This special exhibition explores Hong Kong’s miraculous transformation from the ashes of World War II into a global maritime hub through iconic exhibits, comprising five phases of the post-war maritime history: “Regeneration(1945-1948)”, “Back in Business(1949-1970)”, “The High Growth Years(1960s-1980s)”, “The Container Rules (1972-now)”, and “The Future”.
Star Ferry turnstile
One of the exhibition spotlights is a tribute to the collective memories of the community, the Made in Hong Kong products, artefacts, personal memorabilia and historical photography on seafarers, Star Ferry, dockyards, and container terminals. All these examples being the perfect illustration of the crucial role of shipping in daily lives until today.
Highlights also include the display of a Star Ferry turnstile that had been used as a faregate in the 20th century; the oil painting of Seawise Giant (later renamed Jahre Viking), the world’s largest ship ever built that cemented the city’s role as the centre of ship management operations; and an outdoor display of the only remaining ‘Dai Fei’ (speedboat) in existence, captured by the Hong Kong Marine Police and used for training purposes until the end of 2020.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Hong Kong has been restructured from an entrepôt to an industrial city and a manufacturing-based economy, whose label Made in Hong Kong would soon become a mark of quality around the world.
One of the factor was the Chinese Civil War, when many businesses moved their facilities from China to Hong Kong warehouses, bringing skilled labour, technology and capital to the city. Many Mainlanders also fled to Hong Kong, adding to the city’s workforce.
Being a small place, Hong Kong was lacking both natural resources to supply manufacturing and a large domestic market to absorb the resulting goods. Consequently, its dynamic growth as a manufacturing economy in the 1950s and 1960s was totally reliant on its ability to import raw materials and to export finished goods efficiently and reliably.
The growth of Hong Kong’s shipping industry and port during this period was essential in facilitating this rapid economic development. Many factories, equipped with modern machinery to produce a wide variety of commodities, were established, supported by Hong Kong’s Government with buildings for the factories and for the workers, and with vital infrastructure.
The scope of Hong Kong-made consumer products ranged from textiles (including Lee Kung Manundershirts), hair pieces, electronic appliances (such as Dianaand Holga cameras, radios and optical appliances) to torches, battery-powered plastic toys which covered so many different aspects of daily life. And some are still produced today, like the Camelvacuum flasks.
Hong Kong’s Maritime Miracle: The Story of our City since 1945 – At the Hong Kong Maritime Museum until 30 October. All detailshere.