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Australian Museums and Galleries Association
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8 Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019
In this issue President’s Message. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Australian Museums and Galleries Association National Council 2019—2021 president
From the Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Debating the ‘Museum’ in a time of global change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 International issues and global change: A focus for university museums and collections in Australia in 2020. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Board Governance in Public and Not-for-Profit Organisations: Implications for the Museums and Galleries Sector . . . . . . . . . . 20 Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Dr Robin Hirst PSM (Director, Hirst Projects, Melbourne)
(Deputy Director, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane)
Margaret Lovell (Governance Advisor, Department of Environment, Canberra)
Carol Cartwright (Canberra)
(PhD Candidate, School of History, ANU, Canberra)
Dr Mark Crees
(Group Manager, Cultural Strategy, City of Parramatta, Parramatta)
Centring complexity: Re-engaging with the past, empowering the present . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Historic house intervention and challenging the Rembrandt Rule. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 First Nations, Museum Responsibilities: History, Truth and Symbols. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 The Powerhouse Museum: Significance, Consequences, Opportunities. . . . . . 48
(Snr Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisor, Western Australian Museum, Perth)
(Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra)
(Head of Indigenous Engagement & Strategy Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney)
(Gallery Manager, John Curtin Gallery, Perth)
(Curator, National Museum of Australia, Canberra)
(Volunteer, Port Macquarie Historical Society, Port Macquarie)
Power Up in Manjimup. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
ex officio member
Dr Mat Trinca
The Shadow Initiation — Australia’s first escape room-style adventure game at the South Australian Museum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Chair, ICOM Australia; Director, National Museum of Australia
Rebecca Coronel, Canberra state/territory branch presidents/ representatives (subject to change throughout year)
Australian Museums and Galleries Association acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders — past and present — and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this publication may contain a range of material which may be culturally sensitive including records of people who may have passed away.
ACT Rowan Henderson
(Senior Curator, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra)
NSW Judith Coombes
(Museum Consultant, Sydney)
NT Ilka Schacht (Curatorial Manager, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin)
QLD Emma Bain
PO Box 24, Deakin West ACT 2600 Editorial: (02) 6230 0346 Advertising: 02) 6230 0346 Subscriptions: (02) 6230 0346 email@example.com www.amaga.org.au Editor: Bernice L. Murphy Cover design: Selena Kearney Content layout: Stephanie Hamilton Printer: Adams Print, Melbourne
© Australian Museums and Galleries Association and individual authors. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine is published biannually (from Volume 25 onwards) and online on the national website, and is a major link with members and the museums sector. Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine is a forum for news, opinion and debate on museum issues. Contributions from those involved or interested in museums and galleries are welcome. Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine reserves the right to edit, abridge, alter or reject any material. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher or editor. Publication of an advertisement does not imply endorsement by Australian Museums and Galleries Association, its affiliates or employees. Australian Museums and Galleries Association is proud to acknowledge the following supporters of the national organisation: Australian Library and Information Association; National Museum of Australia; Museums Victoria (Melbourne Museum); and Western Australian Museum. Print Post Publication No: 100003705 ISSN 2207-1806
(Director (Exhibitions & Programs), Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland)
SA Pauline Cockrill
(Community History Officer, History Trust SA, Adelaide)
TAS Janet Carding
(Director, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Hobart)
VIC Lauren Ellis
(Program Manager, Curation and Innovation, Cultural Collections and Archives, University of Melbourne)
WA Christen Bell
(Museum Curator, City of Armadale, Armadale) COVER IMAGE: Carrick Hill Staircase, 2013. Photo: Mick Bradley. Collection of the Carrick Hill Trust.
Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019 9
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10 Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019
below: Katsushika Hokusai, Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei), c. 1830-32, polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 10 1/8 x 14 15 /16 inches; 25.7 x 37.9 cm
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
went on a trip to Japan recently, to enjoy the diverse experiences that Japan has to offer; those linked to its deep traditions as well as the novel. The trip was planned well ahead, to coincide with the triennial General Conference and Extraordinary General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), where the new definition of a museum was to be discussed and approved, or otherwise. The ICOM meetings were to be held at the International Conference Centre in Kyoto, in the hall where the Kyoto Protocol on climate change was adopted, an additional reason for making the journey. In making my way to Kyoto I had two experiences in Japan which pushed the boundaries of our museums and galleries world. Both were in Tokyo. The first was of the new MORI Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless, which opened in 2018. It almost defies description. Here is the best that I can do. The title of the show Borderless indicates that this work has no borders. You enter a labyrinth of galleries, with no guide, no idea of the size or shape of what lies ahead. You are in relative darkness, surrounded by projections which continually morph, evolve and change. As you move from gallery to gallery, you encounter different types of projections which cover floors, walls and ceilings. In some galleries the floor becomes a physical landscape that you need to navigate; in others it is a mirror and you are completely immersed in searchlights and sound. The total experience occupies 10,000 square metres. Given that a major touring hall in Australia would be around 1,000 square metres, this Tokyo museum is a very large venue.
The MORI Building Digital Art Museum’s Borderless experience is the first permanent exhibition of teamLab’s work; elsewhere other permanent and temporary exhibitions have recently opened, and more are planned. The attendances to date have been spectacular, with 2.3 million visitors from more than 160 countries visiting the Tokyo venue, exceeding the number of visitors to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. teamLab states that ‘the collective’s collaborative practice seeks to liberate art from physical constrictions and transcend boundaries in contemporary society, where the border between technologies and creativity is becoming fuzzy’. This is a space to watch. The second major experience for me was of another new museum in Tokyo, the Sumida Hokusai Museum: dedicated to the works of Hokusai. As some will know, Hokusai (1760–1849) was a ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period, who is best known for his woodblock prints series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the iconic work internationally, The Great Wave. Sumida is the district in which Hokusai lived and worked. For me this museum was a wonderful experience, driven by a personal interest. However, there was also a temporary exhibition showing, which originated from the Freer Gallery of Art of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington; and the Freer holds some important Hokusai works. Evidently the Freer does not lend objects outside the museum; but the work on display centred on high-resolution facsimiles of two six-fold screens, produced by Canon, along with original works from Japan. The copies had an uncannily identical appearance to the originals, and visitors may well have thought they were originals. This was another example of the ways our museums and galleries worlds are being transformed by digital technology.
Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019 11
What is a museum? This is the question that has been taking up a lot of thought and energy within ICOM. The current ICOM definition, last modified in 2007 to incorporate ‘tangible and intangible heritage’, states: A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment. Since 2016, ICOM has been engaged in an extensive and thorough review process to see if this definition should be changed. In July of this year ICOM Australia received a copy and discussed the proposed new definition: Museums are democratising, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artefacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people. Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing. AMaGA was asked to comment on the new definition and we immediately asked our members for feedback. Our membership includes many small specialist museums as well as the state and national institutions. By far the majority who commented were not impressed with the changes. Criticism ranged from the poor choice of words to resisting having a mission statement built into a definition. We passed on these comments in full to ICOM Australia. The meeting of an Extraordinary General Assembly to consider the new museum definition, in the great hall in Kyoto, was scheduled to run for an hour. It was still going four hours later. The voices against the adoption of the new definition raised similar arguments to those of our AMaGA members who had commented in our survey. Clearly there was not enough support in the room to adopt the new definition. With very deft footwork, the President managed to have the debate postponed to another day, to be determined by the Executive Board of ICOM.
This was democracy in action. The ‘museum’ definition is important to our members, as it is a reference tool and often cited in our own AMaGA documents when advocating for museums, and when seeking funding or support from different levels of government. We will keep an eye on how this important debate unfolds, and ensure we continue to communicate with ICOM Australia, which always has a seat at the table for the annual meetings and decisions taken in Paris. Capped off by the meeting in Kyoto, and all the international museum colleagues and friends who gather in one city every three years, my recent trip to Japan was a great experience. It illustrated how dynamic is the museums and galleries sector today, and how readily the public embraces the new along with the old. Our strength is in our diversity. We will keep advocating for a museum definition that will ensure a simple and clear reference tool whenever we need to remind others of the shared values and public service orientation that unites us in all that we do and deliver.  Dr Robin Hirst PSM President Australian Museums and Galleries Association
12 Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019
From the Director
019 has been a significant year for AMaGA and the cultural sector. There was the federal election in May, which saw the return of the Coalition government but with a new Arts Minister in Paul Fletcher (Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts), based in the Bradfield electorate, NSW. NSW also saw the return of its Coalition government. Not much deviation, then, in either jurisdiction, from previous policy positions. Nationally, we have been recasting our advocacy agenda to focus more strongly on gathering data to support our proposals. Meanwhile in NSW, the state branch is approaching their state Minister for a commitment to develop a sufficiently resourced museum strategy, following the Local Government Association’s recent resolution in support of such a proposal. In other states, the Victorian branch made a submission to the state’s redevelopment of their cultural policy, ‘Creative State 2020–2024’, as the South Australian branch did similarly in their state earlier this year, towards the ‘SA Arts and Culture Plan, 2019–2024’. AMaGA’s national advocacy strategy is bolstered by the information gathered in the first Insight Report from the new think-tank based at the Australian Academy of the Humanities, A New Approach (ANA). The report revealed that cultural expenditure is not matching population growth, with per capita public expenditure dropping by 4.9% over the decade of 2007/08 to 2017/18. Expenditure as a percentage of GDP remains below the OECD average. We argue that this is an unacceptable decline for Australia, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world. At the Commonwealth government level, the longterm lack of a national cultural policy framework, and inadequate associated resourcing, data management, strategic planning and support for arts and culture, has significant negative effects across the country. There is also a generally piecemeal and under-funded approach in most states and territories to their own cultural institutions and activities. Some states have recognised this — South Australia has just released a well-argued but currently unfunded Arts Plan; and Victoria continues to lead the way in its renewal of their Creative State plan. In several states, some local councils are picking up the slack for their own communities, with overall per capita expenditure on culture by Australia’s local government increasing by 11% over the last decade. ANA also found that there have been significant, unsettling shifts in public expenditure on arts and culture. The report states: ‘Without strategic and co-ordinated effort across all levels of government, Australia risks deterioration in its cultural fabric and a loss of the benefits [cultural activity] provides.’
AMaGA strongly recommends the development of a confident and aspirational national cultural framework that sets aims and priorities, defines roles, undertakes research, and enables funding for implementation. It should include crossgovernmental strategies and programs. As with other national policy making (for example in industry or social policy) a national cultural policy both demonstrates the public value of culture and provides a structure for strategic investment and impact. Australia’s cultural infrastructure offers a wellspring of creativity, imagination and innovation – it is in the national interest to support it with coherent long-term investments. This includes both capital and capability investment in the national institutions, and joined-up strategies and programs for the states and territories, which would include more support for local governments and their communities. All public submissions made by the AMaGA National Office can be found on our website. In 2019 we researched and lodged nine submissions, on subjects ranging from Indigenous Knowledge and Intellectual Property (February); a proposed National Indigenous Arts and Cultural Authority (February); the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health (April); the National Science and Research Priorities under ARC's Program (May); the Senate Inquiry into Nationhood, National Identity and Democracy (September); and the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 (October). Nationally, AMaGA continues to co-convene and organise GLAM Peak, the thriving national network of peak bodies in the sector, which is developing some ideas and planning for the longer term. Amongst these, are defining how Australia’s galleries, libraries, archives, museums and historical societies can contribute towards the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2015–2030. National Council met in Sydney at the end of November, and along with business and strategic discussions, embarked on the development of AMaGA’s Statement of Reflection, under the guidance of our two new Indigenous Councillors, Marcus Hughes and Deanne Fitzgerald. This is a commitment in the Indigenous Roadmap, when the association will acknowledge past inappropriate practices and express a commitment on behalf of members to reconciliation and re-imagining the ways in which First Peoples are represented in museums and galleries. National Council has also set up several new committees which are focusing on the priorities in AMaGA’s Strategic Plan. For example, the new Policy Development and Review Committee, chaired by Shane Breynard, is investigating policies on gender and sustainability, as well as updates to AMaGA’s ethics policy, and managing the finalisation of the
Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019 13
proposed revisions to the Principles and Guidelines when working with First Peoples cultural material. There will be many opportunities for members to comment on all these policy and advocacy developments. In this 25th Anniversary year of our Association as a national body, I am delighted and grateful for the continued, immense support and commitment by members around the country: through participation in state/ territory Branches, and Chapter or Network committees and activities; through attending and presenting at the National and state conferences, forums, seminars and webinars; through entering projects in the National Awards, or acting as a peer judge; through writing articles for this national Magazine; or through being ready to help on submissions with input of invaluable data and advice. It is a great privilege to act as your National Director. As always, feel free to contact me with your views at any time.  Alex Marsden National Director Australian Museums and Galleries Association
On the Horizon 2020 National Awards: open for entries in February, for both publication design and projects. Awards will be announced at the National Conference. Visit the website for more information: www.amaga.org.au/ awards National skills and professional development webinar program: February–November National Council Meeting and Workshop: May in Canberra AMaGA National Conference in Canberra: 18–21 May 2020. Register for early bird now: www. amaga2020.org.au AMaGA AGM: May in Canberra National Council Meeting and Workshop: November in Adelaide Biannual Magazine published in June/July and November/December 2020 Indigenous Roadmap implementation will be ongoing, including helpful webinars and other training opportunities Our national focus will be on small, community museums: we will be connecting with our smaller members throughout the year to see how we can better service this core segment of our membership
Refer also to the myriad of functions, events, publications and PD offered by state and territory branches and National Networks — check the relevant section of the national website for details and look out for your branch and network e-bulletins.
14 Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019
International Council of Museums (ICOM): definition of ‘Museum’ under review
Debating the ‘Museum’ in a time of global change
n going about our daily tasks, how often do we stop to think about what defines the museums we work in? Are collections still central to the concept of the museum? Should they be? An alternate question might be: Are museums about things or ideas? — or both in equal measure? Must museums be ‘institutions’ (think solid structures)? And what of the proliferating number of virtual museums? Above all, who and what are museums for? These and many other questions have prompted thought, discussion, and some impassioned debate in the last few years as the International Council of Museums (ICOM) considers revising its definition of the museum. The current definition of the museum reads (in English) as follows: A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment. (ICOM Statutes, 2007) Since ICOM operates in three languages — English, French and Spanish — there are some nuances of meaning that occur through translation, but they are relatively minor. This definition was last amended in 2007 (in Vienna), from a revised definition adopted in Copenhagen in 1974. The 1974 definition read: A museum is a non-profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, and open to the public, which acquires, preserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits, for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of man and his environment. (Mairesse, 2019, 155) Apart from the insertion of ‘intangible’ heritage, and the amendment of the by then highly-contested phrase ‘man and his environment’, the current definition reflects concepts of the museum in the early 1970s – that is almost two generations ago. Many have argued that it is time for change. In December 2016 the Executive Board of ICOM created a new International Standing Committee, to lead discussion around this issue. The mandate of the Standing Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials was to explore:
the shared but also the profoundly dissimilar conditions, values and practices of museums in diverse and rapidly changing societies. Combining broad dialogue across the membership with dedicated expert fora, the committee will address the ambiguous and often contradictory trends in society, and the new conditions, obligations and possibilities for museums. …It will make recommendations regarding the potential gains as well as the complication in revising the definition, as a shared international framework, to reflect and include more current conditions, potentials and priorities for museums. (Sandahl, 2019, 3) Jette Sandahl chaired the committee, which included representatives from all continents. The Standing Committee conducted research into changing epistemologies, and changing practices within museums (including community involvement), before convening a series of workshops around the general meetings of ICOM in Paris in 2017 and 2018. Members from many countries participated, recording their perspectives on the current and perceived future environment of museums. Several International Committees and National Committees of ICOM also convened discussions around these themes and sent their findings to the Standing Committee. As a result, the Standing Committee was able to advise that the existing definition of the museum was out of step with current practice in many institutions, and that the membership of ICOM should be invited directly to contribute ideas for a new definition. Parameters to guide the new definitions were suggested, drawn from the many comments recorded in the workshops and international meetings. In the first few months of 2019, more than 260 potential new definitions were proposed, contributed via a specific sub-site of ICOM’s website, by individuals and committees all over the world. This was the most democratic and participatory process ever attempted by ICOM. The Australian National Committee of ICOM contributed one proposal. It fell to the Standing Committee to try to distill these many suggestions into a recommendation for the Executive Board of ICOM. Those proposed definitions that met the advertised parameters were selected first, and then Standing Committee members were asked to select the five definitions they thought best reflected the research of the past two years. There was a surprising cohesiveness in the selection process, and the committee was able to send five potential new definitions to the Executive Board of ICOM. The Australian committee’s suggestion was amongst those that made this final shortlist of five. For archival interest, I include that text here:
Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019 15
In the end the Executive Board of ICOM decided on just one potential new definition for discussion at the General Meeting in Kyoto. Unfortunately this decision was made only weeks before the proposed vote was to take place, leaving very little time for National and International Committees to consider the proposal before the Kyoto meeting. This new proposal was also very different from the existing definition. While a movement for change had been implicit in the process from the beginning, there were those within ICOM who opposed both the degree and the direction of change, and their opposition to the process intensified as the date for the vote approached. The text of the new definition proposed for adoption by the Executive Board of ICOM was as follows: Museums are democratising, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artefacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.
‘Museum’ definition plenary discussion, Kyoto, September 2019. right:
ICOM General Conference, Kyoto, opening ceremony, 2 September 2019.
Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and wellbeing.
Museums are dynamic institutions, working in active partnership with, and for, diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit and enhance understandings of the tangible and intangible world. Museums address all aspects of the social, cultural and natural world in the past, present and future. They are safe communal and collaborative spaces – physical, virtual and conceptual – in which to explore ideas, share stories, educate, challenge assumptions and seek ethical, sustainable solutions to global problems.
To an English speaker, this definition clearly includes some awkward phrasing. It would have benefitted from close editing before circulation, but in the end there was no time. Attempts to amend the proposal from the floor at the General Meeting in Kyoto fell foul of ICOM’s complex legal obligations under French law. The final outcome was to defer a decision on the definition until the next General Assembly in 2020. An attempt by the Australian National Committee to endorse the sentiments and direction of the work of the Standing Committee, while seeking a further period for discussion, refinement and review, was disallowed.
