Australian Museums and Galleries Association MaG Vol 29(2) Winter 2021

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Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Council 2021–2023 President Seb Chan

Chief Experience Officer, ACMI, Melbourne

Vice-President Julie Baird

Director, Newcastle Museum, Newcastle


Yulia Firestone

Finance Manager, Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra

Secretary cover image

Head of a queen mother ioyba, Nigeria, Kingdom of Benin, early 16th century, gun bronze; Africa department, Ethnological Museum, Berlin, Germany, Inv. No. III C 12507 (collection Theodor Francke, acquired in 1901).

Craig Middleton

Senior Curator, Digital Innovation & Strategy, National Museum of Australia, Canberra


Carly Lane

Senior Research Officer, Culture and the Arts, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Perth

Dr Janice Rieger

Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Ex officio Member Dr Mat Trinca

Chair, ICOM Australia; Director, National Museum of Australia

Public Officer Rebecca Coronel

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Canberra

State /Territory Branch Presidents/ Representatives

(Subject to change throughout year)

ACT Rowan Henderson

Senior Curator, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra

Cameron Auty

NSW Jane Thogersen

Nina Earl

NT Dr Wendy Garden

Vick Gwyn

QLD Emma Bain

Projects and Strategy Manager, Cultural Heritage, Indigo Shire Council, Beechworth Assistant Curator, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Curator, Creative Liaison at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Canberra

Marcus Hughes

Director, Indigenous Engagement, National Library of Australia, Canberra

Dr Lynda Kelly

Director, LyndaKellyNetworks, NSW

Jane King

Gallery Manager, John Curtin Gallery, Perth

Academic Engagement Curator, Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney Assistant Director Access and Engagement, Library & Archives NT, Darwin Director, Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland

SA Amy Dale

Exhibitions Coordinator, University of Adelaide, Adelaide

TAS Vacant

VIC Andrew Hiskens Consultant, Melbourne

WA Christen Bell

Museum Curator, City of Armadale

AMaGA acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

PO Box 24, Deakin West ACT 2600 Editorial: (02) 6230 0346 Advertising: 02) 6230 0346 Subscriptions: (02) 6230 0346 Editor: Dr Bernice Murphy Template design: Inklab, Canberra 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 our supporters and donors. Print Post Publication No: 100003705 ISSN 2207-1806

HEAR. US. NOW: turning conversations into action. Over four days we’ll hear from more than 50 speakers as they share their concerns for our culture and call museums and galleries into action. AMaGA 2022 will address how global issues are impacting the Arts in Australia and consider how your local activities connect to the Indian Ocean Rim communities. Delegates are invited to amplify each other’s voice, dissect the status quo, and collaborate on new models of practice. AMaGA 2022: Hear. Us. Now. will take place 14-17 June 2022 in Boorloo Perth.

Photo: Tourism Western Australia

REGISTRATIONS OPEN NOW FROM $350* CALL FOR ABSTRACTS EXTENDED UNTIL 31 OCTOBER 2021 VISIT THE WEBSITE *$350 Super Early Bird registration is limited to the first 50 member only registrations. Early Bird registrations start from $500 for members, or $600 for non-members.


In this issue Contents 12

President’s message Seb Chan


From the Director Katie Russell


Editorial spotlight


Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings: How to bring a COVID-closed exhibition to the widest possible audience in ground-breaking ways

24 Culture, Heritage and Arts Regional Tourism

program: New grant program for community-run arts and cultural organisations

28 Decolonising museums and their collections

from colonial histories: A report from Germany Hans-Martin Hinz

36 Will museums provide leadership in the climate chaos? Robert R. Janes


Will museums provide leadership in the climate chaos?

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine


Decolonising museums and their collections from colonial histories: A report from Germany


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021


The Indigenous Art Code, museum and gallery stores, and a fair go for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists


The Australian Museum and climate change Jenny Newell

44 The Indigenous Art Code, museum and gallery stores, and a fair go for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists Hannah Kothe

50 ‘Do you expect this exhibition to solve racism?’


An historic institutional Apology to the Aboriginal people of lutruwita Tasmania

Unsettling curatorial practice in First Nations exhibition development Mariko Smith

57 The Australian Museum: A redevelopment enhancing the building’s civic history Andrew Andersons

66 An historic institutional Apology to the

Aboriginal people of lutruwita Tasmania Bernice Murphy


Mid-career spotlight Vick Gwyn

83 HOTA Gallery’s launch on the Gold Coast Emma Bain

86 CONSTRAINED­— RECLAIMED: Our Country Calls Julie Gough

96 Submissions spotlight

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this publication may contain a range of material which may be culturally sensitive including names, records and images of people who have passed away.


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

President’s message If the continuing pandemic in 2021 has shown us anything, it’s that uncertainty is here for the long term. This is probably a rehearsal for the slow cancellation that climate crisis is bringing — a bit like watching a car crash in ultra-slow motion, bodies up so close to the screen that it is impossible to detect the movement or see the whole picture. Each flare of tiny pixels — an out-of-control-bushfire, a heatwave, a glacial melting, a wet bulb event — gains focus for a moment, but doesn’t impact broad public consciousness to make the societal changes we think we need to make. Museums can and must play a role in these changes. Museums can help us zoom out and see things in the longer arcs of time. They can also be refuges for collective action as these flare-ups happen in real-time. I looked overseas and saw museums turning briefly into vaccination centres for their communities. I looked locally and remembered how Victorian Collections — a multi-institutional online digital repository of sorts — emerged to help communities document their heritage collections after the bushfires of the late 2000s (especially the loss of the Marysville and District Historical Society building and all its records in February 2009). These are just two of the multitude of different ways museums, large and tiny, are rethinking and reshaping themselves as they serve communities more resourcefully in response to the unstable present. A lot of my professional work of the last few years has been in helping reimagine and rebuild ACMI in Melbourne. The new institution confidently rebranded and relaunched with the tagline 'your museum of screen culture'. ACMI's director and CEO, Katrina Sedgwick, led the semantic shift from 'centre' to 'museum' — which surprised many of my overseas friends — most of whom are at museums who are looking to be 'less museum-y'. In the decade before the pandemic, you were far more likely to find international institutions rebranding as galleries or centres than museums. As ACMI worked through what this shift 'to a museum' meant, it was clear that Katrina had a more expansive, future-focused idea of what a 'museum' could be. And I think you feel that when you now visit ACMI online or come to Melbourne-city and visit in the flesh. During, and now beyond, the pandemic, ACMI committed to being 'multiplatform' too, which further changed what 'museum' means for staff and for the communities they serve.


Seb Chan. Photo: Pete Tarasiuk.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

AMaGA, too, is changing. The incoming National Council, branches, and the Perth organising committee for the 2022 National Conference, have all been rethinking what and how AMaGA might need to adapt to this changing world. The 2022 Conference is now not only going to be a fully hybrid gathering — allowing speakers and participants to join in-person or entirely online; it will also be a considerably lower-cost event. We've managed to bring the ticket prices right down, and added a new ticket category for 'whole institutions', which allows an entire museum's workforce and volunteer base to participate online. None of us was sure how this would go, but we recently pitched a 'super early bird' ticket promotion, and the first release sold out so quickly we had to extend the offer. All of this is about raising the visibility, expanding the impact, and growing the membership of AMaGA, while also recognising many fundamental changes affecting sector employment. As people beginning their careers in museums and galleries today are discovering, their future career is likely to be shaped by short-term contracts across multiple institutions, and at times piecemeal — if they can afford to stay in the field at all. I'm very interested in how AMaGA might benefit these emerging professionals facing new work-patterns, and how their voices can help transform our sector to be more sustainable – in all ways. Everyone on the National Council is keen to hear your views on the future directions open to AMaGA. How might we be better able to serve a changing sector in such a rapidly changing world? I’d like to end by thanking the outgoing National Council and former President, Dr Robin Hirst. Their tireless work has left AMaGA in a strong position, where it is well-placed to make the changes needed to adapt to the challenges ahead. ■

Seb Chan President Australian Museums and Galleries Association


From the Director

The unexpected year that is 2021 has required all of us to dig deep inside ourselves and harness already-depleted resources to work through another challenging period for the sector. Yet it is more clearly affirmed that museums and galleries in all their variety are sites of cohesiveness and connection for communities. For those already familiar with our offerings, the hiatus has fuelled an ever-increasing desire for return and refamiliarisation with the myriad ways museums and galleries enrich lives. Yet the perennial challenge of becoming relevant to those who don’t have museums and galleries in their orbit is increasingly apparent. I acknowledge the tireless advocacy of my predecessor, Alex Marsden, and the outgoing National Council and AMaGA staff’s achievements in steering our organisation through the pandemic’s first wave. I’m very grateful too for the members who’ve shared their stories and turned to us for guidance, which aided us in deciding where to focus our energies. One action was that AMaGA, in partnership with the Federation of Australian Historical Societies, made a federal budget submission for crisis relief on behalf of the smallest and most vulnerable organisations in our sector, which I am delighted to say was answered in the form of the $3 million Culture, Heritage, Arts, Regional Tourism (CHART) Grant Program. This is now being administered by AMaGA on behalf of the Commonwealth Government’s Office for the Arts. CHART will enable 1,000 grants of up to $3,000 for regional organisations in our sector, to contribute to re-establishing their activities as we learn to live alongside the impacts of COVID-19. To check your organisation’s eligibility for CHART, please head to the information on the AMaGA website. For my own part, this period is also my first foray into the broader national-sector environment, having worked in institutional settings previously, and I take up our organisational challenges with a focus on the clear desire, expressed at the Canberra National Conference in June, for AMaGA to continue to advocate consistently for our diverse membership, and to take action focused on these four areas: First Nations self-determination; sector leadership; environmental sustainability; and ethical museum practice. Hence, the goals I would like to see progressed during my time as Director include:

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine


Katie Russell. Photo: Thorson Photography.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Redoubled commitment and measurable progress towards decolonisation of museum and gallery practice and governance across all tiers of the sector in Australia; Increased visibility and representation at AMaGA events of the diversity of museum and gallery practitioners in Australia, especially in terms of gender, cultural diversity and inclusiveness; Growing awareness of the innovations in museum and gallery practice being shown in small- and medium-sized organisations throughout Australia.

I also intend to build on the substantial achievements AMaGA has made as a valued and supportive service organisation for the museums and galleries sector, the essence of which is that AMaGA: — —

is the trusted first-stop source for sector information and guidance on best practice for the national sector; provides value to its members and audiences, especially through professional development, research, training, and outreach; and aims to become a provider of accreditation for the sector, in recognition of the specific skills required in the management and development of museums and galleries in their varying practices and locations, and across all levels and types of resources and services-delivery.

And finally, if prompted to use the legacy buzzword, it would be focused on one where the ‘large’ and ‘small’ institutions have developed relationships to work together to progress the sector and its interests in Australia; and that in these partnerships, each party recognises the strengths, values and opportunities that can be created through collaboration. If we are able to come together in these diverse ways, the entire sector and our communities will benefit through stronger, more resilient, creative and representative museums and galleries — enhancing spaces and experiences that provide meaning and connection for our audiences and citizens. AMaGA aims to be an agile catalyst, taking opportunities that can produce stronger outcomes for all. As I write, Australia’s south-eastern states are emerging from protracted hard lockdowns, and borders look set to open (albeit conditionally) across the country. Many of you will be re-opening the doors and welcoming visitors back to your facilities — I expect with a little trepidation, given the changed nature of so many human interactions as a result of the pandemic. My hope is that this next little while provides everyone the opportunity — our organisations and our publics alike — to replenish their cups and find meaning in acts of communion we have been missing for so long. ■

Katie Russell National Director Australian Museums and Galleries Association


Editorial spotlight

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (largest art museum in the US, with more than 2 million items), celebrated its 150 th anniversary in 2020. Many events honoured the MMA’s 1870 founding date. Interestingly, this was almost a decade after the National Gallery of Victoria’s founding in Melbourne (1861); and just a year ahead of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ origins (as AGNSW Manager, National Art Archive & Capon Research Library, Steven Miller, recently clarified in research for his excellent monograph on Sydney’s state gallery history, just published). Meanwhile the MMA’s 150th anniversary in New York was marked by the museum’s moving to make its first-ever appointment of a curator of Native American Art (Patricia Marroquin Norby, of Purépecha descent, who was announced in her new role in 2021). The AGNSW had begun to move along that pathway in 1984, with the decision to appoint Bandjalung art adviser Djon Mundine as ‘Curator in the Field’. This was while Djon was still based with the Yolŋgu community at Ramingining, Arnhem Land, and having just curated the outstanding Aboriginal contribution to the Gallery’s large contemporary art survey, Australian Perspecta 1983, which later brought the exhibition’s suite of land-title declaring David Daymirriŋgu Malaŋgi bark paintings into the permanent collection of Sydney’s state gallery. Today, most large established museums and art galleries in our capital cities have specialised personnel or even whole departments of First Nations staff, as well as large presentations of Indigenous arts, objects or history, guaranteed within their growing permanent collection displays. But there is more to highlight in recent changes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York’s premier museum has in 2021 taken the historic step of installing a remarkable bronze plaque on the façade of its Fifth Avenue building in upper Manhattan. Neither highlighting an industrial magnate, government official, nor wealthy donor, this novel plaque recognises that the museum is ‘situated in Lenapehoking, homeland of the Lenape diaspora, and historically a gathering and trading place for many diverse Native peoples, who continue to live and work on this Island’. This would have been an unimaginable declaration a decade ago. An article reporting this event in The Art Newspaper (13 May 2021) remarked that: Land acknowledgements are common at institutions in New Zealand and Australia, where presentations of Indigenous art form a key component of certain museums’ programming. But they are less frequent at institutions in the United States.1 The Met’s plaque concludes: ‘We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities — past, present, and future — for their ongoing and fundamental relationships to the region.’ The wording

1. See < art-news/news/metropolitanmuseum-land-acknowledgementplaque-1234592755/>.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

carries a logically puzzling acknowledgment of ‘future Indigenous communities’ (which surely exist already). But perhaps this echoes a conundrum in Australia’s sometimes flatly recited pro-forma tributes to ‘future elders’ in our own Acknowledgments of Country. What can such wording mean? Yet there are stirring pulse-beats of change to notice across our contemporary world. It is striking to register how far the historical reorientation by museums internationally to the lands where they are located, and the cultures, peoples and ancestral legacies they have displaced or inherited, is spreading as a changing consciousness of museums’ longer heritage, larger purpose, and societal responsibilities to maintain reconsiderations of knowledge and history. This includes repairing injury from devastating legacies inflicted on varied peoples under colonialism. It includes reconsidering our public monuments and place-names, being more attentive to what they may commemorate, celebrate, or obscure. We are learning to search out and listen to voices that have too long been absent or deliberately silenced. And museums are taking part in urgently reconstructing public understanding of culture and nature as gyrally entwined within our host planet’s destiny, as ‘the climate crisis’ threatens life-forms and societies across our many local worlds. Repatriation of Indigenous heritage, including ancestral, secret-sacred/sacred and cultural heritage, has long been actively pursued in Australia. This also continues to be carried forward through our uniquely nuanced and resourceful Indigenous Repatriation Program, funded continuously since the 1990s by the Australian Government, and today exclusively guided by First Nations expertise and authority. There have been historic returns of ancestral Indigenous remains and related heritage from foreign countries in recent decades, stewarded on their long journeys home to Country by Indigenous elders. Meanwhile restitution — as is the most-used term internationally — is rising steadily in importance across varied museum initiatives and governmental programs, actively addressing colonialist survivals in other countries and regions. In the present issue of the national Magazine, there are varied articles traversing such urgent topics from different viewpoints and anchorage. Two articles from distinguished international colleagues — Hans-Martin Hinz on Berlin’s new Humboldt Forum, Berlin, and restitution debates rising in Germany; and Robert Janes, from Alberta, Canada, on the compelling urgency of museums’ public activism on climate change — have generously been contributed to inform and inflect discussion of these issues across our sector. Meanwhile Australian colleagues’ contributions and activity-reports

traversing such topics will also be found forming dialogues across the following pages. There are articles covering developments in Australian museums and galleries from Queensland’s Gold Coast to Tasmania’s oldest museum far south in Hobart; and a spotlight interview on collegial personal development and activism at mid-point of a career in museums. There is information on the new federal government-resourced CHART program of grant opportunities for smaller, especially regional and remote collecting organisations and museums (administered by AMaGA); and a profile of the Indigenous Art Code and its important requirements of all institutional merchandising or acquiring of work by Indigenous makers. A conclusion is also provided to a three-part analysis of the context and outcomes of the Australian Museum’s Indigenousled Unsettled exhibition, repositioning First Nations interests quite beyond the 250 th commemoration of Captain James Cook’s charting of the eastern Australian coastline in 1770. The Australian Museum also has its handsome new wing and redevelopment of special exhibition facilities interpreted by an architect long familiar with its unique architectural heritage (Andrew Andersons). Sydney institutions have generous profiling this time — but the focus will definitely switch right across the continent to Western Australia next year, when the National Conference is hosted by the newly redeveloped WA Museum Boola Bardip in Perth. But first, the following article highlights a new technical benchmark in self-guided digital access to all spaces, wall texts, and labels interpreting an art exhibition — which enabled continued public access and students’ study of the contents (if not the total sensuous experience) of an outstanding exhibition’s presence in the Art Gallery of New South Wales during the COVID lock-downs over winter. ■



Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings How to bring a COVIDclosed exhibition to the widest possible audience in ground-breaking ways


Hilma af Klint Group X, Altarpiece, no 1 1915, HaK187. Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo: The Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. below

Installation view of the Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 12 June–19 September 2021. Photo: Jenni Carter © AGNSW.

