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Museum’s LEGO display on its way to Geraldton tells story of history’s famous sunken ships

Jamie Thannoo and Lachlan AllenGeraldton Guardian
The Batavia, which sunk in 1629 in the Houtman Abrolhos, is replicated in LEGO form.
Camera IconThe Batavia, which sunk in 1629 in the Houtman Abrolhos, is replicated in LEGO form. Credit: The Brickman

The Titanic, Batavia and many more sunken ships will be on display in LEGO form at the Museum of Geraldton’s newest exhibition, starting next week.

Brickwrecks: Sunken ships in LEGO bricks will tell the story of some of history’s most fascinating shipwrecks through the famous tiny Danish bricks.

Along with the Titanic and Batavia, visitors can see models such as the Vasa, a Swedish warship sunk in 1628, the Rena, a container ship that sank in 2011, and the Uluburun shipwreck, one of the oldest known wrecks in the world.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Western Australian Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum, and LEGO master Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught.

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Mr McNaught is one of only 14 LEGO-certified professionals in the world, and his team’s exhibitions have been showcased across Australia and the world. He has also sprung to fame as resident judge on the popular TV show Lego Masters.

The chance to build wrecks ranging from the Bronze Age to the current day was an exciting challenge for Mr McNaught.

“There’s some quite ancient ones, some fairly modern ones. And they all tell very different stories to each other,” he said.

The models were made with painstaking detail and Mr McNaught said there would be plenty to spot among the mini-figure sailors and blocky shipdecks.

“The team spent more than 950 hours, used over 126,000 LEGO bricks, and had a tonne of fun bringing these models to life with lots of minifig details and historical facts,” he said.

The touch of a LEGO master isn’t the only thing needed to bring these wrecks to life, specialists played a crucial role ensuring these models were realistic.

Museum of Geraldton regional manager Leigh O’Brien said the exhibition was an achievement of maritime archaeology, technology, and creativity.

The work of these experts helps give insight into a fascinating part of human history.

“Research by maritime archaeologists provides a unique record of human endeavour, engineering, and a spirit of adventure inspired by trade, exploration, global politics, and pursuit of maritime superiority,” Ms O’Brien said.

“The marine archaeologists that they (the museums) have are amazing at figuring out what happened and how they happened. So working with them, obviously gave us the ability to be able to tell some pretty accurate and pretty cool stories,” Mr McNaught said.

Alongside the large-scale models (up to 1.6m in length), the exhibition will include multimedia exhibits, real objects from the wrecks, and plenty of LEGO for visitors to make their own creations.

The exhibition will be on display at the Museum of Geraldton from September 3 to November 20.

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