Debating the ‘museum’ It should not surprise us that opinions on the essential defining elements of ‘the museum’ are as diverse as the global family of museums itself. Each of us, when asked, would probably come up with
16 Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 28(1) – Summer 2019
International Council of Museums (ICOM): definition of ‘Museum’ under review
a slightly different definition, even if we agreed on general parameters. What has been a little surprising, however, is the heat the debate has generated in some quarters — notably amongst those who opposed the direction of change. (Some opposed any change at all of course.) At some point it might be interesting to unpick some of the terms that proved most contentious in the proposed new definition - I am thinking of ‘democratising’ and ‘polyphonic’ in particular; but that may be superfluous at this stage. It is not even clear whether this proposal will continue to be discussed in detail, or whether other proposals will emerge. What might be most useful is to consider some of the broad trends within museums identified from the research of the Standing Committee, and emphasised in the many international workshops convened on the topic. These are the issues that prompted the conviction that the museum definition, as it stands, is outdated. Most of these trends will be well-known to Australian practitioners. We might claim, fairly, to have been amongst the leaders of change in these areas. They include issues of ownership and interpretation of cultural collections, the inclusion of diverse communities in museum practice, broad issues of contemporary relevance in the face of global change, and a willingness to debate issues of importance. Within ICOM’s Standing Committee on the museum definition, I chaired an international working group exploring broad issues of cultural democracy in museums, and shared some of the more obvious findings at the plenary session on the Museum Definition in Kyoto. A longer article appeared in the most recent issue of Museum International (Anderson, 1919, 140-149). These presentations argued that the evolution of museums into more inclusive, diverse, contested and contesting spaces began last century and is ongoing. From at least the 1960s, groups previously invisible in museums began to demand inclusion. First Nations groups sought meaningful involvement in the management and interpretation of their cultural heritage. Women claimed a right to inclusion, challenging the ‘master narratives’ that framed historical discourse and contemporary commentary. Immigrant groups sought inclusion in the stories of nations and place. Each of these trends challenged the single narrative approach to museum interpretation. We might well describe this as a process of ‘democratic disruption’, and I argue that it has transformed the museum landscape profoundly. Yes — the transition is uneven. The extent of community participation varies from museum to museum. But the overall trend towards inclusive practice is clear. In the place of the single ‘master’ or ‘national’ narrative, we find more multiple narratives, even conflicting
narratives. A diversity of insights drives displays that present an altogether richer, more inclusive vision of a community, culture, or place. Some of these displays seek deliberately to contribute to a process of ‘righting history’. While we cannot undo the injustices of the past, many argue that museums can contribute towards processes of reconciliation and healing in ways that are significant in a post-colonial world. This is profoundly important work, contributing to human dignity and social justice, but it calls for active partnerships — working with and for communities, while still preserving the traditional museum functions of collecting, preserving, researching and interpreting cultural material. These are the concepts that lie behind some of the content in the proposed new definition. Of equal importance at this time of urgent global change are the scientific collections museums hold. Many argue that it is no longer enough simply to preserve these collections and to exhibit them. Museums should be prepared to engage with global problems, to facilitate debate and to seek active involvement in pursuing potential solutions. Many in Australia do this already. And indeed, we have a whole new audience of engaged young people who expect their institutions to show leadership in this way. Some argue that this politicises the museum, undermining a tradition of ‘objective’, scientific discourse. But others have been quick to point out the naivety of assumptions of museum ‘objectivity’ (Haynes, 2019). One digital group with a growing group of followers sums it up neatly in their hashtag:
Above all, we in museums need to ensure the continuing relevance of our institutions in a rapidlychanging world. And ICOM needs to be seen to be relevant if it is to retain intellectual leadership in the international world of museums. Finding a definition of the museum that sends that clear signal is a necessary first step. Whether the current proposal is the right one remains to be seen. But a definition that speaks to the current generation, that projects the dynamic potential of museums in the present and into the future, is essential. [ ] Margaret Anderson is Director of the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne. She is a public historian with a long history of work in museums and with museum professional associations. Citation: Margaret Anderson, ‘Debating the ‘Museum’ in a time of global change’, Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 14-16.
References Anderson, M. (2019). ‘Towards Cultural Democracy: Museums and their Communities’, Museum International, 71, 281–2, 140–49. Haynes, S. (2019). ‘Why a Plan to Redefine the Meaning of ‘Museum’ is Stirring up Controversy’, Time, 9 September 2019. https://time. com/5670807/museums-definitiondebate/ . Accessed 19 November 2019. Mairesse, F. (2019). ‘The definition of the Museum: History and Issues’, Museum International, 71, 281–2, 152–9. Sandahl, J. (2019). ‘The Museum Definition as the Backbone of ICOM’, Museum International, 71, 181–2, 1–9.
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UMAC meeting (ICOM’s International Committee for University Museums) Kyoto, September 2019
International issues and global change: A focus for university museums and collections in Australia in 2020
UMAC delegates on tour of Kyoto University Museums 2019. Photo courtesy of Akiko Fukuno.
Andrew Simpson and David Ellis
he 25th ICOM Triennial Conference in Kyoto (September 2019) saw more than 4,000 colleagues from the global museums community come together around the theme Museums as cultural hubs: The future of tradition. As a result of ICOM discussions since the previous Conference in Milan (in July 2016), this ICOM gathering was touted as the one that would change the definition of a museum, completely redefining the museum as a proactive space rather than an inactive keeper of knowledge. Can museums now be conceptualised as agents seeking the resolution of many of the wicked problems confronting humanity: climate change, social injustice and burgeoning inequality, environmental degradation? Everyone has observed that the ICOM ‘Museum’ redefinition has been delayed as the museums community continues to explore this internal discourse about what museums ‘stand for’ as central to their character in a rapidly changing world. If museums are therefore to be a conduit for action and reconciliation between local communities and global concerns, what does this new thinking and organisational recasting mean for the museums and collections of higher education? Many who work with higher education museums and collections would
already consider their organisations as cultural hubs. Many would even consider the university, their parent organisation, as a larger cultural hub within a broader social setting than universities tended to address in past decades. The idea of museums as hubs conjures up a graphic, almost visual image: of centrality of focus and activity; of a connecting point where networks coalesce, where people and ideas intersect. The hubs model also conjures up an image of gathering many diverse activities, and even people and places, towards a central node or core, that makes clear how many surrounding activities are ultimately interconnected in their aspirations and outcomes. The world of higher education today no longer believes that it is immune from the immense pressures of change occurring beyond the campus walls. On the contrary, our campus museums and collections, while still dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of universities, are alert to opportunities to make this heritage accessible not only to the immediate community of researchers and students, but wherever possible to include a diverse variety of different audiences who may engage with this heritage from distant physical locations. University museums and collections in the arts, sciences and humanities connect objects, people and stories. They also provide inspiring encounters
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UMAC meeting (ICOM’s International Committee for University Museums) Kyoto, September 2019
between diverse cultures across the university communities in a global context. When a highereducation campus moves daily towards its evening and ‘downtime’, audiences are starting up in new mornings online and are keen to access the resources we can share with a mouse-click. This means that our ‘hub’ activities can reach much further geographically, intellectually and culturally than ever possible previously. UMAC, ICOM’s International Committee for the museums and collections of higher education, met in Kyoto in September 2019 for their 19th annual meeting. There were 200 participants, 3 pre-Conference workshops, 2 keynote presentations, 57 oral presentations, 47 posters, a joint meeting with ICTOP (the International Committee for museum training), and an AGM of UMAC and election of our new international Board. Taking advantage of our host city’s resources, there was a tour of university museums in Kyoto; and we accomplished the publication (for the first time for UMAC delegates) of a book of Conference abstracts, as an issue of the UMAC Journal, plus a post-conference seminar in Tokyo, at Keio University. The UMAC theme echoed the main ICOM conference theme, and so became: ‘University Museums and Collections as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition’. It had been a busy year for UMAC projects. For example, the development of the University Museums App for mobile devices is now based on the UMAC group’s database. There is a continuation of focus in recent years on training, anchored in Shanghai, China, through a partnership with the Chen Xuesen Museum and Library at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The translation into Chinese of the UMAC Journal through a partnership with Shanghai University Museum has accessed a large new audience. Meanwhile UMAC has supported the instigation of a new national network of university museums in Indonesia. And to make sure we reach out to other regions of the world, a significant initiative involving the vast region of Latin American universities has been mobilised: with a new Working Group (UMAC Futures) for young professionals, and a focus on the devastating fire at the Museu Nacional, Rio de Janiero (a university museum) in Brazil. The issues covered at the UMAC meeting in Kyoto well aligned with the theme of the main ICOM conference, interconnecting museums people from all over the world. We clearly observed that university museums are responding to the same global issues confronted by mainstream museums of all types. This sharpened our own questions, especially these: What does culture mean in the modern university? And how can universities pursue resolution of global and local issues through their museums?
There is interesting work underway at many of our museums and we are asking ourselves sharper, often uncomfortable questions. For example, how can a university acknowledge a past that benefited from the profits of slavery? Responding to such questions, a proactive approach to decolonising collections is currently well underway at the University of Glasgow (see Scholten 2019). Another challenging question currently raised: How can a university art museum counteract the exclusion and marginalisation of African Americans? Some creative exhibition work at the University of Miami is demonstrating affirmative responses to exactly this question. It turns out that the challenges for university museums are similar to the challenge of all museums. As they increasingly extend their roles as cultural hubs reaching out to wider audiences, university museums are finding new ways to creatively use their collections, their histories, and extend their legacies, ensuring that they will have new meanings for future generations and relevance for an increasingly diverse contemporary audience at a global level (Simpson et al, 2019). Because of their campus location and direct association with the generation and transmission of knowledge, university museums can be places bringing different silos of knowledge and the different academic tribes to more vibrant intersections. The utility of collections for research training, objectbased learning and cross-disciplinary programs is being explored and exploited by more and more in higher education. University museums can thereby become platforms for creativity and problem solving. With the election of a new UMAC Board in Kyoto, a number of strategic priorities have been established. The first is to continue growing our membership. Not all university museums are supported by good structures and policies, or professionally managed to best outcomes, so that they are well integrated into their host universities. This was one of the reasons for the establishment of ICOM-UMAC two decades ago, and it remains a challenging issue in some areas. Therefore, growing membership and advocating to our host universities on the value of creative deployment of material collections remains a primary focus. Part of this advocacy engages another strategic priority, which is to examine how university museums and collections contribute to what is now called the ‘third mission’ of the university (Brundenius & Göransson, 2011), and demonstrate how these museum contributions can be assessed in a missionfocused context for an entire university.
Mobile screenshot of the new UMAC App.
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UMAC 2020 (15–17 September, Sydney, Australia) Another aspect of UMAC’s immediate future discussed in Kyoto was the fact that 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of (at the time) the controversial establishment of this International Committee of ICOM. The controversy stemmed from the fact that the proposed committee was identified by its institutional setting rather than any specific disciplinary focus. Nevertheless, the Committee was established by ICOM, and has proved its value and thrived. Next year, in September 2020, the annual conference of UMAC will come to Australia, the nation that first advocated for the International Committee’s formation (Nykänen 2018). This will be an opportunity for our international colleagues to reflect on the progress achieved in the years since our Committee’s establishment; and to project future potentials for how university museums can prosper in a highly volatile and rapidly changing tertiary education sector. Delegates attending UMAC 2020 will see that there has been some significant change at their host campus (the University of Sydney). The meeting and programs will be hosted by the new Chau Chak Wing Museum at Australia’s oldest university (Ellis 2017). This new museum will bring together the university’s collections of art and antiquities (the Nicholson Museum), and of ethnography, history, science and natural history (the Macleay Museum). It is the result of a 14-year strategy by Sydney University Museums with support from significant philanthropy. The Chau Chak Wing Museum will provide the first physical co-location of collections and discipline-specific university museums in the history of Australian higher education. All visiting delegates will experience firsthand how a venerable university’s museums can be transformed to meet the highest standards and challenges of the ‘connected world’ of today. The Chau Chak Wing Museum (resulting from significant investments by the University and private individuals) has been developed to improve and increase access to these significant collections, and to utilise them in innovative teaching and research programs across multiple platforms and disciplines, establishing new ways of engaging with diverse communities. The Museum aspires to realise the potential of material collections in higher education as a regionally-focused but globally-engaged enabler of interdisciplinarity; as a central driver of research and teaching; and as an institution with rich facilities that can become a new cultural destination for the city of Sydney. The new Museum’s use of Indigenous collections in innovative ways will be a special focus of the opening installations.
To explore the conference theme (20/20 Looking Forward, Looking Back) we seek proposals that investigate and analyse the many different pathways that material collections can and do take throughout their journeys in a highly volatile and challenging higher education system. The conference will therefore cover the relationships between museums and collections and their institutional hosts; their relationships with the tripartite missions of teaching, research and engagement; and their relevance to global issues and challenges in both higher education and the broader society. ICOM-UMAC is a forum for all those working in, or associated with, academic museums, galleries and collections, having a shared concern for the role of collections within higher education institutions, and an orientation to the multiple communities they serve. When UMAC gathers in Sydney, in September 2020, there will also be associated workshops and tours, making sure that delegates are introduced to the museums of the wider city, and its diverse civic facilities with of course a spectacular harbourdefined location. The UMAC organisers in Australia are currently in discussions about a post-conference meeting in Melbourne (and of course some delegates will also make the most of their Australian travel and perhaps include Canberra and other cities). UMAC welcomes all colleagues that it can accommodate. Watch out for AMaGA news bulletins early in the new year, providing further news of our final program in September! [ ] Dr Andrew Simpson is a casual staff member of Macquarie University’s Library, Archives and Collections. He was recently elected as Vice President of UMAC (2019-2022) at the Kyoto meeting. Dr David Ellis is Director of Sydney University Museums. He is a member of UMAC and UAMA (University Art Museums Australia) and deputy chair of CAUMAC (Council of Australian University Museums and Collections). He is the chair of the UMAC2020 Organising Committee. Citation: Andrew Simpson and David Ellis, ‘International issues and global change: A focus for university museums and collections in Australia in 2020’, Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 17-19.
References Brundenius C., and B. Göransson. (2011). ‘The Three Missions of Universities: A Synthesis of UniDev Project Findings, in Göransson B. and C. Brundenius (eds), Universities in Transition. Insight and Innovation in International Development. Springer, New York, 329-352. Ellis, D. (2017). ‘University museums and collections evolving in a changing world’, Museums Galleries Australia Magazine, Canberra, 26 (1), 46-49. Nykänen, P. (2018). ‘First steps in global advocacy: Some perspectives on the formation of UMAC, an international committee of ICOM’, University Museums and Collections Journal (ICOM-UMAC), No. 10, 10-21. Scholten, S.C. (2019). ‘Conceptualising a twenty-first century university museum: Addressing big and uncomfortable questions’, University Museums and Collections Journal (ICOM-UMAC), No. 11(1), 41. Simpson, A., A. Fukuno & H. Minami (2019). ‘University museums and collections as cultural hubs: The future of tradition’, University Museums and Collections Journal (ICOM-UMAC), 11(1), 9-12.
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Board Governance in Public and Not-for-Profit Organisations: Implications for the Museums and Galleries Sector
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, ‘Bad Government’, in The Allegory of Good and Bad Government (133839), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.
he role and function of boards has been a longstanding topic of interest in discussions about the governance of public and notfor-profit organisations. Boards have been promoted as a counterbalance and necessary check on managers. They have also been viewed as a source of support, expertise, policy advice, strategic direction, and as a means of representing external constituencies and stakeholder interests. Whilst public commentary has often been critical of boards, governments, politicians and policymakers have often placed very high expectations on their role. Recent interest in boards has been traced to various developments, including the adoption of private-sector management principles in the public and not-for-profit sectors. However, studies of board governance have shown that boards experience various challenges, including non-participating board members, unprepared board members, and the prioritisation of policy advice over critical scrutiny. Whilst these studies have questioned the role and function of boards, current discussions of board governance have often presented an idealised and over-prescriptive view of boards. The danger of prescriptive views of governance is that they fail
to recognise the difficult demands, constraints and dilemmas facing board members and those working with boards. As a result, much of the advice concerning board governance has been difficult to implement in practice. The critical perspective towards board governance developed in this contribution builds on discussion groups that were held earlier this year with the AMaGA Council. The analysis also draws on the academic research on board governance in the museums and galleries sector, arts organisations and public and not-for-profit organisations more generally. Whilst the prominence of boards has grown in public debate, we still know very little about whether boards help to improve or constrain organisational performance. Some of the reasons for such lacunae are explored in the discussion below.
An input-output model of board governance Boards raise many different governance issues. In order to provide structure to the concerns covered, the discussion below has been organised around the input-output model of board governance developed by Cornforth and Edwards. Figure 1 illustrates the framework, which consists of four parts:
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The strategic contribution of boards
Whereas possible mergers with or take-overs of other colleges, or diversifying using subsidiary companies to win contracts in discrete market niches, would be matters of strategy. In practice, again, the boundary is blurred: 1: Roles and responsibilities of boards and board members pursuing an initiative that builds upon a reputation for good special needs  education combines INTERESTS both. Greer and Hoggett (1999) note that as UK THEORY BOARD MEMBERS BOARD ROLE public policy affecting what different local public spending bodies do has AGENCY THEORY Owners and managers Owners’ Compliance/conformance become more centralised, and as the environment in which these bodies have different interests representatives safeguard owners’ interests, oversee operate has become more marketised, so the discourse management, of strategycheck hascompliance become predominant. STEWARDSHIP Owners and managers Experts Improve performance Caution is therefore required and non-profit THEORY share interests when asserting that publicadd value to top decisions/strategy boards should focus on making strategic contributions. partner/support This can overmanagement simplify what is operational and apparently not worthy of board attention. Strategic contribution is a contested term: how boards interpret it DEMOCRATIC Members/the public Lay representatives Political PERSPECTIVE containabout differentthe very purpose of quasi-autonomous represent constituents/members depends on perceptions to reconcile conflicts, make policy, public and non-profitinterests organisations. For the purposes ofcontrol the case study the executive research, board papers and discussions that incorporated assessments of STAKEHOLDER overallStakeholders Stakeholder Balancing stakeholder needs organisations’ resourcehave and capability strengths and weaknesses, THEORY different interests representatives: balance stakeholder needs, make their relative performance and their options priorities for future elected or and appointed policy/strategy, control management by stakeholder development were interpreted as being strategic. 