One of the many frustrating casualties of the COVID-lockdowns this year was the revelatory exhibition of late-19 th century Swedish abstractionist: Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings, installed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales for its Sydney presentation before moving to New Zealand/Aotearoa for a showing at City Gallery, Wellington, later this year. Following the European tour of a large retrospective organised in 2013 by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the remarkable, groundbreaking paintings of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) broke attendance records when shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2018–19 — where New York Times art critic, Roberta Smith, commented in a review: ‘If you like to hallucinate but disdain the requisite stimulants, spend some time in [this] staggering exhibition’.1 In preparing a new exhibition, organised specifically for display in this part of the world, The Secret Paintings was planned as a key feature of the winter period at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (12 June–19 September). Sadly, after immediate and positive reviews in national media, the exhibition was early interrupted by the lockdown decision of the NSW government. However, in responding to the avid audience interest aroused by the exhibition, the Gallery went to exceptional lengths to facilitate online access by a range of audiences seeking engagement with the works installed. But first, the exhibition’s central subject, background, and significance merit placement. Who was the author of such works, and why have her newly ‘discovered’ paintings drawn so much attention? After almost 20 years of successful practice as a portraitist and landscape artist in late-19 th century Stockholm, Hilma af Klint turned in 1906 to producing a body of revolutionary, mystically-inspired abstract paintings, quite independently of the modern artists (mostly male) later profiled for forging an abstract language for painting’s advance in the twentieth century. However, of all modern artists



Installation view of the Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 12 June–19 September 2021. Photo: Jenni Carter © AGNSW. right

Hilma af Klint Group IX/SUW, The swan, no 1 1914–15, HaK149. Courtesy of the Hilma af Klint Foundation. Photo: The Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021



interested in the occult and spiritual inquiries connected to the development of abstraction, af Klint was distinguished by the emphatic connection of her paintings to Theosophy and a systematic practice of spiritualism (with assumed mediums active in her paintings’ final form). Such avowed links to occult practices caused the few later historians or curators who were aware of her art to remain wary of recognising the achievement of a distinct visual language in af Klint’s abstraction (with elements of figuration also co-existing). Special credit is due to the exhibition’s Australian curator Sue Cramer (formerly of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne) for initiating this project, and for her role in bringing these works to such a broad public in collaboration with the Art Gallery of New South Wales. However, also of interest to colleagues is the degree to which the Art Gallery of New South Wales responded to community interest nationally after the exhibition’s untimely closure — and the extent to which the Gallery and staff developed a range of online experiences to enable a huge and varied audience, of all ages and interest levels including school-learners, to continue to engage with the exhibition’s contents despite its withdrawal from public view. In response to the wide interest in digitally delivered content for the exhibition, the Gallery launched a colourful virtual YouTube video encounter with the exhibition in July. Later, the Gallery upgraded this offering to a 360-degree immersive exhibition visit, 2 created using 360-degree photography inside the exhibition space — which is still housed on the Hilma af Klint at Home page3 of the AGNSW website. This page, as the Gallery states: ‘features a range of content offering a deeper insight into this visionary Swedish artist, who created paintings that are monumental and wondrous’ — works combining ‘enigmatic symbols and radiant colour combinations [which] forged an entirely new language of abstract form’. The AGNSW has provided short YouTube segments, covering different groups of works, introduced by senior curator Nicholas Chambers; also a Hilma af Klint explainer video 4 (‘a short, animated overview of the artist’s life and work’); and the Gallery reports: ‘To date, Hilma at Home has been the most popular of the ‘at Home’ pages provided by the Gallery, while of all online presentations to date, ‘the exhibition video walkthrough [for Hilma af Klint] is the most popular video, with more than 12,171 views since 22 July 2021’. 5 The Gallery’s efforts to make an exhibition accessible to a selfguiding audience, through provision of the most detail-delivering virtual tour of the exhibition’s entire contents (including all wall-texts and labels) has provided new benchmarks for audience engagement in museum programs. The Gallery has shown what is increasingly possible through the special technologies now available to make the contents of exhibitions (and collections) more widely accessible in viewer-directed experiences — as a supplement to first-hand encounter with the works in the Gallery spaces. In the process, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has set new standards for online engagement of audiences — and a means of extending the life of an exhibition long after its physical presentation has closed. Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings will open at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi on 4 December, and be on display until 27 March 2022. ■ Citation: Bernice Murphy, ‘Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings — How to bring a COVID-closed exhibition to the widest possible audience in ground-breaking ways’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 18-23.

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine


Hilma af Klint, Botanical study, 1890s, watercolour and ink on paper, 35.8 x 22.4 cm, courtesy of the Hilma af Klint Foundation HaK1327. Photo: The Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.

1. See < arts/design/hilma-af-klintreview-guggenheim.html>. 2. See <www.artgallery.nsw.>. 3. See <www.artgallery.nsw. hilma-af-klint-at-home/>. 4. See < au/art/channel/watch/visionaryartist-hilma-af-klint/>. 5. The ‘Hilma af Klint at Home’ page ( whats-on/programs/hilma-af-klintat-home/) has had 26,143 pageviews since it was launched on July 21.

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021



Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Culture, Heritage and Arts Regional Tourism program New grant program for community-run arts and cultural organisations Key CHART Information Grants are up to $3,000 / organisation​ CHART only supports new projects ​ Activities funded must be delivered by 30 June 2022​ Funding will be administered in one round. Applications will be assessed in batches of 100, on a first-come first-served basis​ AMaGA strongly encourages eligible applicants to submit at the earliest opportunity Visit the website

What does a CHART-funded project look like?


It promotes regional arts and cultural tourism by offering appealing cultural tourism experiences, particularly the preservation of Australia’s cultural heritage and the telling of the stories of local communities.


It contributes to the organisation’s recovery from COVID-19, and/or its ongoing sustainability.


It’s being delivered by capable personnel or contractors, under well-structured governance, within realistic time-frames.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

AMaGA is rolling out the CHART Grants Program across Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications through the Office for the Arts. CHART grants provide funding up to $3,000 to community-run arts and cultural organisations in regional areas, such as museums, galleries, and historical societies. This funding aims to enhance visitor experiences, promotions, and access to organisations and their services, with the goal of supporting the sustainability of regional cultural organisations and their local economies.


More information, FAQs, and the Program Guidelines are available at Can our organisation apply? Your organisation is eligible if it: — —

is a not-for-profit incorporated organisation; is a community organisation, or a local government, or local government-owned entity (or, auspiced by such an entity); operates a community arts or cultural organisation or institution, such as a community museum, gallery, or historical society; is located or has a project in an Eligible Regional Location as defined by the Office for the Arts; has an Australian Business Number (ABN).

Do we need to be a member of AMaGA to apply?

or consortium. For an application that comprises a group of eligible organisations, each eligible organisation participating in the project would be able to receive up to $3,000. Read more about this process in the Program Guidelines. Can we get funds for more than one thing? Yes. For example, at a single location an organisation may apply for $1,000 to purchase new display cabinets, $700 for new signage and $200 for a new urn for events. If an item within the proposed project budget is deemed ineligible to receive funding, other components of the application that do meet the eligibility criteria can still be considered. Can the project cost more than $3,000?   Yes, for a single Eligible Organisation, the total cost of a project can exceed $3,000, but evidence must be provided that the rest of the costs are being met through other funding sources or contributions. Can we use CHART funds to cover retrospective costs? No, funds cannot cover any costs already incurred at the time the application is submitted. How many grant rounds will be run? Funding will be administered in one open round. Applications will be assessed in batches of 100, through a rolling evaluation process. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application at their earliest convenience to ensure that funds are available and their project can be completed in the given time-frame.

No. Any eligible organisation can apply. What does it mean to be auspiced, and how can we get it? Unincorporated organisations that otherwise meet the eligibility criteria may be auspiced by an entity that meets the ‘Eligible Organisations’ criteria — a fellow museum, local council, or similar organisation. The full process is outlined in the CHART Grant Program guidelines. How much funding can we apply for? The maximum CHART grant amount per project is $3,000 for each eligible organisation. How can we access more funding? Two or more eligible organisations may choose to join together to deliver a project as a partnership

What about acquittal? All CHART projects must be acquitted within four weeks of the end date of the project. Acquittal forms are provided via SmartyGrants, and this is the only format in which acquittals will be accepted. If we’ve run out of funding to finish a current project, can CHART funding help us complete it? Only new projects are eligible for CHART funding. However, if the organisation has finished several projects in a long-term strategy, such as site upgrades, and wants to throw a launch event to publicise the improvements and bring in visitors, that event can be considered a new project.


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Possible project ideas

Below are some possible project ideas. Also don't forget to check out the Indigenous Roadmap for some inspiration.

Ideas from the Roadmap

Collections management a ​ nd exhibitions — — — —

Object conservation by a professional conservator Purchase of new storage Purchase of exhibition display cabinet Website design or renewal

Capital works ​ — —

Installation of a disability access ramp Purchase an air conditioner

Section 1: Pathways for Indigenous Engagement —

— —

Equipment ​ — —

Purchase of catering supplies, such as an urn for community events Upgrade computers

Outsourced professionals ​ —

Contracting a consultant for professional services such as collection management, digitisation, exhibition development or conservation Contracting an Indigenous consultant to review your collection or advise on incorporating local language into signage

Printing and fabrication ​ — — —

Design and printing of new labels and signage for your building or exhibitions Printing a heritage trail pamphlet with neighbouring cultural organisations Publishing local history research for public access

Public events ​ — —

Planning an opening for an exhibition Planning an event to reengage the community after Covid-19

Training​ —

Section 2: Embedding Indigenous Values into Museum and Gallery Business —

Purchase and install Acknowledgement of Country signage for the entrance of your building Engage Cultural Capability training for staff Contract an Indigenous consultant to review policies and procedures relating to Indigenous collection management

Accessing professional development for staff and/or volunteers

COVID-19 Operating expenses ​ —

Plan an event for Reconciliation Week (27 May - 3 June) Host a local Indigenous art fair Embrace local Indigenous language desciptions in your exhibitions and get new labels printed in language Invite Indigenous speakers to an event (speaker fees are eligible, travel expenses are not)

Making your space more Covid-safe for employees, volunteers and visitors

Get the Roadmap indigenous


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021


Carnamah Historical Society & Museum, Carnamah WA, pre-COVID. Photo courtesy of Carnamah Historical Society.


How can we find out more details?

Go to for the full guidelines, hypothetical scenarios to put the guidelines in context, and a set of frequently asked questions, as well as the link to the online application form on SmartyGrants.

Regional Coordinators

AMaGA has engaged Regional Coordinators across Australia to assist you with CHART. It is strongly recommended that you contact your regional coordinator prior to submitting your application. Regional coordinators are able to help answer questions about eligibility and general queries regarding the CHART program. ■


Chelsie Baldwin 0456 488 915 Tara Callaghan & Leisha Walker Tara 07 3059 9742 Leisha 07 3059 9743



Sarah Cole 0487 291 230 Justin Croft 04888 732 766


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Decolonising museums and their collections from colonial histories A report from Germany Hans-Martin Hinz


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Long before French President Macron announced the return of collections from colonial contexts in French museums to their countries and communities of origin (in 2017),1 an intensive debate about new dialogues needed between the global North and global South was already taking place in Berlin. Current interest in revised presentations of non-European cultures in our museums has also brought a focus on the provenance of collections and items acquired under colonialism. Being aware of how intensively Australian museums are pursuing affirmative action in support of Indigenous peoples (and the current Indigenous Roadmap for museums’ action nationally), this article reports to Australian colleagues on how debates about ownership, reinterpretation and restitution have been shaping over almost a decade in Germany’s capital.

The Humboldt Forum, Berlin


Hans-Martin Hinz

For Berlin’s recently reconstructed, former Prussian royal palace (Berliner Schloss) in the city’s historical centre – some call it the premier place for the nation – a large new cultural institution has been forming over recent years. The Humboldt Forum, drawing together multiple institutions and collections,2 was conceptualised and developed with the support of an international advisory team. Meanwhile the Forum has been shaped locally through interconnecting four major institutions: the Ethnological Museum Berlin, the Museum of Asian Arts, the Humboldt University Berlin, and the Berlin City Museum. These bodies share in running the new institution under the umbrella and title of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin Palace Foundation. While for the last three decades multi-viewpoint exhibitions in ethnological and historical museums have opened up new and diverse narratives of the past, a series of trial-exhibitions (through Humboldt Lab Dahlem) were recently developed for the new Humboldt Forum. These exhibitions were designed to raise critical perspectives and develop new ideas and formats for interpreting non-European cultures, and especially when interpreting objects from the period of colonialism.


The Baroque Berliner Schloss (Berlin Palace), with 60-metre high dome dominating the city skyline, was the ‘new’ royal palace designed by Andreas Schlüter in the late-17th century as the home of Prussian royalty — lasting until the building’s severe destruction by bombing in World War II. The DDR’s Palace of the Republic (or central government building of East Germany), was erected in Soviet modernist style on the site during the 1950s, lasting for the years of Germany’s continued division (until 1989). After many years of debate and sharply-diverging views, the Palace of the Republic was itself demolished in 2009, and partial reconstruction of the former Baroque palace was undertaken (2013–2021), to house the new Humboldt Forum and Prussian museum collections complex on the Museum Island in the centre of Berlin. Photo: Christoph Musiol. right

The Humboldt Forum showing the historic north façade and palace front recreated, while a new, contemporary façade opens on the eastern side facing the Spree River. Photo: Alexander Schippel.

To be clear: the Humboldt Forum will definitely be more than a museum. It aims to provide a public meeting-point of diverse cultures and multiple viewpoints, where first-hand narratives will be presented by representatives of source cultures. Yet exhibitions will still form the core of the project’s programming, and they will provide the focus of the new platforms for dialogue being shaped currently. Ownership issues are coming under increasingly intense scrutiny. The growing awareness and public debates about provenance, legal status and ownership of collections formed in colonial contexts, along


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

The Humboldt Forum is meant to stand for mutual dialogue, and signify a new chapter of shared understanding between different cultures and nations. Yet sharp tensions are pressing heavily around such objectives.

with restitution/repatriation issues nationally and internationally, have inevitably triggered new debates about the provenance of the Berlin museum collections (in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) to be utilised for the Humboldt Forum displays. Such discussions rose in intensity when the first permanent exhibitions began to be installed in Berlin’s former Palace. Pointed questions were raised: as to whether it could be ethically or politically acceptable to present objects with unclear ownership-history, and likely plundered, in Germany’s largest and currently most prestigious cultural project of the early 21st century. The Humboldt Forum is meant to stand for mutual dialogue, and signify a new chapter of shared understanding between different cultures and nations. Yet sharp tensions are pressing heavily around such objectives. On one hand, the Humboldt Forum began with many questions raised internally about the origins of its collections. On the other hand, the current public ‘dilemma’ is seen as a chance for a fundamental break with the policies of the past, while countries and communities-of-origin (or source countries) have contested the delayed processes of museums on restitution, and the resistant politics of the global North towards the global South in dealing with collections formed under colonialism. The national and international debates currently about the future of Benin bronzes 3 in western museums have risen sharply as an issue — and especially for the Ethnological Museum at the Humboldt Forum, because of its rich Benin collection. Not anticipating what was to come, the Benin bronzes were almost ready to be presented at the opening of the permanent exhibition. However, sharp questions are now raised for the Humboldt Forum to address in response to intensifying international pressures for the Benin objects’ return: to be located in a new museum being built in Nigeria for the presentation of Benin cultural history.


