Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine 27(2) Winter 2019

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vol 27 (2) winter 2019 $15.00

Australian Museums and Galleries Association













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Exhibition: Unruly Days: A Territory Life 1911-1921 & Tjungunutja: from having come together Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Designcase has been working with Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) for many years, and as part of the 2018 Link & Flinders Gallery redevelopment, we supplied a significant number of ClickNetherfield Vista 1 and Prism showcases mounted to a standard suite of base types. We also developed a set of standard finishes, sizes, access types and details, with a view to making future expansion of the suite easier and systematic. Designcase were excited that both projects won awards from Museums Australia, Museums & Galleries National Awards, with Tjungunutja: from having come together, awarded in 2018 and Unruly Days: A Territory Life 1911-1921 awarded in 2019. Images courtesy of Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory / Merinda Campbell

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An Outstanding ‘once in a lifetime’ Career Opportunity for Summer 2020 The Open Palace Programmes offer an English, an Irish and a Scottish programme which offer you the chance to: • Step behind the scenes at some of the most significant palaces and mansions in the UK • Learn from the heritage professionals how to conserve, present and interpret sites and collections • Take part in hands on activities tackling real challenges alongside the experts • Immerse yourself in history where it happened • Handle fascinating historical artefacts and records • Gain invaluable experience and contacts for your resume • Benefit from bespoke careers advice • Visit and stay in some of the most delightful historic parts of the UK These experiences provide a richness and diversity with which few individual placements or internships can compare. For further information please visit: Applications are encouraged from all emergent heritage professionals who are planning or have already begun a career in the heritage sector. Places are offered to candidates who send appropriate applications on a ‘first come,first served’ basis so it is important to apply early. This year we are delighted to have 5 Bursaries to offer. Details of these bursaries are now available on our website.

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8  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019


In this issue President’s Message. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Australian Museums and Galleries Association National Council 2019—2021 president

From the Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Submissions Spotlight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 A conference ‘from the heart’: AMaGA National Conference 2019. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Museums Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Dr Robin Hirst PSM (Director, Hirst Projects, Melbourne)


Simon Elliott

(Deputy Director, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane)


Margaret Lovell (Practice Manager and Senior Performance Auditor, Curijo Pty Ltd, Canberra)


Carol Cartwright (Canberra)


Museums and Galleries National Awards. . . . . . . . 23 The Legacy of Edmund Capon (1940–2019) . . . . . 26

Shane Breynard

(Director, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra)

Dr Mark Crees

(Group Manager, Cultural Strategy, City of Parramatta, Parramatta)

Deanne Fitzgerald

Launching your Indigenous Roadmap . . . . . . . . . . 30 Photography and Australian Indigenous Heritage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Documenting Australian Society Summit (Canberra, December 2018). . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 The 2020 Project at the Australian Museum: Profiling First Nations rather than Cook . . . . . . . . 38

(Snr Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisor, Western Australian Museum, Perth)

Penny Grist

(Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra)

Marcus Hughes

(Head of Indigenous Engagement & Strategy Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney)

Jane King

(Gallery Manager, John Curtin Gallery, Perth)

Craig Middleton

(Manager, Centre of Democracy - History Trust of South Australia, Adelaide)

Debbie Sommers

(Volunteer, Port Macquarie Historical Society, Port Macquarie)

Palaces and professional development: Open Palace Programmes (UK). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

ex officio member

Myall Creek and beyond. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

public officer

The positive and the negative: How spectroscopy can light the way! . . . . . . . . . . . 52

Dr Mat Trinca

Chair, ICOM Australia; Director, National Museum of Australia

Rebecca Coronel, Canberra state/territory branch presidents/ representatives (subject to change throughout year)

ACT Rowan Henderson

The Ration Shed Museum: A community museum in an Aboriginal community. . . . . . . . . . . 58

(Senior Curator, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra)

NSW Rebecca Pinchin

(Collection Manager, National Trust of Australia NSW)

NT Ilka Schacht (Curatorial Manager, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin)

QLD Emma Bain

PO Box 24, Deakin West ACT 2600 Editorial: (02) 6230 0346 Advertising: 02) 6230 0346 Subscriptions: (02) 6230 0346 Editor: Bernice L. Murphy Cover design: Selena Kearney Content layout: Stephanie Hamilton Printer: Adams Print, Melbourne

© Australian Museums and Galleries Association and individual authors. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine is published biannually (from Volume 25 onwards) and online on the national website, and is a major link with members and the museums sector. Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine is a forum for news, opinion and debate on museum issues. Contributions from those involved or interested in museums and galleries are welcome. Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine reserves the right to edit, abridge, alter or reject any material. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher or editor. Publication of an advertisement does not imply endorsement by Australian Museums and Galleries Association, its affiliates or employees. Australian Museums and Galleries Association is proud to acknowledge the following supporters of the national organisation: Australian Library and Information Association; National Museum of Australia; Museums Victoria (Melbourne Museum); and Western Australian Museum. Print Post Publication No: 100003705 ISSN 2207-1806

(Director (Exhibitions & Programs), Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland)

SA Pauline Cockrill

(Community History Officer, History Trust SA, Adelaide)

TAS Janet Carding

(Director, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Hobart)

VIC Lauren Ellis

(Programs Manager, Museums Victoria, Melbourne)

WA Soula Veyradier

(Program & Communications Manager, International Art Space, Perth)

COVER IMAGE: [detail] Carol McGregor with Adele Chapman-Burgess, Avril Chapman and the Community of Myall Creek, Myall Creek Gathering Cloak, 2018, natural ochre, thread on possum skins. Photo: Simon Scott, Armidale.

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  9

ce n rera e f n nber o C Ca


Header top: middle: bottom: left: right:

Save the date

2 00 2

al 2020 E: TION. n tio1 May FUTUR AGINA a N 8 - 2 THE ITY. IM 1


Canberra 2020 will invite new perspectives on the museum and gallery sector’s role in creating the future. It will be an ambitious, imaginative and outward-looking program that will break the mould and question assumptions. It will address our sector’s impact on communities, economies and ecologies. Join us in Canberra to bring your perspective on building and fostering trust and empathy in the context of global challenges.

Photo credit: VisitCanberra

Call for Abstracts - opens August 2019 Registration - opens October 2019 AUSTRALIAN MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES ASSOCIATION NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2019: Handbook

1. Endnotes


10  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

President’s Message


’m writing the column the day after the AMaGA Conference in Alice Springs. This has been an intellectually engaging and emotionally challenging few days. Alice Springs, or Mparntwe as it is called by the Arrernte people, is close to the geographical centre of Australia. It is nestled near the MacDonnell Ranges. Weathered hills surround the town. They are ever present, bathed in burnt-orange light by day and looming black against the starlight sky at night. This brings visiting city-folk a heightened awareness of this ancient land as you move about the town no matter what the hour. Today, in Australia, most Aboriginal people live in urban and rural areas. However, in these remote parts, being out on such striking country, it brings close to us all the association with the land that has sustained the local Aboriginal people here for millennia. The Conference featured many presentations involving Arrernte people as well as other Aboriginal and Torres Strait speakers, many of them emerging professionals from across the nation. It was their presence, coupled with the landscape we experienced so closely following the first Welcome to Country, that produced memories during this conference that I, and everyone I spoke to, will never forget. This conference presented us all with unexpected challenges. The conversations were frank, and often confronting, as we encountered each other’s situations and all tried to gently move the conversation forward through better understanding of different experiences and viewpoints. There was enormous goodwill and a willingness to listen and to learn. However, our museums and galleries do hold indigenous collections, many of which are little understood; many of which came into our collections under circumstances that were either opaque or are seen today as inappropriate. Many organisations who have Australian Indigenous collections now feel unsure of how to move forward, how to constructively


Robin Hirst.


AMaGA 2019 Conference Dinner, 16 May 2019, was hosted by Earth Sanctuary, under the stars at Alice Springs / Mparntwe. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

play their part amidst this complexity. I know that smaller museums and galleries, in particular, struggle with the tasks of finding best outcomes. However, in addition to our longstanding national Indigenous policy (available on our website, and which is again going to be reviewed) there is new help at hand. At the Conference we launched the publication First Peoples: A Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries. The Roadmap had its genesis in discussions at our National Conference in Launceston in 2014. The final production of the Roadmap itself has been a carefully planned journey. The Roadmap was developed through a consultancy, by Terri Janke and Company, after we received funding through the Arts Ministry of the federal Government. The Roadmap can be used by large and small organisations. It sets out a journey that can be taken. The first step is to download a copy and then read it carefully. It suggests five key elements for change and then lists fourteen actions which are called Critical Pathways. The key is to prepare to begin the journey. Like most journeys, it is best to travel with companions. Sharing your journey with similar organisations will be of benefit. The feeling of the Conference is probably best summed up in the closing remarks of the Co-Chair of the Organising Committee, Mark Crees: ‘Thank you for making your way here to the heart of the nation, to Arrernte country, to be enfolded in conversation and presentation, hard important questions and provocations as well as celebration and insight. It has been a delight to have you all here with us this week on this beautiful country that nourishes us all.’ We look forward to gathering in Canberra in 2020. [] Dr Robin Hirst PSM President Australian Museums and Galleries Association

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  11

From the Director


Indigenous issue You will notice that a big focus of this issue of the magazine is on Indigenous issues. This reflects our recent priorities (the Roadmap, and the 2019 Conference). Stay tuned for our regular issue in December celebrating best practice.

he beginning of each year is generally a busy time. In 2019, we spent the first months launching National Council’s Corporate Strategic Plan for 2019–2021, along with our new name of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA). We were planning how best to carry out all the priority projects in the plan, and organising the plethora of moving parts that is AMaGA’s National Conference and AGM. Many thanks to the huge number of people who were instrumental in making the National Conference held recently in Alice Springs on Arrernte country work so well. We are clearly a living network of committed contributors to the common good. I always wish everyone who wanted to be there could have been able to come to the Conference, the RR&C day, the Networks meetings, MAGNA and MAPDA Awards night, and the Members’ Forum — but I understand the challenges for many. This year, with the generous support of new sponsors and the inaugural Conference Inclusion Fund, we were able to offer more than 60 bursaries. Most plenary speakers were recorded, and the recordings are now available through our website. I hope that these recordings, along with various Conference papers and presentations published in this edition of the Magazine, help to spread the encounters to others, providing some useful ideas, inspiration, and the affirmation that you are part of the AMaGA community. Our new Strategic Plan sets out how we will achieve our mission ‘to support, promote and advocate for our members to strengthen Australia’s museums and galleries sector’. Drawing on members’ feedback in the recent organisational review, the new Plan sets out four focus areas: 1. 2.


Alex Marsden.


AMaGA 2019 Conference Welcome Reception, 14 May 2019, where delegates were warmly welcomed on the lawns of the Museum of Central Australia after being cleansed and blessed in a traditional Smoking Ceremony by Akeyulerre. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

Individual & Organisational Members Leadership, Representation & Advocacy

3. 4.

Sustainable & Resilient Organisation Partners, Stakeholders & Supporters

The Plan is available online on the national website and sets out strategies, actions and priority projects. Along with supporting the implementation of the Indigenous Roadmap, there is work being done on the national Professional Development webinar program, updating Museum Methods, doing a review of our constitution and policies, especially the Ethics Policy, and improving member services and collaborative advocacy. The work of your newly-elected National Council, the National Office, State and Territory branches, and National Networks of expertise, all draw upon and help deliver these objectives in different and complementary ways. 2019 also marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of this association from the amalgamation of a number of museum and gallery networks. Keep an eye out for a celebration near you — or organise one in your local community and use the occasion for a bit of advocacy! The federal election might be over, but there is always the necessity to keep communicating the value of what we do. It continues to be a time of challenges and opportunities for this association and the sector we serve. My thanks for your shared commitment, and, as always, please feel free to contact me with your views at any time. [ ] Alex Marsden National Director Australian Museums and Galleries Association

12  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Some recent advocacy activites from the national association

Submissions Spotlight

Alex Marsden


n 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 Commonwealth’s Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Economic Impacts of Mental Ill-Health. Some key evidence and arguments are reproduced below.

Key Research and Principles

References 1.

Crossick & Kaszynska, Understanding the Value of Arts & Culture, AHRC, UK 2016.


Lachlan Dudley, Mental health in museums: exploring the reactions of visitors and community groups to mental health exhibitions, PhD thesis 2018 at https:// handle/1885/155261


All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, July 2017 http://www.artshealthandwellbeing. Creative_Health_Inquiry_ Report_2017.pdf


Jocelyn Dodd and Ceri Jones, Mind, Body, Spirit: how museums impact health and wellbeing, UK 2014 departments/museumstudies/ rcmg/publications/mind-bodyspirit-report

Current research is revealing the deep value of arts, culture and heritage to society and the economy in increasing numbers of ways, including business innovation and health and wellbeing. In the spheres of health and education, extensive research shows that long term arts engagement supports positive health outcomes , and arts in education…contributes in important ways to the factors that underpin learning, such as cognitive abilities, confidence, motivation, problem-solving and communication skills. [1] There are several interlinked ways in which to understand the actual or potential roles of museums and galleries and mental health: • Access: how access to museums and galleries, interaction with collections, and participation in programs supports mental health • Practice: the representation of mental health issues in museum practice, such as exhibitions and education programs • Employment: the opportunities for employment in the sector for those living with mental illness • Advocacy: how the sector can advocate with and use a collaborative activist approach to change the lives of those living with mental illness. These concepts are represented in the brief responses below to the Issues Paper questions on social participation and inclusion: 1.

In what ways are governments (at any level) seeking to improve mental health by encouraging social participation and inclusion? What

evidence is there that public investments in social participation and inclusion are delivering benefits that outweigh the costs? In Australia, at the Commonwealth level, the positive impact of a national arts and disability strategy, targeted legislation, and access to funding opportunities for people with disability has been clearly demonstrated over the last decade. The government has noted in its recent Disability Strategy Discussion Paper that arts organisations are providing broad, accessible and inclusive participation opportunities, however limited resources and an increasingly constrained fiscal environment is affecting their ability to do so. Australian examples of innovative and effective participatory programs in publicly funded museums and galleries include the Art and Dementia programs run by the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art. An example of advocacy and activism within Australia can be seen in the recent forum hosted by the History Trust of South Australia: < au/events/i-am-an-activist-mental-health-week/> A recent research study on museum exhibitions about mental health concluded that they were reducing isolation, developing a sense of worth amongst the mentally ill and allowing community groups to openly discuss their experiences. [2] In the UK, there is significant support for public investments in social participation and inclusion through the arts. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing carried out an extensive inquiry in 2016/2017. The three key messages from that inquiry were: • The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived. • The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health. • The arts can help save money in the health service and social care. [3] An increasing body of evidence shows that museums can bring benefits to individual and community health and wellbeing in their role as public forums for debate and learning, their work with specific audiences through targeted programmes, and by contributing to positive wellbeing and resilience by helping people to make sense of the world and their place within it…. [4] Looking at museums and galleries from the perspective of health care providers, social prescribing in the UK for example, is becoming more prevalent. Social prescribing provides a means for

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  13

enabling primary care services to refer patients and service users with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sector. Such non-clinical approaches are gaining added resonance within mental health care due to their proactive, preventive qualities, and the opportunities created to provide strategically ‘joined up’ services across a range of cross-sector organisations. [5] In the UK, there is growing interest in the efficacy of the arts on the prescription/social prescribing model. Evaluation of a pilot program delivered in St Helens in 2015/16 found that Benefits of attending [the workshops] included improved reported mental health and wellbeing; increased physical activity, and an increase in social activity. A social return on investment conducted as part of the evaluation found that for every £1 invested in the programme, £11.55 was returned in social value. [6] 2.

