Fremantle’s changing face

Melvin Vaniman’s rare aerial photo of Fremantle Harbour in 1904.

THE WA Maritime Museum’s latest interactive exhibition Fremantle Then & Now: Historic Panorama’s exhibition showcases 20 panoramic photographs of Fremantle from the 1800s to present day. 

The exhibition uses immersive digital projection technologies developed by Curtin University’s Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch in collaboration with the WA State Library.


Photographer Melvin Vaniman’s rare aerial photo of Fremantle harbour in 1904 has been researched by Fremantle Society president John Dowson.

Mr Dowson says his research into the image began with reviewing the fascinating life of the photographer. 

“The photographers get overlooked sometimes,” Mr Dowson says. 

Vaniman was an American aviator and photographer who specialised in panoramic images from gas balloons, tall buildings, and on occasion his own 30-metre home-made poles. 

Mr Dowson says that during his research he learnt that Vaniman died during his second attempt at a trans-Atlantic airship crossing when his airship exploded off the New Jersey shore. 

“Melvin Vaniman is certainly worth talking about.” 

Mr Dowson believes exhibitions such as the Fremantle Then & Now are an essential part of upholding the city’s heritage. 

“It’s damaging to ignore one’s heritage and culture,” Mr Dowson told the Herald.

“It’s important for our own understanding of who we are and to tell our stories. We’ve got to embrace it.”

WA Museum CEO Alec Coles says the exhibition highlights the changes to Fremantle over the years, whilst still maintaining the area’s identity as a vibrant port city. 

“As you ‘virtually’ enter the streets and alleyways in the panoramas, you will encounter fascinating stories of the people who have lived and worked in this place” Mr Coles says. 

Curtin University’s HIVE manager Andrew Woods says photographic panoramas such as those at the exhibition provide a wonderful way to experience a city.

“We are fortunate that photographers over the years have captured these amazing views of Fremantle – revealing details of the familiar and the unusual,” Prof Woods says. 

“It’s almost like you’re there.

“By applying modern visualisation technologies to these photographic historical treasures, we are allowing visitors to travel back in time and see Fremantle in a way they may have never seen before.” 

As a part of the immersive experience, the WA Maritime Museum will also berunning a number of guided seminars and tours.

The Fremantle Then & Now exhibition will be on until February next year. 


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