MODEL Compliance model
RESOURCE Stakeholders and Determinants of board outputs DEPENDENCY organisations have
Boundary spanning secure resources, maintain stakeholder relations, bring external conceptualising boards’ perspective
Chosen for influence with key stakeholders
THEORY different interests Figure 4.1 presents an input–output model for strategic contributions. This develops the work of Dulewicz et al. (1995), MANAGERIAL Owners managers ‘Rubber-stamp’ who use the term ‘tasks’ toand denote the Owners’ outputs of what aLargely boardsymbolic actually HEGEMONY THEORY have different interests representatives ratify decisions, give legitimacy, model does. Their framework concentrates on inputs – who is on the board – power managers have the real and processes, for example the way in which the board defines its roles and responsibilities, the way board business and meetings are conducted. The main difference in our model is the addition of context, which both of the board’s operation: What 1. Context institutional factors influence the board? constrains and enables organisational action.
e.g. Institutional influences 3.
e.g. Board members’ skills and experience
e.g. Organising and running the board
e.g. Strategic contribution
Figure 4.1 Influences on board outputs figure
1: Influences on board outputs
Areas of concern include the legal rules, regulations and frameworks pertaining to the board as well as the norms and beliefs that inform its practices. Board inputs: What are the skills and experiences of board members? Areas of concern include appointment practices, recruitment into boards, and the background and diversity of board members. Board processes: How is the board organised and run? Areas of concern include preparation prior to the board meeting, deliberations within and on the fringes of the boardroom, the role of the management team, the Chair, and other key officeholders. Board outputs: What tasks and outputs does the board perform? Areas of concern include the supervision of senior managers, oversight of financial management, contribution to organisational strategy and accountability to relevant stakeholders.
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Thinking about governance
top left: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, ‘Effects of Bad Government on the Countryside’ (detail) in the Allegory of Bad Government (133839), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.
Importantly, the four parts of the model are connected, and the context within which the board operates influences both the Board Inputs and Board Processes.
top right: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, ‘The Tyrant’ (detail) in the Allegory of Bad Government (1338-39), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.
1. Context: diverse expectations and multiple logics
1. Cornforth, Chris, ed. The governance of public and non-profit organizations. Routledge, 2002, p. 12. 2. Caust, Jo. ‘Arts and business: The impact of business models on the activities of major performing arts organisations in Australia.’ Media International Australia, 135, no. 1 (2010): 32-44. Wilks, Stephen. ‘Boardization and Corporate Governance in the UK as a Response to Depoliticization and Failing Accountability.’ Public Policy and Administration, 22, no. 4 (2007): 443-460. 3. Schwartz-Ziv, Miriam, and Michael S. Weisbach. ‘What do boards really do? Evidence from minutes of board meetings.’ Journal of Financial Economics, 108, no. 2 (2013): 349-366. 4. Busuioc, Elena Madalina. The accountability of European agencies: Legal provisions and ongoing practices. Uitgeverij Eburon, 2010. 5. Schillemans, Thomas, and Remco Smulders. ‘Learning from accountability?! Whether, what, and when.’ Public Performance & Management Review, 39, no. 1 (2015): 248-271. 6. Cornforth, Chris, and Charles Edwards. ‘Board Roles in the Strategic Management of Non-profit Organisations: Theory and practice.’ Corporate Governance, 7, no. 4 (1999): 346-362.
Whilst the importance of context may seem obvious enough, most prescriptive accounts of board governance either downplay or sideline its role. Two aspects of context are particularly important in understanding board governance: • the coercive top-down pressure of some organisations (e.g. governments and funding bodies) to impose their rules on others. Examples include the laws, regulations, rules and soft law (e.g. codes of conduct) that require organisations to have a board, and which impose formal requirements on a board and those who work with boards. • the normative beliefs, social norms, values and cultural influences (collectively referred to as ‘logics’) that shape boards to behave or operate in certain ways. Examples include conscious or subconscious behaviour that justifies an action with reference to taken-for-granted ideas, or the ‘way that we do things around here’. These logics take on a ‘rule-like status’. They can be legitimated by organisations and professions, and have their origins in practices of socialisation, professional training and education. Cornforth expands the second point above and details six different perspectives of board governance (see Table 1). The differences between these six different perspectives illustrate how individual and
organisational understandings of board governance can often contain supportive as well as contradictory logics. Contrary to prescriptive accounts that may elevate one logic in Table 1 over and above the others (e.g. the compliance model), context in the inputoutput model draws attention to the interplay of multiple competing logics. A study of board governance in Canada, for example, found evidence of these competing logics amongst senior managers in the arts and culture sector. Managers expected board members to perform both a passive role, basically endorsing decisions for the benefits of external funders (the ‘rubber-stamp’ model) at the same time as they expected them to act ‘as representatives to legitimate their actions for obtaining resources from their funding bodies’ (the co-option model). As Figure 1 illustrates, the implications of the balance between the different logics presented in Table 1 filters into other decisions about the appropriateness of particular inputs and processes, which are discussed in further detail below.
2. Inputs: recruitment, diversity and inclusion Inputs into the board operate at the intersection of a number of other concerns, including appointment processes, recruitment, patronage, inclusion, and the background of board members. Calls for greater representative diversity within boards reflect a concern about the narrow and exclusive pool from which board members tend to be drawn. Arguments for greater inclusivity in board memberships have been made normatively (it’s the ‘right thing to do’), as well as empirically: in studies that have examined whether more inclusive boards lead to more effective and/or legitimate outcomes. Studies concerning the link between diversity
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7. Several themes related to board governance were discussed during this session, including: diversity and inclusion; board independence; and accountability and performance. 8. Howard, Cosmo, and Robyn SethPurdie. ‘Governance issues for public sector boards.’ Australian Journal of Public Administration, 64, no. 3 (2005): 56-68. 9. Cornforth and Edwards, 1999, op. cit. 10. Cornforth, 2002, op. cit. 11. The term ‘owners’ is used in Table 1 to reflect the importation of neoclassical ideas into the public and not-for-profit sectors, where governance has been defined as a means of protecting investors and earning profits. 12. Cornforth and Edwards, 1999, op. cit. 13. Pettigrew, Andrew, and Terry McNulty. ‘Power and influence in and around the boardroom.’ Human Relations, 48, no. 8 (1995): 845-873. 14. Powell, Walter W., and Paul J. DiMaggio, eds. The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. University of Chicago Press, 2012. 15. DiMaggio and Powell (1991) also identified a third institutional pressure, which they called mimetic pressures (not discussed here). 16. Turbide, Johanne, and Claude Laurin. ‘Governance in the Arts and Culture Nonprofit Sector: Vigilance or Indifference?.’ Administrative Sciences, 4, no. 4 (2014): 415. 17. Flinders, Matthew, Felicity Matthews, and Christina Eason. ‘Are public bodies still ‘male, pale and stale’? Examining diversity in UK public appointments 1997–2010.’ Politics, 31, no. 3 (2011): 129-139. 18. Flinders, Matthews and Eason, 2011, op. cit. 19. Flinders, Matthew, Felicity Matthews, and Christina Eason. ‘Political recruitment beyond elections: An exploration of the linkage between patronage, democracy, and diversity in the United Kingdom.’ Public Administration, 90, no. 2 (2012): 511-528. 20. Kennedy, Brandy. ‘Unraveling representative bureaucracy: A systematic analysis of the literature.’ Administration & Society, 46, no. 4 (2014): 395-421. 21. Ennser-Jedenastik, Laurenz. ‘The politicization of regulatory agencies: Between partisan influence and formal independence.’ Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 26, no. 3 (2015): 507-518. See also: Fernández-iMarín, Xavier, Jacint Jordana, and Andrea C. Bianculli. ‘Are regulatory agencies independent in practice? Evidence from board members in Spain.’ Regulation & Governance, 10, no. 3 (2016): 230-247. 22. Flinders, Matthew, and Felicity Matthews. ‘Think again: Patronage, governance and the smarter state.’ Policy & Politics, 38, no. 4 (2010): 639-656. 23. See also: Bearfield, Domonic A. ‘What is patronage? A critical re-examination.’ Public Administration Review, 69, no. 1 (2009): 64-76.
Calls for greater representative diversity within boards reflect a concern about the narrow and exclusive pool from which board members tend to be drawn. and legitimacy are closely related to the democratic model (see Table 1), where boards provide a means by which members of the public can engage in issues of public governance. Others have argued that greater diversity within boards provides a means by which different interests can be represented in the formulation and implementation of policy (the stakeholder model). However, numerous other studies have shown that passive representation (shared demographic characteristics) rarely translates seamlessly into active representation (making decisions on behalf of the represented); and more consideration needs to be given to the link between the two. Other scholars have analysed the relationship between board appointments and politicisation. In a study of over 700 board appointments in more than 100 regulatory agencies across Western Europe, it was found that ministers were more likely to appoint ideologically like-minded board members to those regulatory agencies that exhibited higher levels of legal autonomy. The counter-intuitive implication: legal safeguards aimed at protecting the autonomy and independence of government agencies lead to more, rather than less politicised boards. The empirical link between politicisation and patronage has also been explored conceptually via studies that have distinguished ‘patronage as corruption’ from ‘patronage as governance.’ Whilst these studies acknowledge that patronage has a ‘dark side’, they also argue that it has a ‘sunny side’, in that it provides elected politicians with an indirect means for them to exert their influence over government agencies and over issues that they would not otherwise have the time to manage themselves. This more positive interpretation views patronage as a democratic bridge via the loose coupling that it provides between elected politicians, the state (government agencies) and the public. Other studies have examined whether board members form part of a ‘power elite’. An analysis of agencies within the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the UK found that members of the ‘old elite’ were far less likely to hold board positions than in the past. However, their influence within the sector was still considerable given the
‘bridging’ role that they played between the multiple cultural organisations with which they maintained an ongoing connection. The implication of this finding is that, whilst board memberships can change, existing interests may continue to exert their influence via other means.
3. Processes: opening up the ‘black box’ Process-driven analyses focus on what happens within and on the fringes of the boardroom. This type of research is usually more resource-intensive and is typically embedded in qualitative research designs. Whilst studies of this type are less common, existing attempts to open up the ‘black box’ of board governance have observed board meetings in situ, interviewed board members about their experiences, and analysed documentation (e.g. agendas, minutes and board packs) to gain insights into how boards are organised and run. Access and ethical issues are natural concerns with this type of research; but they are not insurmountable, and it behoves us to try, given the important insights generated by studies that have undertaken this type of work. One key relationship that has been the focus of a number of studies is the one that exists between Chairs and CEOs. Consistent with a private-sector logic, principal-agent theory has dominated most prescriptive accounts of this relationship. However, both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have found that the relationship between Chairs and CEOs is far from uniform. Rather, it is negotiated and contingent both upon circumstances and personal characteristics. A study of international artists’ residences supports these findings, noting that the independence of board members and their board monitoring roles were far less important in explaining organisational success than the friendship and networking opportunities that were built through the interactions that occurred between board members. Meanwhile, managers were able to use the board to satisfy the demands of fund providers, and as a counterbalance to any attempts by the latter to exert their influence over organisational decisions. Other studies have examined the deliberations that take place within and on the sidelines of the boardroom. Specific interests have developed around how the board apportions and manages its time. A study of 20 performing arts organisations in Australia reported that arts managers had to ‘wrestle with competing agendas around creative autonomy and the low-risk appetite of their management boards.’ This study found that board members and managers often disagreed on which matters required prioritisation, whilst managers criticised board members for lacking relevant experience. Managers ‘overwhelmingly’ agreed that they spent excessive amounts of time on servicing the board and that this represented a poor use of resources.
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Thinking about governance
24. Mills, C. Wright. The power elite. Oxford University Press, 1956. 25. Griffiths, Dave, Andrew Miles, and Mike Savage. ‘The end of the English cultural elite?’ The Sociological Review, 56, no. 1_ suppl. (2008): 187-209. 26. McNulty, Terry, Alessandro Zattoni, and Thomas Douglas. ‘Developing corporate governance research through qualitative methods: A review of previous studies.’ Corporate Governance, 21, no. 2 (2013): 183-198. 27. Pugliese, Amedeo, Gavin Nicholson, and Pieter-Jan Bezemer. ‘An observational analysis of the impact of board dynamics and directors' participation on perceived board effectiveness.’ British Journal of Management, 26, no. 1 (2015): 1-25. 28. Schwartz-Ziv, Miriam, and Michael S. Weisbach. ‘What do boards really do? Evidence from minutes of board meetings.’ Journal of Financial Economics, 108, no. 2 (2013): 349-366. 29. Leblanc, Richard, and Mark S. Schwartz. ‘The black box of board process: Gaining access to a difficult subject.’ Corporate Governance, 15, no. 5 (2007): 843-851. 30. Heald, David, and David Steel. ‘Making the governance of public bodies work: Chair–chief executive relationships in practice.’ Public Money & Management, 35, no. 4 (2015): 257-264. Cornforth, Chris, and Rob Macmillan. ‘Evolution in board chair–CEO relationships: A negotiated order perspective.’ Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 45, no. 5 (2016): 949-970.
4. Output/tasks: success of what, success for whom? The promise of boards is that they will improve organisational performance but the evidencebase for this assertion is only nascent. There are various reasons why this thread of causality has been so difficult to map out in practice. One reason is that whilst studies in the corporate sector have examined the link between board governance and an organisation’s profitability, the outputs and outcomes in the public and not-for-profit sectors often defy simple quantification. The inherently political and contested nature of success in the sector also raises the question: ‘success of what; success for whom?’ These intermediary factors raise significant challenges for any study that seeks to evaluate the effect of a board on an organisation’s tasks, outputs and performance — all occurring within the dynamic and changing contexts discussed above. Whilst the difficulties outlined in this analysis undoubtedly exist, they have not stopped some from making the leap into taking a more active approach towards evaluating board governance. In a study of Dutch secondary schools, structural equation modelling was used to evaluate the influence of board characteristics and board behaviour on pupils’ achievements (the outcome measure). This study found that the degree to which the board was perceived as a countervailing power was the only variable that had a positive effect on pupils’ achievements. Other variables (e.g. board size, or the board’s commitment to undertaking concrete
actions) had no effect on pupils’ achievements. The Dutch schools study concludes that there are interacting variables at play; but their complexity means that they can only be accessed through qualitative and observational case studies of board behaviour. Other studies have sought to examine the link between board governance and fundraising performance. In a study of Swiss museum boards, it was found that the inclusion of donors and business representatives is positively linked with fundraising income. These findings are supported by another study of Lyric Symphonic Foundations in Italy, which found that differences in the profile of board members had an effect on the balance between different revenue sources (earned income, private funds and public funds). The implication of these studies is that board composition matters when it comes to revenue patterns and fundraising income.
Future governance: what role for boards? Boards govern complex organisations and there are many different types of board. Making sense of this complexity is not an easy task. The input-output model provides a useful starting point because it is differentiated enough to generate meaningful insights, whilst also being high-level enough to accommodate its attention to diversity. As this very selective review of board governance has shown, the different influences identified in the input-output model are individual areas of study in
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top left: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Allegory of Good Government (133839), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy. top right: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, ‘The Effects of Good Government in the City’ in Allegory of Good Government (1338-39), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Allegory of Good and Bad Government (1338-39), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy. The ‘Salon of the Nine/ Sala dei Nove’ frescoes depict the responsibilities of the Republic of Siena's nine executive magistrates, thenelected officials who performed executive functions (and judicial functions in secular matters).
their own right. We probably know most about inputs into the board; but less about board processes or the impact of context on board governance; and least of all about the influence of these four factors on the tasks and outputs of a board. Some of this variation in what we know can be explained by the (in)accessibility of data, the difficulty of making causal claims given other intervening variables, and the resource-intensive demands of certain research designs. Despite these challenges, the input-output model provides the basis for a more systematic reflection of the factors that impact on board governance in different settings. It raises important questions that might otherwise be suppressed by an unnecessarily narrow and restrictive focus on ‘good governance’. As a result, it represents an admittedly small but nevertheless important step towards a more accurate recording of the ‘lived experience’ of board members and those who work with boards. [ ] Paul Fawcett is Associate Professor of Public Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is also Secretary/Treasurer of the Australian Political Studies Association. Paul has published widely in the fields of governance, public administration and public policy, and has secured competitive grant income from various sources, including the Australian Research Council. Citation: Paul Fawcett, ‘Board Governance in Public and Not-for-Profit Organisations: Implications for the Museums and Galleries Sector’, Australian Museums and Galleries Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 20-25.
31. Paulus, Odile, and Christophe Lejeune. ‘What do board members in art organizations do? A grounded theory approach.’ Journal of Management and Governance, 17, no. 4 (2013): 963-988. 32. Glow, Hilary, Melissa A. Parris, and Amanda Pyman. ‘Working with boards: The experiences of Australian managers in performing arts organisations.’ Australian Journal of Public Administration (2018): 396. 33. Nicholson, Gavin J., and Geoffrey C. Kiel. ‘Can directors impact performance? A case-based test of three theories of corporate governance.’ Corporate Governance, 15, no. 4 (2007): 585-608. 34. Marsh, David, and Allan McConnell. ‘Towards a framework for establishing policy success.’ Public Administration, 88, no. 2 (2010): 564-583. 35. Honingh, Marlies, Marieke van Genugten, Sandra van Thiel, and Rutger Blom. ‘Do boards matter? Studying the relation between school boards and educational quality.’ Public Policy and Administration (2018): 65-83. 36. Betzler, Diana. ‘Factors of Board Governance and Fundraising Success: The composition of Swiss museum boards does matter.’ Journal of Cultural Economy, 8, no. 2 (2015): 144-165. 37. Dubini, Paola, and Alberto Monti. ‘Board Composition and Organizational Performance in the Cultural Sector: The Case of Italian Opera Houses.’ International Journal of Arts Management, 20, no. 2 (2018): 56-70. 38. Van Thiel, Sandra. ‘Boards of public sector organizations: a typology with Dutch illustrations.’ International Journal of Public Sector Management, 28, no. 4/5 (2015): 322-334.