What role do non-government organisations play in supporting mental health through social inclusion and participation, and what more should they do?

Most museums in Australia are small, volunteermanaged community organisations which are embedded in their local communities and provide a range of social and economic benefits, including a sense of belonging to their community, and of contributing to society. These museums are generally woefully under-resourced. One of the most useful and cost-effective actions that governments at all levels could do for enhancing social participation is to provide professional advice and an adequate level of funding support for these organisations. This support should also include measures to help all museums and galleries to implement the critical pathways set out in the Indigenous Roadmap. Similarly, the work of GLAM Peak over the last three years has revealed the power of digital discoverability and access to collections for increasing participation and social connection by people with a range of capabilities. Strategies and support for the digitisation of collections in regional and community galleries and museums would be an invaluable contribution to Australians’ wellbeing and social engagement. 3.

Are there particular population sub-groups that are more at risk of mental ill-health due to inadequate social participation and inclusion? What, if anything, should be done to specifically target those groups?

Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable, and suicide by Indigenous youth is recognised as at a crisis point. Western Australian Coroner Ros Fogliani who investigated the circumstances giving rise to the numerous youth deaths by suicide in the Kimberly, found that the impact of colonisation had a deleterious effect on an ancient and traditional culture. ’[7] AMaGA has just completed the development of a 10-Year Indigenous Roadmap for Change in the cultural sector. Research findings and clear recommendations, including critical pathways for action by all museums and galleries, are clearly set out. Implementation of this will be crucial for breaking down barriers and improving the participation of Indigenous individuals and communities in our museums and galleries, as well as offering employment opportunities. Most importantly, the Roadmap sees a future where Indigenous communities have control of their cultural material, which is regarded as a foundational shift in power relationships and addressing the impacts of colonisation and disempowerment. AMaGA’s updated national policy will also promote best practice for museums and galleries to engage with Indigenous people and develop respectful and trusting relationships with their local communities.

Additional reading Indigenous Roadmap: https://www. AMaGA Submission to the Commonwealth Department for Communications and the Arts on renewing the National Arts and Disability Strategy, 3 December 2018 at news/mga-submission-nationalarts-and-disability-strategy GLAM Peak and Digital Access frameworks: http://www. Six case studies in developing digital access to collections in 2016: http://www. Darren Henley, The Arts Dividend: Why investment in culture pays, 2016

Conclusion AMaGA supports the right of all people to participate freely and actively in the artistic and cultural life of the community — this principle is a cornerstone of social inclusion. The museum and gallery community has long recognised the need to take affirmative action on inclusion in order to act upon the broader social objectives that are now fundamental to museums’ self-definition. It could do much more with increased and targeted resourcing. As the Issues Paper declares, Social participation and inclusion are inextricably linked with mental health and wellbeing. (p.22) The findings from the research studies noted above, and the recommendations made in this submission, provide clear direction for a policy framework encompassing more cross-governmental strategies and programs, along with tangible support for the museum and gallery sector, to significantly improve population mental health over the long term. [ ]


Kerry Wilson and Gayle Whelan, The Art of Social Prescribing, 2015, http://iccliverpool.


Gayle Whelan, Evaluation of Creative Alternatives arts on prescription programme, 2016, http://iccliverpool.


Natalie Cromb, 22 March 2019, Suicide among First Nations Youth is at Crisis Point, https:// suicide-among-first-nationsyouth-is-at-crisis-point/

14  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

At the Centre: Our People, Our Places, Our Practices

A conference ‘from the heart’: AMaGA National Conference 2019 (13—18 May, Alice Springs/Mparntwe) right: AMaGA2019 Delegates enjoyed splendid views of the MacDonnell Ranges from the Alice Springs Convention Centre. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.


Check out some of the highlights on Twitter by searching the hashtags #AMaGA2019 and #amagaconf2019

he 2019 AMaGA National Conference was held in Alice Springs/Mparntwe from 13—18 June. The conference theme, At the Centre: Our People, Our Places, Our Practices, sought to explore the centrality of the museum and gallery sector in the national conversations of identity, community, relevance and our diverse public. This Conference program aimed to investigate how we are deeply implicated in the custodianship of Australia’s past, and how our sector aids in the formation of Australia’s shared present and future. And while the Conference focused on our people, our places and our practices, there was opportunity to consider purpose, relevance, diversity, equality, national identity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agency, our various publics, and the nature of co-creation as well as generational transfer of knowledge. There was much more, given the many remarkable conversations that took place at the Conference, and the seeds/insights/provocations that began or continued their journey in the many conversations delegates had informally, coming together as we did from across the continent to question and re-imagine many elements of what, how, and why we do our work. The Conference was hosted across two main venues in Mparntwe — the Araluen Arts Centre and the Alice Springs Convention Centre — which allowed delegates to explore the town around and between these hubs. All the conference spaces were calm and hospitable, providing a feeling that Mparntwe’s people were welcoming us into their space with wide arms. Networking spaces were full of laughter and conversation, with many contacts being made, and remade. The addition of pre- and post-conference tours, and the glorious outdoor Conference Dinner held at the Earth Sanctuary, helped to impress the significance and impact of place upon all the

important conversations of the conference. Almost 400 delegates attended the Conference as a whole — exceeding expectation for a remote location, and achieving a number that would be welcomed in any east or west coast capital. With the awareness that the costs involved for many to attend the Conference would be prohibitive, a diversity of funding streams were sought in addition to the usual bursary program: to increase opportunities, particularly for people from regional, community and volunteer-run organisations, and Indigenous delegates. More than 100 bursary applications were received, with a total ask of $150k. Through the assistance of AMaGA Branches and Networks, the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Northern Territory Government, the Cartwright Douglas Fund, and the newly-launched AMaGA Conference Inclusion Fund, almost $85k was finally able to be distributed among 70 people. The Regional, Remote and Community Day started off on Monday 13 May at the Araluen Cultural Precinct. This gathering of colleagues and programming set the tone for the Conference: exploring storytelling and the significance of place, people and practice, fittingly in one of the most remote regional art centres in the country. The main Conference was launched at midday on Tuesday 14 May with a warm Welcome to Country by Peter ‘Coco’ Wallace, Arrernte elder and Kwertengerle (Traditional Manager/Custodian) for Mparntwe (Alice Springs). This provided the vital peopleand-Country context for our coming together on Arrernte lands, and set the connections in place for all Indigenous, international and non-Indigenous visitors gathering in the ‘heart’ of Australia. Events then launched straight into a dynamic program of keynotes, panels, and lightning sessions. There was an increased number of 10-minute lightning talks this year, allowing for delegates to hear an even more eclectic

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  15


The AMaGA Conference Dinner was held under the stars at Earth Sanctuary. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.


Dinner entertainment was provided by Drum Atweme, a group for local girls. Each girl makes her own drum. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

bottom left:

Regional, Remote and Community Day Panel, Mparntwe / Alice Springs: What it means to be here, telling our stories, with panellists Veronica Perrurle Dobson AM, Dr Fiona Walsh, Clare Fisher, Daniel Featherstone, and Kelly Lee Hickey. Photo: Tibor Hegedis. bottom right:

The Welcome Reception was held by a sacred tree on the lawns of the Museum of Central Australia. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

1. The ICOM Australia International Awards this year were presented to: Institutional Award: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art's flagship contemporary art series, Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Individual Award: Prof. Jim Gehling, Honorary Research Associate Palaeontology, South Australian Museum.

mix of presentations and perspectives, and providing a platform for sharing the myriad innovative programs being undertaken across the sector. The conference included an exciting social program. The Welcome Reception on Tuesday evening, sponsored by AARNet, began with a traditional Smoking Ceremony by Akeyulerre representatives, followed by drinks and live music on the lawns of the Museum of Central Australia. Wednesday evening saw more than 200 delegates and guests attend the National Awards ceremony, sponsored by Panasonic, and celebrating the MAPDA and MAGNA awards for 2019 (see the winners of both Awards sections on page 18). One of the many highlights of the Conference was the dinner held at Earth Sanctuary on Thursday night. Held under the stars, an almost-full moon and shining Jupiter, the barbecue dinner was accompanied by live music, including an irrepressible drumming performance by Drum Atweme local schoolgirls (each greeting us and announcing her two Aboriginal languages other than English spoken daily). The dinner followed with the presentation of the ICOM Australia Awards;[1] and an entertaining astronomy lesson from the team at Earth Sanctuary — with

long-range spotlights guiding us across the dome of night-sky planets and star constellations. The national Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday, and saw a new National Council elected and general business launched for another year. The following short Members’ Forum was engaging: mainly discussing current projects such as the Indigenous Roadmap; but the issue of climate change was also specifically raised by members, and Council will be convening a national Climate Change Standing Committee to workshop ways the sector, and the association, can take the lead and pursue meaningful actions towards positive change in this crucial area. Change was one of the central calls to action from all of the keynote presentations. Change of practices, perspectives, attitudes, and opportunities; museums and galleries as agents of change in the community; and changing technologies and accessibility. Neil MacGregor OM AO FSA (former Director of the British Museum; currently guiding the Humboldt Forum in Berlin), provided delegates with an incredibly informative presentation on comparative international museum practices, drawing from his extensive career. MacGregor included fascinating detail on the large Humboldt Forum project — which

16  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

At the Centre: Our People, Our Places, Our Practices

far left:

The Wednesday keynote address was from Neil MacGregor, Museums: Places for complex stories and diverse publics. Photo: Tibor Hegedis. left: [l-r]

Ben Quilty (artist), Jade Turner, John Carty, and Jacinta Koolmatrie, from South Australian Museum, at Araluen Cultural Precinct on the final day of the Conference. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

is scheduled to open in September 2020 as a centre for collections presentation and cross-cultural learning, through linking historic items from all the Prussian state collections on the Museum Island in the heart of Berlin. Mikaela Jade’s keynote presentation at the RR&C Day vividly reinforced The Three C’s: Community first, Community led, Community driven. Shaun Angeles, from the Strehlow Research Centre incorporated in the Museum of Central Australia, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, while celebrating the benefits of digitisation and documentation of cultural practices, warned of the potentially serious dangers of over-reliance on technology: risking open distribution of secretsacred content, while reliance on digitised content as the source of knowledge could undermine the irreplaceable teaching role of Elders, and undermine the authority, connections and nuances of history, communities and Country. Senator Patrick Dodson, skyping in his presentation from his Federal election circuit in the Kimberley, reminded us that museums and galleries are very powerful instruments in shaping and re-shaping cultural identity. They not only have a critical role in the preservation of ancient and historical parts of our culture but also in shaping the contemporary nature of our relationships with each other and the institutions that impact upon our rights and interests. Meanwhile museums are key resources for Australia in finding a common identity based on acknowledgment of past history, and constructive reconciliation measures towards a strong future. Keir Winesmith shared some incredible, and often humorous, applications for new technologies. Yet he ultimately got us excited about governance, and how, done right and transparently, good governance will create safe spaces, promote experimentation and play, and effect meaningful change. Jacinta Koolmatrie, Jade Turner, and John Carty from the South Australian Museum (#TwoBlakWomenAndSomeGuy), stressed the importance of Indigenous people feeling safe, secure, welcome, and heard in our cultural institutions, as both staff and visitors. Truth, trust and cultural safety need to be core business of every institution.

Artist and activist Ben Quilty, in a subversive and entertaining final keynote presentation – Visual Arts, Multiple Disciplines, One Voice – reiterated and reinforced the conversations at the centre of the Conference: that museums and galleries have the opportunity to take a leading role in changing racist views, challenging prejudice, and educating the public about the real history of Australia. A selection of presentations will be available at While much of the focus of the Conference was on museum practices regarding First Peoples, inclusivity, shared history and its role in creating a strong national identity, the program also afforded a great range of discussions around engagement, technology, creating partnerships, access and governance, as well as many opportunities for museums and galleries, small and large, to share their current projects, successes and challenges. The Conference also allowed many of AMaGA’s National Networks to meet — most had an AGM at the conference, and many were involved in the development of program streams. One key stream throughout the program was the role of women: both within the sector, and as subjects of collections and exhibitions. There was much activity on social media around the

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  17


A diverse group of exhibitors attended the Conference, including multimedia and AR designers, showcase and exhibition designers, museum shop suppliers, collection management software developers, and the very popular Purple House booth, where delegates could purchase bush balms, made from expertly-collected plants used in traditional Indigenous medicine. Photos: Tibor Hegedis. right: Day One of the main conference at the Araluen Cultural Precinct. Photos: Tibor Hegedis.

tag #WhereAreAllTheWomen, highlighting the discrepancies of gender (im)balance in the sector as a whole, and the perceived reflection of this in the AMaGA National Conference keynote speakers program. We acknowledge this as an important discussion to be had; indeed the Conference Organising Committee explicitly aimed to ensure gender parity throughout the programming. National Council, through its (in-development) Gender Policy, as well as future Conference Organising Committees, will endeavour to continue to address this criticism. One major and significant outcome of the conference was the launch of First Peoples: A Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries, introduced by Dr Mat Trinca and Terri Janke on Thursday. There was a hugely positive reaction, and excited conversations by people about taking the Indigenous Roadmap forward in their organisations and work practices. The 10-year plan commits the nation’s museums and galleries to working directly with Indigenous peoples in the representation of their communities and cultures in cultural institutions. Further, it sets new goals for increased professional opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in museums, and outlines strategies for involving such communities in the ongoing stewardship of First Peoples’ collections. (Read more about the Roadmap and what your museum or gallery can do on page 30.) We deeply thank our generous sponsors and supporters, especially the Northern Territory Government. The services’ and providers’ Exhibition space at the main conference boasted many familiar brands, but a great mix of exciting new products and services were also on display.

