More than 2 million people visited the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in 2019, the highest on record. At the recent launch announcing their 2020 program, Museum CEO and Director Kevin Sumption believes restricting the institution’s definition to ‘museum’ falls-short of the aspiration, saying “my vision is that we might genuinely shape and impact the very nature of how Australians understand, love and preserve our history with, and of the sea in new and profound ways.”

Big words indeed, until one uncovers the ambitious blockbuster exhibitions the museum has in store.

2020 will begin deep in prehistoric waters at the ANMM, with the Sea Monsters exhibition, and ends in the canals of Venice, the spectacular and recently proven fragile ocean city. Visitors will explore the famous city’s inhabitants as they live, love, and deal with climate change – right on the edge of the Adriatic Sea.  In between these two major exhibitions, the Museum’s 2020 programming promises to take visitors further around the world.

Courting controversy, but recognising history, 2020 marks 250 years since Captain James Cook and the HMB Endeavour charted the East Coast of Australia. The Museum’s extensive 14 month Encounters 2020 program looks at this event and its lasting impact on Australia. This exhibition also examines the cultures that Cook encountered around the Pacific, with installations such as HERE: Kupe to Cook, developed by the Pataka Art Museum, and the National Library of Australia’s Cook and the Pacific. Paradise Lost: Daniel Solander’s Legacy will examine the legacy of the Endeavour botanist Daniel Solander and the first encounter between Sweden and the Pacific Region.

In May 2020 the Museum will host the bold Defying Empire exhibition from the National Gallery of Australia which explores the ongoing resilience of Australia’s Indigenous people since first contact, through to the historical fight for recognition and ongoing activism in the present day.

The Museum also offers a reflection of all seafarers who have explored Australia’s waters through their new Under Southern Stars gallery, due to open in April 2020.

Always anticipated, the biennial Classic and Wooden Boat Festival once again sails into spectacular Darling Harbour in May, generally attracting around over 33,000 visitors.

Guests can also test their wits through the Murder Mystery and Ocean Talks programs scheduled throughout 2020. Meanwhile, the Museum’s education and digital teams have developed new online games and films, and promise to expand the Ocean Science and underwater drone programs.

Thankfully, the record-breaking crowd favourite Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is set to return for the fourth year, and for the first time will feature the works in large format with backlit panels.

All in all, it’s a refreshing and exciting program, and one that expands beyond the collection of ocean-going vessels and tales of the sea. The full program can be found on the Museum’s website at