Head of a queen mother ioyba, Nigeria, Kingdom of Benin, early 16th century, gun bronze; Africa department, Ethnological Museum, Berlin, Germany, Inv. No. III C 12507 (collection Theodor Francke, acquired in 1901).


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

The recently published book by prominent German historian Götz Aly about the complex history of a very popular South Seas Boat,4 already installed in a gallery of the Humboldt Forum, has only sharpened current debates about ownership and restitution. Meanwhile, German politics has reacted to the national and international decolonisation– discourse by providing an unexpected amount of financial support for investigative projects, and a better organisational infrastructure across the nation: for museums to deal with these pressing topics concerning rightful ownership and presentation of collections that have strengthened so sharply in recent years.

‘The decolonisation debate’ in Germany — and governmental support


Brass plaque from the Kingdom of Benin, 16th-17th century, exhibited in the Ethnological Museum (Humboldt Forum), Berlin, Germany. The scene depicts a leopard hunt by, it seems, Portuguese hunters in helmets carrying firearms and daggers. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Germany was once — after the UK and France — the third-largest colonial power. Yet within the German general public there is only limited knowledge about the country’s colonial past. Post-war school and university curricula, along with memorial policy in Germany for decades, were focused mainly on the World Wars, the Holocaust, and Germany’s subsequent political division into two states (until the Berlin Wall’s opening in November 1989). Even though historical, ethnological and other museums had presented modern, multiviewpoint exhibitions about German colonialism in the past, 5 and often in co-operation with partners of the regions impacted, a wider public awareness has grown only in recent years. This can be seen as the result of many currents: globalisation, migration and peoples fleeing conflicts, sharpening identity politics, and rising voices of civil society groups, including diasporic communities. The current (2017–2021) German government, formed by a centre right/centre left coalition, has initiated political strategies and programs to support the current decolonisation debate — by strengthening stakeholders in their various activities. Many see this as a first and clear political statement acknowledging Germany’s reprehensible policies during colonial times. On the national level, it is mostly the Federal Foreign Office (AA), along with the Federal Government Commission for Culture and Media (BKM), whose actions are raising awareness (and promoting transparency by all parties) about the origins and status of collections from colonial contexts held in German museums. Provenance research is of key importance, and this requires building of expertise, trust, and cooperation linking museums, communities, and governments of former colonial regions. To advance reciprocal understanding among key stakeholders, face-to-face meetings, international exhibitions and partnership projects need to be organised. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the 16 German states have declared ‘Decolonisation’ and ‘Dealing with collections from colonial contexts’ as a key political task requiring their backing and commitment. Meanwhile, since the German constitution gives responsibility for culture and education to the states, it is the states that have established a working group to address current issues of concern. This group includes the federal government, the 16 states, and the municipal umbrella organisations. In 2019 this WG approved a key-aspects-paper for dealing with collections from colonial contexts, and decided to establish a general Contact-Point and offices located within the Cultural Foundation of the States in Berlin. A pilot project began in 2020, focused on the digital publication of collections of concern in German museums.6 An advisory council now guides this project, which includes the German museum associations, diaspora communities, and other interests.


In 2019, the German Lost Art Foundation, based in Magdeburg (and jointly managed by the federal state, the 16 individual states and municipal umbrella organisations), established a new Department for Cultural Goods and Collections from the Colonial Past in Berlin — with project funding for programs for provenance research in German museums.7 With financial support of the BKM, the Deutscher Museumsbund (German Museums Association) recently published guidelines for the Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts.8 This was achieved after an intensive two-year national and international discussion. In 2019, meanwhile, the German Federal Office established an agency for international museum-cooperation. The idea behind this initiative is to fund joint exhibition projects whereby institutions from the global South will co-operate with German museums. Awaiting only final approval by the German Parliament, this project is to start very soon. ‘The MuseumLab’ is a further new project of three federal ministries and partners, which will bring together museum colleagues from North and South in seminar-style workshops — with the pilot phase already begun in 2021.9

More than a museum topic Decolonisation is of course about much more than the ownership of museum collections. Right now, there are intensive debates in Germany about better public awareness needed concerning colonialism. Education departments and teachers’ organisations are planning new curricula for history classes at schools, to give more time and weight to the period of colonialism. Students are to be helped to learn about different narratives of history and the rich cultures of others, to promote diversity and cross-cultural understanding in a changing world. As in many countries, sharp public debates are increasing awareness of colonialism in the public domain. This includes reconsidering street-names, monuments and buildings that reinforce public memory of the colonial period. In Germany there are many memorials for victims of the country’s history, but almost none to date for the victims of colonialism. Amidst raised discussion and government support, there is hope that these new activities will mark the beginning of a serious confrontation with an important, long-neglected or repressed historical topic, which could guide social change towards a more respectful culture of remembrance. Museums play an important role in such reconciliation processes, as they heighten their role as strong service agents for society and its ongoing development. ■ Prof. Dr Hans-Martin Hinz was President of the International Council of Museums/ICOM (2010–2016), and was a member of the internal Management Board of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum), Berlin, where he worked professionally for two decades (1991–2012). As an honorary professor at Bayreuth University, Bavaria, he currently teaches museology to students of modern history. His first of several visits to Australia began when he was a guest speaker at the Museums Australia National Conference (in Perth, in 1994) and he has since maintained contact over years with various Australian colleagues. Citation: Hans-Martin Hinz, ‘Decolonising museums and their collections from colonial histories: A report from Germany’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 28-35.

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021


In a 2017 speech to political leaders of French-speaking African countries (delivered 28 November at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso), Emmanuel Macron declared France’s readiness for restitution of cultural goods from the colonial period, on both a temporary and permanent basis. The text can be found at <>, p. 22. In addition to the President’s adoption of some recommendations for immediate restitution (made by his advisors Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, in the report, Restituer le patrimoine africain (Restitution of African Heritage), Paris, 2018) Macron’s speech triggered high expectations among museums and governments in African countries. However, French museums reacted critically to the radical position and speed of the announced measures, and themselves recommended: first, a program of careful provenance research, joint co-operation with African museums; and later, political decisions about restitutions. In consequence, the French government changed its policy in 2019, acknowledging the museums’ concerns, and adopted a more cautious position, which is still to unfold.

2. The Humboldt Forum (partially opened in 2020) occupies Berlin’s reconstructed Royal Palace, recreated in the heart of the city (2012–20). (See <www.>. The original five-centuries-old Palace was bombed in WW II, with its remains then blown up and removed in 1950 by the East German government. In the 1970s the Palace of the Republic was built on the site to house the East German Parliament. After German Reunification (1990), the Federal Parliament decided in 2002 to rebuild the former Palace of Prussian Kings and German Emperors to its original scale, also recreating its historical façades in classical detailing. The Humboldt Forum was designated as the home for the non-European collections of Berlin’s State Museums, which were brought from the city’s periphery (in former West-Berlin) to the historical centre (in former East-Berlin). The new complex therefore sits directly opposite the Museum Island, with its multiple buildings and famous European and Middle Eastern collections. Such an ambitious building project on such a site (where the former Palace was once the seat of colonial power) inevitably aroused controversy. The critiques also focused on the general conception for the Humboldt Forum (as betraying the independent world-inquiring spirit of the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose names have been adopted for the Forum). 3. Benin bronzes — from the west African region of modern Nigeria — are distributed among 160 cultural institutions, most of them in western countries. Since 2010, an international Benin-Dialogue-Group has been communicating with authorities in Nigeria about dealing with these collections. The group supports the planned new Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City. Furthermore, the Museum am Rothenbaum in Hamburg (with director Barbara Plankensteiner currently the spokesperson for the Benin-Dialogue-Group), will in 2022 introduce a new onlineplatform, titled ‘Digital Benin’, where Benin Bronzes, photographs and other documentary material from all over the world will be listed in a public inventory. ‘Digital Benin’ will also be a source for the planned future exhibition in Benin City (see <>). Germany’s large ethnological museums holding Benin Bronzes in their collections are currently in dialogue with the German government and it is now anticipated that in 2022, five decades after Nigeria’s first request for restitution, Benin Bronzes from German museums will be returned. 4. Outrigger-Boat (Agomes-Boat) from Luf/Hermit-Islands (PNG), brought to Germany in 1903 by a German trade company, sold to the Ethnological Museum, Berlin in 1904; and since 1968, presented as the masterpiece of the South Seas collection. (Götz Ali, Das Prachtboot. Wie die Deutschen die Kunstschätze der Südsee raubten, Frankfurt/Main, 2021.) 5. For example, in 2016, Germany’s national history museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin) presented an exhibition, German Colonialism– Fragments, Past and Present. Even earlier, in 1998, an exhibition project focused on China, Qingdao — a chapter of German Colonial History in China (Hans-Martin Hinz & Christoph Lind (eds), Tsingtau – Ein Kapitel deutscher Kolonialgeschichte in China, 1897-1914, catalogue publ. Eurasburg, 1998). 6. See <>; <Erste-Eckpunkte-Sammlungsgut-koloniale-Kontexte final.pdf>; <www.>. 7. See <>, and < EN/ResearchFunding/Cultural-Goods-from-Colonial-Contexts/Index. html;jsessionid=B29C1CFC6C7282286A4EEA85D1E038D1.m1>. 8. <> 9. <>.



Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Will museums provide leadership in the climate chaos? Robert R. Janes


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

I began my career as an archaeologist in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories, and I have worked in museums for 45 years — devoting my career to championing them as important social institutions that can make a difference in the lives of individuals and their communities. As a young graduate student doing archaeological research in Northern Canada, I once spent six months living with a band of Subarctic, Dene hunters. This First Nations culture is thousands of years old and is based on intimate knowledge of one of the most unforgiving environments in the world. It is there that I learned firsthand the meaning of social ecology — that social and environmental issues are intertwined, and both must be considered simultaneously. This inescapable truth — that our lives are inextricably linked with the natural world — inspires my belief that the global museum community must now take a stand on the climate crisis.

From ‘global warming’ to ‘climate crisis’


Robert R. Janes.

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change/IPCC (established 1988) has assessed scientific reports and advised governments for more than three decades on risks and mitigation measures in response to recorded damage to the biosphere, lifeforms, and the threat to whole populations impacted by global warming. The urgency in the IPCC reports to its 195 member states has intensified, such that recent indicators compel us to change descriptors from ‘climate change’ and ‘warming’ to ‘crisis’ and ‘chaos’. The IPCC’s 2021 Report has been described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as ‘code red for humanity’ concerning the mitigation-measures needed.1 This is a moral imperative for museums. Climate change is no longer just about science or politics. It is also about social justice. We can no longer assume that large and complex nation states and corporations will adequately address climate change in the time we have available. The survival of the biosphere rests with each of us.


Photo: Markus Spiske.

1. See ‘Guterres: The IPCC Report is a code red for humanity’ at <www.>.

Assumptions about the museum world My first assumption is that museums are potentially one of the freest and most creative work environments on the planet, and the scope for creativity and initiative should be just about limitless in a well-run museum. There are very few workplaces that offer more opportunities for thinking and acting in ways that can blend personal satisfaction and growth with organizational goals. If one combines this notion of organizational freedom with the assumption that we, as human beings, are the co-creators of our lives and our organizations — the result is the powerful force called personal agency. By personal agency, I mean the capacity of individual museum workers, not just their leaders and managers, to take action in the world (Davis 2011). When museums empower the personal agency, or self-leadership, of their workers and governing authorities to live their values and act in the interests of their communities, it builds engagement and community relevance (Grattan 2017). Self-leadership should be celebrated and nurtured as a vital organizational resource and a force for good (Senge 2006). Second, I assume that museums are unique and valuable social institutions that have no suitable replacement. Neil Postman, the cultural critic and author, wrote that the purpose of all competent museums is to provide answers to the fundamental question, ‘What does it mean to be a human being?’ (1990, 55–58). Governments are not equipped to do this, business is committed to profit not reflection,


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Neutrality is not a foundational principle of museum method, theory or practice, but has emerged rather as a result of the museum’s privileged position in society.


A part of Australia’s Great Barrier reef in 2016, after a coral bleaching event. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

and most universities are still grappling with their separation from their communities. Museums are distinct from all of these institutions and are uniquely qualified to probe our humanness. Herein lies one of their great strengths and their great worth. My third assumption, or perhaps it is an observation, is the stubborn trait of many museums to hold themselves static — seemingly immune to the messy realities of the outside world. Many museums claim to be neutral (more on this later) or are perhaps held hostage by their collections and the fixed costs of traditional museum practices such as collections management (Wood et al. 2018). To hold a museum static, while the values of individuals and communities are changing, is to doom the museum at a time when individual and societal values are in great flux. Last, I assume that everything that is required to fulfill the true potential of museums is here — now. There is nothing lacking. There is incessant talk of shortage in the museum world — be it money, staff, technology, or public support — a self-limiting refrain that continues unabated. When museums choose to see that they are rich in assets and public spaces, peopled with talented and creative workers, and in possession of a high degree of public trust — generally the highest among any group of public institutions (Dilenschneider 2017) — they can choose to fulfill their potential as key civic and intellectual resources.

Museums are already empowered The world is home to more than 55,000 museums and all museums have unique qualities that enable them to address the climate crisis that is threatening life-forms at a planetary scale. No social institutions have a deeper sense of time than museums and galleries, which by their very nature are predisposed to exercise their longer view of time as stewards of the biosphere. Museums are expressions of community and locality; they are a bridge between science and culture; they bear witness by assembling evidence based on knowledge, and they make things known; they are seed banks of sustainable living practices that have guided our species for millennia; and they are among the most free and creative work environments with which to rethink the future. In short, museums and galleries are uniquely qualified to help mitigate the climate chaos and adapt to it, based on their singular combination of historical consciousness, sense of place, long-term stewardship, knowledge base, public accessibility, and unprecedented public trust. Museums are also civil society spaces where substantive issues can be aired, discussed, and acted upon. How, then, can these precious qualities translate into concrete action to address climate change?

One obstacle is the widely-held belief that museums must maintain a position of dispassionate neutrality, lest they fall prey to bias and special interests. Yet, museums are not neutral, and have never been so. Throughout their history, museums have presented partial narratives of the world and human development — many of these rejected and being fundamentally rewritten today (such as museums’ presentations of Indigenous peoples’ history and knowledge systems). The idea of museums’ presumed neutrality must be challenged and rejected. Neutrality is not a foundational principle of museum method, theory or practice, but has emerged rather as a result of the museum’s privileged position in society. In contrast to the ‘false consciousness’ of detachment, embracing an active position on the questions about what it is to be human today is key to the fulfilment of the museums’ mission, and underpins their long-term sustainability as institutions of public value. To truly honour the public trust, museums must disentangle themselves from the deceptive position of neutrality and embrace an active role of civic participation: by grappling with the challenges of a complex and interconnected world. I note that this commitment is underway in many areas, as evidenced by museums working to address human rights, accessibility rights, poverty, decolonization, the refugee crisis, violence and other critical issues, as well as climate change (Janes and Sandell 2019). We know that education is a core mission of museums. But we must ask: What sort of education is appropriate and necessary now? Museums are about the stories we have told, and will tell, about being human. Our world now needs a new story; museums need a new story. We urgently need museums that provide cultural frameworks to identify and challenge the myths and misperceptions that threaten all of us (especially that continuous economic growth is the key to our well-being). The climate crisis is an opportunity to change deeply entrenched behaviours based on growth and consumption, and replace them with a commitment to stewarding the planet for long-term sustainability. We must move beyond the doomed economy of endlessly expanding industrial growth to the recognition that the connection between individuals, communities and nature is the key to our collective well-being (Korten 2014).

Taking action There are numerous ways for museums to address the urgent action needed to confront the climate chaos. These include: —

Raising awareness in our networks of the need for immediate climate action


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

Citation: Robert Janes, ‘Will Museums Provide Leadership in the Climate Chaos?’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 36-40. References: Conroy, F. 1991. ‘Think About It: Ways We Know and Don’t.’ Harper’s Magazine, New York (November): 68–70. Davis, J. A. 2011. ‘Putting Museum Studies to Work.’ Museum Management and Curatorship, Routledge, UK, Vol. 26 (5): 459–79.

— — —

Transforming your own museum/gallery by committing to become emissions-neutral by 2040 Informing the public of the climate crisis in your role as trusted mediators of culture, science, and technology Supporting climate strikes and civic action campaigns — especially by youth.