The power of place was felt throughout the Conference in the red sand and towering MacDonnell Ranges, and the connection to Country was palpable for Indigenous and non-Indigenous delegates; the power of people was evident in the passionate and challenging presentations, and empowering calls to action from so many of the speakers; meanwhile the importance of best practices in creating an environment for change, acceptance and reconciliation was the very foundation of the program. Many delegates expressed afterwards that it had been one of the best conferences they had ever attended, particularly in terms of being embedded in place — or ‘enfolded in country’ as one of the co-Chairs noted in closing remarks; and in being afforded the opportunity to ask hard, important questions and explore not just what we do (and who we are) but what we could do (and who we could be). The conversations had, and the projects discussed, are strong evidence of the positive changes the sector is making towards building stronger, more inclusive practices within our museums and galleries. However, there is still much work to do. The Conference concluded in the way it began, with a celebration of place and reflection on the beautiful Arrernte country that nourished delegates across the week, and with an invitation to take back a little of the spirit of Mparntwe as the National Conference prepares to move to Ngunnawal country next year, where we will take forward a little of the shared story we are all a part of, a story above all of the incredible resilience and abiding generosity of our First Peoples. []

18  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Museum publication and multimedia designs continue to demonstrate innovative concepts

The 22nd Museums Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards The judges felt there was an affirmative freshness in much of the material entered, and an evident integrity that reflected the designers’ knowledge and strong responses to the subject matter they were working with. Overall, judges were delighted by what they encountered as evidence of the increasing strength of publications at all scales and levels across the sector. AMaGA specially thanks our generous MAPDA sponsors, Australian Book Connection and Showfront, whose support has helped the national association to ensure the broad reach and scope of these awards, in both catchment and coverage. We also thank the MAPDA judges wholeheartedly, who volunteer their time and expertise. Like so much of what AMaGA does, these awards also could not have been possible without volunteers who have given their time, effort, dedication, and so much more to make this program a success. The MAPDA Award categories are divided into two Levels: • A (organisations with an annual operating budget up to $8 million); and • B (organisations with an annual operating budget of more than $8 million).

top: middle: bottom: left:



Stephanie Hamilton






the display specialists

he Museums Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards (MAPDA) is an annual celebration that acknowledges excellence and quality in design of publications and multimedia produced for the museums and galleries sector across Australia and New Zealand. The 2019 awards were presented at a ceremony at the AMaGA National Conference, in Alice Springs, on 15 May. The awards were hosted by local Indigenous singer and entertainer, Johanna Campbell, and certificates handed out by Sam Makdissi from Showfront. Each year the judges take time to ensure that the categories and criteria of the Awards remain relevant and achievable. This year the judges were almost overwhelmed by the number of entries in the Book and Catalogue sections. Not only was there a large quantity, but what excited judges most was the quality of the publications across the sector, produced with such thoughtfulness and attention to detail realised though all aspects of the finished products – from design and typography through to final production.

146 entries • 83 Level A • 63 Level B 83 organisations • 77 from Australia • 6 from New Zealand 90 shortlisted entries 29 highly commended 24 winning entries Judges: • Suzie Campbell (arts and marketing consultant) • Tim Lynch (Inklab) • Brett Wiencke (National Portrait Gallery) • Analiese Cairis (Art Gallery of NSW) • Rick Cochrane (Bytes and Colours) • Jonny Brownbill (Museums Victoria) • Tim Hart (Auckland Museum) A full list of winners, highly commended and shortlisted entries is available at


Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  19

Art from Mona boxset MONA (Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart) Designer: David Campbell

CHILDREN’S BOOK LEVEL A Winner Art-tastic Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, New Zealand Aotearoa (‘A book that keeps on giving and I would have liked to spend a few hours with it.’) Designer: Aaron Beehre Highly Commended Alvin's Adventure: Activity booklet Orange Regional Museum, Orange NSW Designer: Natasha Townsend and Felicity Cantrill LEVEL B

BOOK LEVEL A Winner & Best in Show Us v Them: Tony de Lautour Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puno o Waiwhetu, New Zealand Aotearoa Designer: Aaron Beehre (‘This beautiful and ambitious collection was stunningly produced. The design is confident, respectful, and all elements consistently perfect. A great accomplishment.') Highly Commended Mickey Smith: As You Will: Carnegie Libraries of the South Pacific Te Tuhi Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Designer: Kalee Jackson William Robinson: A new perspective William Robinson Gallery, Old Government House, Brisbane Designer: Sandy Cull

Winner Make Believe: M. C. Escher for Kids National Gallery of Victoria, Melboure Designer: Cally Bennett Highly Commended Ali's Boat Queensland Art Gallery (QAGOMA), Brisbane Designer: Kirsty McKay

INVITATION LEVEL A Winner The Designers' Guide: Easton Pearson Archive Museum of Brisbane, Brisbane Designer: Goldi Design (‘Sophisticated, professional, and stylish.’) LEVEL B

Winner Tatau: The History of Sāmoan Tattooing Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Designer: Arch MacDonnell

Winners Wonderland ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), Melbourne Designer: Hannah Richardson (‘Succeeded in portraying an appropriate sense of wonder.’)

Highly Commended Wonderland ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), Melbourne Designer: Daniel New and Hannah Richardson

Gandel Atrium opening National Museum of Australia, Canberra Designer: Sarah Evans (‘Delivered on a challenging technical design, and would invoke a sense of importance for anyone receiving it.’)


20  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Museum publication and multimedia designs continue to demonstrate innovative concepts

MAGAZINE LEVEL A Winners RMIT Design Archives Journal RMIT Design Archives, RMIT, Melbourne Designer: Stephen Banham (‘A sophisticated and well-crafted publication.’) Bulletin Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand Aotearoa Designers: Aaron Beehre & Ilam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (‘Delivers a dynamic design which offers a sense of fun and energy.’) LEVEL B Highly Commended MAAS Magazine Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Designer: Maria Mosquera and Anna Cointrel SL Magazine State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Designers: Rosie Handley, Dominic Hon and Simon Leong

INFORMATION BROCHURE LEVEL A Winner Redland Art Gallery Exhibitions and Events 2019 Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland, QLD Designer: Andrea McArthur (‘Handles a lot of information successfully with an effective grid and has a consistent and balanced use of images without being repetitive.’) Highly Commended Programs and Activities 2018: Paddock to Plate: a history of food and wine in Orange and district Orange Regional Museum, Orange, NSW Designer: Natasha Townsend 2018 Program Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide Designer: Adam Johnson LEVEL B Winner ACMI Summer Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne Designer: Rob Cordiner

Highly Commended The Ideal Home Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, and Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of the Lewers Bequest Designer: Jeremy Austen

APP LEVEL B Winner Whale Trail Australian Museum, Sydney Designer: Beaconmaker (A simple and elegant app with fun interactive elements that can be referenced beyond the exhibition itself.)

INSTITUTION WEBSITE LEVEL A Winner Multicultural Museums Victoria Multicultural Museums Victoria, Melbourne Designer: Jake Turnbull (‘Immersive, simple and useable across multiple platforms.’) Highly Commended MOD. MOD., University of South Australia, Adelaide Designer: Morgan Martin-Skerm LEVEL B Winner Australian Museum Australian Museum, Sydney Designer: Interaction Consortium (‘This site handles a lot of information in a very clean and concise way with great use of animating graphics to keep it interesting.’) Highly Commended National Museum of Australia National Museum of Australia, Canberra Designer: Ladoo

PROGRAM WEBSITE LEVEL A Highly Commended Black Mist Burnt Country: Testing the Bomb – Maralinga and Australian Art Burrinja Cultural Centre, Dandenong Ranges, VIC Designer: Satta van Daal

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  21

An ambitious suite of branding materials, which made the most of many touchpoints. The design is fresh, fun and dynamic. For a small, regional museum and in-house designer, this is a wonderfully consistent collection which delighted the judges. It is obvious a lot of love went into this project. Judges' comments for Paddock to Plate.

LEVEL B Winner John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney Designer: MCA Digital (‘A beautifully designed and presented site. Rich in content, easily accessed and explored.’)

EXHIBITION BRANDING LEVEL A Winner & Judges' Special Award Paddock to Plate: a history of food and wine in Orange and district. Orange Regional Museum, Orange, NSW Designer: Natasha Townsend Highly Commended The Designers' Guide: Easton Pearson Archive Museum of Brisbane, Brisbane Designer: Goldi Design LEVEL B Winner The lady and the unicorn Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Designer: Art Gallery of New South Wales Creative Studio Highly Commended Inked: Australian Cartoons National Library of Australia, Canberra Designer: Isobel Trundle

DressUP: Change the World Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra Designer: Chris Starr 33Revolutions Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra Designer: Chris Starr

CORPORATE LEVEL A Highly Commended John Curtin Gallery 20th Anniversary 09-17 John Curtin Gallery, Perth Designer: Isabel Kruger

MULTIMEDIA LEVEL A Winner Capital Appeal campaign, 'Keep Their Voice Alive' Sydney Jewish Museum, Sydney Designer: Helen Campbell (‘Such a powerful video. The narration works very well with the intensity of the dramatic audio track. The content has been handled delicately and appropriately.’) Highly Commended

22  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Museum publication and multimedia designs continue to demonstrate innovative concepts

No one is watching you: Ronnie van Hout Buxton Contemporary, Southbank, Melbourne Designer: Tristan Main

EXHIBITION CATALOGUE (MAJOR) LEVEL A Winners The Artist as Traveller: The sketchbooks of Eugene von Guérard Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat, VIC Designer: Ben Cox (‘A traditional book, beautifully realised. It was ambitious but got all the details right.’) Mutlu Çerkez: 1988-2065 Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne Designer: Yanni Florence (‘A great cover and the perfect shade of grey.’) 'Unseen Untold: Our Curious Collection' Sydney Jewish Museum, Sydney Animation by Alphabet Studio, Photography by Giselle Haber, Music composition by Dan Biederman Argo Pacifico The Lock-Up Art Space, Newcastle, NSW Designer: Headjam So Who Taught You? #CelebrateTheScarf National Wool Museum, Geelong, VIC Designer: National Wool Museum LEVEL B Winner & Best in Show #NewSelfWales State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Designer: DX Lab (‘This was a beautiful display, bringing collection and visitor together in an excellent example of co-curation’). Highly Commended 20/20 Portrait Stories National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Designers: Andy Mullens, Mark Mohell, Patrick Cox, Gillian Raymond


Orange Regional Museum (Orange Regional Council) won the MAPDA Judges' Special Award. Pictured here is Orange Regional Council designer, Natasha Townsend. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

Winner Jumaadi | Staging Love Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Maitland, NSW Designer: Clare Hodgins Highly Commended

Highly Commended Rosemary Valadon | Textures of Desire Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Maitland, NSW Designer: Clare Hodgins LEVEL B Winners So Fine National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Designer: Brett Wiencke David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948-2018 Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney Designer: Alex Torcutti Highly Commended John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney Designer: Alex Torcutti Escher X nendo | Between Two Worlds National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Designer: Dirk Hiscock Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection Queensland Art Gallery (QAGOMA), Brisbane Designer: Sarah Newport Colony: Australia 1770–1861 / Frontier Wars National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Designer: Thomas Deverall []

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  23

Another year of outstanding museum and gallery projects across the sector

The 9th Museums and Galleries National Awards Stephanie Hamilton



Our regional museums and galleries were highly represented in the 2019 MAGNAs, including joint National Winner, Museum of the Riverina, represented by Sam Leah (below). Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

A full list of winners, highly commended and shortlisted entries is available at

he Museums and Galleries National Awards (MAGNA) recognise excellent work nationally in the categories of exhibition, public programs, INTERPRETATION, LEARNING & research and Indigenous projects. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT These awards set out to encourage the continuous improvement and development of LEVEL 1 Australian museums and galleries; inspire and recognise best practice and innovation in the Highly Commended collecting sector; and enhance the profile of museums “Think You Know Me?” Virtual Reality Experience and galleries in local and wider communities. Old Melbourne Gaol, VIC This year, the judges’ overall positive comments about all the category winners have highlighted Winner that they focus very strongly on citizen/audience STEAM the Museum co-design and engagement, with some exemplary Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga, NSW examples of new Indigenous engagement museology. The 2019 awards were presented at a ceremony at LEVEL 2 the AMaGA National Conference, in Alice Springs, on 15 May. The awards were hosted by local Indigenous Highly Commended singer and entertainer, Johanna Campbell. Little L Project The 2019 MAGNAs were once again generously National Wool Museum, Geelong, VIC sponsored by Panasonic Australia. Winners NATIONAL WINNERS REST at East Perth Cemeteries National Trust of Western Australia, Perth, WA The joint overall National Winners for 2019 ( A non-traditional idea for what turned out to be an represent opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of interesting and intriguing project with excellent reach. ) project budget, location and opportunities – but they are similar in exploring and delivering new forms Bigger Than Ben Hall of engagement. One overwhelming message from Orange Regional Museum, Orange, NSW the Awards is that money is not the critical factor in ( This is a great multi-faceted project. I'm especially achieving award-winning museum/gallery projects. liking the Indigenous element which you'd never expect Both winning projects this year are innovative, with a project like this. Love the aspect that the project ambitious and engaging, focusing on new forms was ‘fueled by goodwill’! A really ground-breaking of audience engagement, participative design and community-building project. This is the real stuff right experiential learning. there. ) Wonderland from ACMI (Australian Centre LEVEL 3 for the Moving Image) in Melbourne. The judges commented: A wonderland of cross-disciplinary Winner artworks and technological collaborations with backLife in Irons: Brisbane's Convict Stories end data analytical tools for capturing learnings for Museum of Brisbane, QLD future projects. Would have liked to understand if and ( The use of technology, local community knowledge how it altered ACMI's approach to exhibitions — a new and stories, links to the national/state curriculum, and way of working. Really tapped into a Zeitgeist nostalgia concern about interpreting colonial histories with and mined the grainy Gothic vibe of Tim Burton to specific attention to Indigenous history and voices are excellent effect. Demonstrated very high productionall well delivered in this project. ) level standards and showed what and how high-quality industry collaborations can achieve amazing things. LEVEL 4 Clever interweaving of themes — from the feminist empowerment of Alice to the literary world of Lewis Highly Commended Carroll to the craft of theatre/film/animation. Ellensbrook at Mokidup STEAM the Museum from the Museum of National Trust of Western Australia, Perth, WA the Riverina in Wagga Wagga, NSW. The judges commented: This is a project with an innovative and Winner creative concept and with the principles of co-design, Costumed Schools Program collaboration, community outreach and education at its Sovereign Hill Museums Association, Ballarat, VIC heart. The project demonstrated the ability for museum ( A great and enduring program. ) practice to directly engage and involve community, learning and innovation to deliver an enriching project for the community.