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National Gallery of Australia repositions women artists
Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now
Inge King, Figure in oak 1949, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 1988. Image courtesy of NGA Canberra. bottom:
Fiona Foley (Badtjala people), DISPERSED 2008, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 2008, © Fiona Foley. Image courtesy NGA Canberra.
now My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now celebrates the diverse and dynamic contributions of Australian women artists. Broad in scope and spanning more than a century of work, the exhibition reveals shifts and connections of women’s art through time and encompasses diverse work across a variety of cultural perspectives. It uncovers the practices of artists rarely seen or recognised, as well as those who created ground-breaking works and found success, often despite environments unsympathetic to women and their work. Drawn primarily from the remarkable National Gallery Collection and enhanced by new acquisitions and key public and private collection loans, the exhibition spans the period 1900 to now, focusing on moments in time in which women artists actively changed and challenged the course of Australian art. The exhibition unfolds in thematic groupings, commencing with ‘Self-imaging and portraiture’, bringing to light works that convey the changing roles of women across time. It is about looking at the stories of Australian art through the lens of women’s practices that provide distinctive ways of considering past, present and future narratives. Other key themes include colour and dynamism, collective and collaborative work including poster collectives, feminist film, photography, and environmental and performance art. The exhibition also allows scope to pause and consider the individual practices of artists including Agnes Goodsir, Barbara Hanrahan, Lola Greeno, Micky Allan and Banduk Marika, among others.
Know my name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now is part of the broader National Gallery of Australia Know My Name initiative, which seeks to redress gender inequality in its collection, exhibition program and governance structures. Partnering with a range of external organisations including ABC and the Sheila Foundation, it also seeks to overturn gender inequity in Australian public collections and cultural life. In addition to Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, the project includes: Skywhales: Every heart sings Balnaves Contemporary Intervention Series Leading Australian artist Patricia Piccinini’s new hot-air-balloon sculpture makes its debut in Canberra over the autumn period. In Muva We Trust Club Ate’s In Muva We Trust is a digital projection of water and bodies illuminating the facade of the National Gallery as part of Canberra’s Enlighten festival. Tjanpi Desert Weavers A new large-scale installation by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers tells the ancestral story of the Seven Sisters Dreaming, using sculptural forms woven from tjanpi (the Pitjantjatjara word for grass) and raffia. The Body Electric The Body Electric presents photographic and video works that explore themes of sex, pleasure and desire by artists such as Polly Borland, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and Pixy Liao. [ ] Dr Deborah Hart is Head of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
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Reconceiving histories of place
Centring complexity: Re-engaging with the past, empowering the present
A diagrammatic representation of the conceptual space the project team is working in.
This article is based on a paper presented at the Australian Museums and Galleries Association 2019 National Conference at Mparntwe (Alice Springs), on Arrernte Country. I would like to acknowledge the influence of the compelling paper delivered by Elaine Heumann Gurian, ‘The importance of and’, delivered at the at MuseumNext conference in Melbourne on 17 February 2017: https://www. museumnext.com/article/ the-importance-of-and/
Complex histories The Migration Museum, a museum of the History Trust of South Australia, is a social history museum that tells the stories of South Australians and celebrates cultural diversity. We are working on the redevelopment of the gallery that presents the history of South Australia in the nineteenth century — that is, invasion or colonisation and its aftermath, from about 1802 to the turn of that century. Engaging with recent developments in the fields of historiography,
ublic discourse seems increasingly simplified into binary positions and propositions. One way museums can disrupt this shift is to engage with the complexity of the past. Contemporary debates centred on questions of national identity, migration, and the legacies of colonialism not only sound like uncanny echoes of those of the nineteenth century, but demonstrate just how persistent many of that century’s categories of analysis remain.
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museology and postcolonial studies, and the political imperatives driving them, the project team is working to present historical narratives that are complex, unresolved, and without a teleological trajectory — while acknowledging the power of those pasts in the present, and looking towards reframing potential futures. Our approach was influenced by an experiment called ‘The Historium’: in a temporary gallery we used a range of relevant objects, maps and images as prompts to encourage visitors to share with us what they are interested in about the nineteenth century. The Historium demonstrated that the two subjects visitors most want to know more about are everyday life and First Nations histories. We decided that place would be a key strategy. Through careful selection of a range of geographical locations in South Australia, we are hoping we can capture the variety of both First Nations cultures and the different groups of colonisers; the relationships between those groups of people; and those between people and Country. The places we’re researching are: Marree, in Arabana Country; Encounter Bay, in Ngarrindjeri Country; Port Lincoln, in Barngala Country; the Copper Triangle, in Narungga Country;
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Reconceiving histories of place
The team wants to empower visitors and museum workers alike to reflect on our part in colonialism’s reproduction and relationships to the knowledge systems that perpetuate it, and how we might act, interact and live otherwise. and Adelaide and the township of Klemzig, both in Kaurna Country. Through place, we’re hoping to tell diverse and layered histories that show change over time. This focus also engages with two recent historical trends, adding to the social historian’s usual toolkit of categories of analysis including class, gender, and ideas about ‘race’. The first is microhistories, which allow us to research the detail and ponder the specific. Who was living in the township of Marree in the 1890s, and what do the locations of the town camp and mosque mean? The second is transnational histories. Looking at the history of a British colony established in 1836 demands attention to Empire, South Australia’s place within it, the discourses driving colonisation, and movements of peoples across the world. This places the history of a particular colony within the global network and relations of power, ideas and capital in which it was embedded. It reminds us that those using the mosque in Marree travelled back and forth across the Indian Ocean and between very different parts of Empire.
Challenging the discipline 3.
Samia Khatun, 2018, Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia, Hurst & Company, London, p. 179. On the importance of the suppression of alternative epistemologies to colonialism, see Ann Laura Stoler’s influential 2002 essay ‘Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance’, Archival Science, 2.
History as a discipline has been challenged by the approach and insights of postcolonial studies. The work of two thinkers has particularly influenced our approach to the redevelopment project: Samia Khatun and Ali Gumillya Baker. Samia Khatun’s 2018 book Australianama: the South Asian Odyssey in Australia takes a radically new approach to the histories of those who came to Australia’s interior from British Imperial outposts in the Indian Ocean world as camel-handlers and
traders, centring questions of language, story and place. Khatun argues for the unpicking of the binaries that lie at the heart of the ways of understanding on which much of the discipline of history is built (and, I am arguing, much of contemporary polarised discourse). Samia Khatun gives as her examples two such binaries: east-west and savage-civilised. Khatun’s work demonstrates the rich potential of a postcolonial history that is attentive to alternative knowledges — that is, to the ways that both those camel-handlers and the First Nations people on whose Country they lived and worked, understood their encounters through story. Ali Gumillya Baker is a Mirning woman; her family are from the Nullarbor and West Coast of South Australia; she is an artist, member of the Unbound Collective and an academic based at Flinders University. Baker is part of the gallery redevelopment project team, as we early realised the critical need for a First Nations advisor. In one of many significant contributions she has made, Baker has drawn the project team’s attention to the ever-present and destructive impact of progress narratives. Progress narratives are so common in Australian histories of place that they have become naturalised. Historical accounts of colonisation in the Australian context have struggled to move beyond a narrative of ‘development’ rather than ‘dispossession’, and local and regional histories still often plot the expansion of European land use and occupation as if it had occurred into unpeopled, unmanaged, landscapes. Hierarchies of ’race’ underpin the presentation of this history as inevitable and uncontested, as ‘progress’. This serves to displace responsibility away from colonisation’s historical agents and minimise the deadly conflict, sweeping dispossession, and suppression of alternative knowledges on which it relies. The discipline of history itself can be seen as part of the colonial project, working to reinforce its impacts in the present even as it purports to be analysing or describing the past. As Baker pointed out, colonialism is here, now, every day, and its violence is everywhere and ongoing. Museums will only be able to harness history’s power to work towards a different future if we acknowledge the discipline’s past, and become open to alternative ways of understanding the world.
In the museum The museum context in which the project team is working provides us with further layers, and more powerful tools. Our starting point is the insight from the field of critical museology that museums are not neutral, objective, institutions, but are instead
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The difficult centre The project team is attempting to create the new gallery in the conceptual space formed by these overlapping methodological approaches, tools and challenges. This space is not comfortable or familiar, but it is one that stimulates hard thinking, ideas and discussion. And sitting with rather than resolving the tensions is necessary if we want to tell complex histories, and tell them differently. The redevelopment at the Migration Museum is a work in progress, and has been slowed by the need to seek funds and attend to the fabric of our heritage buildings. On the positive side, we have recently been able to appoint to a new position of Curator, First Nations history, which brings new perspectives and expertise to the team and the organisation.
John Michael Skipper (Australia, 12/07/1815 - 7/12/1883) Adelaide from the Hills, 1838, Adelaide; watercolour on paper, 16.0 x 23.0 cm, Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund 1942, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 0.1227. Visitors to The Historium enjoyed imagining and sharing the conversation between the two men depicted in this work.
enmeshed in producing and reproducing relations of power. Decolonising practice is more usually associated with anthropology than history. But for the Migration Museum, working to redevelop a museum gallery that presents the histories of a British colony in the nineteenth century, we need to understand our context and what it might mean for our partners as well as our visitors. Thinking through what decolonising practice might mean for the project has already shifted the team’s mindset. It demands forming genuine partnerships with First Nations communities and opening the museum to radical critique.
We have recognised that previous curatorial practice has positioned the visitor in the subject position of colonist.
The work of Eilean HooperGreenhill and Tony Bennett was foundational to this understanding. Beth Hise and Paul Bowers’ joint paper at the Museums Galleries Australia 2018 National Conference in Melbourne made an excellent case for ‘audience first’. Bowers later published a blog version: https:// medium.com/museum-musings/ audience-first-experience-makingfor-museums-and-heritage-apractical-guide-ff0e03d137bd
The team wants to empower visitors and museum workers alike to reflect on our part in colonialism’s reproduction and relationships to the knowledge systems that perpetuate it, and how we might act, interact and live otherwise. We want to encourage our visitors to leave on a note of hope, motivated to make change. There are three other specific, museum-related considerations we are working with. Our collections provide not only our point of difference from other forms of representing history but also an opportunity for multilayered interpretation. We want to explore the digital, in particular its potential for compelling and multivocal storytelling. And I’m going to end with the consideration that many argue should be first: our audience.
Museums remain trusted institutions in the so-called ‘post-truth’ era, with its simplified and often polarised public debates. With this power comes responsibility. As contemporary museums, one of our responsibilities is to resist the simplified versions of the world, including history, on which ‘post-truth’ discourse relies. Museums like the Migration Museum frequently intervene in contemporary public debates — on social media, in our exhibitions, and at events. It’s easy for us to talk about contemporary cultural diversity, and to point to our part in working against racism and towards social inclusion. It is my argument that the way we understand and present more obviously historical subjects is no less relevant to contemporary public discourse. If we can model a complex and reflexive engagement with our colonial past and present, we might be going some way towards the museum producing and reproducing new, and new types of, knowledge. [ ] Mandy Paul is Director of the Migration Museum, a museum of the History Trust of South Australia. She also has responsibility for leading major projects, research and collections across the History Trust. Understanding and sharing complex and contested histories has been a common thread running through her career as an historian and curator. Citation: Mandy Paul, ‘Centring complexity: Re-engaging with the past, empowering the present’, Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 27-29.
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Interpreting and developing historic houses
Historic house intervention and challenging the Rembrandt Rule
Fulham Palace, renovated façade 2018. Photo: Jamie White.
Richard Moe, ‘Are there too many house museums?’, Forum Journal, Vol. 27 (1), Fall 2012, pp. 55-61
s early as 2002, Richard Moe was asking the question: are there too many house museums? The number of historic sites within Australia currently stands at somewhere around four hundred, with house museums making up a modest percentage of this figure. But in the UK and US, the figures skyrocket into the thousands. Ask any house museum operator what their biggest challenge is, and they will invariably answer it is getting people to make that first visit. The fact is, most of these museums run on limited means, and although marketing might be considered the strongest tool in any museum’s arsenal, the reality has many scrambling for inexpensive alternatives. With public and private funding becoming increasingly scarce, the time has come for a re-evaluation of the function of house museums, their purpose and, in the extreme, whether they should all be open to the public at all. While that last dilemma may be more prevalent in the US and UK, given the over-saturation of the market, competition for heritage tourism within this country has never been greater. The concept of ‘edutainment’ has permeated even the quaintest of rural heritage museums. Today, visitors demand more for less, and the same guided tour around dusty, static room displays that have not changed in the last
decade simply isn’t working anymore. Well into the 21st century, audiences are calling for the digital, the tangible, and the dynamic from a museum experience. The most successful house museums are creatively engaging their buildings and collections to develop forward-thinking programming that entices people from all walks of life, but especially the local community, to make their first visit. There are some that have been doing it, and doing it well, overseas for some time — think historic Royal palaces — but these organisations tend to have excellent resources and a ready audience. What the majority of historic sites fight a losing battle against is appealing to a younger generation, and the evidence points to a shortfall in diverse programming and inclusive interpretation that people find engaging, and want to keep coming back for more. In the case of house museums, attendance levels affirm the need to conserve the building and its collection as one entity. The ongoing conservation and general upkeep of the grounds and building requires funds, hence one works to benefit the other. Without visitors, the house would not only be invalidated as an attraction; it would not receive the funds required to remain open. A very particular type of heritage site, the historic house museums holds a valuable place amongst museums, yet they are often overlooked. They add another dimension to the significance of our cultural
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heritage, a living record of the history of a place and time. The term house museum encompasses any type of dwelling in a variety of forms, from a hut through to an operational palace. What house museums have over any other museum or gallery is that authenticity factor of ‘the real deal’. Other museum types may try to recreate the atmosphere of a lived-in space with vignette displays, but when a visitor steps inside a historic house, they both metaphorically and physically step inside history. The narrative they share is beyond what may be expressed in written form; they are significant in a tangible sense. How is it possible to capture the smell, or the light in a room as it suffuses through original lead-paned windows? The Australian authority on house museums at home and abroad is Dr Linda Young, whose research and creation of house museum categories has gone a long way in enabling house museums to ‘self-identify’, within what Young wonderfully refers to as a ‘species’ of house museum. The categories Young has created identify the initial motivation for a house to become a museum; an artist’s, writer’s or hero’s house holds significance for who their inhabitants were — identities that live on in collective memory long after they have gone. These houses are ‘museumised’ purely for the function to become a shrine for its former inhabitant(s). Aside from the function of historic building conservation, house museums have satisfied the public’s desire to delve into the private lives of famous figures. Seeing how a writer or politician lived their private life has been a source of continual fascination since the late-nineteenth century, emerging at the same time as the rise in photojournalism, which for the first time put photographs of private homes on display. Today, the fascination continues, from the quasi-pilgrimages to Graceland, where visitors flock to see the Grand Piano where Elvis wrote his songs, or to the childhood home of the Brothers Grimm, hoping to catch a glimpse of what inspired their fairytale universe. Perhaps one of the most unique species of historic house is the collector’s house. Such collections were meticulously assembled without any official collection policy; the significance of each object is a reflection of its collector. These houses are often transformed into museums at the bequest of their owners, who deemed their collections too valuable intact to ever be separated. Today notable examples include Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, which was passed into the care of a Board of Trustees after its owner’s death; and Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum in Boston, which she herself created with the intention that her home one day become a museum. There has been a wave of change making its way through collection houses in Australia. Taking note of what is going on overseas, these museums are creating dynamic and inclusive programming in a bid to attract new and returning audiences. Antiques dealer William Johnston donated his home in East Melbourne and his collection to the people of Victoria in 1986. Today, the
collection takes precedence over the building and is known as The W. Johnston Collection (TJC). In line with Johnston’s vision for his collection, the museum has become a laboratory of display. The ‘House of Ideas’ program runs from June to September every year, where a guest or collective are invited to create work in response to the collection. Incorporating their work with collection items, they produce installations that challenge the traditional display in a house museum. In 2016, Melbourne-based Barking Spider Theatre produced the multi-media installation House of Dreams, inspired by Carl Jung’s dream theories and the building itself. The installation was a unique sensory experience, incorporating sound, light and movement; achieving the concept of ‘the layering of one age through the optic of another’. In contrast, the program that runs between February and May, ‘Mr Johnston and His Collection,’ invites a guest curator to rearrange the permanent collection inside the Georgian-style interior of the home. The two annual programs ensure that returning visitors are confronted with a collection constantly in flux; a living collection, continually changing in time, as any domestic space would do normally.
It is proving difficult to escape the association between house museums, velvet ropes and the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs of old.
The Rembrandt Rule Despite the rigorous efforts going into changing public perceptions of house museums, it is proving difficult to escape the association between house museums, velvet ropes and the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs of old. There are some radical points of view on this subject. Some, such as James Vaughan, assert that in order to make house museums more appealing to the public, staff need to re-evaluate objects in their collections; he presents this as ‘Rethinking the Rembrandt Rule.’ Vaughan asserts that some objects in house museums have been taken out of context since the house’s ‘museification’, and prohibited from acting out their function and, instead, treated as if they were a Rembrandt, preserved behind ropes or put on display behind glass. While some heritage museums have adopted this philosophy and been able to gain a richer visitor experience, does this approach have to end at the collection — what about the building? Architectural historian Victoria Newhouse mused, ‘a building’s history is as important as the history of the objects it contains.’ Nowhere is this truer than at the historic house museum. The building itself has been ‘museified’, essentially put behind glass to be frozen in time. Intervention on historic buildings can be fraught with extreme opinions, and it is possibly the most polarising issue in the heritage community. Buildings, especially houses, are a patchwork of additions, modifications, architectural materials, styles and stories. Houses are working objects that have the ability to be repurposed, which is what happens when they are transformed into a museum. Overseas,
Linda Young, ‘Is there a museum in the house’, Historic House Museums in the US and the UK: A History, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Emery, Elizabeth. Photojournalism and the origins of the French Writer House Museum (1881- 1914), (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), 3. Trevor Keeble, ‘Introduction’ in Keeble, Trevor; Martin, Brenda and Sparke, Penny, The Modern Period Room: The construction of the exhibited interior 1870 to 1950, London: Routledge, 2006, p.2. Vaughan, James. ‘Rethinking the Rembrandt Rule,’ Museum (The American Alliance of Museums), March/April, 2008. Victoria Newhouse, ‘Is “The Idea of a Museum” Possible Today,’ Daedalus, Vol. 128 (3), Summer 1999, p. 324.