Dilenschneider, C. 2017. ‘People Trust Museums More Than Newspapers. Here Is Why That Matters Right Now.’ Accessed December 7, 2018. <http:// pers-here-is-why-that-mattersright-now-data/>. Grattan, N. 2017. ‘Developing Leadership for Canadian Museums: Linking SelfLeadership to Community Relevance.’ MA leadership thesis, Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC. <www.>.

In sharing these thoughts and examples, within the specific context of the climate crisis, I hope to inspire, motivate, and shed light on the good work that is underway. Museums and their workers are highly capable of making a difference, despite the gravity of climate change. We should take heart in noting that understanding does not always mean resolution and that we must embrace the tension of never being absolutely certain and never being done – grappling with uncertainty is the core of what it means to be human (Conroy 1991). The impacts of the climate crisis, and the growing public concern, provide a rare opportunity for museums to act as key civic and intellectual resources in confronting both the scientific consequences of the climate catastrophe and the many opportunities for action to limit or reverse it. What, indeed, are we waiting for? ■

Janes, R. R. 2009. Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse? Routledge, London & New York.

Robert R. Janes ( is an independent scholarpractitioner, a Visiting Research Fellow at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester (UK), and the Founder of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice. His museum publications have been translated into ten languages. His latest book, with Richard Sandell, is Museum Activism (2019).

Senge, P. 2006. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday.

Janes, R. R., and R. Sandell (eds), 2019. Museum Activism. Routledge, London & New York. Korten, D. 2014. ‘Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth.’ Presentation at the Praxis Peace Institute Conference, San Francisco, California. Accessed December 7, 2018. <http://davidkorten. org/change-the-story-change-the-futurea-living-economy-for-a-living-earth/>. Postman, N. 1990. ‘Museum as Dialogue.’ Museum News, American Alliance of Museums, Washington, Vol. 69(5): 55–8.

Wood, E., R. Tisdale, and T. Jones (eds), 2018. Active Collections. Routledge, London & New York.

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

The Australian Museum and 1 Climate Change Jenny Newell


Jenny Newell. Photo: Anna Kučera.

1. Adapted from Australian Museum and climate change — The Australian Museum, < learn/climate-change/australianmuseum-and-climate-change/>. See also Sustainability Action Plan 20192021, < media/dd/documents/J5147_GAM_ SustainabilityAP_web.8a3d678.pdf>. 2. exhibition/spark/#tour

The Australian Museum (AM) has committed to developing action on climate change and sustainability. Climate change presents us, and all species, with an enormous challenge. The AM is working to help people understand the scope of the challenge and recognise positive ways to respond. Acknowledging the position of trust that museums hold, the AM’s priority is to provide up-to-date and accessible information to support public understanding of and engagement in climate change. The AM is helping to build public confidence in joining the conversation and taking positive action. Moreover, the AM has made a corporate commitment to sustainable practices within the Museum’s operations and infrastructure. The AM recently achieved carbon neutral status. The AM’s collections span both the natural and human worlds, with 21.9 million items representing the combined natural and cultural environments of Australia, the Pacific, and beyond. With these collections, the AM’s researchers, educators and communicators are ideally placed to demonstrate varied climate change impacts on biota and people, and to highlight positive action advancing solutions. The AM’s science plays an integral role in understanding, and potentially mitigating, the impacts of climate change on biological systems. Scientists at the AM are undertaking research that highlights the impact of climate change on species distributions and biodiversity, on coral reef health (at the Lizard Island Research Station), and on human communities. The AM’s exhibitions, programs for schools, public programs and online resources provide pathways for people to make a difference. Exhibitions such as Spark: Australian innovations tackling climate change (now available as a virtual tour2), a public-sourced online gallery, Capturing Climate Change, and a permanent climate change exhibition, Changing Climate, enable the AM to showcase the exciting solutions we can all help advance. Whether learning from First Nations approaches to caring for Country, supporting biodiversity and increasing drawdown through regenerative practices, or reducing emissions through clean energy and transport, the AM is making clear the benefits of acting together, now, to tackle the climate crisis.



The AM is committed to supporting the upscaling of community engagement in the ways intergovernmental, professional and aid organisations are seeking. Through collections, connections to audiences, deep-time knowledge and a concern for the future, museums around the world are uniquely placed to empower public engagement. This is a fundamental social and environmental responsibility. Linking with other museums nationally and internationally, the AM is encouraging greater commitment to this responsibility as a matter of urgency. ■ Dr Jenny Newell is Manager of Climate Change Projects at the Australian Museum, Sydney. She works on the cultural dimensions of climate change, focusing on communities in Australia and the Pacific, and aims to increase engagement in environmental stewardship through the medium of museums. With a background in environmental history, Jenny has worked with Pacific communities and collections at the British Museum, National Museum of Australia (Canberra), the American Museum of Natural History (New York) and the Australian Museum (Sydney) to amplify voices on climate change for broad audiences. Jenny convenes the Museums & Climate Change

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine


Changing Climate exhibition, Australian Museum, Sydney, November 2020ongoing. Photo: Jenny Newell. right

‘Cultural burning’ exhibit in SPARK exhibition, with First Nations wall quote: ‘It is important to look closely,/ to read the country,/ so that you can burn properly/.’ Photo: Anna Kučera.

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Network and is a member of the International Council of Museums’ Working Group for Sustainability. Recent publications include edited volumes Living with the Anthropocene: Love, Loss and Hope in the Face of Environmental Crisis, and Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change. Citation: Jenny Newell, ‘The Australian Museum and Climate Change’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 41-43.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

The Indigenous Art Code, museum and gallery stores, and a fair go for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists Hannah Kothe

All institutions should support the Indigenous Art Code; the ethical and fair treatment of Indigenous artists; and refrain from selling Aboriginal art products that are not produced by Indigenous artists. — First Peoples: A Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra

The Indigenous Art Code (IartC) is about a fair go for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Established in 2010 as a recommendation of the 2007 Australian Senate inquiry, Indigenous Art — Securing the Future, the Indigenous Art Code Ltd administers a voluntary industry Code of Conduct known as ‘the Code’. The Code is a set of rules and guidelines that dealers (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses) commit to follow to ensure ethical practices and that artists are treated fairly. Dealer Members of the IartC are organisations and individuals who are engaged in commercial trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders artists including both selling and licensing their work. They are committed to fair and ethical trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and transparency in the promotion and sale of artwork. As signatories to the Code, they must act fairly, honestly, professionally, and in good conscience in all direct or indirect dealings with artists.

Gallery, museum and other retail stores left

Tjanpi Desert Weavers baskets at the MCA Store, 2018, image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Photo: Anna Kučera.

In the context of Australia’s museums and galleries, historic sites, botanic and zoological gardens, research centres, Indigenous cultural centres and Keeping Places that comprise the AMaGA membership, this commercial trade with artists most often comes into play in the stores and retail outlets managed by cultural institutions.


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Gaining dealer membership to the Indigenous Art Code is something to be valued and celebrated, as a clear and demonstrated commitment to the fair and ethical treatment of First Nations artists.


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Whilst these dealings are often indirect (through stockists and suppliers), museums and galleries and other stores that stock artwork and licensed products by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are still considered to be engaging in commercial trade with artists, and therefore eligible for IartC dealer membership. Those institutions without stores or shops are generally eligible for ‘supporter’ rather than ‘dealer’ membership of the IartC. Supporter Members are individuals or organisations that do not engage in commercial trade but are supportive of the objects of the Code, and wish to add their voice to the call for fair and ethical trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and transparency in the promotion and sale of their artwork. The application and assessment process for IartC dealer membership involves a certain level of rigour and an investment of staff time. Gaining dealer membership to the Indigenous Art Code is something to be valued and celebrated, as a clear and demonstrated commitment to the fair and ethical treatment of First Nations artists. The application and assessment process addresses adherence to the standards laid out in the Code, and asks potential members to demonstrate how their business works fairly, honestly and transparently in all direct or indirect dealings with artists, including via the products stocked and sold by retailers. As Indigenous Art Code Chair Stephanie Parkin has remarked: ‘Being a Dealer Member of the Indigenous Art Code is not about doing the bare minimum or what is required by law. It’s about going that step further to ensure artists are valued and respected and treated fairly.’

The supply chain


Mick Harding, with Ngarga Warendj (Dancing Wombat ceramics). Artwork © Mick Harding/Copyright Agency 2020. Photo © Alperstein Designs 2020.

The AMaGA Indigenous Roadmap encourages museums and galleries shops to include ‘Indigenous Art and Indigenous products sourced from Indigenous artists, and Indigenous businesses…’ Whilst inclusion in retail settings, and the economic opportunities for artists that flows from such support are important, institutions need to take an active role in making sure they stock not only fairly and ethically sourced products, but also ensure unfairly and unethically sourced products do not make it on to the shelves. Unfairly sourced products cheat artists of livelihoods and often abuse their Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) rights. This problem extends far beyond inauthentic or fake art produced without the contribution of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist. Increasingly, artists are coming forward to the IartC about products that are unfairly licensed, in some cases without the artist fully understanding where and how their artwork will be reproduced, and on occasion without the artist receiving royalty payments.


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While retailers, especially those in the cultural sector, are often attuned to the issue of inauthentic or fake art, there is less vigilance around the issue of unfairly marketed art and licensed products. Retail stores and exhibition shops need to fully understand the arrangements existing between artists and suppliers of any products they stock. As retailers, they need to actively engage in ensuring principles of fair treatment. Ignorance is not an excuse for participating in supply chains that exploit artists. We encourage retailers to look for product manufacturers who are current Dealer Members of the IartC, as their membership has been granted based on adherence and commitment to the Code. The onus to trade only in fairly and ethically sourced products rests with each party in the supply chain, including retail stores. Ultimately, ethical trade in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is about respect for culture, ensuring the artists and those around them are paid fairly, and securing a sustainable future for Australia’s Indigenous art industry. The retail settings across Australia’s cultural sector have a vital role to play in these processes. ■ Hannah Kothe is the Manager of Operations at the Indigenous Art Code, a board member of Art Monthly Australasia and a former Manager of Ernabella Arts, SA. She has also previously held both curatorial and collection management roles at the University of Sydney Museums. Citation: Hannah Kothe, ‘The Indigenous Art Code, museum and gallery stores, and a fair go for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 44-49.


What to look for when buying Indigenous art. Images: NITV.


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Australian Museums and Galleries Association is a proud Supporter Member of the Indigenous Art Code. This means we are supportive of the objects of the Code and are adding our voice to the call for fair and ethical trade with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and transparency in the promotion and sale of artwork. AMaGA strongly encourages our member museums and galleries with shops to sign up to the Code. It is an important step in the implementation of the Roadmap.

Retail stores should be able to answer these questions about any products they stock:

1 2 3 4

Does the supplier have a written agreement with the artist from whom they have licensed artwork describing the arrangements? If so, are such written agreements based on or substantially similar to the 'best practice' sample agreements provided by the Arts Law Centre of Australia? Does the supplier pay a royalty or licensing fee to the artist whose work is being reproduced? How does the supplier remunerate Indigenous Artists or Indigenous art centres that supply them with Indigenous Artwork? Does the supplier provide Indigenous Artists with complete and accurate information regarding any sale of their Indigenous Artwork (including the sale price)? If so, this process should be explained. Ask the supplier (whether that be an Indigenous art centre or another business) for information about the entire money story for the products your store is planning to stock. For example, if you are retailing a product for $30, what is the return to the artist? We understand there are manufacturing, packaging and transport costs in order for that product to reach the shelves, but the producing artist still needs to be paid fairly.


How does the supplier demonstrate provenance for Indigenous Artwork that they sell? For example, what evidence do they provide to their buyers that substantiates the authenticity of a relevant Indigenous artwork?

Go to to read the Code and join as a Dealer, an Artist, or a Supporter.


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

‘Do you expect this exhibition to solve racism?’ Unsettling curatorial practice in First Nations exhibition development Mariko Smith


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Update on the Australian Museum’s Unsettled exhibition

At the Australian Museum and Galleries Association (AMaGA) National Conference held in Canberra in June 2021, I gave a presentation about the Australian Museum’s First Nations-led exhibition, Unsettled, which I have previously written about for my industry colleagues.1 The exhibition opened to the public on 22 May 2021, featuring an exciting suite of opening-week and weekend events, including programming for First Nations communities and the general public. It was a fitting start to the annual National Reconciliation Week (27 May–3 June), which this year had the theme of reconciliation between Indigenous and nonIndigenous Australians being about ‘more than a word.’ Below, I summarise a curatorial case study on the strategies and techniques used by the First Nations team at the Australian Museum for the Unsettled exhibition. It provides some insights into the overarching museological and historiographical challenges that First Nations peoples, whether staff or visitors, face when interacting with museums. The Museum’s First Nations curatorial team — Wailwan and Kooma woman Laura McBride (newly appointed as Director, First Nations) as the curator; and myself as the assistant curator — aimed to prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and perspectives in the Unsettled exhibition in ways that still allow space for non-Indigenous people to participate in an informative learning journey. As a museum exhibition that went beyond the legacy of Captain James Cook to explore the foundations of ‘Australia’ and its colonial history, Unsettled highlights how truth-telling is not always as easy as it might seem. It may be hard to simply tell the ‘true’ story that we haven’t been able to glean from our school education or from media reporting, when important information might be missing. Unsettled also demonstrates the challenges of how to find a balance between the expectations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous visitors, community and work expectations, against the backdrop of a complex sociopolitical climate.

The 2020 Project First Nations community consultation


Mariko Smith. Photo: Anna Kučera. above

City of Sydney Council street banner on display leading up to the launch of the Unsettled exhibition, featuring ‘yuratu (Woman)’ exhibition branding artwork by Jason Coulthard, May 2021. Photo: Australian Museum. left

Visitors walking through Dr Ryan Presley’s “Blood Money” series showing six Aboriginal resistance fighters, with associated objects from the Museum and community, with banners of artwork by Charlotte Allingham (Coffin Birth) hanging above. Photo courtesy Anna Kucera, Australian Museum.

The development of Unsettled began in 2018, when the Australian Museum started planning for an exhibition in response to the 250 th anniversary in 2020 of James Cook’s 1770 voyage on the HMB Endeavour along Australia’s eastern coastline. The Museum was easily in a position to plan for an exhibition which focused on ‘Cook the man,’ since it holds a significant collection of Cook-related material, particularly from his third (and final) Pacific voyage. However, the historically ignored or often-silenced voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and perspectives needed inclusion for the formation of any Australian foundational narrative. This led to the Museum’s decision to appoint a First Nations curator. In due course, Laura McBride was promoted to this role, and she created The 2020 Project: a First Nations-led right of reply to the 250th Cook anniversary. As the First Nations curatorial team, we worked together on consulting directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across the country, to help determine the objectives, themes, and content topics for the final exhibition.2 In summary: 805 First Nations respondents, from 175 different Nations, clans, cultural/language groups and communities, gave feedback to the mixed-methods survey conducted by the museum.


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As a museum exhibition that went beyond the legacy of Captain James Cook to explore the foundations of ‘Australia’ and its colonial history, Unsettled highlights how truth-telling is not always as easy as it might seem.

Each of the major states and territories was represented, with a strong south-east focus, which reflects Australian Bureau of Statistics data that a large proportion of the Aboriginal population in Australia resides in the eastern states and major cities. When asked for their thoughts about the Australian Museum, respondents participated in truth-telling about the Museum’s impact, along with the effects of museums generally on First Nations peoples. The most volatile question was the one requesting feedback about Captain Cook; and the overwhelmingly negative opinions clearly demonstrated a sharp contrast to how the Cook anniversary had been projected and celebrated in mainstream Australian society. Many First Nations peoples see Cook as a marker of time, his arrival leading to the beginning of dispossession and colonisation. Yet they also refuse to be defined by the impact of Cook. As one respondent’s comment stated: ‘Cook is but a small footnote in a more expansive history’ of First Nations’ presence on these lands. We asked First Nations respondents for details on what they wanted to see in the exhibition, and also importantly, what they did not want to see. The data clearly identified two key objectives: truth-telling/ telling the true story of Australia; and amplifying First Nations peoples’ voices in this narrative. Resoundingly, respondents did not want the focus to be on Cook. From hundreds of comments, the top four nominated topics were: (1) colonisation and its effects; (2) Australia’s origins and foundation; (3) challenging a falsely constructed history; and (4) a focus prior to both Cook and the First Fleet. It was an extraordinary challenge to crystallise all this significant feedback into shaping a single exhibition outcome (when each topic could easily shape multiple exhibitions!).