24  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Another year of outstanding museum and gallery projects across the sector

State Timber Museum Shire of Manjimup, WA ( Thoughtful and responsive to the specific needs of the content and the unstaffed remote location. Range of techniques used sensitively and appropriately. ) LEVEL 4 Highly Commended The Anzac Memorial Centenary Exhibition The Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney


Staff from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, headed by director, Marcus Schutenko (on left). MAGNT received several awards at the MAGNAs for projects in Darwin and Alice Springs/ Mparntwe. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

PERMANENT EXHIBITION OR GALLERY FITOUT LEVEL 1 Winner My Actions Count, My Voice Matters Centre of Democracy, Adelaide, WA ( A very thoroughly considered and developed exhibit. The research was imaginative, thorough and relevant. The content — the deeper thought processes of democratic engagement — is reflected in the interaction method. Most impressive is the creation of opportunities for dialogue within and between visiting groups — the essence of the core concept of 'participation'. ) LEVEL 2 Highly Commended Central Victoria Remembers the First World War Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum, Bendigo, VIC Raising the benchmark – Bankfoot House Heritage Precinct, Glass House Mountains Sunshine Coast Council, QLD Winner Game Engine: Digital Legends National Motor Museum, Birdwood, SA ( The project has produced strong results and obviously captures the attention of the youth demographics it is aimed at through its immersive design. ) LEVEL 3 Winners Unruly Days: A Territory Life 1911-1921 Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory ( This project has impressive attention to detail, a consistent ethical approach to representing images of people, and sustainable use of materials. It uses a variety of well-chosen interpretive devices that are simple but effective, such as oversized portraits. )

Winner Megafauna Central, Alice Springs Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory ( This project has won a deserved and strong place in Alice Springs, attracting locals and tourists in equal measure. Excellent combination of storage and display and creation, as well as an inclusive approach to developing a new attraction. Brilliant inclusion of Arrernte language. )

INDIGENOUS PROJECT OR KEEPING PLACE LEVEL 2 Highly Commended Translating Otto (A Frontier Journey: Photographs by Otto Tschirn, 1915–18) Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, NT John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney LEVEL 3 Highly Commended The National Picture: The art of Tasmania's Black War National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (in association with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart) Winner Myall Creek and beyond New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, NSW ( Excellent community involvement and use of additional programming to enhance the exhibition. )

RESEARCH LEVEL 1 Highly Commended The Powerful (and Power-Shifting) Potential of Museum Participation Australian National University, Canberra, and Craft ACT, Canberra

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  25

Winner Contesting Space John Curtin Gallery, Perth ( An innovative project focused on inclusive practice which builds understanding in a cross-institutional capacity for a gendered group that has previously been marginalised. Project is an excellent example of art as social activism grounded in academic research. ) LEVEL 3 Highly Commended Australian Art Exhibitions: Opening Our Eyes (Thames and Hudson, Australia) Joanna Mendelssohn, Catherine De Lorenzo, Alison Inglis and Catherine Speck Winner Shipwrecks of the Roaring Forties: A Maritime Archaeological Reassessment of some of Australia's Earliest Shipwrecks Western Australian Museum, Perth ( This project represents a valuable and timely reassessment of existing archaeological evidence, and through a diverse range of partnerships has provided new data and interpretive output that will generate significant public and academic interest. The thorough use of new and emerging technologies in this project makes it an excellent example of modern archaeological practice. )

TEMPORARY AND TRAVELLING EXHIBITION LEVEL 1 Highly Commended Little River: The story of Glenelg's Patawalonga Bay Discovery Centre, Adelaide The Rare Privilege of Medicine: Women Anaesthetists in Australia and New Zealand Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History, Melbourne St George on a Sunday Hurstville Museum & Gallery, NSW Winner He kākano āhau (I am a seed) Logan Art Gallery, Logan City, QLD ( Authentic cross-cultural learnings and community engagement. Display is layered and reflective of identity underpinned by good museum/exhibition practice. ) LEVEL 2 Highly Commended Sleep Ops MOD at UniSA, Adelaide

How Cities Work Sydney Living Museums, Sydney Winner GADI Australian Museum, Sydney ( Wonderful example of opening the curatorial process to those to whom the story belongs and collectively build content from the first person ... i.e. the true owners of knowledge. ) LEVEL 3 Winners LOVE Immigration Museum, Museums Victoria, Melbourne – in Partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, VIC ( The exhibition works on so many levels: it drives reflection and introspection but also warm connection, sharing and engagement; it has a strong sense of the personal narratives but allows broader learnings and engagement. ) The National Picture: The art of Tasmania's Black War National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in association with Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart ( The two most commendable elements are the original research about frontier conflict and the critical challenge to colonial narratives. Beautiful production values for each exhibit. ) LEVEL 4 Highly commended James Cameron: Challenging the Deep Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney Winner Wonderland Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne []


Staff from the Australian Museum, Sydney, receiving their MAGNA for GADI at the 2019 Awards ceremony. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

26  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

A state gallery director’s contribution with enduring national impact

The Legacy of Edmund Capon (1940–2019)

Joanna Mendelssohn

T top:

Edmund Capon and The Masks of Mystery exhibition (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 22 December 2000–18 March 2001). Photo: Ben Rushton.


Joanna Mendelssohn.

he announcement last March of Edmund Capon’s death in London, of melanoma, led to an outpouring of tributes from all sections of Australian society, not just from those associated with the arts. People remembered his charm, his zest for life, his passion for soccer, as well as for art. They recalled his humour along with the entrepreneurial flair with which he ran the Art Gallery of New South Wales for 33 years. Michaela Boland, the National Arts Correspondent for the ABC, wrote that ‘He was loved by his staff, embraced by Sydney society and respected by the media.’ People affectionately recalled his mismatched socks, love of cigars, fast cars – and his uncanny ability to persuade both governments and businessmen to support the Gallery. Edmund Capon AM OBE — or simply Edmund to so many — oversaw the purchase of major paintings by Picasso, Cézanne, Kirchner, Hockney, and Twombly. His curatorial expertise was in Chinese art, something which was made clear early in his tenure. In addition to his first major purchase in 1983, of a Tang sculpture of a horse, he was responsible for securing the Art Gallery of New South Wales as the first non-Chinese venue for an exhibition of the recently discovered Terracotta Warriors. Under his eye, Asian exhibiting spaces were expanded so that they now have their own dedicated wing. Edmund initiated a series of building projects for the Gallery’s expansion and greater professionalisation, magnifying spaces for exhibitions as well as creating theatres for public participation and workspaces for staff. His belief in scholarship enabled the substantial growth of the research library which, on his retirement, was renamed the Edmund

and Joanna Capon Research Library. Photography also became an integral part of the collection, and Australian photography one of its great strengths. Aboriginal art was brought to the fore, with Aboriginal curators guiding the purchases. Although often sceptical about contemporary art, Edmund also strengthened the programs that enabled it to be exhibited. In 1978 the Gallery’s collection could most charitably be described as patchy. By the time of his retirement in 2011 the Gallery had been transformed so that it properly served the needs of ever-expanding audiences. In addition to an active program of temporary exhibitions, Edmund Capon’s desire to communicate knowledge of art to a wider audience led to the expansion of education programs, catering for the general public as well as students and their teachers. Much to the horror of some, he was happy for the Gallery to be the venue of the annual Art Express exhibition of Higher School Certificate artworks, as he realised it was the best way to create a new and younger audience for art. However, the changes he made were so revolutionary that writers of obituaries have overlooked Capon’s first and greatest achievement — the taming of the trustees and the establishment of a culture of good governance at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. When Edmund Capon’s appointment to the Art Gallery of New South Wales was announced in August 1978, the Gallery was not in good shape. The previous Director, Peter Laverty, had resigned in December 1977. His departure had been preceded by that of many of the professional staff. The then trustees took literally the words of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act of 1958, which gave them all power over acquisitions and exhibitions, and they were increasingly interfering in the day-to-day operations of the Gallery. While other cultural institutions had embraced the growth of Australia’s professional expertise, in the late 1970s it appeared that the Sydney trustees were determined to return to the 19th century, when there were no professional staff to curate exhibitions or care for the collection. The relationship between the Gallery and its trustees had deteriorated throughout the 1970s in part because of the death of two key figures. The longstanding Deputy Director, Tony Tuckson, had died in 1973, just after the opening of the Sydney Opera House. The previous Chairman of Trustees, architect Sir Walter Bunning, died after a long illness in October 1977. The sudden departure of many professional staff, especially the resignation of the long-standing Senior Curator Daniel Thomas, attracted the attention of

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  27

Neville Wran, New South Wales’ recently elected Premier. Wran, with the assistance of his Director of Cultural Affairs, Evan Williams, had an active cultural agenda for New South Wales and had incorporated the arts into the Premier’s Department. The easy task was to rewrite the Gallery Act so that the power of the trustees was curbed and the Director given professional authority, but it would need a special person to challenge the trustees’ entrenched culture of privilege. The new appointment needed to be a knowledgeable outsider, someone with sufficient selfconfidence to stare down any critics. At the same time as the internal workings of the Art Gallery of New South Wales were unravelling, Australia was experiencing a steady stream of major exhibitions of international art and archaeology. The most spectacular of these, The Chinese Exhibition of 1977, was an introduction to the major archaeological discoveries by the Peoples Republic of China. It was both a popular and a scholarly success, attracting 595,000 paying visitors in the two host cities of Sydney and Melbourne — and later earning an extension-showing in Adelaide before its return to China. The Chinese Exhibition, initially opened by Malcolm Fraser at the NGV in Melbourne, was a version of the exhibition of the same name that had previously introduced Europe and North America to China’s significant historical culture. Despite Australia’s close political and trade connections with China, this introduction to China’s great past came with a British filter. The scholar who had (anonymously) written some of the catalogue and therefore came to Australia to help promote the exhibition, was Edmund Capon, then an assistant keeper in the Far Eastern Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He gave a number of lectures on Chinese art, impressing all who met him with erudition, wit, and passion for his subject. When the position of Director was advertised, Capon was one of two international candidates to be flown to Australia for interview. Because of its poor financial position, the month before the new Director arrived the trustees had resolved to lift the Gallery admission price. Two months after his appointment, in February 1979, they agreed to rescind admission charges. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has never since charged for admission to its collection and public spaces. Long-term changes in policy and strategy were also foreshadowed in those early months of Capon’s directorship. His first formal meeting with the trustees took place on 1 December 1978, when works were selected for hanging in the Archibald and Wynne Prizes. Because of the size of the task, no other business was to be transacted. However, the judging minutes note that for the first time in the Archibald’s

history, the media would be given access to the works selected for exhibition. Prior to Edmund Capon’s arrival, fearful of the court cases that had clouded its history, the judging of the Archibald was veiled in secrecy. The decision to permit limited media access was the first step towards the modern incarnation of the annual Archibald season, which is a significant source of revenue as well as a nationally popular media event. Unlike the previous Director, who was wary of journalists, Capon embraced the opportunities publicity gave him to reset the Gallery’s agenda. His first newspaper interview on 1 December 1978, was with Sandra McGrath, Art Critic of The Australian, who had been one of the more vocal critics of the Gallery’s administration. As well as noting his interest in enlarging the building and collecting Asian art and masterpieces, McGrath asked Edmund Capon how he saw the role of the Trustees. She wrote: Aside from fund raising (which historically is a part of the trustees’ life in museums around the world), Capon believes that their role is to ‘consider policy and to be there as an advisory body when needed. Whereas,’ he continues, ‘the Director's job is to execute policy decided upon and to administer the gallery. The initiative for policy,’ Capon continues ‘should however stem from the staff of the gallery. They are the ones managing the gallery on a daily basis and should know the important areas of concern.’ Subsequent board meetings saw an agreement that the Director, not the trustees, would decide when the Gallery could be used by the Gallery Society, and that the Director in conjunction with the professional staff would decide on what works should be acquired for the collection. Most significant of all, at the discretion of the Director, curatorial departments would be allowed to make some purchases without referring to the Trustees. Within months of his appointment, Edmund Capon had permission from the government to establish new curatorial positions: for Contemporary art, Asian art, Photography, and an Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings. This development saw the return of Bernice Murphy who had been one of the many previous resignations, now as Curator of Contemporary Art. Shortly before Edmund Capon took up his appointment, the Premier had directed the trustees to hold a public seminar on the Gallery and its future. By 5 June 1979, when the arts community filed into the AMP theatrette in the city to hear of the new developments at first hand, Capon was able to present the Art Gallery of New South Wales as an art museum guided by its professional staff, with

28  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

A state gallery director’s contribution with enduring national impact

a well-considered, lively exhibition program and aspirational collections. The trustees were no longer an active presence in the day-to-day administration. By April 1980, the new Art Gallery of New South Wales Act was passed by the NSW Parliament. This reduced the power of the trustees and, for the first time, named the Director as ‘responsible for the administration and management of the Art Gallery and any services provided in conjunction therewith’. The subsequent annual report reflected the change with a Director’s statement that ‘attendances at the Gallery are rising significantly and now approaching a million visitors a year; public awareness of the Gallery and its activities has heightened’. There is no doubt that Edmund Capon’s initial success in reshaping the Art Gallery of New South Wales was very much a collaborative project in conjunction with both Neville Wran and Evan Williams. With their support, Capon was able to double the Gallery’s exhibition space. By the time the new extension at the rear of the building was completed, there was a new Premier, Nick Greiner, who was more concerned with fiscal responsibility than cultural connections. Nevertheless, the state government increased the Gallery’s budget that year by 20%. The level of government funding was a reflection of the increased support the Gallery was beginning to receive from influential corporate figures, especially in sponsoring major exhibitions. Capon’s skill in encouraging philanthropy became crucial to institutional survival in the economic recession of the early 1990s when funding was slashed for all NSW’s cultural organisations. While the Powerhouse and the Australian Museum both agreed to charge what was described as ‘a modest fee’ for entry, the Art Gallery of New South Wales refused to do so. Instead of charging admission, the Gallery looked for other ways to encourage visitors to spend their money. On 5 December 1991, the Sydney Morning Herald reported: THE ART GALLERY’S director, Edmund Capon, at a Christmas lunch yesterday at the Gallery, told his guests, including the Premier and the Arts Minister, Peter Collins, that the gallery would maintain its policy of not charging admission. ‘We’ll let ‘em in free,’ he said, ‘and charge ‘em to get out.’ The strategy worked. While other museums, especially the Powerhouse, suffered a dramatic loss in visitation, people flocked to the Gallery, which in 1992 had more than 1.1 million visitors. And the

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  29

The power of art can open our minds. ­— Edmund Capon[1]

1. 'The very word Islam casts both light and shadow over our contemporary world. I believe there has never been a greater need for the wealth and imagination of Islamic cultures and artistic heritage to be revealed. The power of art can open our minds. One is indeed moved to consider how our modern world would be blessed if it could be rid of the radical religious fundamentalisms that so distort faiths and derail the causes of humanity and tolerance.' Edmund Capon, 2007, referring to the work of Professor Nasser D Khalili, who provided loans from his collection to enable The Arts of Islam exhibition (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 22 June–23 Sept. 2007).

building continued to expand. In 1994, the old basement Education gallery was extended to become the Yiribana Gallery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, reflecting the personal interest of the then-Minister for the Arts, Peter Collins. In 2003, following the election of a new Premier, Bob Carr, the Gallery finally achieved a dedicated wing for Asian art. Edmund Capon was also able to change with the times. Gradually, the cycle of imported blockbuster exhibitions of the 1970s and 80s gave way to locallydeveloped exhibitions, enabling curators to draw on their strengths and interests, while contributing to exhibition programming. Over the years Capon’s initial approach to Asian art through the frameworks of archaeology, and an open suspicion of contemporary art, gradually changed towards an understanding of the strength, energy and beauty of contemporary Asian art. One of the founders of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, John Young, recently wrote of the way he saw the value of ‘a cultural synthesis for everyone, not just for the converted’. In retirement, Edmund chaired the board of 4A, a post he filled with ‘contagious energy’ as he benignly oversaw the expansion of their programs, and their extension to the outer reaches of Sydney. Edmund Capon’s legacy stretches beyond his many years at the helm of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The culture he put in place is strong and enduring. For this, as well as the full impact of his life in Australia as well as his effervescent presence, we should all be grateful. [ ]

Joanna Mendelssohn was curatorial assistant at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 1972 to 1976. She is currently an honorary Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her most recent book is Australian Art Exhibitions: Opening Our Eyes, written in collaboration with Catherine De Lorenzo, Alison Inglis and Catherine Speck (Thames and Hudson, 2018). Text citation: Joanna Mendelssohn, ‘The Legacy of Edmund Capon (1940—2019)’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 26–29.

30  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

First Peoples: A Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries

Launching your Indigenous Roadmap


fter several years of consultation, research, audits, drafting, progress updates in this Magazine, and publicity, First Peoples: A Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries was launched at the National Conference for the sector in Alice Springs/Mpwarnte on 16 May 2019. The Roadmap is about helping to build more respectful and trusting relationships between museums and galleries, and Indigenous peoples. Stronger engagement will lead to better and mutual understanding, and more soundly-based approaches in work such as exhibitions, other public programs and internal business operations. AMaGA, as your national membership association and peak advocacy body, is committed to providing leadership in setting goals and standards such as those set out in the Roadmap. National Council of AMaGA has made supporting the promotion and implementation of the Roadmap a priority in the organisation’s strategic plan for 2019-2021.