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additions and modifications to heritage buildings are, while regulated, a common occurrence. In the south of London, Fulham Palace is a jigsaw of architectural styles, dating between the mediaeval period to the mid-nineteenth century. Demolitions and additions are part of the narrative, and magnificent restorations of many of these elements have been undertaken, most recently of the superb Tudor-era courtyard. However, behind the windows of this façade, the rooms have been repurposed to include office spaces. For the lean price of £70,000 a year you could rent an office space in a building that was once home to the Bishops of London. These spaces are discreet and harmoniously co-exist with the restored elements of the building that function as a museum, as well as a repurposed exhibition space and cafeteria. Carrick Hill, nestled into the foothills of Adelaide, is a liquorice allsorts of architectural styles, boasting the oldest staircase in Australia inside a 1930s building. On their honeymoon in 1935, Bill and Ursula Hayward purchased the Tudor-era oak panelling and staircase from the demolition sale of a stately home in Staffordshire. Transporting it all to Adelaide, they built their new home, constructed from local sandstone, around these finishings. The resulting interior provided an exciting contrast to the collection of British, French and Australian Modern art they amassed, a combination completely unique to the couple’s collecting habits and taste. While the gardens remain open on weekends and public holidays, the house museum has closed its doors for the first time since they opened to the public in 1986. A significant redevelopment project will transform some elements of the building, making it accessible to all for the first time, as well as opening up spaces previously unseen by the public. The impetus for the redevelopment is a sorelyneeded access lift. As a publicly owned museum, the Carrick Hill Trust felt that because some in the community were impeded from accessing the entire museum’s offerings, the notion that the museum was serving its purpose must be called into question. The vision of the Carrick Hill Trust is in line with what the Haywards envisioned for their property. They lived in the home together for thirty years and changed things accordingly. They weren’t afraid to refurbish, as they did the bedroom in the 1950s; it was an inhabited space and the changes were absorbed into the building’s narrative. Richard Heathcote, Director of Benefaction and driving force of change at Carrick Hill, agrees that the Haywards were of the ethos that their living space should not be preserved in a wrapper: ‘Every time a new picture came into
House of Dreams with Barking Spider Visual Theatre [12 July 2016—20 Sep. 2016]. Photo: Lutz Photography.
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Carrick Hill façade. Photo: Carrick Hill.
their collection they shuffled everything.’ In fact, the Haywards’ intention for their bequest was that the collection be the centrepiece, rather than the building. The house was donated as a vessel to hold the collection in, but it is clear in the bequest that the house could be used for any variety of purposes. Their intention that the collection should remain together, perhaps housed at the state gallery, was clear. That the house could then become government offices or perhaps accommodation for visiting dignitaries demonstrates that the Haywards had no qualms should the house require refitting for different purposes. Fortuitously, when Bill Hayward passed away in 1983, the South Australian Labor government of the time decided to retain the collection within the house, and in doing so granted Carrick Hill the title of house museum. As such, all objects within the home became collection items, including the linen, lampshades and extraordinary collection of flower vases Ursula used to display her orchids. But despite the ‘lived-in’ quality these ephemeral objects contribute to Carrick Hill’s sense of authenticity, can a house museum really be ‘authentic’ and continue to live on in time? From 1986, two important elements of Carrick Hill were refitted — the garage became a café, and a large portion of the upstairs space that was deemed insignificant became offices. ‘The administration was placed in the servants’ rooms’, explains Heathcote, ‘that’s an important thing, because it reflects the fact that [at the time] nobody thought the servants’
histories were very important, and now they do.’ There are a number of improvements being made to the museum as part of a $2.6 million redevelopment. The lift will take visitors from the ground floor through to the guest bedrooms (regularly transformed into an exhibition space), from which visitors will be able to access the entire first floor, including the bedrooms and morning room. Accessibility here also includes the reinstatement of the two bathrooms in the guest wing, which have been inaccessible to the public, that will be repurposed to become functioning bathrooms once more. The exhibition space will also be extended on this floor into what is currently administration offices, increasing the exhibition space by fifty percent. The lift then takes visitors up to the second level, an attic space which has never been seen by the public before. The Carrick Hill Trust engaged stakeholders, including government and architecture firm WalterBrooke, to transform the attic into a purpose-fitted exhibition space known as The Long Gallery. This exhibition space of museum calibre will accommodate exhibitions of Carrick Hill’s own fine art collection as well as loans from other institutions and contemporary artists. But is changing the direction of a building’s use adding to or distracting from the narrative? Bill and Ursula Hayward were great supporters of young artists. Their art was contemporary and was not being collected by the major galleries. They supported emerging artists by purchasing their work, and it was
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very much their philosophy that their collection be a source of inspiration. Jeffrey Smart fondly recalls in his autobiography Not Quite Straight, ‘Adelaide produced quite a few eccentrics and they were welcomed at Carrick Hill’. He visited their home as a young man, enamoured with what he called ‘the best private collection in Australia’, and like many others, benefited from the Haywards’ generosity and prestigious connections. The notion that the building might require some modifications in order to remain a cultural hub in South Australia would undoubtedly have their wholehearted support. In the case of adding the lift within the walls of the house (a requirement dictated by government), this type of intervention is routine in overseas heritage buildings: Hampton Court being one example. The question is: What elements of the house will be changed irreparably. ‘It is reversable’, Richard Heathcote says of the redevelopment, ‘but the original, authentic finishings will be lost.’ This is already the case in much of the space we are redeveloping. The cleaning maid’s room, the servant’s stairs and first floor Administrator’s office, which was originally the bathroom and cleaner’s room, was already repurposed for administration. That space now becomes stairs. On the ground floor, the butler’s pantry and what was the boiler room will be repurposed, plus the servant’s lounge, which has until now been serving as the gift shop. The intention for the Trust’s master plan is to remove administration services entirely from the house itself, and create an external facility to accommodate these needs. Is this all progress for progress’ sake though? The hard-won funding and multitude of generous donations indicate that this project will lead to a new era at Carrick Hill. The potential benefits of the purpose-built exhibition space include taking the museum’s program in a new direction. The intention to extend the visitor experience and develop a broader range of programs are both efforts towards appealing to new audiences. For the museum to accommodate more variety in activities and events will, without doubt, make it a more valuable community asset. There is undoubtedly scope for a revitalisation of what these historic institutions offer to visitors in many areas, from educational programs to the daily guided tours — a revitalisation that will see new visitors attending and old ones returning. Enticing visitors to return to the institution is important for reasons that go beyond the monetary contribution they make, since when people become emotionally invested in the museum this marks it as an integral part of a community. They in turn show support to the museum by becoming involved as members or volunteers, and both are the lifeblood of a museum.
Should some heritage buildings be treated like a Rembrandt? Absolutely. Should Carrick Hill? Probably not. When it comes to intervention on heritage buildings, opinions will always be passionate. It is important to consider that there are elements of a building fundamentally worth protecting: those iconic features that are unique to that site. In Carrick Hill’s case, these elements are the magnificent Waterloo Staircase and oak panelling on the ground floor and landing. Without these, the building would not only look different, it would lose its identity. Making a museum like Carrick Hill — a 1930s sandstone building – more accessible by installing a visitor lift aligns with the vision of the Haywards, who would prefer that all of the public be able to enjoy their collection rather than focus on how they were served their gin cocktails. The collection is the treasure, and it won’t be long before visitors can discover it again. [ ] Anna Jug is a Hobart-based curator and arts writer. She is Associate Curator at Carrick Hill and is co-editor of Stanley Spencer: A twentieth-century British master, Wakefield Press, 2016. Citation: Anna Jug, ‘Historic house intervention and challenging the Rembrandt Rule’, Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 30-35.
Read more about house museums in past magazines Linda Young, ‘Why are so many writer’s house museums in England?’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol. 19(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, May 2011, pp. 26-30. Annette Welkamp, ‘Courage is grace under pressure: The Victor Horta House Museum in Brussels’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol. 22(2), Museums Australia, Canberra, Summer 2013, pp. 30–34.
Jeffrey Smart, Not Quite Straight: a memoir, Port Melbourne: William Heinemann Australia, 1996, p. 125.
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First Nations, Museum Responsibilities: History, Truth, and Symbols Des Griffin
Dr Des Griffin AM
1. Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum (National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 27 November 2015–28 March 2016). 2. An analysis of the shield has led to questioning whether the item included in the Australian exhibition is the item which Cook’s party retrieved from the beach, because the wood is of a species of mangrove not found further south on the eastern Australian coast than Richmond (Nick Miller (2019), ‘The gripping story of the Gweagal Shield’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 2019; Maria Nugent and Gaye Sculthorpe (2018), ‘A Shield Loaded with History: Encounters, Objects and Exhibitions’, Australian Historical Studies, Vol. 49(1). The method of analysis has been questioned. 3. In Lisa Chandler (ed.), East Coast Encounter, One Day Hill, Collingwood, 2014, a group of artists, songwriters, historians and film-makers re-examine Cook’s visit through Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives. 4. Aboriginal workers had walked off the Wave Hill station in 1966. As he poured a handful of Daguragu soil into Vincent Lingiari's hand, Gough Whitlam said, ‘Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof in Australian law that these lands belong to the Gurindji people, and I put into your hands part of the earth as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.’ 5. Michael Lavarch, ‘Indigenous justice unfinished 25 years on from Native Title Act’, The Guardian, 6 June 2018. 6. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, delivering the third P.M. Glynn Lecture on Religion, Law and Public Life at the Australian Catholic University, in September 2019. On overcoming political tribalism, Archbishop Williams noted ‘a shrinkage of the scope of mutual recognition’ which views tribal people to have not adapted to modernity, an anachronism. But they are still here!
n 29 April 1770, HMS Endeavour sailed into Botany Bay in the country of the Gweagal and Bidjigal peoples of the Dharawal Eora nation, as part of Lieutenant James Cook’s broader exploration of the Pacific. When a small party (including Cook) came ashore, they were threatened by two men with spears. Cook ordered one of the men to be fired on. The men disappeared. Communication having failed, Cook and his men entered the Gweagal camp nearby and took artefacts, leaving trinkets in exchange. Cook’s journal recorded, ‘All they seem’d to want was for us to be gone.’ One of the items taken was a shield. A shield from the British Museum’s collections, believed to be the one taken that day, was included in the 2015 exhibition ‘Encounters’ mounted by the National Museum of Australia in conjunction with the British Museum. The shield is perforated by a hole said to be made by the musket shot fired at one of the Gweagal men, after Cook’s order. The shield is both an historical object and a symbol. Many Aboriginal people, especially of the Gweagal, have made clear they wanted the shield returned to Australia, indeed to the people from whom it came. That demand for return is a marker of the present state of the debate and the relationship between people, their history and culture, and museums. Shayne Williams, Dharawal Elder, has said, ‘That shield represents a whole history of this country. This country was annexed by the British and there’s questions as to whether it was rightful or not at the time… And I think the shield too represents all Aboriginal people because that very place where the shield was taken from is where the rest of Australia was annexed to the British. Aboriginal dispossession started there…’ Meanwhile other important issues for Indigenous people were absorbing their attention in other places, especially in the far north and north-west of the country. On 26 August 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam had returned the title deeds to Daguragu (Wattie Creek), once part of the Wave Hill pastoral lease of the British-based Vestey Company, but now handed back to the Gurindji people. This was the occasion of the famous photograph of Gough Whitlam pouring sand into the hands of Gurindji leader Vincent Lingiari, who had led the Wave Hill walk-off over dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions. But their concern was deeper: it was Gurindji country long before Vestey arrived. The National Museum of Australia was opened on 11 March 2001: Indigenous contributions were incorporated within it. Interpretive labels in the exhibits were criticised by some people as contributing to a ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history, a view which considered accounts of massacres in frontier conflict to be exaggerated. The Gallery of Aboriginal Australia, recommended in a
report published together with ‘Museums Australia 1975’ by a committee chaired by Peter Pigott, established by the Whitlam Government, had not eventuated.
The 1990s: from the High Court decision to Government response In the 1990s, as the Indigenous struggles for land rights continued, important cases were heard in the High Court of Australia. In Mabo vs Queensland, in 1992, the Court overturned the old legal doctrine of terra nullius (‘nobody’s land’) which had characterised Australian law with regard to land use and title issues. The Court found that Eddie Mabo’s rights to his traditional lands in the Torres Strait had not been extinguished, and that Indigenous peoples had rights to land at the time of European settlement, rights that persisted to that day. In Wik Peoples vs The State of Queensland in 1996, the High Court found that pastoral leases did not confer exclusive possession on the lease holder. Issues then moved to the sphere of government. In 1993, the Australian Parliament passed the Native Title Act. This legislation established a native title tribunal, and a land fund to assist a claims process in recognition of Aboriginal dispossession. The third component of the Mabo response from the federal government was intended to have been a social justice package addressing health, economic and social disadvantage. It was never delivered. In 1993, the Coalition parties — then in Opposition — considered the Native Title Act to be an act of shame. Under the Howard Government (March 1996– December 2007) the Native Title Act was amended to limit title rights. Instead of legal rights and funding to support Native Title case outcomes, Prime Minister John Howard preferred a 10-point plan of ‘practical reconciliation’.
Past Truths, Whose History? From Colonial Propaganda to First Nations Forums Museums over the last several centuries collected and exhibited the material culture of Indigenous people from all over the world. Those items were displayed mostly as curios; the people were presented as objects of study rather than participating human subjects. Their culture of conquered peoples was shown as rare and curious, represented by ‘artefacts’ from societies disappearing with the advance of ‘civilisation.’ Their art was considered ‘primitive’, though of significant interest to leading artists. Museums in Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries collected examples of Aboriginal material culture, and many carried out anthropological and archaeological research. Some of the material was obtained without agreement of their owners, and worst of all even by exhuming human remains from
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top: middle: bottom: left: right:
burial sites. Museums in Europe became participants in international networks of exchange; some were collecting secret and sacred material even though staff involved could never understand its real significance. Australia was an active agent in these networks. As the twentieth century drew to a close, increasing interest in Indigenous peoples, their art and culture, led to fundamental reconsiderations of the place of material culture in museums, and sought involvement of appropriate representatives of First Peoples themselves in museum programs. Indigenous peoples were asserting themselves also and proposing their own measures for change. Simply displaying objects in glass cases was no longer satisfactory. These changes increasingly recognised the important knowledge and intellectual property rights at stake in ensuring Indigenous people guided representations of their culture. Purely ‘advisory roles’ were no longer adequate to ensure restoration of full rights of self-interpretation and respect for knowledge-holders entailed in the representation of customary cultures. Art museums meanwhile were increasingly collecting and exhibiting the latest flowering of artistic creativity that came to be recognised as ‘contemporary’, no longer ‘primitive’ art.
New museum policies driving change In 1983, the Council of Australian Museum Directors (CAMD) adopted a policy of not displaying or acquiring human remains, and of returning those of known persons, and those whose direct descendants could be identified. Museums took an active role in researching and reconnecting records, so that the appropriate Aboriginal representatives could be informed about material that might be relevant to their community. The first task that Australian museums undertook in the 1980s was focused on active efforts to provenance and assist wherever possible the return of all ancestral remains to rightful descendants and communities. In the 1980s, heritage legislation was enacted by the Commonwealth Government, and in 1991 the Australian Archaeological Association placed obligations on archaeologists, which required views of Indigenous peoples to be respected. There had been controversy over return by Museum Victoria of remains of ancestors of Pleistocene age from Kow Swamp, in the Murray Valley in the lands of the Yorta Yorta people, and intended to be reburied. Other museums such as the Australian Museum and
Michael Nelson Jagamara on the mosaic pavement at Parliament House, 2017. Photo: Auspic/DPS.
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Waal-Waal Ngallametta (1944-2019, Kugu Uwanh peoples) Bushfire at Ngak-Pungarichan, 2013. Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT.
the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery had instituted policies of consultation and return of ancestors and secret/sacred items. Internationally there were changes also. In Canada Turning the Page, a report jointly sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Museums Association, published in 1992, ‘developed an ethical framework and strategies for Aboriginal Nations to represent their history and culture in concert with cultural institutions’. In the United States the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), passed by the Congress in 1990, established the ownership of cultural items excavated or discovered on federal or tribal land after 16 November 1990, and led to the establishment of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) opened on the Washington Mall in 2004. In New Zealand the amalgamation of existing museums to form the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, opened in Wellington in 1998, incorporated a renewed commitment to ‘biculturalism’ that recognised the rights of Maori people to speak for their culture and tradition. In the late 1980s, the Council of Australian Museum Associations (CAMA), representing people
working in and associated with museums throughout Australia, commenced discussions initiated by the South Australian Museum, which had developed close relationships with communities in that state. The discussions eventually led to the co-cultural drafting and adoption in December 1993 (in Hobart) of a first national policy for the Australian museums sector, ‘Previous Possessions, New Obligations’. Although the first concern was the return of human remains (ancestors), which had rested in many museums in many countries, not just Australia, a much broader agenda was developed. The new policies that were developed covered all aspects of relations between museums and Indigenous Peoples. The primary rights of Indigenous Peoples were explicitly acknowledged in respect of all aspects of the way in which museums dealt with their cultural material. The importance of self-determination was emphasised, and guidelines set down on how that might be achieved within museum practice. Increased employment of Indigenous people and inclusion of representatives on governing bodies were both urged as important objectives for change.
