‘Container – the box that changed the world’ opens 26 October 2017.

Positioning wool bales in the cargo hold of the Magdalene Vinnen, Samuel J Hood Studio, 1933, ANMM Collection 00035586.

In today’s global world you may have drunk coffee from Brazil or a smoothie containing frozen fruit from China. You could be wearing clothes made in India, watching a TV made in Japan while sitting on a sofa containing wood from Argentina on a laminate floor manufactured in Sweden. All of this has been made possible by a rectangular steel box – the shipping container.

Container, an exciting new exhibition housed entirely in six 20-foot shipping containers at the Australian National Maritime Museum, will lift the lid on the history and impact of containerisation, and the way the humble shipping container has revolutionised the way we live.

The exhibition opens on 26 October 2017, when visitors can literally ‘step inside the box’ to learn about shipping, ports, cargo, the impact of containerisation on the ocean, the origins of everyday objects and even container architecture.

Inside the ‘Ship’ container, the history of the cargo industry before the invention of the container and the impact of its introduction are explored. From transporting goods in crates, bales, sacks and barrels loaded by hand, the container now allows the world’s 1.5 million seafarers to deliver 10 billion tonnes of trade each year.

DP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World Australia.

‘Cargo’ looks at trade, customs, biosecurity and how perishable goods are transported around the world in the cold chain.

The ‘Port’ container talks about the radical transformation of ports and port cities in Australia and around the world. It also gives visitors a peek behind the scenes at Port Botany, one of Australia’s busiest ports and the gateway for 99 per cent of New South Wales’ container demand.

‘Ocean’ looks at the challenges mass shipping poses to our oceans, including lost shipping containers, cargo spills and acoustic pollution, and the current focus on sustainable shipping.

The quirky and innovative ways containers are used beyond shipping, including ‘small homes’, food trucks, art installations and even swimming pools are uncovered in ‘Build’.

‘Things’ is a glass fronted container with a shopfront style window display demonstrating the origins of everyday objects in our homes. The total number of kilometres travelled by sea by all the products in this container is 887,082km.

Peter Dexter AM, Chairman of the Australian National Maritime Museum said, “As an island nation, 99 per cent of Australia’s trade is conducted by sea freight. The ‘Container’ exhibition highlights the importance of this industry and how it touches all of us. We are excited to be sharing this often overlooked story to the many people who visit Darling Harbour in such an innovative way.”

@iakderboss via Instagram

The exhibition has been embraced by the shipping industry with a large number of its key organisations coming on board to provide essential support to tell this important story. Major sponsor NSW Ports has played a key role in the development of the exhibition.

Sponsors are ACFS Port Logistics, Maritime Container Services, DP World Australia and Smit Lamnalco. Supporters are Transport for NSW and Shipping Australia. The containers are supplied by Royal Wolf and the Precinct Partner is Property NSW. It is supported by the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund.

‘Container’ is located in front of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Wharf 7 building on Pirrama Road. It opens on 26 October 2017, is free to visit and will run until late 2018 before touring locations across NSW. For further information visit www.anmm.gov.au/container.

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