Who is the Indigenous Roadmap for?

far right:

Terri Janke launched the Roadmap at the National Conference. Photo: Tibor Hegedis.

Special thanks to: • the Commonwealth Government for funding the work through the former Catalyst Fund, then through the Australia Council for the Arts, • the redoubtable and generous Terri Janke and her team, • the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD), the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors (CAAMD) and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), who all supported the grant application and provided advice, venues and support throughout the project, and • the Indigenous Advisory Group, who met four times and gave invaluable guidance.

The Roadmap was developed for the museums and galleries sector in consultation with the sector. It is built on 5 Key Elements for Change. As you read it, you will notice that under each Key Element there is a table of Action Options listing what AMaGA — the association (National Council, National Office, state/ territory Branches and National Networks) — can do; and what museums and galleries — you and your communities, networks and audiences — can do. In order for the Roadmap to be successful, the entire sector needs to take it up. The Roadmap is for the museums and galleries sector and all those who interact with it. This includes, but is not limited to: • • • • • • •

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Museums Galleries Audiences Indigenous communities Individuals working in museums and galleries Educational sector including universities and TAFEs • People running training programs for museums and galleries • Government at all levels • The cultural sector as a whole. Not all Action Options are appropriate for every organisation, given such differences as size, location or budget. You of course choose what you want to focus on. However there are Critical Pathways it would be great to see followed and achieved over the 10-year period of the Roadmap. Included here are just a few of the ways you can make meaningful changes, small or large, to your organisation’s policies and practices. We will continue to share ways you

can utilise the Roadmap online and in upcoming Magazines, and will be providing training aimed at small and medium organisations over the coming months through our webinar series and factsheets, which will be available at

Critical Pathways • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Statements of reflection Creation of RAPs Running Cultural Competency Workshops Updating policies Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Protocols Identifying all cultural material in inventories Creating a national Indigenous staff network Creating National Coordinated Programming Amplifying truth-telling exhibitions Developing Indigenous education to employment opportunities Championing Indigenous staff in leadership roles Increasing Indigenous employment to 3% Developing relationship agreements with Indigenous communities Repatriating all ancestral remains Establishing a national keeping place Creating workshops to train communities Developing partnerships with Aboriginal Keeping Places Indigenous led and designed content

Achieving these critical pathways will mean that museums and galleries will have stronger relationships with Indigenous Australians. If museums and galleries can achieve stronger relationships with Indigenous Australians across the country, there will be a transformation nationally. We will be tracking the sector’s progress through surveys, meetings and evaluations conducted, as well as continually evaluating and reporting on our own activities at a National Council level through to state/ territory Branches and Networks, to ensure we all maintain momentum.

Get a copy of the Roadmap Download your free Roadmap Purchase additional hardcopies

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  31

Where are we now? Understanding how Australian museums and galleries are currently performing in Indigenous representation and participation is key to understanding how to move forward. While many museums and galleries will not necessarily have paid Indigenous staff members, we anticipate even the smallest volunteer-run community museum will have access to Indigenous advice through an Indigenous Advisory Committee or Indigenous members on their committee. The complete Audit Report is available at; but here are a few key starting figures and targets set out in the Roadmap: 2018


Museums and galleries with Indigenous staff members



Indigenous staff on executive or leadership teams



Museums and galleries with an Indigenous curator



Review of CCOR

Museums and galleries with a Reconciliation Action Plan



Museums and galleries with Indigenous board members



Museums and galleries with a policy regarding collection, storage and handling of Indigenous cultural material



Have a policy regarding access to collections of Indigenous cultural material



Have a policy for interpretation of Indigenous materials



Drawing on the Roadmap, there are recommended updates to our longstanding Indigenous Policy. Now renamed First Peoples: Connecting Custodians — Principles and Guidelines for Australian museums and galleries working with First Peoples cultural material, the draft for consultation will be released soon. I hope it will help in your planning and daily work — and if you can suggest changes or improvements as you use it over the next year, that would be very useful! We’ll set up an easy access-point on the website for you to give feedback.

See the Roadmap and the Audit Report, and Final Report for more statistics. [ ]

Small but meaningful steps Here are some easy, inexpensive, but important actions your organisation can take right now: • • • • • • • • •

Display an Acknowledgement of Country sign at your museum’s entrance or at your front counter. Find out the local Indigenous greeting and make a sign welcoming visitors in the traditional language of the region. Have a Welcome to Country (where appropriate) or Acknowledgment of Country at the beginning of all meetings and events. Promote NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week or other important events in your region. Reach out to your local Indigenous community and invite someone to be part of your society or executive committee – start an Indigenous Advisory Committee to help you oversee policy and curatorial issues and advise on protocols and best practice for dealing with Indigenous cultural material. Research your local Indigenous language and incorporate some Indigenous language descriptions into your exhibition labels. Familiarise yourself with the Indigenous Art Code and ensure all Indigenous art or products for sale in your shop are sourced ethically. Arrange for your volunteers and/or staff to undertake Cultural Competency Training. Go to Reconciliation Australia <> and begin your Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). No matter where your organisation is on its reconciliation journey, there is a RAP to suit.

Share your achievements #IndigenousRoadmap Whether you have put an Acknowledgement of Country on your front counter, completed your first Reconciliation Action Plan, welcomed an Indigenous staff member to your team, or completed an Indigenous-led curatorial project, please share your achievements with us! Post to your social media pages with the hashtag #IndigenousRoadmap. We’ll track them and share some of your innovative ideas with our members and the sector.

32  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

International museums repatriating photographs to First Nations communities

‘The best day for me, looking at these old photos’: Photography and Australian Indigenous Heritage


Jane Lydon.


Donna Oxenham.


Images printed out ready to return to community members. KALACC Festival 2017.

Jane Lydon and Donna Oxenham




ABC Kimberley News 2017 – online at < historic-photos-reunited-withindigenous-australians/9046478> For further discussion see Brown, A., & Peers, L. (2005). Museums and Source Communities A Routledge Reader. Florence: Taylor and Francis; and Lydon, J., & Wanhalla, A. (2018). Editorial. History of Photography, 42(3), 213–216. [Published online 14 Jan 2019].

n September 2017, researcher and co-author Donna Oxenham and two film-makers travelled north from the city of Perth, in south-western Western Australia, across 2415 kilometres to the Kimberley region in the north-west. They took with them photographic archives collected from the region, starting in the mid-nineteenth century, and their plan was to return them to Aboriginal relatives and descendants for the first time, aiming to reconnect people with their ancestors and traditional places. The trip was timed to coincide with the annual festival coordinated by the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC, formed in 1984), an organisation that supports the traditional cultural practices of 30 Aboriginal language groups in the Kimberley, helping to maintain culture and advocating for culturally-based self-determination for the Kimberley. For three days the team camped at Lombadina Community, 200 km north of Broome, and spent their time talking with people, installing a temporary exhibition, listening to stories, making copies of photos for relatives, and recording information (figures 1, 2, and 3). Many stories were told about the people represented in the photographs. For example, Lorna Hudson, a senior Aboriginal elder, discovered a photo of her foster parents she had never seen before. She told a journalist from ABC Kimberley: ‘They raised me when I was a child, I more or less looked to them as my parents’. She said of the experience afterwards: ‘This was really the best day for me, looking at these old photos. … It makes you feel really, really good’.[1] Another participant was Phil McCarthy, a Bardi Jawi Ranger coordinator, who looked for photographs of the landscape from an earlier time, showing it

in the way they are planning to regenerate and conserve it for the future. The photographs also document the rhythms of movement and ritual that McCarthy is working to protect and renew, along with the regeneration of Country. These photographs represent survival, strong culture, and family ties, and they contribute powerfully to Kimberley community identity today. Photographic archives have only recently come to be recognised as an important form of Australian Indigenous cultural heritage. Owing to historical collecting practices, entailing the appropriation and ownership of cultural materials, and especially secret/ sacred objects, Australian government departments and museums have not always had amicable relationships with Indigenous peoples. Until a few decades ago, Indigenous interaction with institutions like museums and state records departments was limited and one-sided. Indigenous peoples were both the object and subject of collections historically collected and archived by non-Indigenous people. From around the 1970s, relationships between Indigenous peoples and archival institutions in postcolonial countries began changing, largely due to Indigenous advocacy and through the implementation of principles founded decades before within the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which asserts the rights of a people to their culture.[2] Realising that Aboriginal people had cultural and intellectual property rights in their collections, Australian institutions began to change the way they worked with the source communities, starting during the 1980s. For the last two decades, many institutions have welcomed Indigenous requests for access and information from their archival collections; and with advancements in technology and the advent of archival digitisation projects, records are becoming

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  33

more readily accessible.[3] As a result, museums within the UK and Australia have begun working more closely with Indigenous groups, either by facilitating visits to their institutions or by travelling to communities.[4] Whilst earlier there was more emphasis upon the repatriation of ancestral remains and culturally sensitive objects, over the last decade there has been a major new emphasis on the return of photographic collections to Indigenous communities. These collections can also assist in promoting the health and well-being of Australian Indigenous communities. By enabling Aboriginal people to have access to relevant archival records about their people and communities, some are able to build on their already-known Indigenous histories, whilst many others — now known as the Stolen Generations – who have been victims of official government assimilation policies can often begin to piece together a more connected understanding of the networks that form their culture and heritage. Major government inquiries held during the 1990s, addressing the Stolen Generations and Indigenous Deaths in Custody, recommended that access to archival information by Indigenous communities would provide important support to learn more about their histories and identities, and would assist in improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal peoples.[5] Many collections were amassed during the nineteenth century, following the invention of photography in 1839. As photographic technology developed, it was applied in many Australian colonies and recorded Indigenous people, some leading a traditional way of life as well as undergoing transformation as they adjusted to white incursion and displacement. While many historical photographs were staged, they nevertheless remain precious records of people and culture at a particular time.[6] Working from European collections back to their source communities, the Returning Photos: Australian Aboriginal Photos from European Collections project collaborated with four European museums to historicise photographs they held, and to return them to Indigenous descendants. The four institutions were: the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum; the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France; and the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National Museum of World Cultures) in Leiden, The Netherlands.[7] This project has had two primary aims. The first was to explore the global circulation of photographs of Australian Aboriginal people that began in the 1840s, charting their central role within the major shift in Western visual culture from Enlightenment humanism to the emergence of modern views regarding race and history. Through international collaboration with key European museums, the project aimed to connect the local production of photographs to their concrete effects as objects circulated through commercial, governmental, scientific and private visual networks that spanned


Compiling photographs in a makeshift exhibition space. KALACC Festival 2017.


Donna talking to community members. KALACC Festival 2017.



the world. Second, the project aimed to return photographs currently housed in Europe to their subjects’ descendants, providing a major Indigenous heritage resource. In doing so it also aimed to explore the significance of colonial photography to Indigenous descendants, and contribute to resolving the momentous and complex intersection of new digital technologies and Aboriginal cultural traditions regarding visual imagery. For Australian Aboriginal people, this work has provided important access to previously unknown archives, generating new forms of regained heritage and reconnected history. Aboriginal people have explained the importance of recovering such images in their quest to re-connect with family and place. The Returning Photos project continues to be accessible under the umbrella of the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia, in Perth. Meanwhile, for the first time, combined research efforts across several international collections has permitted their photographic holdings to be returned or ‘repatriated’ to Australia. Through amalgamation of four European museum databases,




Lydon, J. (2010). ‘Return: The Photographic Archive and Technologies of Indigenous Memory’. Photographies, 3(2), 173–187. See Clark, A. (2014). What happens next? Sustaining Relationships beyond the life of a research project. Journal of Museum Ethnography, 27, 63–77; Pickering, M and Gordon, P (2011) ‘Repatriation: The end in the beginning’. In Understanding Museums — Indigenous people and museums, National Museum of Australia, online at < understanding-museums/ MPickering_PGordon_2011. html>. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997; Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1991; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, 1996. Lydon, J. 2014 Calling the shots: Aboriginal photographies. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Aboriginal Studies Press. Lydon, J. 2019 ‘Photography and Critical Heritage: Australian Aboriginal Photographic Archives and the Stolen Generations,’ Special issue on Critical Heritage, (eds) Jon Daehnke and Amy Lonetree. The Public Historian, 41 (1): 18–33.

34  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

International museums repatriating photographs to First Nations communities


Onraub Man, Bombala, NSW. Photographer: C.H. Kerry, 1839. Cambridge MAA P.70.ACH1.



Bostock-Smith, S. 2014. ‘Connecting with the Cowans’, in Lydon, J. (2014). Calling the shots, as cited, p. 61. Hughes, K and Trevorrow, E. 2014 ‘It’s that reflection: Photography as recuperative practice, A Ngarrindjeri perspective’, in Lydon, J. (2014). Calling the shots, as cited, pp. 202–3.

the project has now produced a website hosting a database that allows searching across these four collections. This is located at <>. This digital portal enables intensive Indigenous community engagement across Australia, and we hope it will continue to grow and further support Indigenous communities in regaining visual connection with their forebears. One important feature of the database is a portal allowing users to provide annotations identifying or adding information to database entries. We hope that the large number of presently-unidentified people, or ‘orphan’ images, may eventually be reduced in this way. Figure 4, for example, portrays a dignified senior Elder, and the place in New South Wales where the photograph was produced. However, it was later incorporated into Charles Kerry’s vast commercial collection in which individual details were lost, and such portraits were subsumed into an amorphous category of an ‘Aboriginal’ type. These collections have profound significance for Indigenous peoples. For example, when Shauna Bostock-Smith, a Bundjalung woman from northern New South Wales, came across a photograph of her Great-Great-Grand-aunt, she recounted the profound effect it had on her, explaining: ‘It is as though this lovely photograph has spiritually reached through time and altered my perception of her today. She has now magically transformed from an abstract entity — a name on her marriage and death certificates — into a real life, flesh and blood, beautiful young woman’. [8] Similarly, Ngarrindjeri elder Ellen Trevorrow and Karen Hughes have discussed the importance of the photographic collections as being a ‘conduit between the living and those who have passed’. Hughes explains that [P]hotographs possess recuperative powers: inviting conversations about the connectivity of family and Country, strengthening and nurturing identity, and activating miwi, the soul substance through which Ngarrindjeri connect to their

world and discern something to be true. Certain photographs have played a central role in healing relationships torn asunder by the state, and assist in piecing back together shattered families, sometimes in defiance of the original purpose for which they were taken.[9] The examples above highlight how, although encompassing a complex web of meanings and interpretations, the photographic image can still strongly convey and reinforce peoples’ values and ideals related to their culture and heritage. In each image, descendants can rediscover ‘where we’ve been’ and in turn ‘what we’ve become and want to be’. As institutions become more open and collaborative in information-sharing, and assist the reinforcement of multiple interpretations of images from Aboriginal communities themselves, these images can take on a new form: that embodies an historical context but also reaches out to provide a more balanced, inclusive — and Indigenous — perspective in the present. [] Jane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at the University of Western Australia. Her books include the co-edited (with Lyndall Ryan) Remembering the Myall Creek Massacre (NewSouth, 2018), and edited Visualising Human Rights (UWA Publishing, 2018). Her forthcoming book Imperial Emotions: The Politics of Empathy Across the British Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2020) examines the way that emotional narratives created relationships across empire. Donna Oxenham is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Western Australia. She is a Malgana woman from the Shark Bay region in the northwest of Western Australia and has a long history of working with Indigenous cultural heritage materials. Text citation: Jane Lydon and Donna Oxenham, ‘“The best day for me, looking at these old photos”: Photography and Australian Indigenous Heritage’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 32–34

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  35

Australia’s evolving contribution to the world’s memory and documentary heritage

Documenting Australian Society Summit (Canberra, December 2018)

Michael Piggott and Adrian Cunningham

I top:

Annabella Boswell’s Papers from 1826 to 1901, held in the Port Macquarie Historical Society’s collection, have been added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.