7. Des Griffin, ‘Previous Possessions, New Obligations: A New Commitment by Museums in Australia to Indigenous Cultural Heritage’, Curator: The Museums Journal (Wiley online), Vol. 39 (1), 1996, pp. 45–62.
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Previous Possessions, New Obligations: Policies for Museums in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (1993) Recalling the development of the first new national policy concerning museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 1990s I acknowledged, as Director of the Australian Museum and President of the new national body, Museums Australia, some possible future tensions and even conflict that might arise through efforts of return: But in the end, even if ownership of cultural material is decided on the basis of who has the right to tell the stories about it, decisions made by museums are decisions which have to be negotiated between parties from a position of mutual respect including respect for freedom of speech and the dignity of the human being. … Politics is not something that is outside the door of the museum but a part of everyday life, a way of balancing conflicting but legitimate demands as much as a way of marginalising and eventually suppressing identity. ‘Previous Possessions, New Obligations’ is a basis for action [we maintained in 1993]: for it to have meaning will require commitment. The outcomes will have to be meaningful acts. That will be the test.
8. Tim Sullivan, Lynda Kelly and Phil Gordon (2003), ‘Museums and Indigenous People in Australia: A Review of Previous Possessions, New Obligations’, Curator: The Museums Journal (Wiley online), Vol. 46(2), pp. 45–62. 9. Bernice Murphy, ‘Transforming culture: Indigenous art and Australian art museums’, in Understanding Museums: Australian Museums and Museology, (eds) Des Griffin and Leon Paroissien, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, (published online) 2011. 10. Des Griffin and Leon Paroissien, ‘Indigenous people and museums,’ Introduction in Des Griffin and Leon Paroissien (eds), Understanding Museums: Australian Museums and Museology, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, (published online) 2011. 11. Moira Simpson, ‘Bunjilaka’, in Chris Healy and Andrea Witcombe (eds), South Pacific Museums: Experiments in Culture, Monash University Publishing, Melbourne, 2006.
A review of the first policy a decade later (by Tim Sullivan, Lynda Kelly and Phil Gordon) concluded that the policy had largely achieved its goals so far as major museums were concerned. However, smaller museums varied in their responses. A revision of the 1993 policy in 2005 (which produced Continuing Cultures: Ongoing Responsibilities) reassessed the relationships between museums and Indigenous people, expanding the issues to be addressed, and adding some new ones. Differing approaches have been taken to interpretation by different museums: art museums, Bernice Murphy says, have approached Indigenous art ‘as human creativity manifested directly’ whereas anthropologists in museums have tended to use ‘the speech and thought-patterns of the dominant culture’. The contributions of museums in Australia, whether from art or non-art orientations, were now gathering pace, expanding and diversifying. These differences (and some crossovers) were examined in a series of recent essays.
Recent museum presentations and transformed relationships By the mid-1990s, all major museums in Australia were presenting exhibitions that no longer merely showed collections of artefacts, or presentations of Indigenous Australia as exhibitions about Others. Increasingly there were consultations with Indigenous peoples, especially in developing new exhibitions, and Indigenous people were reshaping interpretations and adding new ways of engaging museums more directly with their audiences. On the commitment to returns: significant material was returned to communities from within Australia, and some overseas museums began returning material through an Australian Government-supported program. Museums themselves wanted to confront the shameful past: Indigenous people should not have to come to museums; instead, museums should go to them. Much progress has been made, but more needs to be done, as the new Indigenous Roadmap recognises (below). The Australian Museum’s new displays, 1997 The renewed long-term Indigenous exhibition at the Australian Museum opened in early 1997, having involved extensive consultations with Indigenous peoples in developing the narratives to achieve an exhibition that spoke in their terms: of the contemporary cultural life and histories of Indigenous people. The new displays highlighted Indigenous voices in the selection and telling of stories that had emerged from the growing body of new historiography that arose from a succession of events marking national change: the Bicentennial in 1988; the reports of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; the Inquiry on Forced Removal of Children; and the many issues raised in wake of the 1993 High Court’s decisions on Native Title. These changes in Australian Museum presentations also reflected extensive audience research during the concept development phases, which revealed the deep interest of non-Indigenous audiences in understanding the perspectives of Indigenous peoples that had been steadily building during the highly politicised debates taking place nationally. Museum Victoria’s new First Peoples gallery, 2013 At Museum Victoria, one of the new exhibitions at the Melbourne Museum in its new building in Carlton Gardens strongly acknowledged Aboriginal peoples and first contact. The redeveloped First Peoples exhibition (opened 2013) in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, incorporated a space where Indigenous people can gather to view collection material and meet Indigenous staff. The First Peoples
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12. Director Chris Saines (QAGOMA) is one of two Australian art museum directors with extensive experience in New Zealand. 13. Peter Yu, in Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2015. 14. From the communities, Nagarajan Tommy May, Mangkaja artist and senior cultural adviser and others, in Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2010. 15. Terri Janke and Associates, ‘First Peoples and Australian Museums and Galleries, A Report on The Engagement of Indigenous Australians in the Museums and Galleries Sector, Written for the Australian Museums and Galleries Association, 2018’.
display ‘tells the story of Aboriginal Victoria from the time of Creation to today [and] celebrates the history, culture, achievements and survival of Victoria’s Aboriginal people’. The impressive results achieved were driven by significant involvement of those people and Elders in guiding all that was presented. Art museums, in every state capital as well as smaller art museums and public galleries in community spaces and regional centres, have been especially active in promoting the contribution of an ever-expanding number of individual artists: some drawing on traditional themes; others on urban and rural experience, while confronting contemporary social issues as Indigenous people have progressively reasserted their rights. General interest has steadily expanded, from more isolated ventures some years ago, to a steadily growing and now expanding presence in our national cultural life, as witnessed in so many truly beautiful and sometimes challenging presentations. Indigenous advisory groups play an increasing role in shaping institutional developments. For instance, QAGOMA in Brisbane has an Indigenous Advisory Panel that ensures appropriate protocols are incorporated into collection and exhibition documents, to advance resolution of specific cultural issues. In the first two decades of this century, many museums have developed important exhibitions. The following are just some of the recent developments. The Australian National Maritime Museum, in Sydney, has staged several programs and exhibitions involving First Nations people, in particular concerning Indigenous watercraft. The ANMM opened in 2017 the exhibition Gapu-Monuk Saltwater: Journey to Sea Country, telling the story of Yolŋu people of North-East Arnhem Land and their fight for recognition of Sea Rights (especially in the Blue Mud Bay legal case involving lands and waters at Yirrkala). At the National Museum of Australia (NMA), Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum, opened in November 2015, placing Australian items from the collections of the British Museum in the company of contemporary cultural responses, together with new items produced by diverse Indigenous communities of today. The exhibition provided ‘a portal for more informed understanding of the historical truths of first contact, enabling serious questioning of the relationships between first peoples and cultural institutions in the 21st century’. Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route (National Museum of Australia, 2010) exhibited the beautiful contemporary painted canvases depicting Dreaming stories of the country through which the Canning Stock Route passed in Western Australia. These vibrant paintings reasserted contemporary creativity
and showed, as NMA board Kimberley member Peter Yu stated: ‘People are still connected to the land and still pass down the story.’ The third remarkable NMA exhibition project, Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, opened in 2018 after some years of work, and resulted from an even greater contribution by First Nations people than before. Margo Neale, Senior Curator, described the background: The epic exhibition, Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters was an Anangu initiative. The museum responded to their urgent plea [from Anangu elders] that ‘the Songlines are all broken up and we want you to help put them back together’. It took many years of travelling the songlines on Country across three deserts, and listening to what they wanted saved of this knowledge system, for both the archive and to gain public support through an exhibition… Together with the traditional owners we formed a curatorium co-led by a senior law woman and custodian of the Seven Sisters, Inawinytji Williamson… They were not an advisory group or a reference group, they too were the curators along with us from the western institutional world. This enabled us to respect each other’s knowledge and skills … To share this history and continent we need to know the stories of its creation beyond the last 240 years. The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has staged three major National Indigenous Art Triennials, each comprising the works of some 30 artists, commencing in 2007 with the remarkable Culture Warriors (curated by Brenda L Croft). The third edition of the Indigenous Triennial, Defying Empire, which opened in May 2017, coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum — which one writer described as both shocking and a celebration of endurance. In March through September 2018 the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) presented Colony, Australia 1770-1861/Frontier Wars which explored the period of colonisation in Australia from 1788 onwards and its often-devastating effects on First Peoples. It had a positive objective: ‘By bringing together different understandings of Australia’s shared history, this exhibition also offers a pathway towards recognition.’ A parallel exhibition, Australia 1770-1861, offered an ‘experience of the colonisation of Australia’ from a non-Indigenous perspective. The planning of new and more diverse projects is ongoing. At the Australian Museum, a First Nations response to the 250th anniversary of the visit to the east coast of Australia by Captain James Cook during 1770 is being developed to culminate in a special exhibition
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Museums deal with people’s lives, identity and futures, both through relationships with Indigenous peoples and communications with the wider society whose attitudes in the end influence government policies. top right:
The Speaker, Tony Smith MP, with Mr Michael Nelson Jagamara and Mr Imants Tillers and Mr Rob Stefanic, Secretary DPS, at the unveiling of The Messenger, 2017. Photo – David Foote/Auspic/DPS. right:
Michael Nelson Jagamara (born 1945, Luritja/Warlpiri peoples) and Imants Tillers (born 1950) The Messenger, 2014. Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT.
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right: Installation view - My Voice for My Country exhibition at Parliament House, 21 May to 11 August 2019. This exhibition showcased a selection of electoral education, information and promotional materials from the AIATSIS collection and produced by the Australian Electoral Commission for a diverse range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences. Photo: David Hempenstall/DPS.
16. Paul Daley, ‘Indigenous art triennial: A haunting exhibition of shock, celebration and defiance’, The Guardian, 26 May 2017. 17. Cook’s claim of the east coast of Australia for Britain showed that he followed those parts of his instructions which assumed Australia was uninhabited and not those ‘that he should acquire territory ‘with the consent’ of the Natives.’ However, a Select Committee of the British House of Commons on Aborigines stated in 1837, ‘The land has been taken from them without the assertion of any other title than that of superior force.’ 18. Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2012; Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu, Magabala Books, Broome, 2016.
in 2020. The 2020 Project, led by First Nations curators, has already sought community opinion through a survey: 805 First Nations people from 176 nations responded with views about the Museum, the visit of Cook, and topics they would like addressed. Substantial negative perceptions of the Museum through the survey were also accompanied by a trend to a more positive perception. Negative views of Cook’s visit were predominant through the survey’s results. Overwhelmingly, respondents wanted to see colonisation and its effects, and Australia’s origins and foundation, addressed by truth-telling through First Nations Voices. Achieving the 2020 Project will inevitably involve some controversy, as different stories will emerge that depart from the single storyline the public has come to accept. Yet support and leadership at a high level in the Museum has been evident in the advancement of this project’s realisation. The National Museum of Australia and other museums are also developing 2020 programs on Captain Cook for the 250th anniversary. Some will deal with the important contribution the voyages made to western science in cartography, natural history and astronomy. Recognition of Cook’s real maritime achievements, however, may be obscured by the entirely fanciful circumnavigation of Australia by the Endeavour replica — suggesting a voyage that never occurred historically. The recent programs described of these capital city institutions and some other museums have demonstrated steady commitment to improved practices, a thoughtful reconsideration of history, and the development of goodwill between museums and
Indigenous peoples which, if progressed and built upon, will undoubtedly make a positive contribution to public recognition that over 65,000 years in Australia diverse peoples had developed critical relationships with the land, waters and Country. These relationships were described by distinguished anthropologist W.E.H. (Bill) Stanner as a ‘marvel’ of successful adaption to environment, guided by a sophisticated social structure and set of laws within the ‘Dreaming.’ This is a narrative for which Stanner coined the term ‘everywhen’. Recent additions to the substantial literature on Aboriginal uses of natural resources have been the demonstrations of careful land management and advanced agricultural practices, notably by Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe. In both of these studies it is amply revealed that the diverse land-use practices were recorded by early settlers but then ignored in later histories.
Return of Mungo Man to Country In November 2017, Mungo Man and other ancestors, more than 40 thousand years in age, were returned with much ceremony through the country of many peoples to the Willandra Lakes region, a World Heritage site in the country of the Muthu Muthi, Nyiampaar and Barkinji. This fulfilled a long-intended plan for return to local elders and present custodians, at last accomplished with appropriate ceremony and respect.
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The Indigenous Roadmap, A Museums and Galleries Initiative It is encouraging to museums people who have worked over decades for improved relations and museum practices that the Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA), the successor to Museums Australia, commissioned the Indigenous Roadmap Project and engaged Terri Janke and Associates in 2017 to steer this initiative and undertake consultation with communities. The completed Roadmap and Project Report — detailing surveys, workshops, meetings, teleconferences, submissions, and related documents — were presented by Terri Janke to the Association’s 2019 Annual Conference in Alice Springs/Mparntwe. The Indigenous Roadmap provides five important Key Elements serving as a framework for action:
19. The remains are the oldest human remains found anywhere in Australia, and some of the earliest anatomically modern human remains discovered anywhere in the world. The items had been in various collections in Canberra for many years for detailed study which, amongst other things, revealed sophisticated burial practices. Jim Bowler, John Mulvaney and Rhys Jones of the Australian National University found that ‘Mungo Lady’ and ‘Mungo Man’ had been ritually buried, and the body sprinkled with red ochre (National Museum of Australia, Defining Moments project — ongoing). 20. Mark Moran, Serious Whitefella Business, Melbourne University Press, 2016; Sarah Maddison, The Colonial Fantasy: Why White Australia Can’t Solve Black Problems, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2019; Fred Chaney, ‘Can the world’s oldest living cultures survive the impact of dysfunctional government?’ Cranlana Governor’s Oration, 2018. 21. Michael Marmot, ‘Fair Australia: Social Justice and the Health Gap’, 2016 ABC Boyer Lectures, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 2016. 22. The 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Australia is a signatory, states at Article 18, ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.’
• Reimagining Representation; • Embedding Indigenous Values into Museums and Gallery Business; • Increasing Indigenous Opportunities; • Two Way Caretaking of Cultural Material; and • Connecting with Indigenous Communities. The 2019 Project Report also contains many valuable comments of respondents about the history of change, the role of museums, and particularly the desires and needs of Indigenous peoples. It is absolutely clear that First Nations people, artists and elders, want visitors to experience exhibitions in which they share their culture and their stories, to know these practices are still being passed on, to close the spaces still existing between the cultures in national experience, and especially to recognise the ongoing connections to Country. The progress of the last 20 or 30 years in museums has not been without tensions, and things have seemingly come to a halt in some areas. Some people trace this loss of momentum to the disbanding by the Howard Government of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission (ATSIC). Others point to ongoing reductions in funding and sometimes unhelpful government interventions. Meanwhile an overwhelming number of respondents to a survey for AMaGA’s Roadmap admitted they lacked any policy for interpreting Indigenous cultural material; few museums have Indigenous people on their boards; and most were unaware that there has long been a policy on museums and Indigenous peoples. AMaGA is now pursuing programs to encourage awareness of the Roadmap: and these programs will be essential.
Conclusions: Voice, Treaty, Truth Museums deal with people’s lives, identity and futures, both through relationships with Indigenous peoples and communications with the wider society whose attitudes, in the end, influence government policies. Museum presentations (exhibitions, programs and other services) must be placed in the context of both the present and the past of Indigenous experience. And also pointing to the future. After all the Royal Commissions and Inquiries, which governments have mostly ignored, and land rights legislation leading to greater economic participation, especially on Country, life for Indigenous/First Nations peoples continues to be circumscribed. In regional areas especially, housing, often constructed by non-Indigenous enterprises, is of poor quality. Education and health services are inadequate and employment opportunities poor. The outcomes are chronic illnesses usually seen in third world countries. Policing and incarceration are severe problems: deaths continue tragically to seem inevitable. Yet in other areas, there have been significant gains, especially in education and in the arts. The ‘Closing the Gap’ programs of State, Territory and Commonwealth governments attempt to remedy disadvantage. They have mostly failed, because of continually changing policies and lack of consultation. Inequality drives poor health and an inability to feel in control of one’s life. The consequences are social dislocation and substance abuse. Despair leads to suicide, especially among youth. Mothers facing poverty cannot provide a satisfactory level of care in early childhood: when the children grow up and rear their own children, they likely also provide inadequate care. The impacts are heritable through epigenetics. The productive approach to Indigenous issues is not to continue with a deficit model that places everything within social welfare and invites continual judgement by non-Indigenous people, but to recognise that the productive approach is within social justice measures. Not further intervention, but increased selfdetermination. Despite much current rhetoric about small government, previously formed views prevail: there are problems which ‘government needs to fix’. But change only occurs when it is driven by those who will be most affected, those most intended to benefit: when shared views and commitment are developed, and culturally appropriate practices are pursued. Maintaining connections with traditional cultural practices including language, with family and country, all reinforcing identity, drives economic and social gains.
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The Uluru Statement, An Invitation
above: The Barunga Statement, 1988.
Galarrwuy Yunupingu (born 1948, Gumatj peoples), Bakulangay Marawili (1944-2002, Madarrpa peoples), Djambawa Marawili (born 1953, Madarrpa peoples), Marrirra Marawili (c.1937-2018, Madarrpa peoples), Djewiny Ngurruwuthun (born c.1940, Munyuku peoples), Wenten Rubuntja (c.1926-2005, Arrernte and Aranda peoples), Lindsay Jampijinpa (1951-2009, Warlpiri peoples), D. Williams Japanangka (1948-2013, Warlpiri peoples) Barunga Statement, 1988. Reproduced with the permission of the Northern and Central Land Councils. Official Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT. left:
(detail) The Barunga Statement, 1988.
23. Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh, ‘Mining royalty payments and the governance of Aboriginal Australia’, Distinguished lecture 2017, Griffith University; Alfred Dockery, ‘Culture and wellbeing: The case of Indigenous Australians’, Social Indicators Research, Vol. 99, 2010, pp. 315-332; ‘What Works. Where. and Why? Overview of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development’, Harvard Project, 2010. 24. The 2018 Annual Conference of Museums Galleries Australia passed a resolution supporting the aspiration of Indigenous Australians for a ‘Voice to the Parliament’. 25. Film producer and director Rachel Perkins, in her 2019 Boyer Lectures, explains the Uluru Statement and its background, and references the 1988 lectures by W.E.H. (Bill) Stanner, After the Dreaming, especially his second lecture ‘The Great Australian Silence’.