Unsettled exhibition development The outcome of The 2020 Project was Unsettled, a highly significant exhibition in the Australian Museum’s history because it is First Nations-led and informed. It provides the story of Australia’s foundation, the truth about colonisation, its legacies, and First Nations resilience. Visitors are led through eight thematic sections: (1) Unsettled (the introduction); (2) Signal Fires; (3) Recognising Invasions; (4) Fighting Wars; (5) Remembering Massacres; (6) Surviving Genocide; (7) Continued Resistance; and (8) Healing Nations. These headings represent First Nations perspectives and may be confronting at first glance; but the objects and stories included in each section unpack and contextualise the facts presented. There are more than 190 objects and images in the final presentation (53 Museum collection objects; 90-plus digital acquisitions; more than 30 new object acquisitions including newly-created artworks and cultural objects; and of course, various loans). Unsettled provided an opportunity to feature the Museum’s remarkable First Nations cultural and archaeological collections, as well as to support First Nations artists and communities through purchasing and commissioning of new works.

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(detail) Display of clubs and Jai Darby Walker’s ‘Keeper of the Law. Keeper of the Song. Keeper of the Dance’ installation. Photo: Anna Kučera.



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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021


First Nations tour guide, Charleen Aguiar dos Santos, leading a tour of visitors through the Unsettled exhibition. Photo: Anna Kučera.


For some themes, it was difficult to source original historical material, since so many relevant objects had been destroyed. Therefore, we incorporated other forms of historical memory and expression — such as artworks created by children’s home survivors; audio-visual films; and visual representations of academic research, such as maps. We also borrowed important colonial documents relating to the early plans for a NSW colony (on loan from State Library of New South Wales), and concerning the 1816 Appin Massacre (on loan from NSW State Archives and Records), because these records helped provide critical context in understanding early colonial history and its impacts on First Nations peoples. Unsettled is a large exhibition in terms of space and content. And owing to the impact of COVID-19, the exhibition’s dates were shifted from 2020 to 2021. Yet through the delay, we were able to secure the Museum’s freshly launched and remarkable new 1,000m 2 basement exhibition hall for the final public presentation. We decided on the title Unsettled for the exhibition, after workshopping ideas with our Museum First Nations colleagues and independent First Nations media company, IndigenousX, who we engaged to assist us with specialist media and communications advice. The one-word title works on a number of interpretive levels, including these considerations: (1) colonisation was not a ‘peaceful settlement’; (2) colonisation disrupted and unsettled First Nations’ long occupation of these lands; (3) relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian remain unsettled; and (4) our relationships with the environment are seriously unsettled. Interestingly, some people responded to this title by centring themselves, and saying: ‘I will feel unsettled by this exhibition’. This exhibition ultimately prompts the Australian public to learn about our shared history, and how it has informed the present structures and systems that shape our lives, in order for us to truly ‘settle’ together much unfinished business in Australia, opening the way for a better, more genuinely shared future. It is with this sentiment that the exhibition concludes in the section titled Healing Nations — with the Winhangadurinya (a Wiradyuri word meaning deep listening, reflecting, and meditation) culturally-immersive space at the end of the exhibition. It is crucial that all visitors have the opportunity to consider their truth-telling journey, and feel supported to advocate alongside First Nations peoples for a more just and inclusive Australia for everyone.

The significance of Unsettled for First Nations museum practice The Australian Museum is no stranger to strong First Nations exhibitions. Indeed, in many respects the Museum has helped lead the way with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation and engagement, particularly at a national level through the leadership of Museum staff — such as former Australian Museum Director, Dr Des Griffin AM, who was instrumental in co-culturally leading the development of the important first national policy document concerning museums and First Nations peoples, Previous Possessions, New Obligations, adopted for the national museums sector in 1993.3 I recall my Museum Studies dissertation’s case study on the Australian Museum’s Indigenous Australians/Australia’s First Peoples exhibition (a 1996–2015 long-term display), which had also sought to create a space where Aboriginal peoples could express and discuss their lived experiences.

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1. See Mariko Smith (and colleagues), ‘“Unsettled” at the Australian Museum’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 28(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Winter 2020, pp. 64–65; and Mariko Smith, ‘The 2020 Project at the Australian Museum: Profiling First Nations rather than Cook’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 64–67. 2. All can read the full details of The 2020 Project’s First Nations community consultation in the project report — which can be downloaded at < cultures/the-2020-project/>. 3. See for a full story of the background, aims, and development of this policy, D.J. Griffin, ‘Previous possessions, new obligations: A commitment by Australian museums’, in Curator: The Museum Journal, AltaMira, Maryland, USA, vol. 9, no. 1, 1996, pp. 45–62.

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The Unsettled exhibition is scheduled to close on 27 January 2022 at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Meanwhile, visitors can now virtually visit the exhibition at: < first-nations/unsettled/> and purchase the exhibition catalogue at: < products/unsettled>

I noted in my analysis how strong the consideration of the curators was back in the mid-1990s around balancing the interests and needs of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences. There appeared to be a key tension at play as to how museums represent Indigenous topics and issues in ways that do not get dismissed by non-Indigenous visitors as too confronting or political, nor by Indigenous communities as being too soft and sanitising of harsh aspects of Australian history. It is a challenge that is still very much alive in the early 2020s, and especially viewed in the context of the ‘history wars’ that erupted two decades ago, and the resurgent force of the global Black Lives Matter movement today. I believe that public attitudes, opinions, and expectations have also changed over the last thirty years. Echoing the conversations in the ‘Climate Change and the Cultural Sector’ plenary session at the 2021 AMaGA conference, which was chaired by current Australian Museum leader, Director and CEO Kim McKay AO, the nation has also moved to a greater level of maturity in many conversations which involve addressing different viewpoints and experiences. This arguably means that audiences now expect a lot more from museums as trusted public institutions of knowledge: often hoping to find answers and ‘quick fixes’ to a whole raft of matters, from climate action to something as complex as Australian race relations. Indeed, the title of my presentation, Do you expect this exhibition to solve racism?, references a real question we were asked about Unsettled during the exhibition development process. As First Nations curators, Laura McBride and I see our roles first and foremost as a means to an end: to facilitate First Nations voices in the museum space, giving them agency to represent themselves and their cultures in accurate and appropriate ways. We are proud of how Unsettled turned out after such a long process of its formation; and we have noticed an upsurge in First Nations peoples coming into the Museum to see the exhibition, along with many other Australians including diverse publics and school students. During our opening month we saw more than 21,000 visitors go through Unsettled (approx. 35-36% of general visitation), and received many letters and emails congratulating the Australian Museum on this important exhibition. Especially in light of the recent NSW COVID-19 restrictions resulting in the temporary closure of the Museum, we have had a lot of interest and requests for other ways to experience Unsettled beyond the traditional museum visit. There has been interstate and even international interest in a touring version of Unsettled. However, such a large-scale exhibition which includes unique loans can be difficult to convert into a smaller, travelling version. I am pleased to share that the Australian Museum has recently coordinated with immersive technology studio PHORIA on an exciting 3D digital documentation of the exhibition, which was available to the public to access online during the lockdown period. We meanwhile have available an exhibition activity booklet for children aged eight years-plus to download, which they can work on at home and also at the Museum as it has reopened. This is part of an exciting partnership between the Australian Museum and Red Room Poetry, which invites children to go deeper into the themes of Unsettled by reflecting on the poetry of First Nations artists, and responding in their own words through completing the activity booklet. Our website features a number of informative webpages and upperprimary and high school educational materials (including ‘Learning Journeys’) on the exhibition themes and topics. I wish to reassure readers that Unsettled will live on through many pathways long after it eventually closes at the Australian Museum! ■

Dr Mariko Smith is a Yuin woman with Japanese heritage. She is the Manager, First Nations Collections & Engagement at the Australian Museum, and an Honorary Associate in the School of Literature, Art and Media at the University of Sydney. Her practice is interdisciplinary, encompassing museology, contemporary art, visual sociology, research methodologies, Indigenous ways of knowing, Indigenous cultural heritage, and history. Citation: Mariko Smith, ‘“Do you expect this exhibition to solve racism?” — Unsettling curatorial practice in First Nations exhibition development’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 50-57.


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The Australian Museum A redevelopment enhancing the building’s civic history Andrew Andersons


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021


Andrew Andersons AO. left

View of Australian Museum from William Street, showing successive designs of (Government Architect) WL Vernon and Project Architect Joseph van der Steen; much later work by Richard Johnson (of Johnson Pilton Walker); and most recently, the 2016 public entrance (with faceted glazing of clear and coloured glass) by Rachel Neeson (of Neeson Murcutt + Neille).

Late in 2020, the Australian Museum in Sydney re-opened after a 15-month closure during which, for the modest sum of $57.5m, the museum has been transformed. Under the far-sighted leadership of Director Kim McKay AO, the designers Joe Agius (Cox Architecture) and Rachel Neeson (Neeson Murcutt + Neille) have imaginatively and skilfully reoriented or altered a number of key spaces within the museum building to make it both inviting and more legible as a building. This is no mean task in an architectural complex that has seen numerous alterations and additions during the past 170 years. Unusually, this has been achieved by a carefully considered process of ‘subtraction’ rather than making further additions within the complicated site. Dating from 1827, the Australian Museum is Australia’s oldest museum. The earliest part of the current building was designed by NSW Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis in a neo-classical style in 1845, but did not open until 1854. Its Long Gallery (subsequently expanded) is still one of Australia’s finest museum interiors. Over the past 170 years the Museum has had the input of numerous architects. Particularly notable is the work of James Barnet on the College Street frontage, and Walter Liberty Vernon’s subsequent extension, alterations and additions. Within living memory, a number of architects have significantly enlarged the complex. In the 1960s, the work of Joe van der Steen (under successive Government Architects Cobden Parkes and E.H. Farmer) produced the large addition along the William Street frontage; and this was later added to by Colin Still’s 1988 building, in-filling the service court to create an integrated movement system. From 2006–2008, Richard Johnson (of Johnson Pilton Walker) has added the collections and research wing which, with its double-skin façade containing a dichroic glazing pattern based upon microscopic photographs of moth wings, elegantly extends the now-historic Van der Steen façade along William Street. In 2016, Rachel Neeson’s designs provided the new Crystal Hall entrance, in a location actually advocated by James Barnet (designer of Sydney’s grand Martin Place Post Office) 150 years earlier. The Crystal Hall entrance finally resolved the long-intractable disabled access and queuing problems that had limited the College Street entrance facing Hyde Park. The new faceted glazing of clear and coloured glass sits proud of the plain sandstone ashlar of the façade like a monumental jewelled brooch, beckoning visitors to the museum.


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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

All natural history museums today must face the transition from formerly static taxonomic displays of selected objects to rendering the total wealth of collections more imaginatively revealed and relevant to contemporary issues and audiences.


View of early designs by two Government Architects: James Barnet’s addition to the first College Street façade facing Hyde Park, and the Mortimer Lewis building (far left) prior to its later alteration by Walter Liberty Vernon (designer of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in the Edwardian era). middle

Colin Still’s sketch-plan of his addition to the Museum (completed 1988), by in-filling the original courtyard. The (pink) mezzanine café, and the ramp (left) between the College Street level and Colin Still’s new structure, have both been removed in the 2021 modification to create the Hintze Hall, and a beam-roofed void for the purpose-designed space for temporary and visiting exhibitions. (Drawing, originally Government Architect’s Branch.) Image: Andrew Andersons. This important historical drawing by Still no longer exists. bottom

Cross section by Cox Architecture and Neeson Murcutt+Neille shows the lofty spaces created recently by the removal of intermediate floors.

Attractive as this new entrance was, it still had not overcome the confusing series of level changes on the descending site, and a general lack of directional clarity for visitors arriving at a major institution. Another nagging deficiency of the museum’s facilities was the absence of a dedicated temporary exhibition space for major in-house projects or visiting international exhibitions. These critical issues for a large capital city museum have at last been effectively resolved by the most recent design team. One of the key tasks was to create a lofty, centrally located temporary exhibitions space for ‘blockbuster’ projects (a contemporary fact of life for large museums); another crucial need was for additional spaces for smaller, changing exhibitions. Movement of part of the permanent collection to off-site storage made it possible to remove a floor slab, below the principal level, to create a double-height space for temporary exhibitions of substantial scale and technical capability, as is illustrated by the current, highly effective, in-house generated, Unsettled exhibition. The new, column-free space required substantial beams spanning its volume, and their depth has been utilised to adjust the ground floor levels, reducing the ramps that were an unavoidable part of the 1988 addition. The result is now a greater ease of movement through the building achieved by removing the level-changes. The Museum now enjoys a series of arrival spaces that are elegant and inviting, worthy of this important institution. From the Crystal Hall, a natural wayfinding progress leads past a generous information desk and well-presented museum store to the central Hintze Hall, made more generous by the removal of a mezzanine level from the 1988 addition, and creating a central focal point for the building. Bounded by the sandstone walls of earlier structure, these increased amenities are ideal for accommodating special events as well as queuing for temporary exhibitions, which are accessed by escalators from this space. Part of this area can be subdivided for temporary exhibitions, and a café is about to be installed for visitors’ more leisurely enjoyment of this ‘new’, more finely appointed space and the amenities it affords.



View of the new (2021) Hintze Hall, by Cox Architecture, showing 19th century walls in sandstone. Photo: Brett Boardman. next page top

View of new staircase linking multiple levels. Photo: Brett Boardman. next page bottom

Isometric drawing of recent modifications to the Museum (by Joe Agius, of Cox Architecture). Drawing shows new Cloaking & Amenities (mid-left), with (above) the new Hintze Hall on the main public floor of the Museum, which connects by escalators to Travelling/Temporary Exhibitions at a lower level; and (highest above) a new multi-levels staircase is shown, accessing a key view towards St Mary’s Cathedral. The elongated section with diagonal glazed façade in pink indicates the (2016) Crystal Hall public entrance from William Street, designed by Rachel Neeson. Drawing: Cox Architecture.

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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

A terrazzo and steel-plate stair, which seems to defy gravity, provides access to all levels of the building, while also offering splendid views over Cook and Phillip Park towards St. Mary’s Cathedral with its added spires, and a panorama of the city skyline beyond.



There is no shortage of other architectural delights in this skilful conversion. The cloakroom must be the most attractive in Sydney, located in the basement of the Mortimer Lewis building. By locating the cloaking and toilets in the centre of the space, the chisel-marked sandstone walls are wall-washed with light and surmounted by a gently vaulted, battened ceiling. Viewing panels in the floor reveal the foundations below. With these fine-tuned modifications, the museum building itself has now become one of the key exhibits, as to be expected of such an historic cultural institution in Sydney. A terrazzo and steel-plate stair, which seems to defy gravity, provides access to all levels of the building, while also offering splendid views over Cook and Phillip Park towards St. Mary’s Cathedral with its added spires, and a panorama of the city skyline beyond. Some of the cladding of the museum’s 1960s wing has been removed to show the fine work of WL Vernon (designer of the pre-War Art Gallery of New South Wales) and completing the Museum’s Mortimer Lewis wing. Unexpected viewing ports now further enliven appreciation of the early entry-staircase. One of the great benefits of more comprehensively reorienting the Museum’s entrance to William Street has been the opportunity to reconfigure displays seamlessly through the Barnet wing along this rising roadline where, until recently, tacky retailing and cooking odours were unfortunately detracting factors. While much has been achieved recently, the Museum has welcomed further plans for future enhancement of the long-term displays of its vast and unique collections. This is a demanding task in a building of such cultural significance. It would be welcome to see more of the tessellated tiles of the Vernon wing revealed — ‘liberated’ from the temporary flooring overlays that have long obscured Vernon’s fine decorative detailing. Meanwhile skilful display lighting can focus attention upon exhibits in ways that also permit earlier architectural elements of the total setting to be enhanced. All natural history museums today must face the transition from formerly static taxonomic displays of selected objects to rendering the total wealth of collections more imaginatively revealed and relevant to contemporary issues and audiences. Director Kim McKay ambitiously considers the museum as the ‘ark of humanity’, dedicated to being able to display ‘90% of everything in our world’. Scientific advances today require compelling presentation and interpretation of a multitude of issues, ranging from climate change and the culture of First Nations peoples through to understanding how science and technology can be astutely deployed to create a better world. Prior to the recent outbreak of the COVID pandemic, the Museum was experiencing a 300% increase in visitor numbers. Its vast collections of authentic material provide the fundamental base for creative interpretation and display, utilising the latest in technology and attracting younger audiences. The Museum, as refurbished, also consolidates Sydney’s unique architectural and cultural heritage along the Macquarie Street–College Street spine, ultimately linking the Sydney Opera House and a series of historic buildings along ‘Australia’s oldest boulevard’ of Macquarie Street through to the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park. Strengthening these linkages provides an enriched civic experience for residents and visitors alike. The recent work on the Australian Museum’s fabric and site demonstrates how strong leadership, far-sighted vision, and creative designers can re-invigorate an undisciplined collection of buildings, spanning a period of 170 years, into a seamless, aesthetically pleasing experience with what can only be considered modest expenditure. ■

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Andrew Andersons AO has designed three stages of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ expansion since 1972. He was architect for a new wing of the Art Gallery of South Australia (completed 1996), and for a new wing, entrance and functions hall for the National Gallery of Australia (completed 2010). Since he undertook his Master’s degree in architecture at Yale in the late 1960s, Andersons has spent a lifetime studying the design of museums and galleries in Australia and internationally. Citation: Andrew Andersons, ‘The Australian Museum: A redevelopment enhancing the building’s civic history’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 58-65.