Michael Piggott.


Adrian Cunningham.

n the Summer 2018 issue of this Magazine,[1] we alerted readers to the then-forthcoming summit on documenting Australian society at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (on 4 December 2018), which was held under the auspices of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World (AMW) Committee. We also summarised the thinking behind this important initiative, and pointed to a longer background paper on the AMW website <>. The by-invitation summit was attended by nearly 50 people from around Australia. There were AMW Committee members, representatives of key sectors, professional groups, institutions and community stakeholders. There was a Welcome to Country and additional words from the ACT Arts Minister, Gordon Ramsay. The former National Library DirectorGeneral, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich AM, moderated proceedings throughout the day. Attendees heard papers and panel contributions from Australian curators and academics, along with two overseas speakers, Canadian Laura Millar and New Zealander Mark Crookston. During the summit there were also

some very active twitter contributions, referencing #DASCanberra.

The Canberra Declaration The Summit developed an 11-point ‘Canberra Declaration: Towards a Representative National Estate of Documentary Heritage’, to improve and better coordinate the identification and preservation of the distributed national holdings of documentary heritage materials for the benefit of current and future generations of Australians. It is reproduced here, but is also now on the AMW website,[2] along with the Summit papers by Adrian Cunningham, Michael Piggott, Laura Millar and Maggie Shapley.

36  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Australia’s evolving contribution to the world’s memory and documentary heritage


L-R: Laura Millar (Canada), Ros Russell (Australian Memory of The World Committee Chair), and Mark Crookston (New Zealand) at the Summit. Photo: Carolyn Forster.

Canberra Declaration: Towards a Representative National Estate of Documentary Heritage

Next steps Since the Summit, we and the AMW Chair, Ros Russell, have begun discussions with academics in Melbourne and Canberra about a future research agenda, and met with GLAM Peak to report on the Summit and gain initial thoughts on ways forward. Readers will note that several resolutions have tough deadlines (March and June 2019). While government, four national cultural institutions, the AMW Committee and GLAM Peak are named, Summit participants were also urged to remain involved. Indeed, we hope that readers will also engage with the issues raised, as the vision of a representative national estate of documentary heritage is truly a ‘big picture.’ Discussion, ideas and resources are all welcome! [ ] Michael Piggott is a retired archivist still occasionally professionally involved, and currently is a Deakin University Senior Research Fellow based at the National Library as part of an ARC grant examining the representation of multicultural Australia in state and national libraries.



Michael Piggott and Adrian Cunningham, ‘Documenting Australian Society–UNESCO Australian Memory of the World summit in Canberra, 2018’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol. 27 (1), Canberra, Summer 2018, pp. 58-61. (NB. The national magazine and association for the Australian museums sector has changed its name since the previous issue.) The Canberra Declaration is accessible online at <https:// canberra-declaration-towardsrepresentative-national-estatedocumentary-heritage>.

Adrian Cunningham worked for 36 years in a variety of national and state archives and libraries, in a diversity of roles. He is now semi-retired, but does occasional paid consulting and pro bono professional work. He has published widely and is a Fellow of the Australian Society of Archivists. Citation: Michael Piggott and Adrian Cunningham, ‘Documenting Australian Society Summit (Canberra, December 2018)’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 35–37.

Under the auspices of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Program, representatives of key sectors, professional groups, institutions and community stakeholders held a Summit meeting in Canberra in December 2018 to discuss how to improve and better coordinate the identification and preservation of the distributed national holdings of documentary heritage materials for the benefit of current and future generations of Australians. The following Resolutions were passed at this summit meeting. The meeting: 1. Asserted that ongoing preservation of and access to documentary heritage in all its forms is vital to sustain and enhance civil society, cultural memory, social cohesion and a healthy democracy in Australia. Fostering the documentary component of our national memory is essential if Australians are to be able to understand, debate, explain and account for ourselves. 2. Recognised valuable ongoing efforts across a range of sectors, programs and communities involved in preserving Australia's documentary heritage and the need to leverage these efforts through enhanced strategic collaboration. 3. Noted that a vast quantity of documentary evidence of life in Australia is produced every day and that it is only possible to consciously and effectively preserve a tiny proportion of this documentation to help future generations understand the history of life in this country. It is therefore essential for those organisations and programs that preserve documentary heritage to work together try to ensure that what is kept reflects the significant, unique and distinctive aspects of life in Australia, in all its diversity. 4. Asserted the importance of the notion that there is a 'distributed national collection' of documentary heritage, whereby thousands of organisations, institutions, individuals and initiatives across the country contribute to the totality by taking responsibility for particular components of the national documentary estate. These include archives, libraries, museums,

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  37






community organisations, oral history programs, universities, personal and family collections, and private companies and associations. Noted that many documentary preservation programs and institutions are suffering from budgets that are shrinking in real, if not absolute, terms and that hard decisions need to be made about acquisition and preservation priorities. The meeting further notes that, when making these hard decisions, individual programs should take account of both the work of other related acquisition and preservation programs and an agreed national framework of priorities. Asserted the importance of involving the entire Australian community, beginning with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in the processes and decisionmaking in relation to building and sustaining the distributed national holdings of documentary heritage. By March 2019 Summit participants will identify key issues, communities, groups to be targeted for further discussions. Resolved to pursue collaborative research, and the necessary funding to support such research, to improve our knowledge of current strengths, gaps and weaknesses in the existing distributed national holdings; together with useful models and strategies for improving those holdings. This will include engaging with universities to develop one or more research proposals to adapt and/or update appropriate reference frameworks for documenting Australia. Resolved that the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee is the logical entity to exercise ongoing oversight of coordinated effort and national machinery in this area and that the Committee should work with GLAM Peak to maximise the involvement of documentary heritage programs and practitioners across the country. Calls on the Australian Government, as a member of UNESCO, and other Australian governments through the Meeting of Cultural Ministers, to support the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of and Access to Documentary Heritage including in Digital Form and acknowledge the key responsibility that

government has to properly fund and support collective efforts to coordinate and preserve Australia’s distributed national holdings of documentary heritage. 10. Calls on the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, exercising their legislative mandates, to pursue joint and inclusive leadership processes for a national system for documentary heritage preservation. 11. Resolved that the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee should develop a collaborative plan of action for documenting Australian society by June 2019. Key pieces of work that need to be pursued within this plan of action include: • identifying a suitable schema/framework for mapping and planning the potential Australian documentary heritage universe. • comprehensively surveying the existing state of Australia's documentary heritage holdings to identify strengths, overlaps, weaknesses and gaps. • working with the Australian community to identify priority aspects of life in Australia that deserve special attention for documentary heritage preservation. • identifying programs, organisations or initiatives that will take carriage of addressing gaps in Australia's documentary heritage holdings. • liaising with governments, universities and others to raise awareness of the importance of documenting Australian society and to pursue funding for ongoing research and collaborative action.

38  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Celebrating First Nations in 2020

The 2020 Project at the Australian Museum: Profiling First Nations rather than Cook Mariko Smith

C above:



Mariko Smith.

See Vaughan, P. (2018). Art and Life Attitudes: Audience Responses to Jason Wing’s Australia Was Stolen by Armed Robbery. Journal of Australian Studies,42:4, pp. 461-474, p. 469; Nugent, M. (2009). Captain Cook Was Here (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press), pp. 129-136. Australian Museum (2018). Annual Report 2017-18. Sydney: Australian Museum Trust, p. 43: https:// documents/39225/australianmuseum-annual-report_2017-18. pdf (accessed 3/12/2018).

aptain James Cook has cult-status in Australia, which transcends historical significance to myth, as part of the national ethnocentric ‘foundation’ narrative.[1] His maritime and scientific achievements are highly regarded and celebrated by many Australians. However, celebrations of Cook’s ‘discovery’ of Australia are conducted at the expense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. First Nations peoples’ views on Cook are more critical than celebratory, considering the negative impact of Cook’s colonial legacy, from when he undermined First Nations’ sovereignty the moment he raised the First Union Flag for the British Crown at Kamay (now known as Botany Bay) on 29th April 1770, and more officially on Bedanug (now known as Possession Island in the Torres Strait) on 22nd August 1770. Historically, Aboriginal voices and perspectives on the events of 1770 have been largely overlooked. Given this one-sided view of history, the Australian Museum is providing a platform for First Nations communities to respond to Cook and 1770 through The 2020 Project (current working title). The 2020 Project is a First Nations-led response to the upcoming 250th anniversary in 2020 of thenLieutenant (later Captain) Cook's voyage on the HMB Endeavour along Australia's eastern coastline during 1770. It will include an exhibition during the secondhalf of 2020, with associated programming. The lead curator on the Project is Laura McBride, a Wailwan woman and First Nations Curator at the Australian Museum. Laura’s curatorial approach centres First Nations’ voices and interpretation of objects and histories so that communities represent themselves and their cultures within the Museum. To present a genuine reply to this anniversary and the 1770 events, it was essential to first ask Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples directly what they wanted in the Project, in terms of exhibition objectives, themes, and topics. As the First Nations curatorial team, Laura and I committed to undertake this community consultation as part of front-end evaluation research to direct and inform the overall exhibition and programming development. This article provides an overview of The 2020 Project and the findings of the curatorial team’s Indigenous community consultation which was undertaken from June to November 2018.

Community consultation strategy and methodology The primary aims of the First Nations community consultation strategy were to: 1. Inform First Nations communities across Australia about The 2020 Project at the Australian Museum; 2. Remind First Nations communities about the

Cook anniversary in 2020; 3. Understand their views on the 1770 events and consequences; 4. Ask them directly what they want (and do not want) to see in an exhibition responding to the 1770 events; and also 5. Gain some insight into the Australian Museum’s past and present performance in First Nations audience engagement. A community consultation methodology was developed by the First Nations Curator in liaison with the Museum’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Manager and Executive Leadership Team, to ensure a process of culturally-appropriate and respectful consultation and research.[2] The 2020 Project’s community-centred ‘Have your say!’ campaign involved a voluntary, short survey of three quantitative questions for demographic information and four open-ended qualitative questions to gather feedback and opinions. The survey was directly distributed to First Nations communities: • In-person, with hard-copies of the survey filled out by the facilitating First Nations team member or respondents themselves during conversations, face-to-face interviews, and participation in focus groups; and • Electronically, with the respondent clicking on a link which was emailed or forwarded to them, taking them to The 2020 Project’s SurveyMonkey™ digital portal, or via the SurveyMonkey™ link posted on the Indigenous Australian Culture Facebook™ page during the last week of the consultation campaign. Consultation was open to all First Nations communities in Australia, but targeted consultation by the curatorial team took place in NSW. Working with local communities as a priority was considered to be culturally appropriate, and due to the concentration of First Nations peoples in Sydney and NSW, consultation would potentially include representation from a wide-range of First Nations peoples from other parts of Australia.

Survey responses overview We note that 805 First Nations persons responded to the survey. For Question 1, 94.5% of respondents identified as Aboriginal, 1.6% as Torres Strait Islander, and 3.9% as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. For Question 2, 175 different Nations, cultural/ language groups, and clans in total were identified from across Australia. 113 respondents identified as belonging to multiple Nations, groups, and clans (see Figure 1 on page 39). For Question 3, the postcode data (see Figure 2 on page 40) showed that every State and major Territory was represented, covering urban, rural, and remote areas. The information showed a large concentration

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  39

of respondents in NSW (608 respondents) — this correlates with Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Census data – that NSW is home to the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.[3] Referencing former British Museum director Neil MacGregor’s keynote presentation at the AMaGA 2019 conference, when he pointed out the name of the British Museum and how it speaks to its public, the Australian Museum (although technically a NSW state government institution) is seen to be representative of the national Australian public and how this public understands their world and their place in it. The ‘Australian public’ has changed greatly over time, from the Museum’s beginnings in 1827 to now. For Question 4, which asked what respondents thought of the Australian Museum in order to gauge First Nations peoples’ own personal reactions, opinions, and experiences, the Museum was generally regarded as being an authoritative institution, known for history and dinosaurs, or considered in a positive (21%) or negative (32%) light. Percentages given indicate the number of respondents who identified that topic from the 805 First Nations respondents. For Question 5 that asked respondents about their thoughts on Cook, we received a total of 1309 answers, since several respondents gave answers that fit into

more than one category. 87.7% of the responses are negative opinions of Cook and his actions. 12% are mainly descriptions of who Cook was, his ship etc. Very few words or thoughts offered by respondents were positive, accounting for just 0.3% of responses. When asked in Question 6 about what topics or issues that they would like addressed by the exhibition, many respondents gave multiple answers which were then categorised as objectives or topics. The top objective we identified related to wanting truth-telling about Australia’s history, and the true story of Cook and the foundation of Australia told (40%). This was followed by wanting to privilege First Nations’ voices and perspectives (17%). In terms of content topics, almost 60% of respondents identified colonisation and its effects (with examples given including massacres, dispossession, Stolen Generations, and ecological disasters). Just over 56% of respondents wanted to learn more about Australia’s origins regarding aspects such as frontier violence and Indigenous resistance, and answers to the question of why colonisation happened in Australia. Nearly 38% of respondents wanted the exhibition to explore contemporary effects and experiences, including racism and discrimination, how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are represented


Figure 1: 175 different Nations, cultural/language groups, and clans in total were identified from across Australia

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017, June 27). Media Release: 2016 Census shows growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population: abs@.nsf/MediaRealesesByCatalog ue/02D50FAA9987D6B7CA258148 00087E03 (accessed 28/05/2019).

Question 3

What is your postcode?

40  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Celebrating First Nations in 2020

The 2020 Project Curatorial Team asked this question to ensure that they received feedback and opinions from a range of different First Nations persons from locations across Australia.

Although 44 respondents identified as Torres Strait Islander, there were no responses from people in residence there. Urban, regional and remote areas are accounted for in the respondent group, with the vast majority of respondents living in urban areas.

Every Australian State and major Territory (i.e. Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory) is represented within the respondent group, with the vast majority of respondents living in NSW.

Five respondents skipped this question. The map below shows the distribution of postcodes across Australia, and the total number of respondents from each state.

10 NT

31 WA

75 QLD

27 SA

608 NSW

28 VIC

18 ACT


Figure 2: postcode data showed that every State and major Territory was represented, covering urban, rural, and remote areas.



McQuire, H (2019, 14 February). As an Aboriginal child I had to listen while taught Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, The Guardian. commentisfree/2019/feb/14/ as-an-aboriginal-child-i-hadto-listen-in-class-while-taughtcaptain-cook-discovered-australia (accessed 18/02/2019).

AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM The 2020 Project: First Nations Community Consultation Report 2019

in the media and education system, and how such representations continue to impact on Indigenous lives. Around 25% were interested in looking at the pre-Cook and First Fleet period. Question 7 asked respondents to clearly state what they did not want to see in an exhibition regarding Cook and the 1770 events. A total of 1081 answers were recorded, and an overwhelming number requested no further praise or glorification of Cook, and not to present him as a hero. Many said that Cook should not be a part of the exhibition at all, while a much smaller number believe it is important to include him in some way.

