Welcome to the Silentworld Foundation Collection

About the Collection

The Silentworld Foundation collection reflects a 35-year love affair with maritime history and the extraordinary achievements of the brave mariners, from many nations, who sailed from their home countries to expand contemporary knowledge of the world in the 15th to 19th centuries.

Despite the first Australians arriving some 40,000 years earlier, from the perspective of the rest of the known world, Australia remained an unknown and unvisited continent longer than any other substantive part of the world except Antarctica. The collection focuses on this late emergence of Australia into the understanding of the world’s geographers and mariners.

The collection comprises over 2,000 original objects including maps, paintings, manuscripts, shipwreck material, ephemera, coins and medallions, militaria and historical artefacts.

It highlights the interaction between both the Indigenous and colonial cultures during this period. Some of the earliest printed material and maps in the collection date back to the early 1500s and the collection’s focus ends in the early to mid-1800s when Australia started to be recognized as the nation that it has become today.

In particular, the collection focuses on the world’s emerging knowledge of Australia from the days when the great southern land was a mythological continent, imagined as necessary to balance the weight of the Northern Hemisphere, through to the golden period of European exploration when competing world powers were sailing the world’s oceans seeking military advantage, the conversion of souls, fame and fortune, and the pursuit of knowledge and scientific endeavour. The Portuguese, the Spanish, the British and the Dutch, in particular, were at the forefront of this exploration, and the Silentworld Collection contains original material from all of these nations’ activities, as well as that of the Indigenous populations they encountered.

The arid cliffs, coral reefs and treacherous shallows of the Australian coastline became the graveyard of countless vessels from many nations during the 17th to 19th centuries, and for over a decade the Silentworld Foundation has been mounting expeditions to look for some of the most historically significant shipwrecks of the period yet to be found.

The collection includes not just artefacts found on some of those expeditions, but also documents, paintings, and other memorabilia of the men and women that made these stories so fascinating and who created history through their bravery and quest for knowledge.

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