The box that changed the world

Lift the lid on the humble shipping container.




    In today’s global world you may have drunk coffee from Brazil or a smoothie containing frozen fruit from China. You could be wearing clothes made in India, watching a TV made in Japan while sitting on a sofa containing wood from Argentina on a laminate floor manufactured in Sweden.

    All of this has been made possible by a rectangular steel box - the humble shipping container.

    You can literally ‘step inside the box’ to enjoy our first-ever outdoor exhibition as you explore six colourful containers scattered around the museum like giant Lego pieces. Each container covers one part of our six part exhibition.

    Containers in situ outside Wharf 7  


    Learn the history of transporting goods in crates, bales, sacks and barrels loaded by hand, and how the container now allows the world’s 1.5 million seafarers to deliver 10 billion tonnes of trade each year.


    Discover the intricate world of trade, customs, and biosecurity, and how perishable goods are transported around the world in the ‘cold’ chain.


    See the radical transformation of ports and port cities in Australia and around the world. Have a peek behind the scenes at Port Botany, one of Australia’s busiest ports and the gateway for 99 per cent of New South Wales’ container demand.

    Containers in situ outside Wharf 7 with the museum building in the background


    Explore the challenges mass shipping poses to our oceans, including lost shipping containers, cargo spills and acoustic pollution, and the current focus on sustainable shipping.


    Be delighted by the quirky and innovative ways containers are used beyond shipping, including ‘small homes’, food trucks, art installations and even swimming pools.


    Enter a glass-fronted container demonstrating the origins of everyday objects in our homes. The total number of kilometres travelled by sea by all the products in this container is 887,082 km.


    Container - winner of a silver Sydney Design Award 2018


    Open daily, 9:30am–5pm, closes 14 October 2018.

    Entry is FREE, included in the Free Galleries Ticket.

    See our Admissions page for full price information and to book your tickets. Our Plan Your Visit page has everything you need to know about a trip to the museum.

    Become a Maritime Museum Member and receive free or discounted entry to all our events and exhibitions, as well as many other benefits.

    Supported by the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund.

        Major Sponsor

    NSW Ports Port Botany Port Kembla logo




    ACFS Port Logistucs DP World Australia logo Maritime Container Services logo Smit Lamnalco logo



    Shipping Australia Limited logo NSW Government Transport for NSW logo


                       Containers supplied by

                       Precinct Partner

      Royal Wolf     Darling Harbour logo Property NSW
    Architect’s rendering of the proposed Hechingen Studio, James Whitaker, 2010. Reproduced courtesy Whitaker Studio LimitedDP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World AustraliaView from the bridge of a container ship in the North Atlantic, photo Adrian Catalin, 2014. Reproduced courtesy Adrian Catalin.Peter Le Scelle, courtesy DP WorldDP World, Port Botany, by Andrew FrolowsTravis Hayto, courtesy DP World AustraliaJosh Kelly, by Jack Harlem Photography, courtesy DP World AustraliaPositioning wool bales in the cargo hold of the Magdalene Vinnen, Samuel J Hood Studio, 1933, ANMM Collection 00035586.DP World, Port Botany, by Andrew Frolows