Observations from survey data The survey responses will inform how Laura and I privilege First Nations perspectives and stories as part of a positive vision which reframes the ethnocentric Anglo-Australian foundation narrative. The respondents critically engaged with ideas

around how a colonial institution such as the Australian Museum and the medium of a museum exhibition could be effective platforms for change in challenging the national narrative structured around the ‘cult of Cook’, which had effectively displaced First Nations histories and disempowered First Nations peoples. In light of debates around the Australian education system being considered as ‘a tool of colonisation’ and the need for spaces based on Indigenous ways of learning and perspectives, the Australian Museum, as an institution which similarly teaches knowledge and disseminates information, should reflect on how it can value principles of Indigenous self-determination and act upon them to balance how history is constructed in Australia.[4] The consultation data illustrates a trend of changing perceptions about the Museum by First Nations respondents, acknowledging that the Museum is improving its practices regarding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, interpretation

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  41

of these objects and Aboriginal culture and history within the Museum. Former consultant to the United Nations (UN) cultural organisation, UNESCO, Dr Ragbir Bhathal recently wrote a critical essay about the need in Australia for a museum which has the primary task to tell the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history, and politics.[5] His advice regarding a stand-alone ‘museum of the First Peoples of Australia’ could also be applied to how museum exhibitions on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, and cultures should be developed. In an interview on ABC Radio with Linda Mottram, Dr Bhathal noted that such exhibitions are more often than not curated and controlled by non-Indigenous curators.[6] In his opinion, the curators of these exhibitions should be First Nations people, and the job of curators ‘should be telling the truth and they should be the strong supporters of telling the truth’.[7] In his general overview of Australia’s regional and state museums, he states that:



See Bhathal, R. (2018, 20 December). Why not a museum of the First Peoples of Australia, Campus Review. https://www. why-not-a-museum-of-the-firstpeoples-of-australia/ (accessed 18/02/2019). Mottram, L. (2019, 21 January). Former UNESCO consultant asks, why isn’t there a museum of the First Peoples of Australia? ABC News. why-isn%E2%80%99t-there-amuseum-of-the-first-peoplesof-australia/10733386 (accessed 18/02/2019).


Mottram, 2019, as cited.


Bhathal, 2018, as cited.


Bhathal, 2018, as cited.

10. Reconciliation Australia (2018). 2018 Australian Reconciliation Barometer (Kingston ACT), p. 3; and Smee, B. (2019, 11 February). Truth-telling: 80% say past injustices against Indigenous people should be recognized, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian. com/australia-news/2019/ feb/11/truth-telling-80-say-pastinjustices-against-indigenouspeople-should-be-recognised (accessed 25/02/2019). 11. Nugent, M. (2009). Captain Cook Was Here (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press), p. 106.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices of dissent are not seen through black eyes but through the eyes of the descendants of the invaders.[8] Dr Bhathal goes on to say that museums ‘have to be places for social change’, and that: The voices of the Indigenous peoples need to be heard, interpreted and given centre stage in the history and culture of the nation through their eyes. Their history has shaped the Australia we have today. They can no longer be relegated to second rate status or silenced.[9] This research backs up The 2020 Project curatorial team’s vision for The 2020 Project’s exhibition to prioritise First Nations in responding to the 1770 events and their aftermath. First Nations respondents voiced their strong desire for truth-telling about Australia's history and nationhood. This trend is consistent with the topic of truth-telling having a high profile and currency in recent times. These results correlate with Reconciliation Australia’s 2018 national reconciliation barometer survey findings, which indicated that an overwhelming majority of Australians support a formal process of truth-telling, and most Australians accept key facts about historical realities and Australia's past institutional prejudices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people .[10] We argue that based on community feedback in the survey results, Cook's arrival in 1770 had paved the way for the First Fleet some eighteen years later in

1788, leading to the devastating effects of colonisation such as disease, massacres, and racist policies which have contributed to present disadvantage and intergenerational trauma experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As the First Nations community consultation data indicates, the role that Cook plays in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories is very different from how he features in the Anglo-Australian grand masternarrative. As stated by Maria Nugent in her 2009 book, Cook Was Here: Aboriginal people use the character called Captain Cook to tell histories of their relations with white people, to explain their plight under British colonisation, to mark time before and after the arrival of colonists and settlers, and to outline their vision of a future that restores their law and sovereignty, among other things.[11] In conclusion, Cook as a figure is a means to an end in providing an interpretive device to articulate and communicate ongoing Indigenous survival and spirit against continuing invasion, rather than the man himself being the primary focus. Please contact the First Nations curatorial team at the Australian Museum if you would like further information about The 2020 Project and for a copy of the report. Email: [] This article is based on a conference presentation in May at the Australian Museums and Galleries Association 2019 National Conference at Mparntwe (Alice Springs) on Arrernte Country. Dr Mariko Smith is a Yuin woman and First Nations Assistant Curator at the Australian Museum, as well as a Wingara Mura Fellow and Associate Lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts, 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, ‘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. 38–41.

42  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Professional development for early-career museum colleagues

Palaces and professional development: Open Palace Programmes (UK)


Caitlin Jamison exploring the grounds at Hill House after a private tour and meeting with curators. Photo: Caitlin Jamison.

right: The group arriving at Abbotsford on a sunny spring morning. Photo: Caitlin Jamison.

What is the ‘OPP’?[1]



Craig Middleton is gratefully acknowledged for his information on the OPP program in the introduction to this article.

any may have heard colleagues mention ‘OPP’ in the UK, fast becoming an international network of GLAM and heritage professionals connected by their experiences on the Open Palace Programmes (OPP). The two programs, realised in England and Scotland, offer dynamic hands-on experiences for students, emerging and early career professionals, enabled to learn behind the scenes at some of the UK's finest palaces and heritage sites. The OPP learning opportunities are unique professional development programs in the UK that involve three weeks of in-situ learning at significant heritage sites and properties. Participants engage directly with heritage alongside experts in their field. The programs allow each groupmember to build on their existing knowledge and skills through direct experience of buildings and sites at the heart of UK heritage. As a past participant and Deputy Program Leader of the 2018 Scottish program, three key learning outcomes come to mind, as detailed below. Upskilling: Many new skills are gained including cataloguing, conservation techniques, and cultural heritage interpretation tools. At each site, participants are linked with experienced professionals who share

their insights, knowledge, and skills with the group. Sectoral context: Participants are tasked with real challenges faced currently by professionals working at the sites visited. Outcomes from tasks then support the future thinking of both the visiting professionals and the institutions they work for. This allows participants from abroad to gain a deep understanding of the UK context and make important comparisons with their own practice. Networking: Above all, participants are exposed to leading museum, gallery, and heritage professionals in the UK, with whom they can connect both at the time of the experience and beyond. Equally important are the networks created among participants, including mentors and program leaders, who support each other during and after the OPP experience.

Caitlin Jamison

The program in Scotland (2018) and experiences gained For an unseasonably sunny three weeks, twenty emerging and early-career GLAM professionals toured the land of tartan as part of the inaugural Scottish Open Palace Programme. Led by heritage specialist Jean MacIntyre, design historian and

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  43

consultant for English Heritage, and supported by Craig Middleton (from the Centre of Democracy in Adelaide), the program offered a unique professional development opportunity through privileged access to internationally renowned heritage sites, enhanced by first-hand insights from industry-leading professionals, and the acquisition of new conservation and interpretation skills. This program validated the experiences and challenges faced in my own professional practice, encouraging me to continue pursuing my career goals in an incredibly competitive industry. From Edinburgh to Glasgow, via the Scottish borders and northern England, we enjoyed behind-the-scenes access in palaces, historic houses and museums, and worked with rare and precious objects, including a signed Shakespearean manuscript and Mary Queen of Scots’ hand-embroidered quilt. At each site the group was set a conservation, curatorial or interpretive task, requiring us to work collectively and draw on our professional experience. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the challenges set for us by the National Trust for Scotland, the Royal Collection Trust and private historic estate owners we encountered were real-world scenarios they themselves were trying to resolve. These challenges ranged from curating the interpretation of a new physic garden at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, to devising ways of increasing physical and digital access to archival material at Traquair House at Peeblesshire, Scotland. The tasks were completed in small groups over the course of a day or two, drawing on both primary historical evidence available and our collective experience, and culminating in a presentation for our hosts and peers with opportunity for feedback. At the vast majority of sites visited, our hosts warmly welcomed us and were clearly interested to hear our contributions. Their attentiveness, feedback, and career advice were appreciated by all participants. A personal highlight of the program was two days spent at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Set against the picturesque river Tweed, this nineteenthcentury Scots Baronial style mansion is a dramatic testament to the tumultuous life and times of the influential author. It has been open to the public as an historic house since 1833 (mere months after Scott’s death). The group was hosted by Sandra Mackenzie, Heritage Engagement Manager, who shared with us Abbotsford’s plans to reposition the popular day-trip destination from being primarily a tourist attraction to becoming an important community-engaging space. The redevelopment project’s focus, we were told, was to remove the mystery that enshrouds many heritage sites and make Abbotsford a place for everyone. This

was an attitude I found mirrored in several of the locations we visited: the idea that in order for history to remain relevant for future generations, museum and heritage professionals must seek to engage with ‘less traditional’ audiences in new ways. During our feedback sessions at Abbotsford, suggestions ranged from hosting wellness retreats to geocaching tournaments on the grounds. With such possibilities projected, all participants will be watching closely to see which direction Abbotsford takes in the future. Another property visited, at the cutting edge of conservation and interpretation, was Hill House, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and a National Trust for Scotland (NTS) property. Located in the rainy town of Helensburgh, this thoroughly modern ‘dwelling house’ is a beacon for architecture enthusiasts from Europe and beyond. Participants had the great pleasure of a private tour of the house and gardens, witnessing first-hand the ravaging effects of weather and time, as well as learning about what the NTS plan to do to save this heritage building and property. Admittedly, I was aghast when I first heard of the ‘Big Box’ project — the plan to encapsulate the house in a giant mesh box, allowing it to ‘dry out’ as a prelude to performing essential restoration work, to ensure its longevity for the next 115 years. Our task was to consider current and future target audiences and develop a proposal for increasing access and generating interest. But what does ‘access’ in the context of a cultural site or facility really mean? Richard Williams, general manager for NTS Glasgow & West, and a driving force behind ‘Big Box’, shared with us his understanding of what a visitor wants when they visit an historic site. His brief was pointedly simple: T (tea) /P (pee) /C (see). That is, people want a cup of tea, use of the facilities, and finally, to see something interesting. National Trust for Scotland plans to deliver not just a restored Hill House celebrating Mackintosh’s architecture, but a multilayered, sensory experience, enhanced by technology and supported by a program of activities. The plan is to have a dedicated tearoom, gift shop and facilities externally to the house (not crammed into the former servants’ quarters, as currently); and in addition, to provide catwalks around and over the house itself, enabling a whole new perspective on the site and helping visitors to understand why the property is so significant. In the process of realising this transformation, the project should not be a disruption to be endured, but rather an exciting chapter to witness in the evolving story of Hill House. Across Scotland, I noted the drive towards better balancing of the goals of conservation, access and enjoyment of heritage facilities, with an ultimate aim being to overcome both cultural and physical barriers

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Professional development for early-career museum colleagues


Delicate textiles, including Traquair’s speciality ‘petitpoint’ embroidery are brought out for closer inspection. Photo: Caitlin Jamison. far right: The iconic shapes of Hill House rise up into an unusually blue Helensburgh sky. Photo: Caitlin Jamison.

that may exist at present. I, for one, am excited to see what the future has in store for Mackintosh’s ambitious home, both during and after the ‘Big Box’ phase. In both NTS and privately-owned properties across Scotland, we encountered incredibly dedicated and passionate museum professionals. These curators, conservators, archivists and guides were not only committed to both protecting and sharing their historic sites, but also enthusiastic about encouraging all Open Palace Programme participants to keep working steadily to achieve their own career goals. Sadly, this ardour witnessed at each site was often tempered by an ever-shrinking pool of government funds and private-sector support to continue preserving and enhancing the public value of the important cultural institutions that make Scotland unique. However, this drives home why it is so important to continue pushing projects, planning towards greater accessibility and promoting the public value of cultural heritage. The activities encompassed on the threeweek learning program in Scotland enhanced my understanding of international standards in museum practice, and assisted in growing my own professional expertise. As an outcome, I now have greater confidence and ability when undertaking curatorial and conservation tasks in my role as

Visitor Interpretation Officer with Sydney Living Museums (the portfolio of properties managed by the former Historic Houses Trust of NSW). Meanwhile I consider my own historical interpretation within a more global context of comparison, and am equipped with unique skills to help me achieve further career development. Furthermore, I now better recognise the value of auxiliary elements of the museum experience, such as commercial services and retail. This has recently assisted me to gain a one-year secondment as Inventory Officer to the Retail team with the same organisation I work for. In overview, the experience in Scotland provided me with outstanding opportunities to meet emerging and established industry professionals from around the world, and build enduring networks which I can draw upon for advice and support afterwards. Apart from these professional gains, it is, quite simply, deeply rewarding to travel around different sites in such a beautiful country, exploring museums and historic houses in a focused way, accompanied by such enthusiastic, dedicated and like-minded individuals. There are few opportunities for emerging and earlycareer professionals to immerse themselves in three weeks of international learning and networking such as this program offers. For more information about OPP, go to <>. []

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  45

Caitlin Jamison is Visitor Interpretation Officer with Sydney Living Museums, recently on a one-year secondment to the Retail team. Craig Middleton is a Curator at the Centre of Democracy, Adelaide, and was Deputy Programme Leader for the Open Palace Programme, Scotland in 2018.

Citation: Caitlin Jamison, ‘Palaces and professional development: Open Palace Programmes (UK)’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 42–45.

46  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Truth-telling towards reconciliation

Myall Creek and beyond

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  47

Rachael Parsons and Bianca Beetson


n the afternoon of Sunday 10 June 1838, a group of eleven convicts and ex-convict stockmen, led by a squatter, brutally slaughtered a group of twenty-eight Wirrayaraay men, women and children who were camped peacefully at the station of Myall Creek in the New England region (NSW). Whilst Myall Creek was not the first, last, or largest massacre to occur, its significance lies in the fact it was the first time the perpetrators of an Aboriginal massacre were convicted and hanged for the murder of Australian First Nations People. However, whilst this may have been perceived as an act of justice, it changed the way in which the massacre of Aboriginal people was spoken about. Instead, massacres post1838 were then undertaken under a shroud of secrecy. Myall Creek and beyond was an exhibition of newly commissioned works by contemporary Aboriginal artists held at New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM), Armidale, in 2018. The exhibition and program of events explored this difficult shared history to increase awareness and considered discourse about these events, and their continuing impact on both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The cultural and community events that were part of the project were aimed at building upon the work and profile of the Myall Creek Memorial as a vital site for reconciliation, and to encourage increased participation in their annual commemoration. Myall Creek and beyond curator, Bianca Beetson, and NERAM Director, Rachael Parsons, discuss the project and what they learnt throughout its development.