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Uncle Noel Butler (Budawang, Yuin), 2021, Carved spotted gum from bushfireravaged Country, Australian Museum Collection Commission. Installation view from Unsettled exhibition, showing the renovated exhibition space and new connections between different levels of the Museum. Photo: Andrew Andersons.


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

An historic institutional Apology to the Aboriginal people of lutruwita Tasmania1 Bernice Murphy


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

On 15 February 2021, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), in partnership with the Royal Society of Tasmania (RST), delivered two carefully prepared public Apologies to the Aboriginal people of Lutruwita |Tasmania. The Apologies were for both the Museum’s and Society’s treatment of Aboriginal people across the full scope of both organisations’ existence since their foundations in the 19th century. The occasion was realised in a prepared setting outdoors, in the courtyard of TMAG in Hobart, near some of the earliest colonial structures built by British-transported convicts on palawa lands. The gathering of almost 100 people was greeted by Professor Matt King (Chair of the Royal Society’s Aboriginal Engagement Committee); and Janet Carding (Director of TMAG), who welcomed guests, outlined proceedings and speakers, and presented an Acknowledgment of Country on behalf of both organisations. The evident care in preparation and protocols — to ensure Aboriginal elders and youth, and both boards’ representatives, staff and guests were acknowledged, and their diverse feelings considered — indicated how much thought had been given to the occasion, especially by Janet Carding and her staff. Yet it merits stressing that years of work and tough consultations had preceded this event for it to be possible at all.2 As Janet Carding has stressed to the present author: The Apologies would not have been possible without the guidance and support over many years by Denise Robinson and Theresa Sainty, Chairs of the TMAG Aboriginal Advisory Council (TAAC) — whose wise counsel in advising TMAG on how to make appropriate and respectful apologies was pivotal. The contribution of First Nations staff employed by TMAG, Zoe Rimmer, Julie Gough and Liz Tew, was similarly crucial in the Director's carriage of institutional purpose.


Bernice Murphy. Photo: Hans-Martin Hinz. left

Aboriginal elder Michael Mansell explaining the significance and suffering of the Old People of many generations recorded in documentary photographs, all venerated during the Apologies. Photo: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

The weight of history, of broken spears, scattered shell necklaces and lost songs, hung heavily over the gathering. This was the coming together of two institutions for an event shaped by their joined origins and intertwined legacies of injury to Aboriginal people in so many strands of their existence and previously-asserted authority. The Royal Society of Tasmania was the earliest branch formed in Australia or New Zealand of its 17th century parent institution in London.3 The Tasmanian body had a preeminent role in the formation of scientific studies and the beginnings of material collections in Tasmania, with Aboriginal people relegated to natural history and not considered a part of cultural or other historical narratives of human progress. Both institutions carried legacies from the Black War, as it was known in Tasmania, which lasted for three decades from 1803. The terminology of the (failed) Black Line and Black War formed a stark coinage by British settlers of the early 19th century, who did not disguise the purpose of their colonialist drive for control of palawa lands progressively occupied, then guarded with military, architectural, and rural defences of concerted exclusion across lutruwita. In recent years the armed conflicts and mutual reprisals across Tasmania have been sufficiently documented — by Lyndall Ryan,4 Henry Reynolds,5 Greg Lehman, Shayne Breen and other historians6 — for the Palawa insurgency to be judged today as the fiercest war of Indigenous resistance among all conflicts along the moving frontiers of the Australian colonies in their armed conquest of Aboriginal Country.


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The results, however, in a drastically uneven contest, were more comprehensively devastating to Tasmanian Aboriginal people than many other Indigenous populations across Australia’s vast continental mainland. The various palawa clans, totalling an inestimable number of thousands of people at the beginning of British incursions, were eventually decimated and brought to the brink of collapse when the last representatives of the Big River Mob and other groups walked into Hobart on 7 January 1832,7 seeking food and protection from Governor Arthur when they judged that cessation of armed conflict was their only hope for survival.8 However, not all colonial Tasmanians of the 19th century condoned the violence towards palawa peoples. For example, a Tasmanian narrative of 1870 by historian James Bonwick, compiled within memory of historical events he referred to, described white settlers’ treatment of the ‘last of the Tasmanians’ (as then imagined) as having exhibited: … a demoniacal propensity to torture the defenceless, and an insatiable lust, that heeded not the most pitiable appeals, nor halted in the execution of the most diabolical acts of cruelty, to obtain its brutal gratification.9 There are traces of the 19th century Gothic novel circling behind such descriptions. Yet the elaboration of horror at an infinitude of human suffering, with abundant testimony in historical records, letters and diaries, has a raw force in Bonwick’s judgment that cannot be dispelled: Who could adequately picture the story of the wrongs of the Tasmanians? … We came upon them as evil genii, and blasted them with the breath of our presence. We broke up their home circles. We arrested their laughing corrobory. We turned their song into weeping, and their mirth to sadness.10 Such stark judgments were displaced by the wider settler ascendancy of possession, and the reliance on descending title to stolen land secured under British law and enforcement. Nevertheless, Bonwick characterised the violent dispossession of an entire people with a rhetorical sweep that long predated the cadences of Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech of 1992. While Bonwick was commenting on the toll of recent events, the Paul Keating/Don Watson rendition of such catastrophic early encounters on a continental scale 122 years later would become nationally more famous: We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice.11

The proceedings in Hobart in February 2021 began with an address by the Governor of Tasmania, Professor The Honourable Kate Warner AC, who highlighted the context for her providing a Preamble to the Apologies to follow: There is important symbolism, I think, in the invitation to the Governor to perform this role today given the long association of this position with both organisations.12 Indeed (as later revealed in Aboriginal responses), the Governor had been, as a lawyer and academic, a supporter of reform in many areas affecting Tasmanian Aboriginal people over decades.

1. The author gratefully acknowledges Andy Baird (Deputy Director, Engagement) of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for his comments on this essay and assistance in locating images. A full YouTube record of the Tasmanian Apologies and Responses (15 February 2021) is available on the TMAG website at <www.tmag. tasmanian_aboriginal_people>. 2. Notably, no politicians were speakers. This was a civic occasion in the fullest sense, but also an intimately interpersonal gathering. 3. The Royal Society of Tasmania was formed in 1843, affiliated to The Royal Society of London (founded in 1660, ‘for Improving Natural Knowledge’, and described as ‘the oldest scientific institution in the world). See history of the Tasmanian Royal Society at <>.

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

top row l- r

President of the Royal Society of Tasmania, Mary Koolhof, delivering the Apology to the Tasmanian Aboriginal People on behalf of the Board of the Society. Photo: courtesy Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Brett Torossi, Chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees, delivers the TMAG Apology on behalf of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: courtesy Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. bottom row l- r

Janet Carding, Director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, delivering an Acknowledgment of Country prior to the proceedings and Apologies. Photo: Courtesy Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania, delivering her Preamble to the Apologies to the Tasmanian Aboriginal People, Courtyard Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, Monday 15 February 2021.



Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

As Patron of both institutions, Governor Warner provided a scrupulously well-judged address, stopping short of herself issuing an apology, which from her Vice-Regal position she was not authorised to deliver. Instead, her Preamble to the two organisational Apologies outlined the historical connection of early Governors to both the Royal Society of Tasmania and (when it was later formed) the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which inherited the Royal Society’s collection, and whose first curator had cared for collections across both institutions. Summarising this history, Governor Warner explained how closely the island’s governors had also been connected to the history of both organisations: they had been patrons of these early scientific bodies, participated in their meetings, and received all formal records of their activities — including of acquisitions. Governor Warner’s interpretive comment on this history was an important one to state in such a carefully turned address: For these reasons the island’s Vice-Regal representative has been at least complicit in the Society’s and the Museum’s omissions and misdeeds and their consequences.13 In this eloquent Preamble it was clear that no previous Vice-Regal representative had taken up a public position that drew so closely to the experiences of the Aboriginal community of lutruwita, with many leaders known to her personally, and in full recognition of the injustices endured by palawa people — ‘the acts of desecration and disrespect’ — since the beginnings of the island’s incursions under the British Crown. The Apology prepared by the Royal Society of Tasmania followed. As the older of the two organisations, it was delivered first by the current President, Mary Koolhof. The full text of this Apology had been resolved as a formal Resolution of the Society’s Council some five months earlier, in September 2020, and will form an enduring public testimonial (including on the Society’s website).14 Mary Koolhof summarised many of the starkest facts of the Society’s early conduct towards Aboriginal people in the pursuit of science, especially its actions ‘to exhume’ and ‘purchase the ancestral remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal people for scientific study’ (including sending of such remains to collecting institutions abroad). The wrongful retention of ancestral remains and other Aboriginal material in the Royal Society’s early Museum — ‘without care or respect, and without discussion or permission from Aboriginal community members’ — was acknowledged. So, too, that ‘some members of the Society [had] actively opposed requests for the return of ancestral remains to Aboriginal people’; and that the Society had failed more recently to respond to a request for a support for a Treaty. The Royal Society’s Apology concluded with a series of pledges by the RST Council to guide future actions. These included respectful collaboration with Tasmanian Aboriginal people and support of their knowledge protocols; pursuit of a truthful account of the Society’s history and acceptance of responsibility for its impacts; promotion of ethical research in consultation with Tasmanian Aboriginal people; and support of their initiatives for repatriation of ancestral remains and material culture. The Apology from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) followed, delivered by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Brett Torossi.15 After greeting the full arc and scope of elders and other dignitaries gathered, Ms Torossi turned to the Museum Board’s text and began a carefully measured address:

4. See Lyndall Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Brisbane, 1981; see also Ryan’s ongoing ‘massacre map’ project at the University of Newcastle, documenting massacres across the whole of Australia according to recorded historical evidence: < featured/mapping-the-massacresof-australias-colonial-frontier> 5. See Henry Reynolds, The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European Invasion of Australia, Penguin Books, Ringwood, VIC, 1990; and most recently, Henry Reynolds and Nicholas Clements, Tongerlongeter, First Nations Leader and Tasmanian War Hero, NewSouth Press, UNSW, Sydney, 2021. 6. Among these may be noted Shayne Breen, ‘Extermination, Extinction, Genocide: British Colonialism and Tasmanian Aborigines’, in René Lemerchand (ed.) Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial and Memory, University of Pennsylvania PA, 2011; Lehman, Greg, ‘Tasmanian Gothic: The art of Tasmania's forgotten war’, Griffith Review, No. 39, Brisbane, 2013; and James Boyce and Richard Flanagan, Van Diemen's Land, Black Inc., Schwartz Publishing, Melbourne, 2018. 7. See Tim Bonyhady, ‘The Art of Pacification’, in Tim Bonyhady and Greg Lehman, The National Picture: The Art of Tasmania's Black War, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT, 2018, 73–126, pp. 73–76. See also especially Greg Lehman’s, ‘Regarding the savages’, pp. 23–70. 8. See Jonathan Holmes, ‘Reconsidering Australia’s history — The National Picture: The art of Tasmania's Black War’, Museums Galleries Australia Magazine, Vol. 27(1), Museums and Galleries Australia, Canberra, Summer 2018, pp. 24–33. 9. James Bonwick, The Last of the Tasmanians; or, The Black War of Van Diemen’s Land, Sampson Low, Son and Marston, London, 1870; Ch. 3, ‘Cruelties to the Blacks’, p. 57. 10. Bonwick, The Last of the Tasmanians, 1870, p. 56. 11. Redfern Speech (during United Nations Year for the World's Indigenous People) — delivered in Redfern Park, Sydney, by Prime Minister Paul Keating, 10 December 1992; available at <www.antar. keating_speech_transcript.pdf


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We wish to pay our respects to all of these people, and acknowledge their sovereignties in land and sea, never ceded.

We are here today on the lands of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, the traditional owners and custodians of the land and waterways of lutruwita (Tasmania). … The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery sits on the land of the Muwinina and Mumirimina people, who once lived in the Hobart region. We wish to pay our respects to all of these people, and acknowledge their sovereignties in land and sea, never ceded. On behalf of the whole organisation, the Board wants to acknowledge openly, permanently record, and apologise for the institution’s actions and declare that such behaviour will never happen again.

12. Royal Society of Tasmania and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Apology/ Preamble/ Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Kate Warner AC Governor of Tasmania/ Courtyard TMAG, Monday 15 February 2021. See the full text of the Tasmanian Governor’s Preamble to the two Apologies at < uploads/2021/02/GovernorsPreamble-to-Apology-2021.pdf> 13. Professor Kate Warner AC (then Governor of Tasmania), Preamble to RSA and TMAG Apologies, Feb. 2021 (cited earlier). 14. See Apology by the Royal Society of Tasmania to the Aboriginal People of Tasmania, 15 February 2021, displayed on the RST website and available at < au/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/ RST-2021-Apology-to-TasmanianAboriginal-People-for-the-web.pdf>. 15. See the full text of the TMAG Apology to Palawa people (and a link to a YouTube record of the event) at: <www.tmag.tas. tasmanian_aboriginal_people>. 16. A notable lesson for other institutions is that the term Reconciliation was never used in the Tasmanian Apologies — an increasingly unsatisfactory term, often glibly invoked, which has too often been presumed to be a consequence anticipated after an Apology is offered.

There was an unhurried pace to this address, so many years in the making. Brett Torossi often raised her head to give full measure to a few words — in one case just two: ‘never ceded’. Joining with the preceding Apology by the Royal Society, the TMAG Apology acknowledged a profoundly interconnected heritage: Beginning in 1803, the violence of European invasion and colonisation began a process of loss and dispossession for Tasmanian Aboriginal people across lutruwita. During this time, from the very beginnings of colonisation, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and its former entity The Royal Society Museum, participated in practices, including the digging up and removal, the collection, and the trade of, ancestral remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal people (or respectfully, the Old People.) This was done largely in the name of racial sciences — practices of ethnography and anthropology which were racist, discriminatory, and have long been entirely discredited. These practices showed profound disrespect for Aboriginal people, their families and communities, and their vital spiritual and cultural practices. Outlining many details of the violent dispossession and scientistic knowledge-gathering that shaped the emergence of the Museum, the TMAG Apology gave voice to the institution’s injurious early relations with Tasmanian Aboriginal people in the following terms: The remains of Aboriginal people were exploited as artefacts and objects of research, their burial sites were violated, and the importance of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and cultural heritage were ignored, trivialised and dismissed. There is ample, undisputed evidence of this. Aboriginal people have known this. Members of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, its former directors, and staff have known this. The evidence is in the minutes of the institution itself, in reports, in letters, diaries, and in newspapers — it is on the public record. But it has also been hidden and forgotten, and too often denied. We know Tasmanian Aboriginal people do not forget that this is what has occurred.


