Museum Grant Helps Conserve 'korff's Harbour' Collection

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15th January 2010, 03:55pm - Views: 575





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Museum grant helps conserve

‘Korff’s Harbour’ Collection


The April floods of 2009 may have left the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum without a home, but it

has not stopped staff from getting on with the business of conservation. 

With the help of $4250 funding from the Australian National Maritime Museum, they are in the

process of restoring their collection relating to the founder of Coffs Harbour John Korff. 

Korff named the bay after he sought shelter from a wild storm in 1847, but it was misspelled as

Coffs Harbour by the surveyor when the town site was reserved in 1861. 

Thanks to local volunteer effort, the Korff Collection items were moved to safety before the floods

hit. “We are focused on conservation and research at the moment rather than exhibition,” said

Director of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum and Gallery, Dr Leigh Summers. 

The Korff Collection includes two telescopes, a daguerreotype, a family scrapbook and a well

worn bible “with the usual jottings about children and the look of much personal use,” Dr

Summers said. 

The items have wider national significance. Korff was well known in Sydney maritime circles as a

shipbuilder and the founder of the Balmain and Manly ferry lines. 

His story is a quintessentially Australian one. Fleeing bankruptcy in England in 1820, Korff left his

wife and four children behind to make a new start in the colonies.  

Once in Australia he met with success. He made some capital when he built a cutter from a

salvaged shipwreck he called Rover's Bride, and started turning a regular profit when he built

Victoria, whose design expertly navigated the shallow waters of the Hunter River bar to transport

passengers and cargo in and out of Newcastle. 

However, competition from the introduction of iron ships soon threatened his financial situation

and he was faced with bankruptcy once more. He was saved by his wife Mary who arrived in

Sydney from London in 1840 with 1000 sovereigns strapped around her waist and his adult

children in tow. Korff re-established his business with his sons and built a number of successful

vessels including Brothers, the vessel on which he took shelter in Coffs Harbour.  

“John Korff is an interesting figure in Australia’s maritime history,” said Australian National

Maritime Museum Director, Mary Louise Williams. “We are pleased to be able to support the

conservation of these items through the Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme

(MMAPPS).” 

The Korff Collection is currently being restored by a Coffs Harbour based conservator.

The MMAPPS scheme, which the museum funds with Australian Government’s Distributed

National Collection Program, helps regional museums, community groups and volunteers to

promote and protect Australian maritime heritage. For more information, phone (02) 9298 3777 or



15 January 2010


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Australian National Maritime Museum - Bill Richards (02) 9298 3645; 0418 403 472

Images and interviews are available upon request from brichards@anmm.gov.au










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