How to Remember Captain Cook

March 2021

Dr Sam Willis explores the fascinating problems posed by Britain’s complex imperial history by thinking in particular about Captain James Cook, the eighteenth-century British explorer and navigator famous for his three voyages to Australia and the Pacific (1768-1779). Sam talks with with Kevin Sumption – the Director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum. They range widely over issues raised when planning for the 250th anniversary in April 2020 of Cook’s arrival in Australia. Why are multiple perspectives important in a narrative like Cook’s? And how did they go about including First People’s narratives of Cook’s arrival? Sam and Kevin also explore two intriguing items in the museum’s collection: A bronze bust of Captain Cook with his head covered by a black balaklava made by the Australian artist Jason Wing, which challenges the colonial history of Australia from an Aboriginal perspective, and an eighteenth-century japanned tea tray by the artist Edward Bird depicting the death of Captain Cook in Hawaii in 1779.

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