The TMAG Apology pressed further, not standing behind the formal authority of its board, but acknowledging the direct agency of staff historically in acts of dispossession and destruction of palawa heritage, and the involvement of the Museum in world-wide practices of dispossession and trade of ‘objects’ obtained. Most destructive of all was the desecration of ancestral remains of ‘the Old People’ robbed from graves: It is well documented that staff, and those associated with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, solicited and paid for the removal of Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestral remains for collection and trade, and used ancestral remains and material culture in museum and scientific exchanges across the nation and around the globe. The Apology then focused on the consequences of the Museum’s conduct: For all of these actions and for your pain, suffering and ongoing trauma, we, the Board of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, are truly and completely sorry. Although words can never erase the actions of the past, they have a permanence and potency. We know we have caused heartbreak, and we acknowledge this honestly. However — and a lesson to all mainstream institutions about not assuming that repaired relations could ever be the outcome of remorse alone16 — an important proviso was also stated: We understand that some Tasmanian Aboriginal people may not wish to accept our apology; indeed, some may reject it. The Museum then stated the terms of a public commitment that would shape its position and actions in future: We want to build trust with you – without ever forgetting the past. We want to find a future way of being together that is open-minded and whole-hearted. We understand that this may be hard, and difficult emotional business for Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and it requires trust where there has been none. We offer and hope that this apology will be received in the spirit that it is given. We give it unreservedly without asking for anything. We know and mourn that it is so belated. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery commits to changing our practices. We commit to creating a shared and consultative vision — based on respect and good faith — to tell the rich, varied and difficult story of this island. While new ways of working do not make up for the past, we want this to be the beginning of a new relationship. We want the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to be a safe place for Tasmanian Aboriginal people in the future. Two responses followed from Elders of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. Rodney Gibbins, first Chair (in 2003) of TMAG’s Tasmanian Aboriginal Advisory Council,17 spoke first, and began to gather the fraught currents of feeling from all palawa people present into a cross-weave of focus and reflection. After acknowledging all members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community hearing the Apologies, he emphasised the occasion’s deepest importance: I … pay respects to our Old People, because we must not forget that this day is as much about our Old People as it is about us.

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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

We understand that some Tasmanian Aboriginal people may not wish to accept our apology; indeed, some may reject it.


In the audience, seated left to right foreground, Elders Rodney Gibbins and Michael Mansell. In the background are younger members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community holding historical photographs of Tasmanian Aboriginal forebears. Photo: Courtesy of Jillian Mundy and the Royal Society of Tasmania.

This was followed by an outline of the years of palawa insistence and hard advocacy that had been necessary to bring about the conditions enshrined in the two historic Apologies. The history of violent abuses and inter-generational trauma inflicted on a whole people, their heritage and survival were recalled, through actions of the two institutions now seeking to make amends. In all respects Rodney Gibbins’ response carried years of resonance in its shaping. His words and gestures demonstrated the remarkable generosity with which the Aboriginal community considered what the two declarations had offered (without expectation of response). He came early to a sentence that was arresting to all listening: ‘I believe it’s up to all of us to consider these Apologies with open hearts and open minds.’ Michael Mansell followed, as the second Aboriginal respondent and final speaker. Turning to the right, towards younger compatriots present and displaying enlargements of some of the most powerful photographs of the Old People recorded in historical archives, close interpretation was provided of the multiple generations encompassed and now present in this important ceremony. Respect was paid to the most known group of individuals first confined at Wybalenna on Flinders Island. Included were the emblematic portraits of Truganini (whom Rodney Gibbins earlier stressed had suffered the violation she most feared, in not only having her remains exhumed soon after burial, but her skeleton placed on display for more than 40 years in the Museum). To left and right of Truganini were images of other revered Old People, now venerated for their resistance and strength of spirit. The history interpreted in these photographs paid tribute to an inter-generational network of honoured forebears, in now-treasured testaments of connection behind grim documents of objectifying science and disrespectful recording. It was made clear that the Apologies offered must be understood as referring to successive generations of institutional actions that had delivered such sustained records of confinement, deception, and abuse.


Michael Mansell’s final statement came unexpectedly when he made it, catching many by surprise. He seemed to draw an invisible net across the whole courtyard, enfolding all present in the outcome of a single sentence: In return I stand before you and say, on behalf of all those Old People, we readily accept — with pride — the Apology that was given, in the spirit in which it was stated. Janet Carding returned briefly to the podium, needing a deep breath before thanking Rodney Gibbins and Michael Mansell, then closing the formalities as TMAG’s director. She invited all wishing to remain to participate in a cleansing ceremony (led by Elders), of firesmoked peppermint leaves and ochre-marks offered on foreheads; then followed by lunch prepared by the museum — to continue the conversations ‘that commit us to a future of mutual sharing, collaboration, and learning’.18 There are important lessons, reflections, and guidelines to emerge from the Tasmanian Apologies. Many insights are on offer that provide a case-study for all museums, public galleries and historical societies across Australia to consider their own origins, collections, and future development in the light of relevant histories that have occurred on the Country where they sit today.

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During the smoking ceremony after the Apologies, Auntie Wendal Pitchford applying ochre to the forehead of Her Excellency, the Honourable Professor Kate Warner AC, observed by Mr Richard Warner. Photo: courtesy of Jillian Mundy and Royal Society of Tasmania.


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However, events seeking to formalise any new beginning will always need prior and prolonged effort to gain improved relations with First Peoples, and careful, institution-wide preparation if they are to be meaningful, as demonstrated by the public Apology offered to the Aboriginal community in Tasmania by one of Australia’s oldest museums.■ Dr Bernice Murphy lectured at the Tasmanian School of Art in the 1970s, when the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre was first established by Michael Mansell and other Aboriginal Tasmanians in Hobart. With local guidance she began to visit particular palawa sites and study records of the Black War, seeding reflections that resulted in a subsequent commitment to nurturing First Nations’ representation in collections, along with Indigenous curatorship and leadership, in various museum roles nationally and internationally. Her inclusion of Aboriginal art within contemporary Australian art (1978 ff.) was a consequence of experiences of Aboriginal history, loss, and survival impacting during three years hosted on lands of lutruwita/Tasmania. Citation: Bernice Murphy, 'An historic institutional Apology to the Aboriginal people of lutruwita Tasmania', AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 66-75.

17. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Advisory Council (TAAC) was established in 2003, following resolute commitment of Patricia Sabine (TMAG Director 1992–2002), who determined on change to ensure Aboriginal involvement in the Museum’s future conduct. Patricia Sabine worked closely with Jim Everett (Puralia Meenamatta), who was then heading the Office of Aboriginal Affairs of the Tasmanian Government (under Premier Ray Groom – acknowledged personally during the 2021 Apologies by elder Rodney Gibbins). Together, Patricia Sabine and Jim Everett committed to a plan that enabled Tony Brown to become first Aboriginal staff member of TMAG, and subsequently for him to undertake a full degree course at the University of Tasmania, adding academic skills in archaeology. Patricia Sabine’s continued resolution as Museum Director achieved the first Tasmanian Aboriginal Advisory Council to guide TMAG’s conduct — as also acknowledged by Rodney Gibbins during the Aboriginal responses to the Apologies, February 2021, recalling his earlier, inaugural years in this role. When the National Conference of the museums sector occurred in Hobart, in December 1993, Patricia Sabine ensured that Jim Everett played a leading role in an early plenary session, and that the full critique of museums by Aboriginal Tasmanians was heard by all colleagues visiting Hobart for this gathering of museum colleagues. Jim Everett’s presence, including at the Conference Dinner, added depth and personal agency within the national gathering by its closing day, when the Australian museums assembly in Hobart unanimously adopted (1 December 1993) a ground-turning national policy, Previous Possessions: New Obligations. Subtitled Principles and guidelines for Australian museums working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage, this world-leading policy had been developed over two years through a Standing Committee comprising ‘12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and eight non-Indigenous people’ (for a history and context of this policy’s development, see DJ Griffin, ‘Previous possessions, new obligations: A commitment by Australian museums’, in Curator: The Museum Journal, AltaMira, Maryland, USA, vol. 9, no. 1, 1996, pp. 45–62). 18. Janet Carding was later appointed to a new position in Sydney, farewelled (in August 2021) with fulsome praise from the TMAG Board for her six years of leadership of the state’s premier museum and gallery. She is now Executive Director of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, in Sydney.


Career spotlight

In this and coming issues of MaG, we wll be featuring articles written by AMaGA members, in which they share their career pathways, day-to-day work, highlights and challenges, and aspirations for their future career. In this Career Spotlight, we feature mid-career professional, and new AMaGA National Council Member, Victoria Gwyn, from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. If you would like to write about and share your own experiences in museums and galleries as either a professional or volunteer worker, contact us at <>.

Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Mid-career spotlight


Vick Gwyn

What attracted you to the museums field or working with collections?


Victoria Gwyn.

I grew up in Papua New Guinea and through family and friends was exposed to the different cultures, archaeology and military history of the Pacific. This exposure, in my most formative years, inspired me to study anthropology and archaeology at university. Whilst studying I volunteered and worked casually at my university’s anthropology museum. I was also fortunate to travel and volunteer on some regional field archaeological digs, which sparked an interest in how people interacted with, and interpreted, material culture. It became clear to me that I was interested in not only the stories and histories of material culture, but how access to culture could impact societies and individuals as well as influence the future. After graduating I took a break from study, and found myself in Canberra, the home of many of Australia’s national collecting institutions, and wound up in a curatorial role at the Australian War Memorial, a place that combined my love of material culture and Pacific military history in a whole new way: audiovisual collections. It was through my work in the Photographs, Film and Sound curatorial area, and care of one of the most significant moving-image and photographic collections in Australia, that I discovered a deep appreciation for analogue and digital audiovisual material, and developed a passion for born-digital collections and audience-centered museum practice.

How has your work in the sector stimulated you to develop and grow professionally? For many colleagues, working in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) and creative arts sectors is our vocation — a commitment that we don’t just clock off from at the end of a 9–to–5 workday. Naturally, this produces a lot of overlap with aspects of personal growth and professional development. This is both a wonderful and sometimes perilous commitment, as it can be profoundly enriching while also asking us to give deeply of ourselves. I’ve had the privilege of undertaking some stimulating work, from developing inclusive oral history programs and documenting significant events, meeting remarkable people and donors, through to managing exceptional collections and outstanding staff. I’ve been fortunate that through the breadth and diversity of my work and the people I’ve worked alongside, I’ve been able to explore some meaningful issues in personal


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

development, including my own cultural and gender identity. My own lens of seeing and experiencing representation — or lack thereof — through collections and the GLAM workforce has continually exposed both the potential and authority that cultural institutions and the GLAM sector have concerning individuals and communities. At times this authority can be harmful to those not represented. This experience has made me a stronger advocate for my own personal development, and consequently, a keener champion for others who may feel they are not seen or have a seat at the GLAM table. Organisations like AMaGA have also provided me with wonderful opportunities to meet new people in the GLAM industry, who have become friends and mentors, and played a part in developing the ideas and values that underpin my work and career in general. The first AMaGA National Conference I attended was in 2013 (in Canberra). It was the first major national conference of my career, and allowed me to connect with like-minded people while also provoking me to think about new concepts and ways of working in the GLAM sector. It was at this conference that I also got hooked on Twitter — another great networking and professional platform. Since then, I’ve presented papers at AMaGA and other national and international conferences, and this has provided invaluable experiences that have developed my professional communication skills.

What are some key values that guide your work? Currently I manage a team of nine talented curators and accessioners at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia in Canberra. Inclusivity, transparency, kindness, and accountability are values that underpin my work. Every day I strive to ensure that these values are at the forefront of all our interactions and imbue the work we undertake — whether interacting with each other and stakeholders, or developing and documenting Australia’s audiovisual national collections. These values are also crucial in ensuring that cultural institutions — particularly publicly funded institutions — have robust policy and governance frameworks to guarantee that we function with transparency and inclusivity in representing all Australians and fulfilling our continuing legislated responsibilities. I also hold myself accountable for my own actions and am not afraid to own up if I’ve made a mistake or need to develop my knowledge or understanding of something. There is no shame in acknowledging our mistakes; and we can’t continue to develop and learn personally if we don’t identify where we’ve gone wrong and actively work on what


Vick Gwyn talks to camera about the iconic ‘Thong Dress’ (NFSA ID: 607043) worn by Hugo Weaving in Oscar-winning Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, (2021). Photo courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Photographer: Harry Burk.

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Part of the excitement of building your own (career) path is figuring out your ‘non-negotiables’, along with broader interests and motivations.



we can do better — which should also hold true for the institutions we work in. This key value has guided me through my career and has tuned my readiness to take important work opportunities. These have ranged from preparing and running workshops on developing inclusive museum experiences to being sent on assignment in Australia to photograph and interview LGBTIQ Australian Defence Force personnel at the Sydney Mardi Gras.

Could you comment on how you hope your work is an encouragement and benchmark for others to follow, or help find their own paths? It may sound clichéd, but I strive to lead by example, and with honesty about my own identity and position and the work I care about. It can be really intimidating to think about starting a career, or carving a new path in the GLAM sector, knowing the resourcing, cultural and political challenges we face as an industry. Yet the work we’re doing towards meaningful and tangible inclusivity and diversity, and developing our collections, public programs and workforce profiles, can be both rewarding and provide a wealth of different career opportunities that colleagues might not have considered before. Part of the excitement of building your own (career) path is figuring out your ‘non-negotiables’, along with broader interests and motivations. I encourage people to be honest and realistic with themselves — acknowledging that it’s affirmative to have boundaries, and to know what your limits are, emotionally, physically and ethically. Our differences should be a point of celebration, because it’s our diversity of backgrounds, interests and work styles that allows us to work collaboratively and powerfully as GLAM-sector practitioners. Don’t be afraid to be outspoken or have divergent opinions — these are

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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

very much needed; and if they’re silenced, or ignored, that’s possibly a red flag! Meanwhile do make sure that you have a strong support system around you. Agitating and making change can take time. It may also take a strong psychological, interpersonal and intellectual toll, but you should always feel empowered to put your own mental health up front.

What are your strongest hopes for the future in the way museums are developing/changing today? I have a wealth of hopes for the future of museums, some stretching into the distant future. But for the present, I’d like to focus on three areas where we have started to develop, and will hopefully see some effects from these changes in the next five years. 1.




Royal Australian Air Force members of the inaugural uniformed Australian Defence Force march in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade, followed by members of the Defence Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Information Service (DEFGLIS) (2013). AWM ID P10978.026 Photo courtesy of Australian War Memorial. Photographer: Vick Gwyn.

Genuine ongoing inclusivity, diversity and equity in the GLAM workforce, through recruitment practices, sustainable succession planning, and accessible education and training opportunities. Starting from within our own institutions to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to diversity, we can then build greater representation in our collections, multitudes of voices in our storytelling, and richer and more accessible programming; Broader appreciation of the creative and GLAM sectors by Australian society through the work of peak bodies like AMaGA, and through policy-development at state and federal government levels. By raising the profile of GLAM institutions and the work that we do, we have the opportunity to highlight the powerful impact that arts and culture have on people and society — recognising that qualitative and more subjective measures like ‘joy’, ‘happiness’ and other factors based in emotive responses and well-being are just as important — if not more so — than quantitative KPIs to developing and successfully maintaining healthy communities; and finally Greater confidence and competency in collecting and managing born-digital material. Born-digital material — especially digital audiovisual material — is the dominant form of material cultural expression currently, and the COVID19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have demonstrated the importance of these media in engaging and enriching peoples’ lives. We need to increase industry awareness of these expressions, and work collaboratively to develop digital literacy across GLAM platforms to ensure that practitioners feel confident to engage with this area of collecting and preservation, and effectively advocate for the communication and preservation infrastructure required. ■

Vick Gwyn (she/they) is the Curator, Creative Liaison at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Their curatorial practice is centred around inclusivity and diversity, and grounded in their experience in museum policy, Indigenous repatriation, digital audiovisual collections, and audiencecentred gallery development. Citation: ‘Mid-career spotlight: Vick Gwyn (interview)’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 77-81.


The view from...

In this spotlight The view from... we ask our resourceful AMaGA State and Territory Branch and National Network representatives to share some of the current issues or challenges facing their particular jurisdiction or professional networks, as well as highlighting key successes or significant new developments in their part of the sector. In this issue, the spotlight falls on one of the key events in Queensland recently: the redevelopment of HOTA Home of the Arts, on the Gold Coast.

