Hanging up the hammocks
An essential and well-loved part of the museum experience, the hammock dormitories give visitors an immersive experience of how the convicts once lived at the barracks.
In 2012 we set out to replicate the first generation of reproduction hammocks, which had been carefully reconstructed through detailed research into the materials and design of the type of hammocks that would have been installed in 1819. They had bee manufactured from tightly woven flax linen, but several months of investigation proved that such material is no longer manufactured in Australia.
Looking further afield, we contacted Jujubags, an Australian textile supplier with connections in India, who recommended a weaving mill in New Delhi. Giving them our specifications for colour, weave and width, the mill went to work to produce samples of the fabric.
With thousands of visitors expected to lie in our new hammocks, we had to be sure to match the tight weave of the original fabric, to ensure they will last another 20 years. After revising several samples, the right weave was achieved, and the mill went into production of 400 metres of flax.
Shipped to Sydney, the rolls of fabric were delivered directly to E.H. Brett’s who had won the tender for manufacture into hammocks. This was the same family company that had made the first generation hammocks in 1991.
Brett’s cut, sewed and stitched the flax into hammocks with hand-sewn eyelets, and spliced, tied and wove Manila rope, hemp and sail maker’s twine into clews, coxcombed grommets, and lanyards. This was hard work for many hands, but their attention to detail has produced 106 authentic, fine reproduction hammocks.
In May 2014, staff of the Macquarie Street Portfolio of Sydney Living Museums all joined in to hang the hammocks, retiring the old well-worn versions to boxes.
Now a few more generations of museum visitors can lie down and swing in a hammock to enjoy the convict dormitory experience.
Become part of Sydney Open 2019: EOI now openWednesday 27 March 2019
Our exciting program for Sydney Open 2019 will open even more buildings and spaces that are usually off-limits to the public, alongside new talks and tour experiences. To be part of it all, we invite you to submit an expression of interest by 30 April.