and so far contains nearly 700 items and many photographs relating to either the Laperouse expedition and 18th century maritime navigation, the Cable Station building itself, or local history, which includes the important traditions of Aboriginal shellwork and boomerang making at La Perouse. The making of shellwork and boomerangs, and the selling of them to tourists by the local Aboriginal community is a tradition at La Perouse, dating back more than 100 years. The collection includes shellwork boomerangs, trinket boxes and tiny shoes made by local Aboriginal women. It includes signs about boomerang throwing, wooden boomerangs and equipment for boomerang making, as well as a range of sporting trophies won by the local Aboriginal community.
One of the most significant collection items is a complete Atlas of the Voyage of Laperouse, consisting of coloured drawings and maps, featuring places the expedition visited between 1785 and 1788, including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Japan, Tahiti, Samoa and finally the east coast of Australia. Plants and animals that were then regarded as highly unusual, such as the chilli plant, passionfruit and the bluebottle jellyfish, are also featured. This Atlas was generously donated to the Museum by the French Government. The collection also includes several objects salvaged from the Laperouse shipwrecks.
The Museum holds a growing number of plaques presented by the captains of visiting French ships. The crew from these ships visit La Perouse to view the Laperouse Monument and the grave of Father Receveur, and this is a continuing tradition.
Part of the collection contains 19th century cable instruments, made in London and relevant to the history of telegraphy and the interpretation of it in the Cable Station.
The long period of Salvation Army occupation is represented by children’s toys, furniture and the former Salvation Army Home for Women and Children historic sign. Local history items also include those from Happy Valley, the camp that formed at La Perouse during the Depression. These objects include kettles, a bed head and other small domestic items from the period.
The collection includes books relevant to the story of Laperouse or of French exploration in the Pacific, in French and English, and over 1000 photographs in various formats including colour prints, black and white prints and slides. Some of these document the history of the La Perouse Museum since 1988 when it was first established. Others are historic photographs of the La Perouse area.
End of Anzac Parade, La Perouse, Sydney NSW Australia
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