On Friday, 29th July, the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum and the local community said farewell to Mrs Vera Hatton AO, Museum founder, inaugural curator and tireless advocate on behalf of the regional museum community. For the many who knew Vera, her passing is significant for the light it shines on our sector and a reminder of how influential the first development of a museum can be to its later growth and development. There is no doubt our successful growth stems from the early professional systems put in place from opening.
Vera Hatton started the museum around her kitchen table in the late 1970s with a small group of friends meeting on Tuesdays to collect our local history and coinciding with saving the Sydney Harbour ferry, the Lady Denman, built locally in 1911. The new museum opened in 1988. Shortly after she enrolled in the country’s first post-graduate Museum Management course at James Cook University, subsequently applying all that she learnt at the Museum, but also sharing her knowledge extensively with others, and advocating on behalf of the sector for many years thereafter. In 1997 she was directly appointed by Premier Bob Carr to the NSW Ministry of the Arts, Museum Advisory Council, and was active with Museums Australia, a member of the Council at the Australian National Maritime Museum, local Govt committees and regional museum chapters.
The Museum was groundbreaking in providing access to the local arts and culture of the Aboriginal Community with Uncle Laddie Timbery and others providing access to the First Nations stories – rare in regional museums at the time.
With a capacity to network and the power of her persuasiveness, some say charisma, it is easy to see that the NSW Government support for state funded Museums to provide Regional Outreach programs, such as the one run by the Powerhouse Museum in the 2000’s likely came from her advocacy and desire to unlock access to the professional knowledge and skills to ensure the long term viability of our regional museum sector.
In 2005 Vera stepped back from her voluntary role as founding Curator, the museum had doubled in size and its collection had grown exponentially, she and the Board of the time, recognised that the museum had entered another phase of its development and the museum employed a Curator to take it into the future.
As Curator Emeritus, Vera Hatton remained at the Museum until 2009 and the Museum honoured her substantial contribution by naming one of its galleries the Vera Hatton Gallery.
Jervis Bay Maritime Museum & Gallery