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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

HOTA Gallery’s launch on the Gold Coast, Queensland Emma Bain

The new $60.5 million HOTA (Home of the Arts) Gallery on Queensland’s Gold Coast, opened on 8 May 2021. It is the largest public gallery outside a capital city in Australia. Some features of the new facility, its developing collection, services, and opening program for its first year are detailed below. —

HOTA Gallery now forms the centrepiece of the Gold Coast’s Cultural Precinct Master Plan

Designed by the Australian/international practice ARM (known for its design of the National Museum of Australia opened in Canberra in 2001), HOTA Gallery spans six levels. The building encompasses more than 2000m2 of AAA-rated, internationalstandards exhibition space (incorporating 1000m 2 main exhibition space, with the capacity for touring exhibitions of an international size and scale; 900m 2 of exhibition space for the City Collection and temporary exhibitions; a dedicated Children’s Gallery; and almost 1000m 2 for collection storage and exhibition preparation). The Gallery opened to the public with the exhibition Solid Gold: Artists from Paradise, celebrating the creative diversity and richness of the Gold Coast, and featuring major new commissions by Australian artists with a connection to the region (these included Hiromi Tango, Michael Candy, Abbey McCulloch, Samuel Leighton-Dore and Libby Harward). An attendance of 44,600 visitors was achieved in the first seven weeks (to 28 June). HOTA Gallery now forms the centrepiece of the Gold Coast’s Cultural Precinct Master Plan, which will guide the evolution of the precinct over the next 10–15 years as the city’s artistic and cultural needs grow. The opening program of exhibitions celebrates Queensland artists, and has launched a dedicated Children’s Gallery, special events, artist talks, commissions, education programs and first views of works from the City Collection. The HOTA Gallery now provides the Gold Coast with a compelling cultural destination to attract national and international visitors, as well as a local cultural gathering-point and source of pride for Gold Coast residents. The gallery will première international exhibitions, host exclusive Australian events and new commissions, celebrating artists from across Australia and the world. Art and artists are at the heart of HOTA — when COVID impacted, the Gallery fast-tracked funding for local artists to


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keep working, and brought forward a $100,000 commissioning program for artists to create new works to be shown in the Gallery. A diverse selection of talented artists is now creating work for the exhibition space that will distinguish the new Gallery on entering. HOTA’s second major exhibition was Lyrical Landscapes: The Art of William Robinson (opened on 31 July). Celebrating this Queensland-born artist’s 85th year, the exhibition presents Robinson’s entire Creation Series, produced over 16 years, assembled together for the first time. Later in the year and exclusive to the Gold Coast, HOTA Gallery will première Pop Masters: Art from the Mugrabi Collection, New York (opening 13 November 2021). This exhibition from a private collection will feature approximately 70 works from some of the world’s most influential contemporary artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons. The Gallery has also presented two major outdoor artworks: by Queensland Waanyi artist Judy Watson, and Sri-Lankan born, Sydney-based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran. Responding to the history of the site and local Indigenous people, Brisbane-based artist Judy Watson has conceived a multipart sculptural garden work, intended to serve as a place of gathering, education, knowledge-sharing, and ceremonial observance on special occasions for visitors. Meanwhile Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran has created a monumental, six-metre high, double-sided sculpture welcoming visitors to the entrance of the gallery, and representing the artist’s largest sculpture to date. HOTA Gallery presents works from the $32 million City Collection, consisting of more than 4,500 artworks (including one the largest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in regional Australia). More than 100 works from the collection will be presented across three galleries, entitled HOTA Collects, to reflect key developments in Australian art over the past 50 years.

Since its opening, HOTA is fast becoming a major centre for contemporary art in Queensland, and provides a home and focus for the city’s thriving cultural and artistic activity. ■ Emma Bain is AMaGAQ President, Director of the Redland Art Gallery, QLD, and a Sector Director/Public Officer on the Museums & Galleries Queensland Board. With over 20 years’ experience in the arts, culture and creative sector at large, Emma is committed to the public galleries sector, with a particular interest in programming, audience development and best practice. Citation: Emma Bain, ‘HOTA Gallery’s launch on the Gold Coast, Queensland’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 83-85.

top right

Exterior view of new HOTA designed by ARM. The architecture takes inspiration from Voronoi tessellations which occur throughout nature. Photo: Supplied. bottom right

Installation view of The Rainforest by William Robinson, part of Lyrical Landscapes: The Art of William Robinson. Photo: Supplied.

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021



Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

CONSTRAINED ­—RECLAIMED Our Country Calls Julie Gough


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

In April through May 2021 a remarkable installation was presented in the major exhibition space at Devonport Regional Gallery, Lutruwita / Tasmania. Tasmanian Aboriginal artists Dave mangenner Gough and Vicki West developed, with cultural collaborators, CONSTRAINED— RECLAIMED, an equal-parts disturbing, enlightening and heartfelt response to the hoops, fences and hurdles facing First People’s engagement with Country today.

To have freedom, even amongst ourselves, to just be. Dave mangenner Gough

This article contains quotes from an interview with Vicki West and Dave mangenner Gough (August 2021) and extracts from exhibition and public feedback pro-forma material.


CONSTRAINED–RECLAIMED, installation view. All photos courtesy Birgitta Magnusson-Reid, Devonport Regional Gallery, Devonport, unless otherwise indicated.

Viewer-participants undertook a self-guided experiential navigation through the installed work-scape, to share the complex and frustrating double-lives Aboriginal people are forced to live: to maintain culture, traditions, and connections to Country, family and Ancestors, whilst continually threatened, penalised or prohibited by the governing colonising culture from continuing these relationships and responsibilities. Before entering the exhibition, visitors were required to sign an agreement that they would engage with everything presented, and understood that that any prepared element could change at any time.


This waypoint marker at the point of exhibition entry starkly mirrors the destabilised daily lives of Aboriginal people, who negotiate and double-guess every waking decision, not only with outsiders, but within self, to determine how much cultural compromise is sustainable, bearable, liveable. This work, invitational at its heart, offers unique insights from First People’s perspectives offered to those who literally traverse a pathway and need to understand the relentless pressure experienced by Aboriginal people. After leaving the exhibition, visitors were then invited to notate their responses, to be in dialogue — even at a distance — with its creators. Dozens of heartfelt personal replies were received — a powerful gauge of the public desire for fundamental societal change, and of the initiatory potential of the creative arts.

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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Throughout CONSTRAINED—RECLAIMED there was a focus on the power of words, of terms that define and constrain Aboriginal people, of words in a language that was once not our own, but that is becoming, in First People’s hands, a force for change.

Think about what an Aboriginal person feels when they stand at a fence and look at a sign that says NO TRESPASSING… Dave mangenner Gough First People’s uncertainty and anxiety, the exhaustion of eternal vigilance, the pressure of existence, the desire to be unaccosted was relayed in the exhibition through two contrasting perspectives available to the visitor-witness at each stage. A twelve-image large-scale photo essay took visitors on 4 significant journeys through our unceded Country — journeys across riverlands, Hunting Grounds, through tea tree forest, across to the west-coast kelp grounds. Gridded by mesh, these images worked to parallel our predicament of exile by demarcating a path around the exhibition that amplified Aboriginal loss and longing to be where and who we want.

It is confronting to see beautiful images of Country and then fences locking people out of it. I wanted people to go around it and see the hurdles, see the hoops and see the signs on walls about ticking boxes, and those words on the screen, so they get in and start to unpack and start to understand as they go on the journey around to the hut, to then be mesmerised by that sense of freedom, of us being who we want to be on Country. Dave mangenner Gough These photographs were fenced in, imprisoned, much in the way of our over-incarcerated people, and our ancestors’ human remains, and their cultural objects still isolated off-Country, nationally and internationally. Up-close, peering between the grid-mesh, were windows into Aboriginal lives as they once were and are sometimes still, undividedly connecting kin and Country, in luscious landscopic-portraits of Aboriginal people relaxed, together, home on Country.

These 4 environments are compromised by industry and government and we are constrained in those environments. Dave mangenner Gough One step back and this view was compromised, transacted by obstructive fencing, fielding dispossessing signage - no fire / no camping / no entry – prohibiting passage, engagement and connectivity between people, Country and Gallery.

We are still compromised within the colonial construct Vicki West


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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

Fenced in, Aboriginal people are positioned: historic, marginal, managed, exotic, separate, performative, on the clock — at others’ call.

Fenced out, Aboriginal people attempting to survive by accessing Country are labelled: trespassers, activists, vandals, poachers, thieves.

Marginalised to be: no-one, no-where, no place, no purpose, no hope, no future.

Being on Country is the closest thing to understanding spirit and connection, back to who we are spiritually, molecularly. Dave mangenner Gough Visitors to the exhibition, after journeying this pathway into Aboriginal life today, reached a large dogwood domed hut covered in bracken. This hut was a gift: a resuscitative, immersive offering into life as Tasmanian Aboriginal people still dream it to be. Trust was also gifted, evident in the beloved cultural objects, kelp carriers, baskets, furs, fire stick and spears resting inside Mobilised, projected upon kangaroo skins within the hut was a video work. The previously-encountered photographs here, in Aboriginal space-time, came exhilaratingly to life as footage: another gift entrusted, of our survival in action, interspersed by definitions of the terms that work to define and disable us. CONSTRAINED—RECLAIMED was a multi sensory communication by any means to express the frustration — determination — exhaustion encapsulating Aboriginal life on colonised homelands.

This work is about our underlying politics and life. We are always navigating self-care. Trying to get land back, dealing with Government. Dave mangenner Gough left top

Photo: Birgitta Magnusson-Reid. left bottom

One of four in the large-scale photo essay that took visitors on 4 significant journeys. Photo: Kelly Slater.

We went into our own environment and were there with our own people, we had no fences, we were just as. It was so beautiful. We were in Country, we were embedded in Country. Vicki West


That hut is like an upside-down basket, it carries our whole life, it protects us, it is full of life. It is vulnerability to bring people into that hut, through the doorway. Vicki West and Dave mangenner Gough

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AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021



Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021


I wanted people to see us all feeling like that. Our journey. Being together on Country. Dave mangenner Gough

CONSTRAINED ­— RECLAIMED, was presented at the Devonport Art Gallery, Tasmania, 10 April–29 May 2021. Curators and Artists: Dave mangenner Gough & Vicki West. Cultural Collaborators: Denise Jones, Tayla Dilston-Jones, Mitchem Everett, Aziah Everett & Braydon Williams. Photography and Videography: Kelly Slater, Devonport Regional Gallery Visual Art Co-ordinator: Birgitta Magnusson-Reid, paranaple arts centre, 145 Rooke Street, Devonport, Tasmania.

The undeniable power of this work comes from the collaborative journey on Country that arrived into the gallery, to occupy the creative hub of the region, and populate it with the daily lived experiences of the First People of Lutruwita. Evident is the depth of meaning in every decision made, and every moment shared, either obliquely or obviously, with any participant entering the parallel journey of this work, its second life, its cross-cultural purpose, compellingly intensified in the usually subdued terrain of a public art gallery. Aboriginal people created this opportunity, defined the terms of engagement, managed this relationship, to offer participating visitors a rare invitation to something very private and precious. Ourselves. ■ Artists' statement (Julie Gough, August 2021): Julie Gough is sister to Dave mangenner Gough. She is a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman of the Briggs/ Johnson/Gower family of the paranaple (Devoport/Latrobe) region of north west Tasmania, descendant of Woretemoeteyenner, a Trawlwoolway woman of Tebrikunna (Cape Portland), a daughter of Mannalargenna. Citation: Julie Gough, ‘CONSTRAINED ­— RECLAIMED: Our Country Calls’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 29(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2021, pp. 86-95.


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Submissions Spotlight An important part of AMaGA’s role is to prepare evidence-based submissions and advice on significant national, state and local policies, programs, proposals and enquiries. All our national submissions are available to read on the national website. Along with keeping members informed of our advocacy activities, the data and arguments are there for members and other organisations to draw upon for their own advocacy and communications. The spotlight for this issue of the magazine is on AMaGA’s Submission to the Office of the Arts in Response to the Consultation Paper on Growing the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry, submitted on 18 December 2020. The following extract relates to the specific comments on the Consultation Paper. AMaGA is pleased to see the opening statements on the importance of Indigenous art to Australia and Australians and recognises the various forms of support to the sector provided by the Commonwealth government. We agree that the impacts of COVID-19 have been severe, and it is currently difficult to identify the full impact over the longer term on both the Indigenous arts sector and, we would add, the cultural sector as a whole, which has been dramatically and disastrously affected. We note the Government’s commitments in response to the House of Representatives Report on the impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples. We would stress, as a core principle, that Indigenous art is inextricably linked with Indigenous culture, heritage, traditional knowledge, ceremony, language, land and waters. All nurtures all.

Key Research and Principles

AMaGA is committed to supporting a greater and deeper level of Indigenous engagement in museums and galleries. This means respecting, connecting and collaborating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – artists, knowledge holders, cultural workers, traditional owners, custodians, communities and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) protocols, in all aspects of museum and gallery activities and projects. AMaGA’s feedback in this submission is grounded in the following research and policies:


AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

1. FIRST PEOPLES: A ROADMAP FOR ENHANCING INDIGENOUS ENGAGEMENT IN MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES 2019 AMaGA has developed a 10-Year Indigenous Roadmap to embed change in the cultural sector. Launched in 2019, its implementation will be crucial for breaking down barriers, providing cultural safety and increasing participation of Indigenous individuals and communities in the museum and gallery sector. Most importantly, the Roadmap points to a future where Indigenous communities have control of their cultural material. The Roadmap was developed in 2017-2018 in conjunction with an Indigenous Advisory Group, and Terri Janke and Company. Terri Janke and Company ran extensive consultations in order to understand what the sector needed to change in order to effectively implement the Roadmap. This consultation involved surveys, an audit report, a literature review, 13 national workshops, direct teleconferences, attendance at national and international conferences, and meetings with leaders throughout the sector. Drawing on this research, five Key Elements for Change were crafted, with associated action options and critical pathways to success. These five elements are the backbone of the Roadmap. They highlight where the sector needs to improve and how it can do so. They are: — Reimagining Representation — Embedding Indigenous values in museum and gallery practices — Increasing Indigenous opportunities — Two Way caretaking of cultural material — Connecting with Indigenous communities. 2. FIRST PEOPLES: CONNECTING CUSTODIANS Over the last 50 years there have been shifts towards changing the relationships between museums and galleries and Indigenous people. To assist in this, our organisation developed its 1993 policy, Previous Possessions: New Obligations: Policies for Museums in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and then in 2005, the revised policy, Continuous Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities: Principles and guidelines for Australian museums working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage. These documents set standards of Indigenous employment, care of collections, repatriation and management of sacred and secret material. Under the terms of reference for the 10-Year Indigenous Roadmap project, Terri Janke and Company were contracted to make recommendations for updates to the 2005 Continuous Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities policy. The recommendations were drawn from insights and information gained during the extensive consultations for the development of the Roadmap. In particular, the recommended updates incorporate some shifts in perspective from the needs of museums and galleries to those of Indigenous communities in their relationships with the sector. There is consultation on the proposed updates and the final policy will be endorsed in 2022. The policy provides a framework for Indigenous engagement in museums and galleries. It aims to: — Recognise and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander


Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021 AMaGA Magazine

people’s rights to access, maintain, control and benefit from their cultural heritage in line with the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Enshrine best practices for engagement and relationship building with Indigenous peoples, culturally appropriate two-way interaction and knowledge sharing; Promote respectful use of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP), as well as establish best practices for ICIP management; Advise and guide museum and gallery staff, partners and collaborators concerning standards that must be met in relation to Indigenous engagement and ICIP rights; Publicly acknowledge and encourage the wider recognition and respect for Indigenous people and their cultural heritage in museums and galleries; and Enhance trust of Indigenous individuals, communities and groups by demonstrating appropriate respect and acknowledgement of cultural rights.

This policy promotes best practice for engagement with Indigenous people by reference to the following national and international documents: — United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007; — UNESCO, Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003; — Our Culture: Our Future, Report on Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights, 1999; — Protocols for producing Indigenous Australian visual arts (Australia Council for the Arts, 2007 and the forthcoming 2019 update); — Pathways and Protocols: a filmmaker’s guide to working with Indigenous people, culture and concepts (Screen Australia, 2009; to be updated in 2019); — Indigenous Art Code, 2009; and — Indigenous Australian Art Charter of Principles for Publicly Funded Collecting Institutions, 2009. It is recommended that the Office of the Arts draws on the relevant data, critical pathways, and action options in the Roadmap, and the Guidelines for Policy and Procedure in the Principles document, in considering options for the Action Plan to grow the Indigenous visual arts industry. In conclusion, AMaGA recognises that its membership plays a critical role in supporting and promoting Indigenous art and it aims to enhance that role through the Roadmap for the benefit of Indigenous artists and their communities across the nation. We support the co-development of an Action Plan for Growing the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry. To ensure effective implementation, such a plan would need to be adequately resourced and reviewed. The Action Plan should be developed in conjuction with a broader national plan, set of policies or a framework for cultural development in Australia that would assist in recovery and resilience-building of communities and enable sustained, evidence-based strategic investment in arts and culture over the next decade. ■

AMaGA Magazine Vol. 29(2) – Winter 2021

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