European occupation of Australia was by right of ‘superior force’. Indigenous people were written out of the Australian Constitution of 1901. Various Indigenous consultative and advisory bodies have been short-lived and disbanded by government. The Hawke Government on its election in March 1983 committed to land rights. On January 26 1988, commemorating the landing of Captain Arthur Phillip in Sydney Cove 200 years previously, some 40,000 Indigenous people from all over Australia and supporters marched from Redfern to Hyde Park and then Sydney Harbour chanting for land rights. In June 1988 Prime Minister Hawke, having accepted a Jawoyn community invitation to their annual Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival (NT), was presented with the Barunga Statement by Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM and Wenten Rubuntja AM, chairs respectively of the Northern and Central Land Councils. It asked for recognition and respect for ‘rights’ of Aboriginal peoples and compensation. Accepting the Statement, Prime Minister Hawke said, ‘There shall be a treaty between Aboriginal People and the government on behalf of all Australians. You Aboriginal people should decide what you want in that treaty.’ But it never came to pass. It vanished ‘like writing in the sand’ as Yothu Yindi’s song Treaty says. We need to keep good memory of important events in our recent history. On 10 December 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered his important ‘Redfern speech’ in Sydney, acknowledging the destructive impacts of European settlement. On 13 February 2013, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in the Australian Parliament, with thousands gathered in the public galleries and outside, delivered a national Apology on behalf of the Government for past wrongs. Since these events, scores of speeches, lectures, books, articles and films by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, activists and academics have tirelessly traversed the same crucial issues: Recognition of past wrongs. Remediation. Building of better practices to shape a stronger future for all Indigenous peoples. Ensuring their stake in improved opportunities that all Australians should experience so as to thrive. In the Mabo judgement of 1992, Justice Brennan had stated: To treat the dispossession of the Australian Aborigines as the working out of the Crown’s acquisition of ownership of all land on first settlement is contrary to history. Aborigines were dispossessed of their land parcel by parcel, to make way for expanding colonial settlement. Their
dispossession underwrote the development of the nation. Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM provided an eloquent expression of contemporary Indigenous aspirations a quarter-century later (in his essay ‘Rom Watangu’, in The Monthly of July 2016): What Aboriginal people ask is that the modern world now makes the sacrifices necessary to give us a real future. To relax its grip on us. To let us breathe, to let us be free of the determined control exerted on us to make us like you. And you should take that a step further and recognise us for who we are, and not who you want us to be. Let us be who we are — Aboriginal people in a modern world — and be proud of us. Acknowledge that we have survived the worst that the past had thrown at us, and we are here with our songs, our ceremonies, our land, our language and our people – our full identity. What a gift this is that we can give you, if you choose to accept us in a meaningful way. A year later, in May 2017, following 12 regional dialogues around Australia, a constitutional convention of over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathered at the foot of Uluru-Kata Tjuta in Central Australia, on the lands of the Anangu people, and issued a Statement from the Heart. By this time, a mere statement of recognition in the Constitution and removal of some clauses was no longer satisfactory. It was rejected as a minimalist gesture that would not bring the change in relations sought. The Uluru Statement was a call for voice, treaty, truth: a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution; a treaty process or Makarrata (a coming together after conflict); and a truth-telling traversing the history of interaction. The Uluru Statement asked that Indigenous voices be heard on matters concerning them, and issued an invitation to all other Australians to join with Indigenous Peoples in achieving their aspirations for justice and progress. The call for a Voice was subsequently endorsed by the Referendum Council, established by agreement of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to advise on ‘how to best recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.’ A Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition was appointed by the Australian Parliament in March 2018 to consider the Uluru Statement. It recommended that following a process of co-design, the Australian Government consider, in a deliberate and timely manner, legislative, executive and constitutional options to establish The Voice. The statement is important both symbolically,
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The Hon Kevin Rudd (author/signatory), Gemma Black (calligrapher) Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, 2008. Official Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT.
Australian Museums and Galleries Association members adopted the Resolution in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart of May 2017 at the Annual General Meeting in Melbourne on 6 June 2018.
because it recognises Indigenous sovereignty, and practically, because it forms the basis for effective pursuit of Indigenous peoples’ lives through acknowledgement of First Nations agency. In early November 2019, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs the Hon Ken Wyatt established an advisory group to guide a co-design towards developing an Indigenous voice to Government.
At the AMaGA Conference 2019 (in Alice Springs/ Mparntwe, in May), Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum and recently a key advisor for the Humboldt Forum development in Berlin, concluded his keynote address ‘Museums: Places for complex stories and diverse publics’, saying that the key question for museums was telling one story or
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Australia is the only developed country that does not have a Treaty or similar mechanism expressing relations with its First Peoples. several stories. The story, he said, was entering a new phase, driven by awareness of climate change. ‘We all inhabit and have responsibility for the same place, and it should be possible to construct a narrative which genuinely embraces everybody occupying that space.’ He claimed the insistence in Australia of the centrality of Country in all discussions of Australian culture was ‘an enormous contribution to the next chapter of that narrative, in which we can all play a part.’ In New Zealand Aotearoa, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, resurgent since 1975, is the basis for all further agreements today in which Ministers acknowledge the past wrongs of Government, by personal testimonies and by return of cultural objects. Significant alienation of land over many decades, which led to extreme poverty, is being resolved under Treaty legislation. Meanwhile work to redress continuing problems of marginalisation and poverty is ongoing. Australia is the only developed country that does not have a Treaty or similar mechanism expressing relations with its First Peoples. It is the cause of ongoing grievances. It forms a gap in the social design of our interrelationships with each other, that all Australians need closed, to be able to express our three-stranded ‘story’ (as Noel Pearson has emphasised): of our Indigenous history; our British institutions; and our immigrant history and influences that have created the rich diversity of Australia today. Museums must play a meaningful role and be supportive of First Nations’ efforts to be heard and gain political recognition in this important period of our national life. [ ] Dr Des Griffin AM is Gerard Krefft Fellow, Australian Museum, of which he was director from 1976 to 1998. He was the first President of Museums Australia, the forerunner of AMaGA. Citation: Des Griffin, 'First Nations, Museum Responsibilities: History, Truth, and Symbols', Australian Museums and Galleries Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 36-47.
Australian Parliament House – Art Collection (PHAC) Beginning with the magnificent forecourt mosaic designed by Michael Nelson Jagamara, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art is an integral part of the fabric of Australian Parliament House. Since the 1980s Parliament has collected a diverse range of works, and today Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander artists from every state and territory, and from urban and regional and remote areas of Australia, are represented in the collection: with almost 700 contemporary works across a variety of media including painting, printmaking, photography, glass, textiles, fibre art, ceramics, sculpture and digital media. In late 2014, the Presiding Officers committed to the annual purchase of a significant artwork by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist. The first acquisition, in June 2015, was Mavis Ngallametta’s epic landscape painting Bushfire at Ngak-Pungarichan. In 2017, to mark the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, the PHAC (Parliament House Art Collection) acquired The Messenger, a collaborative work by Michael Nelson Jagamara (of Luritja/ Warlpiri heritage) and Australian-Latvian artist Imants Tillers. Other major acquisitions under this program include a set of 18 AFL player sculptures by Dinny Kunoth Kemarre, and a women’s collaborative painting by the Spinifex Art Project. Parliament House is also the custodian of several significant documents and artefacts including the Barunga Statement, the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, and the Yirrkala Bark Petitions – all of which are on permanent public display within the Members Hall at the heart of the building. These displays are complemented by a program of significant temporary exhibitions featuring Indigenous artworks, presented in partnership with AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) located in Canberra, and with art centres from across Australia. In 2017, the first bilingual exhibition was presented at Parliament House — Sageraw Thonar — in conjunction with KickArts (Cairns) and Badu Art Centre (Badu Island, Torres Strait) and featured labels and text in both English and Kalaw Lagaw Ya. The PHAC also recently celebrated another important milestone with the unveiling of the official portrait of former Senator Nova Peris OAM, the first Aboriginal woman to become a federal parliamentarian. The commissioned work was completed by Dr Jandamarra Cadd, making him the first Aboriginal artist to paint a portrait for the Historic Memorials Collection, since its inception in 1911.
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Reviewing a museum’s history as a unique cultural asset in its state capital
The Powerhouse Museum: Significance, Consequences, Opportunities
The Burning of the Garden Palace Sydney, September 22, 1882, as seen from Macquarie Street. (Supplement to the Illustrated Sydney News, 25 October 1882). Trustees, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
he Powerhouse Museum is born of the Industrial Revolution. It is unique for the synergy between the Museum’s extraordinary collection and the magnificent spaces of the 1899 Ultimo Power House, one of Australia’s earliest and most imposing industrial buildings, and the contemporary architecture of 1988 that is the Powerhouse Museum today. The Museum has proven to be a well-purposed, award-winning museum with impressive flexibility, character and ambience. The Powerhouse encompasses a long history of distinctive cultural events inscribed in the heart of the city’s history. Founded in 1880 as the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum, the first phase of the Powerhouse emerged as the legacy of the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, realised in the large and splendid Garden Palace erected in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Australia’s first international exhibition was inspired by the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, which opened in London’s Crystal Palace in May 1851. Melbourne’s 1880 and 1889 international exhibitions were held in the magnificent building that still exists today in the Carlton Gardens — now a UNESCO-listed World Heritage building. When the 1879 International Exhibition closed in Sydney, Sir Henry Parkes, Colonial Secretary, proposed that the Garden Palace be dedicated to public use. Advancing this proposal, the Australian Museum’s Trustees in 1880 recommended the
establishment of a permanent museum — today’s Powerhouse — to be housed in the Garden Palace. In one of the most spectacular tragedies in Sydney’s history, the huge Garden Palace caught fire on 22 September 1882, and the enormous conflagration that was witnessed with horror across the colonial city destroyed its contents, including all the collections acquired for the yet-to-open Museum. The Powerhouse Museum had suffered its First Destruction. After ten years in a temporary home in the Exhibition’s former Agricultural Hall, the Museum opened in 1893, in its new purpose-built home, as the Technological Museum, on 659 Harris Street, Ultimo. Adjacent to the new Sydney Technical College, these two institutions established the activities forming the science, education, creative and cultural precinct that is still thriving today in Ultimo. The new Goods Line pedestrian link and civic hub opened in 2015 (modelled on New York’s High Line) has brought a whole new cluster of business and public activities to this area, as it now provides a pedestrian corridor leading from Central Station to the Powerhouse. This new amenity is used daily by locals and tourists seeking to experience Sydney’s cultural activities. In short, when the Powerhouse was brought to Ultimo in 1893, this was the first move of the Museum in response to the needs of a changing city. With its activities and collections expanding over the 20th century, the Museum steadily outgrew its 1893 home and needed new housing, especially for the public’s most important engagement with its collection-displays and changing exhibitions. The NSW government (through its Department of Public Works) embraced a bold vision of redevelopment as a Bicentennial project, and over ten years the innovative project was accomplished to convert and develop the former Ultimo Power House and Tram Depot into the purpose-designed Powerhouse Museum. In March 1988, the Powerhouse opened at 500 Harris St, Ultimo, as a signature project of the Bicentenary. This was the second major move in the Museum’s 139-year history. That is, two moves had been accomplished — not the ‘six moves’ erroneously claimed in the ‘International Design Brief for the Parramatta Precinct’ — a ruse implying that the Powerhouse is ‘a pack it up and shift it museum’ that’s often on the move. Nothing could be further from the truth in an accurate representation of its history. The historical overview in fact reveals why so many people and donors, who have always known the Powerhouse Museum and its distinctive technological history as an integral part of Sydney’s cultural infrastructure, became so astonished when the proposal arose to move the institution right out of the city and away from its long term partner-museums
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far left top:
The Technological Museum (left), 1893, Harris St, Ultimo and Sydney Technical College (right), Maryann St, 1891, both designed by William Kemp.
far left bottom: The axonometric drawing of the Powerhouse Museum above illustrates the relationship of the old and the new. The Garden Palace is referenced in the rotated grid expressed in various elements of the building such as the paving and boardroom entrance, which link the building to the Museum’s genesis in the Botanic Gardens on Macquarie Street. left:
The Museum’s building — its historic fabric and contemporary architecture, and its Ultimo location — together with its diverse collections, are intrinsic to the overarching narrative that forms the Powerhouse Museum. (notably the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Sydney’s historic houses today forming Sydney Living Museums). This collection of historic public institutions with linked histories in the civic heart of a city forms a cluster that distinguishes the most vibrant capitals world-wide. A NSW Parliamentary Upper House Inquiry has for some years been examining many of these issues, and public submissions from people from across NSW,
Australia and the world about various options that would retain the purpose-built Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and not see a major public building torn down. Despite all submissions carefully arguing a contrary case, the NSW Government is continuing with its $1.5bn-plus plan to ‘move’ the Museum to Parramatta — an impossibility, not least because of the technical issues involved, the physical size of the collection, and the smaller facilities that would
Adjacent to the 1785 Boulton and Watt steam engine, powered by live steam, the Engine House is the perfect location for the Museum’s Steam Revolution exhibition. The bottom photo is an installation shot documenting the engineering challenge to power these valuable engines, and the priceless Boulton and Watt, with live steam generated in a boiler in the Museum’s basement. The cut-down Parramatta museum will not have live steaming on this scale, if at all. The Steam Revolution exhibition — unique in the world for its use of steam to bring the eleven engines to life — is an evocative soundscape in motion. A vivid introduction to the history of innovation in steam power, visitors are exposed to a range of working mechanisms. This exhibition could not be replicated in the cut-down Parramatta museum.
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Reviewing a museum’s history as a unique cultural asset in its state capital
This group of Venetian glassware was made by the Venice and Murano Glass Company c.1885 and exhibited at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. The Museum purchased it in 1889 as an example of high-quality international manufacture. Photo courtesy MAAS.
The Museum’s 1926 Chrysler sectioned Chassis which worked with a push button, a forerunner of the interactives which are a distinctive feature of the Powerhouse Museum’s exhibitions. Photo courtesy MAAS.
https://competitions. malcolmreading.com/ maasparramatta/news/ six-design-teams-announced-forpowerhouse-precinct-at-parramatta A 1933 UK (Carnegie-sponsored) report on Australian museums singled out the MAAS/Powerhouse museum in Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne as the two outstanding collections of the period in Australia: 'Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide certainly have collections rivalling those of other cities in the world, excluding only the largest. They are wellarranged, well-curated and fairly well-housed, and Melbourne for art, and Sydney for technological collections, are probably superior to any other city south of the Equator.’ (S.F. Markham and Prof. H. C. Richards, A report on the museums & art galleries of Australia; to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Museums Association [UK], London, 1933, p. 2.)
be provided as a result of such a move. Above all, the Museum’s building — its historic fabric and contemporary architecture, and its Ultimo location, together with its diverse collections — are intrinsic to the overarching narrative that forms the Powerhouse Museum. The planned relocation would result in a second and final destruction of the Powerhouse Museum and all that it has brought together at a civic site in Sydney over the 19th, 20th and now 21st centuries. For many of the Museum’s staff, the last few years have been very difficult and disheartening. The NSW Public Sector Employee Survey, People Matter 2019, discloses an overall rating for MAAS Employee Engagement of 62% — down 2% from 2018 — and the lowest engagement rating in the NSW cultural institutions cluster. Yet the redevelopment project describes a museum embarking on the ‘the largest cultural infrastructure project currently being undertaken in Australia’. Dozens of Powerhouse Museum alumni, and nine Directors emeriti, have raised reasoned and well-documented objections to the current plan, highlighting the project’s disruptive logic for what it is — in effect, the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum as a Sydney asset, arguing that a completely different cultural asset at Parramatta will be the outcome. It should be said that all defenders of the Powerhouse Museum’s retention support the case for a major facility at Parramatta — but believe that Parramatta’s own civic leaders and community should have been consulted about the best case for their cultural needs in the heart of a western-Sydney centre. The Powerhouse would be an ideal civic partner — along with other Sydney museums — to ensure that the state’s collections can be regularly shared with western Sydney citizens and form the basis of ongoing educational displays and exhibitions, as the greater Parramatta area deserves. However, the proposed Parramatta PHM will be
smaller (Ultimo floor area: 42,595 sqm; Parramatta Museum: 21,200 sqm). It will have less exhibition space, with fewer Museum objects on display. It will have less on-site access to the varied Powerhouse collections — to be stored off-site and dispersed around NSW — that is, if sufficiently safe, secure and accessible locations can be identified and negotiated. The Powerhouse collection will never again be presented as an integrated and powerful statement of Australia’s cultural heritage, and our place in the world. For Museum staff, supporters and benefactors, the Parramatta plan has undermined the status of the Museum as a permanent institution — that is, independent of government whim or sudden disruption of its board’s responsibilities as a ‘public trust’, and the long-term commitments of an institution to its supporters across generations. Donors are known to be changing their intent and their wills — promised gifts and bequests will be redirected to interstate and national museums. The current plan ignores the ICOM Statement on the independence of museums, Paris, 27 March 2018. The NSW Government’s lack of transparency, and the Museum’s lack of control and authority over its own future in the past five years of surprise new ‘planning’, are testament to the critical risks to the viability and status of the Powerhouse Museum, as would occur with the loss its purpose-designed home in Ultimo. The people of Parramatta and region desire and deserve cultural development on their own terms, and after careful consultation with their local bodies and public. The Parramatta City Council Cultural Plan, 2017 seeks an iconic gallery and exhibition space to show local, touring and international blockbuster exhibitions; it seeks to celebrate the region’s Indigenous heritage and culture, colonial history, and contemporary cultural diversity. Parramatta’s cultural identity and future does not need to be saddled with
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clockwise from top left:
Tools for copper weheel engraving made by Frank Piggott Webb in England, c1879-1942. Photo courtesy MAAS. 1879 Sydney International Exhibition (Webb display at centre rear).
Cystal tumblers featuring Australia flora designs engraved by Frank Piggott Webb of Sydney in 1912. Webb came from England to Australia to demonstrate glass engraving at the Sydney International Exhibition of 18791880. Photo courtesy MAAS.
an uprooted vestige of the Powerhouse — which cannot be in any way comparable to the present Museum in its Ultimo home, since ‘less’ would be publicly available in the final proposed outcome in the western region. Finally, there are unreasonable costs involved in the current plans — in effect the taxpayer is paying twice, when the Powerhouse is already a purpose-built public asset achieved as recently as the 1980s. The NSW Government, in consultation with the community, can achieve a landmark cultural development in Parramatta, the renewal of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, and support museums and communities across NSW, for less than the costs of ‘moving’ the Powerhouse to Parramatta. These different strategies would be sustainable, fiscally responsible, and would build community pride and resilience at a time when there are many challenges affecting the people of NSW. The unnecessary destruction of the Powerhouse — already the people’s museum — would be a serious and unprecedented blow to Australia’s cultural life. [ ] Jennifer Sanders began her career at the Powerhouse Museum in 1978 and is a longstanding member of AMaGA and ICOM Australia. As senior curator she was a key member of the Bicentennial redevelopment team and, from 1988, a member of the museum’s executive. From 2001 to 2009 she was Deputy Director, Collections, Content Development and Outreach. Jennifer was a member of the National Cultural Heritage Committee 1999 – 2008. She is now a heritage and museum consultant.
For details of review process, see: • www.powerhousemuseumalliance.com • www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details. aspx?pk=2403#tab-reportsandgovernmentresponses
Citation: Jennifer Sanders, ‘The Powerhouse Museum: Significance, Consequences, Opportunities’, Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine, Vol. 28 (1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 48-51.
For more information on AMaGA's response to the relocation of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, read the following media releases in the News section of the website www.amaga.org.au/news:
• The Powerhouse Museum – its future in the balance (7 March 2019) www.amaga.org.au/news/powerhouse-museum-its-future-balance
• Update on the Powerhouse Museum (16 April 2018)
https://www.parliament.nsw. gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2403/ Report%20No.%2040%20 -%20Museums%20and%20 galleries%20in%20NSW.pdf People Matter 2019, NSW Public Sector Employee Survey, Agency Report, Planning and Environment, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, p. 3. https://competitions. malcolmreading.com/ maasparramatta/news/ six-design-teams-announced-forpowerhouse-precinct-at-parramatta Steenson Varming for Johnstaff, Attachment F, The Ultimo Presence Project, 8 August 2017, p. 13; Final Business case (Supplement), The New Museum in Western Sydney, Johnstaff, version 6.0, 24 April 2018. https://icom.museum/wp-content/ uploads/2018/09/CP_Statementindependence-of-museums_EN.pdf https://www.cityofparramatta. nsw.gov.au/sites/council/ files/2017-06/Parramatta%20 Cultural%20Plan_3b.pdf
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A small regional community in WA takes on one of the State’s biggest stories
Power Up in Manjimup
Shire of Manjimup volunteer workshop.
Rikki Clarke, Jessica Winters and Ian Wilson celebrate their win at the MAGNA awards 2019. Photo courtesy AMaGA-WA.
here are many stories to tell about Manjimup. Timber. Indigenous heritage. Steam engines. Railways. Truffles. Pink Lady apples. Marron. Tobacco. Group settlement. Immigration. Vineyards. Avocados. Cherries. Giant trees. As a visitor to the town, you will see elements of each of these stories depicted in the various museums, outdoor displays and historical society’s collection at the Manjimup Heritage Park. A new story was introduced when the Shire of Manjimup was successful in its bid to be gifted the former World of Energy Collection from the South West Planning Commission, along with a grant from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund to finance the project. The collection was originally owned by Western Power, and on display in an interactive museum in Parry Street, Fremantle, until 2012. The collection needed a new home and the Shire’s Manjimup Town Centre Revitalisation Plan offered a fruitful opportunity for telling the story of electricity in a new way. However, electricity isn’t a story that necessarily belongs in Manjimup. Yes, the town is powered by this energy source, but so are most other regional towns
in Western Australia. Why should a small community accept a collection that could remove interest from their own local stories? And, in order to do so, to house these items in a new, purpose-built facility in the middle of their newly revitalised Heritage Park? The Shire had a new challenge in taking on the World of Energy collection, and to use it in a way that connected the objects back to the local community.
Regional development Let’s take a few steps back. Since 2012, the Manjimup townsite has been undergoing significant redevelopment with the implementation of the Manjimup Townsite Growth Plan and Town Centre Revitalisation project. Funded by the Royalties for Regions grants through the WA State Government, the plans focus on projects and initiatives that will help grow the town’s population to double its current numbers by 2031, with a focus on creating an attractive alternative to draw people currently living in Perth. ‘The project is aimed at delivering a more liveable town, creating a more desirable place for families
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to grow and a region that people will visit time and time again. It is anticipated that the project will lead to economic growth in the region through increased investment and additional employment opportunities.’ – Shire of Manjimup The Manjimup Heritage Park (previously Manjimup Timber and Heritage Park) has been a major part of this redevelopment. In 2013, the park was essentially a playground and picnic area with some static exhibitions including a hamlet (replica and relocated settlement buildings) and steam museum. The existing Timber Museum hadn’t been touched since its opening in 1977, and while everything was in a reasonable condition, it needed some love and attention. Those who attended the AMaGA 2019 National Conference in Alice Springs may remember the Curator, the Creative and the Pragmatist presenting on the work they had been undertaking in the development of the State Timber Museum. Jessica Winters (from the Shire of Manjimup), Ian Wilson (the Volunteer Curator), and Rikki Clarke (exhibition designer from Creative Spaces), presented in the Regional and Remote Day about their work with the community to develop the museum. Later in the Conference, they got back on stage to receive a MAGNA Award. For many, the acceptance of the MAGNA is the final celebration in a long journey of hard work, sweat and tears — but not so for the Manjimup crew. The story doesn’t stop there.
Power Up Electricity Museum The Electricity Museum is a multi-purpose building that forms part of the Town Centre Revitalisation Plan as a ‘core component of the revitalisation of Manjimup's town centre, contributing to the transformation of the Manjimup Heritage Park into a regional tourism precinct and central community hub. The location and the unique contemporary design of the building will become the new gateway to Manjimup, enticing visitors to the Park and further into the centre of Manjimup.’ (Shire of Manjimup). The building will include a new café and visitors’ centre, and it is hoped that the positioning of the museum alongside the State Timber Museum, outdoor exhibitions, and playground and picnic facilities in what is considered to be one of the best parks in the region will entice more tourists and overnight stays. While in many instances the redevelopment of the Heritage Park and installation of two museums would be completed as a large-scale project involving many staff, this was being delivered in a regional town on a modest budget, with a short time-frame and limited resources. Jessica Winters has been project managing the redevelopment with the help of Gail Ipsen Cutts, Director of Community Services, and Ian Wilson, a volunteer curator. Community input and support was critical from not only a social standing perspective but also in order to get things done. Volunteers, local trades, and community advocacy were critical in ensuring the redevelopment was a success; and that the people of Manjimup like their new collection and will continue to support it once the project is completed.
Community investment The team knew that one of the best ways to get people invested in a collection is to give them direct access and involvement in the curation of what will be displayed. The condition of many of the items in the World of Energy collection was poor and required immediate conservation treatment as well as a long-term conservation plan. Jessica saw this as an opportunity to get local community members trained in object conservation. A series of workshops were run over a two-year period, spanning skills from basic methods and understanding through to specific metals conservation. These workshops attracted a lot of interest from both people in the local area and other volunteers and staff from museums in the South-West. Thanks to these workshops, Jessica now has six volunteers who are trained to a level that allows them to not only work on the collection but train
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A small regional community in WA takes on one of the State’s biggest stories
Shire of Manjimup volunteer workshop.
others who join the team. There is now a steady interest in what is happening at the museum, and the more activities and workshops that happen, the more people become engaged and want to participate. Community members are making new friends, learning new skills and gaining something for themselves while also greatly benefitting the collection. There has been extensive community consultation at various stages of the project, including sourcing stories for interpretation content. This has been more of a challenge than the State Timber Museum, where stories flowed from all directions as everyone in the town had a timber story to tell. Connecting with the right communities to find the stories was critical, and Jessica had to search outside of her usual sources. While organisations such as the Energy West Social Club were able to provide much-needed information, Jessica also wanted to engage with local community members to ensure they felt connected. She undertook a project with local schools and asked children to express their understanding of electricity and renewable energy sources, as well as discussing with local farmers the challenges and initiatives around sourcing electricity. Their feedback and stories will now form part of the exhibition, and will ensure that relevant local content is included in the final display. The revitalisation of the Town Centre, and the construction of the Electricity Museum, has had significant impact on Manjimup’s economy. The construction has involved the employment of many local trades, and while the core development was completed by a company outside of Manjimup, construction staff needed places to sleep, eat and buy their morning coffee, bringing economic growth to the area. The sustainability of the museum and the Heritage Park in general relies on the support of the community. Local residents are the most regular users of the park, and while a key aim of the Shire is to reposition Manjimup on the tourist map and encourage overnight stays, that also requires locals
Jessica Winters at a workshop.
to take up the challenge of establishing businesses to cater for incoming visitors. For Jessica, one of the best outcomes of the whole project is the fact that this park will be more comfortable and accessible for the local community. It will be wheel-friendly for prams and wheelchairs, and there will be high-quality amenities and infrastructure like bins and seats. A new café, places to visit and learn from, and diverse activities to participate in will greatly benefit the wellbeing of the community. It will drive community members to visit, to bring their guests, and help to maintain and look after the facilities that have been built. It is the local community who have always benefitted most from the park, and this will continue as their vested interests help ensure the Manjimup Heritage Park continues to enhance local lives. In early 2019, the Shire of Manjimup held a community competition to name the new Electricity Museum. Power Up Electricity Museum opened in December 2019, a month after this article is being written. [ ] Jessica Davies is the Project and Communications Coordinator at the Western Australian branch of AMaGA. She is dedicated to promoting the achievements of museums and galleries in remote and regional areas of the country. Citation: Jessica Davies, ‘Power Up in Manjimup’, Australian Museums and Galleries Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 52-54.
References 1. https://www.manjimup. wa.gov.au/our-shire/ manjimuptowncentrerevitalisation/ Pages/default.aspx 2. https://www.manjimup. wa.gov.au/our-shire/ manjimuptowncentrerevitalisation/ projectcomponents/playground/ Pages/default.aspx
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Museums engaging new audiences
The Shadow Initiation — Australia’s first escape room-style adventure game at the South Australian Museum
Racing against the clock to solve puzzles; Ediacaran Gallery. Photo: South Australian Museum.
Angela Lush. Photo, courtesy SAM, Adelaide.
drenalin-filled. Intense. Challenging. A bonding experience. Not words you’d normally expect to hear about a museum visit, but that’s exactly how participants have described The Shadow Initiation, the new escape room-style adventure game at the South Australian Museum. Escape room experiences generally involve participants being locked in a room filled with puzzles they must solve within a certain amount of time to successfully escape. They give participants an adrenalin rush and an intense experience as they work in teams to solve challenges with creativity, strategy and critical thinking. It’s the type of experience that bonds people together. Escape rooms have been growing in popularity, particularly with millennials (20–35-year-olds), whom museums traditionally find difficult to attract. The South Australian Museum wanted to explore
new ways to engage this audience, to help people reconnect with the Museum of their childhood and become more frequent visitors. This led the Museum to develop The Shadow Initiation in partnership with Adventure Mode, an Adelaide-founded company that specialises in using adventure, gamification and interactivity to develop experiences that enhance existing attractions, places and spaces. Brian Oldman, Director of the South Australian Museum, reports that ‘The Museum holds collections of over 600 million years of life on earth, and it’s impossible to share every unique story with the public. However, this game unlocks untold secrets from galleries our visitors may have walked 100 times, and to collection items they never knew existed.’ Emma Moad, Adventure Mode Director, has explained the design concept that was used: ‘We thought there was an opportunity to create an experience similar to that of an escape room at the Museum, but on a bigger scale. With such unique and interesting objects on display, it seemed a
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Museums engaging new audiences
special opportunity to design puzzles and games that incorporate and highlight what the Museum has to offer.’ Typical escape rooms can be quite physical, as players search for clues through touch and movement, trying to open and unlock objects, in some cases ripping things off walls — all behaviours that are generally discouraged within museums. The challenge was to create the same level of excitement without people actually touching things. Adventure Mode overcame this by adding alternative tactile elements such as push buttons that activated lighting-based clues, and passcodes that opened hidden doors, as well as engaging touch via the tablet itself, as the main facilitator of the experience. In creating the app, Adventure Mode worked with the Museum’s scientists and collection managers to develop the game, running information sessions with the team and asking them to propose ideas. A great deal of time was spent on the research phase, working with the science team to understand each part of the Museum — which collections or objects were popular; what may often be overlooked by visitors; behind-thescene stories that can’t easily be interpreted on a small exhibition card. The aim was to capture what could be used as material that was relevant, interesting, and would challenge people’s thinking. Every member of the science team was committed to getting people to enjoy and appreciate their collections. They were really engaged in the process, and excited to consider some novel ways of reaching new audiences. However, there were also strong concerns in the project design not to create puzzles that would put any of the collections at risk. From an infrastructure perspective, the final result didn’t involve building anything new or elaborate. The aim was just to shine a light on many objects and experiences the Museum already has available, but to reveal these in new ways. Adventure Mode worked with external developers to create the game on their platform, and while the Museum handles eventual bookings and tablet rental, the game is hosted and maintained offsite. This leaves the Museum to focus on what it does best — telling the stories of life on earth. Emma Moad again reported on the dynamics employed: ‘Through The Shadow Initiation, players move from being just a passive consumer of information to becoming the catalyst shaping their own experiences. They’re in control. They’re having to engage and move around, and they’re creating the excitement, the memories they will have afterwards. This is bound to guarantee a visit to the museum that they won’t forget.’ The first of its kind in Australia, the new game now guides teams of up to four through the Museum via a tablet, where puzzles are presented for visitors to solve using clues within the exhibitions on view. With
This game unlocks untold secrets from galleries our visitors may have walked 100 times, and to collection items they never knew existed
more than 40 challenges to choose from and one hour on the clock, players need to have their team cover the museum with a lot of attention to complete as many challenges as possible and accrue points in order to gain entry to the Museum’s ‘centuriesold’ secret society: The Secret Order of Quill and Compass. It is actually impossible to complete all 40 challenges within the hour; this encourages players to return and be more strategic about which challenges they undertake, to see if they can improve their performance. In the six months since the app’s launch, 1,500 people have played the new SAM game, and 35% of players have been in the target 19–35 age bracket. The feedback to the Museum has been universally positive, and useful to further planning in public engagement. Ninety per cent of players have rated the game (on a 5-point scale) as good (4), or excellent (5). Individual feedback has also reinforced the project’s success. Each month public participation is increasing, and this is largely driven by word-of-mouth. As more and more people have played the SAM game, the Museum is continuing to see an increase in people reporting that they heard about it from friends or saw a post online. The positive experiences people have then definitely stimulate more bookings. It is crucial that people have an enjoyable time through a rewarding, self-motivating experience, since
Utilising digital technology for memorable experiences. Photo: South Australian Museum.
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Friends completing a series of puzzles and challenges; Minerals Gallery. Photo: South Australian Museum.
word-of-mouth afterward is important in the building of social interconnections. From the Museum’s perspective, visitors get to experience the Museum and collections in a completely different way, creating new memories based on experiences that include teamwork or family building. Again, Brian Oldman has explained the museum’s aims in terms of heightening engagement and creating rich memories: ‘What we’re looking to do is to create increasingly emotive experiences that add an extra level, an extra layer to people’s visits, so that they walk away with a really clear memory of being at the Museum that day.’ The Shadow Initiation is one of a range of programs the South Australian Museum has put in place over the last few years that have seen visitation rates rise to more than a million visitors per year. With so many stories to tell through the collection resources, and increasingly sophisticated ways of sharing them and enhancing visitor experience, the aim of turning one-time visitors into returning social participants in the museum’s ongoing programs is steadily advancing. 
What we’re looking to do is to create increasingly emotive experiences that add an extra level, an extra layer to people’s visits, so that they walk away with a really clear memory of being at the Museum that day. Dr Angela Lush is a scientist and science writer. Her work helps to connect people to science through story. Citation: Angela Lush, ‘The Shadow Initiation – Australia’s first escape room-style adventure game at the South Australian Museum’, Australian Museums and Galleries Magazine, Vol. 28(1), AMaGA, Canberra, Summer 2019, pp. 55-57.
Museums Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2020 Celebrating the most original and beautiful productions by Australian and New Zealand cultural institutions Open to members and non-members in Australia and New Zealand.
Entries open 1 February 2020 www.mapda.org.au MAPDA is sponsored by:
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ENTRIES OPEN 14 FEBRUARY 2020 WWW.AMAGA.ORG.AU/AWARDS
CATEGORIES • • • • •
Permanent Exhibition or Gallery Fitout Temporary or Travelling Exhibition Interpretation, Learning and Audience Engagement Research Indigenous Project or Keeping Place
ENTRY LEVELS Level 1: Project budget under $20,000 Level 2: Project budget $20,000 - $150,000 Level 3: Project budget $150,000 - $500,000 Level 4: Project budget over $500,000 CONDITIONS OF ENTRY • • • •
Members only Free to enter Online entry Project hasn't been entered before
Galleries of Remembrance The Shrine of Remembrance Photographer Vlad Bunyevich.
The National Anzac Centre Albany WA Photographer Lee Grifďƒžth.
Galleries of Remembrance The Shrine of Remembrance Photographer Vlad Bunyevich.
Showcasing Australia For The Past 40 Years
Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine 28(1) Summer 2019 The national magazine for museums and galleries and the Australian c...
Published on Jan 27, 2020
Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine 28(1) Summer 2019 The national magazine for museums and galleries and the Australian c...