Rachael Parsons: In June each year at Myall Creek, a station located near Bingara in northern regional NSW, hundreds of people gather for the Myall Creek Massacre commemoration ceremony. This commemoration is dedicated to educating people about a difficult part of Australia’s shared history and to actively support reconciliation through acknowledging the truth and impact of our colonial past. The ceremony is organised by the Friends of Myall Creek Memorial National Committee, a group consisting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members who have established the memorial to recognise and remember the 28 known Aboriginal women, children and old men who were killed there by a group of white settlers in 1838. Having attended this commemoration in 2016, NERAM’s previous Director, Robert Heather, saw the need and opportunity to further illuminate


Rachael Parsons.


Bianca Beetson at the 2018 Myall Creek commemorative event (the site is behind her). left:

Judy Watson, Sergeant Denny Day's Route, Myall Creek 1838, 2018, earth, charcoal, acrylic, chinagraph (lumocolour) pencil on canvas. Photo: Simon Scott.

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Truth-telling towards reconciliation

this history, and to use cultural practice to provide a different platform to expand what is a difficult and sensitive discussion. We also wanted to use the program to promote the exceptional work that the Friends of Myall Creek were already doing towards acknowledgment, education and reconciliation. The annual June commemoration is a very moving and meaningful experience, and involves descendants of both the survivors of the Wirrayaraay people and of the perpetrators of the massacre. In this inclusive way, acknowledgment of the past, grief, regret and forgiveness are all embedded in the ceremony, and this provides a model we believe all Australians should experience. New England Regional Art Museum is located in Armidale, northern NSW, which is about 2.5 hours’ drive from Myall Creek. However, our mission as an institution includes supporting cultural activities that connect to the entire New England region. In order to develop this project, we first established a partnership

with the Friends of Myall Creek Memorial National Committee, which was of course a necessary and critical relationship to have as a foundation in a project that was trying to communicate their work and illuminate the history for which they have become caretakers. We wanted to ensure that First Nations Peoples’ voices were given a clear platform during this project, and did an open call to find an Indigenous curator to lead the creative development. We appointed Bianca to that role, with the brief to develop a curatorial premise and make a selection of Aboriginal artists to participate in a residency program that would inform the creation of new work that would be responsive to the site and history of Myall Creek. Bianca Beetson: The residencies were a reasonably unique aspect of the exhibition development process as this allowed the artists to physically sense place. This is incredibly important when working with Indigenous artists, especially when working on a


Fiona Foley, Scarred, 2018, 28 pairs of shoes, 10 calico hoods, gouache on watercolour paper, charcoal and ash. Photo: Simon Scott.

top right:

Judy Watson, Witness Tree, 2018, video installation, muslin cloth, charcoal, ochre, gate posts. Photo: Simon Scott. bottom right: Laurie Nilson, Land Clearing, 2018. Photo: Simon Scott.

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  49

You have to spend time with the country to really feel it, to understand its memory

project that is site-specific. You have to spend time with the country to really feel it, to understand its memory. Whilst there is a lot of text written about the massacre for the artists to engage with, the residency program allowed the artists to take time and respond to this text in relation to place. The process of creating this exhibition was at times challenging. There were road trips; lots of road trips. It was hard to keep the number of artists involved in the project small, because there are so many great artists who could have been included in the show. As a guest curator, I was faced with negotiating and managing the wishes of the gallery, the Friends of Myall Creek Committees and the community. I had to balance multiple objectives. Creating a high-profile show with artists that would attract the needed funding and media attention required putting a spotlight on the work the committee have been doing for some time, and their aspirations of gaining funding for a National Indigenous Massacre research centre on the site. At the same time, we wanted the program to engage the local community in an authentic and respectful way, whilst deeply engaging with the story and the broader issues surrounding frontier violence. I wanted the audience to feel first-hand the realities of the atrocities committed at Myall Creek and hundreds of other places Australia-wide. Art is a powerful conduit for conveying feelings, energies and experiences which text cannot do. This project also became a great example of how art can be used as a tool for truth in reconciliation. As a descendant of a survivor of a massacre, it was really important that I considered cultural safety in relation to inter-generational trauma when curating this project. This was something I thought was very important to address in the curation of the exhibition, but at the same time it’s not an easy subject-matter to address in the first place. I also didn’t want to sanitise

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Truth-telling towards reconciliation

left: Carol McGregor with Adele Chapman-Burgess, Avril Chapman and the Community of the Myall Creek, Myall Creek Gathering Cloak, 2018, natural ochre, thread on possum skins. Photo: Simon Scott.

the message. I thought I could address both of these issues through the selection of the artists in the show. I should have known better; artists are unpredictable as they develop their ideas, and there were a few hardhitting works in the show. The solution to presenting emotionally strong content lay in the architecture of the exhibition hang. Allowing quieter reflective spaces in the exhibition was important (for example Judy Watson’s installation, coupled with the hypnotic hum of Robert Andrews’ palimpsest machine) that allowed breathing room (or crying room in some cases) for the audience, in between the hard-hitting works of artists such as Fiona Foley and Laurie Nilsen. RP: Working with multiple communities was an important aspect of this project, and I learnt so much over the two-year development process. A key lesson

learnt was that meaningful and effective consultation takes so much more time than you expect, and that it needs to start at the very beginning of your project, and must be a continuing process throughout. We wanted to listen and to truly invite collaboration, and to do that you need to be responsive and adaptive. A strong consultation plan is key to developing a project of this kind, as is considering suitable methods for communication and decision-making — sometimes e-mail doesn’t work for the communities you are working with. Not everyone is going to work to the timelines governed by funding bodies and your program schedule. This is a big challenge in ensuring that everyone’s expectations are met, and that you are facilitating and giving agency for people to fully

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  51

participate while also hitting the milestones and outcomes that are expected of a project enabled through public funding. Achieving this balance can be difficult. BB: You need to develop trust. Meet the mob, yarn with them (this is one of the reasons why preliminary meetings and the two residencies where so important in this project). It takes time to build relationships and receive informed consent. Listening to the communities’ requests and addressing any of their concerns, involving the community and engaging them in the process, are all critical aspects of working with Aboriginal people. In Myall Creek and beyond we wanted to ensure that there were opportunities for the community to creatively participate and tell their stories. Community workshops, including a possum skin cloak project facilitated by Carol McGregor, and Gamilarroi music and spoken-word workshops facilitated by David Lahar and Quarallia Knox, were an important part of ensuring the local community had a presence and voice in the project. RP: A key outcome that we wanted this project to achieve was simply to have as many people as possible learn about and engage with this discussion, and with the work that the Friends of Myall Creek were doing. Commissioning new work from nationally significant artists, whose profiles and recognition would likely garner attention from arts audiences beyond New England, was one strategy to achieve this. Others included ensuring that our program was not delivered solely at our Museum in Armidale, where geographic distance may present impediments to participation. To expand our reach, satellite events brought the project to other places in the region. Workshops and community-based participation occurred in Armidale, Uralla, Bingara, Tingha, Inverell, Moree and Glenn Innes. A simple but effective strategy to enable this involvement was to provide a free bus service that would take people from Armidale to the 180th anniversary commemoration at Myall Creek. During the program’s presentation at the Museum, I heard from people that prior to viewing the exhibition, they had never heard of what had happened at Myall Creek. Some of these people travelled with us to the anniversary commemoration, and have since let me know that they intend to go every year. This, in a very direct way, was to me an indication that the project had been successful. [ ]

Myall Creek and beyond was produced in partnership with New England Regional Art Museum, The Friends of Myall Creek Memorial, Armidale Aboriginal Keeping Place, University of New England, Beyond Empathy, and Arts North West. The exhibition was supported by Regional Arts NSW through the Regional Arts Fund, the New South Wales Government through Create NSW, and the Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts’ Indigenous Language and Arts Program. Artists in the exhibition: Robert Andrew, Fiona Foley, Julie Gough, Colin Isaacs, Jolea Isaacs, David Leha, Tim Leha and Quarralia Knox, Carol McGregor with Adele Chapman-Burgess, Avril Chapman and the community of the Myall Creek Gathering Cloak, Judy Watson, and Warraba Weatherall. This article is based on a conference presentation in May at the Australian Museums and Galleries Association 2019 National Conference at Mparntwe (Alice Springs) on Arrernte Country. Rachael Parsons is an Australian curator, educator and academic currently based at New England Regional Art Museum as the Art Museum Director. For more than 12 years, she has worked as an independent and institutional curator within university, commercial, public and artist-run spaces. Her recent experience includes being the Manager, Exhibitions and Curatorial at New England Regional Art Museum, where she delivered multiple programs including curating HINTON: Treasures of Australian Art, a permanent salon display exhibition from NERAM’s Howard Hinton Collection. Dr Bianca Beetson is an artist, activist, educator, agitator, and self-declared ‘all-round troublemaker’. She is a Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi (Sunshine Coast) Waradjuri (NSW) woman, born in Roma, Western QLD. She completed a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) at QUT Brisbane (1993—95), then completed her Honours (1998) and Doctor of Visual Arts (2018) degrees. As a visual artist she works in a broad range of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, photography, and public art. A former member of Aboriginal artists collectives, Campfire group and Proppanow, Bianca is Program leader of the BA (Australian Indigenous Art) degree at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, and a member of the board of QAGOMA. Citation: Rachael Parsons and Bianca Beetson, ‘Myall Creek and beyond’, AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 46–51.

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Collaborating with allied professionals to help manage and preserve our collections

The positive and the negative: How spectroscopy can light the way!


Dr Elizbeth Carter. Photo courtesy of University of Sydney. middle: Dr Jude Philp. Photo courtesy of University of Sydney. bottom: Lucilla Ronai. Photo courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM), Sydney. right:

ANMM staff conducting the polarisation test to identify polyester plastic film. Photo courtesy of ANMM.

Elizabeth A Carter, Jude Philp and Lucilla Ronai


ustralian social, scientific and cultural knowledge was captured and recorded on various kinds of plastic film from the 19th century. Amateur and professional photographers trusted the film to carry their images into the future. However, the types of plastic used are susceptible to deterioration. The two most commonly used plastic films for photographs, cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate, leach hazardous by-products that are harmful both to humans and to other nearby collection items. The future of this material presents critical questions for museums in terms of significance and preservation. In 2017, a national survey of the GLAM sector indicated that Australian institutions housed more than 7.5 million items known to have a cellulose nitrate or cellulose acetate base, with a further 1.5 million items on unidentified plastic film bases (Ronai, 2017). This presents significant challenges: to assess, plan, prioritise, and preserve this material. The invention of photography was barely forty years old when George Eastman’s Kodak company set about trying to make the process more accessible. Like other companies, Kodak began investigating a new kind of

material, a nitrated cellulose plastic base, to ‘carry’ the image and replace the heavy glass plates in common use. In the 1880s a thin, light, flexible and transparent plastic film made from cellulose nitrate was produced. It was highly flammable, leading to swift refinements (Fischer 2012). A new ‘safety’ film, made from cellulose acetate and without nitrate’s flammable properties, was marketed by a variety of companies from the 1920s. Its use ran parallel to cellulose nitrate film until the mid-1950s, when nitrate film was discontinued. Polyester was first introduced in the 1960s and due to its strength and durability began to gradually replace cellulose acetate which, like cellulose nitrate, was found to chemically deteriorate over time (Valverde 2005). In overview, transparent plastic film bases for photography (cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate and polyester) have been in use from the late 19th century to today for positive and negative photographs in many forms, including rolls of film, sheets of film, x-rays, and slides.

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  53


Lucilla Ronai using FTIR to get a spectra of a photograph with an unidentified plastic base. Photo: Kate Pentecost ANMM.

Two Australian Collections The Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, has more than 24,000 negative and positive photographs on transparent plastic bases. The collection spans the 1890s through to the early 2000s, with photographs by many notable maritime photographers including Samuel Hood, Oskar Speck and William Hall. Approximately 18,000 of these items are unidentified plastic bases, due to the difficulties of identifying them non-invasively. The University of Sydney's Macleay Historic Photographic Collection (HPC) includes more than 80,000 objects in a variety of photographic formats:

Figure 1: Diagram illustrating structure of black and white plastic films.

from the extraordinary early daguerreotype images of Sydney to glass plate negatives of early NSW photographic studios, as well as mass-produced stereographs and holiday snaps of the 1950s, along with a smaller amount of associated photographic equipment. The Macleay collection is broadly curated as a social history collection, predominantly capturing the lives of Australians at home and abroad. It is also a collection that informs us about the processes and technologies of photography in Australia.

The negative of photographic material on plastic bases Cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate are made from plant-derived cellulose, mixed with either nitrate or acetate compounds, and a plasticiser that is formed into a thin film. Upon this is an image layer that carries the photographic image. Both cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate change irreversibly over time, due to chemical and physical deterioration, and the by-products of their deterioration are hazardous. They produce acidic vapours that are harmful to humans. In addition, these vapours can also influence the condition of other nearby materials (see Figure 1). Due to the specific requirements for preservation, management and storage, cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate film presents a variety of challenges for institutions. Along with risk to humans, the deterioration process also damages the film emulsion — which can result in partial or full loss of the image.

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Collaborating with allied professionals to help manage and preserve our collections

Perceptible signs of deterioration include: • Smell — an old socks odour (indicating nitrate), or vinegar (indicating acetate) • Sight — a perceptible yellowing (indicating nitrate), or channelling (indicating acetate) • Touch — sticky (indicating nitrate), brittle (for both nitrate and acetate). Any one of these changes indicate that the film is deteriorating and this poses various dangers.

Table 1: Comparison of the three plastic film bases used for photographs.

which pose an additional WHS concern. There are also issues concerning ‘false positives’ or inconclusive results. The tests are also often slow to accomplish, while time is a scarce resource for both large and small museums. In the 2017 survey, it was found that 25 institutions had more than 1.5 million unidentified photographs on plastic film bases (Ronai 2017). The development of a rapid, cost-effective and non-invasive method for the identification of plastic film bases would clearly be advantageous for making decisions about longterm storage, management and preservation of these collections.

The challenge of storage

Cellulose nitrate 1890 – 1950s

Cellulose acetate 1920s – Current

Polyester 1960s – Current



Hazardous to humans


Hazardous to collection items


Accelerates own deterioration





The positive of photographic material on plastic bases These problems can be reduced through assembling a conservation ‘toolbox’ of critical and sustainable approaches (Scott 2018: Vol. 27(1)). The toolbox should include identification, training and riskmanagement to minimise the danger to humans as well as valuable collection items stored alongside cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate. The first step for risk-management is to identify the plastic film base. There are several methods used for identification (see Table 2). Information and visual identifiers need to be present and require verification due to the variety of types of film and manufacturers involved. Each chemical test used for identification is invasive and destructive — and these tests require the use of chemicals or create hazardous fumes,

Once cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate have begun to deteriorate, the process cannot be reversed. However, several studies (Adelstein 2009, Fischer 1993, Fischer 2012, Reilly 1996, Valverde 2005) have demonstrated that a reduction of both temperature and relative humidity are vital to dramatically slow the deterioration process and ensure preservation. Regardless of whether cold storage is viable, making copies of the photographic image onto another format is a high priority. This should involve documentation of the original photograph, capturing details such as film batch numbers and other production marks, as well as a strategy for the physical or digital storage of any copy.

Toolkit • Look after yourself and the collection items: always handle with gloves in a wellventilated area. • Identify what you have with the resources available: use by the Image Permanence Institute (invaluable resource to assist with identification using dates and visual examination) about_film. • Check for signs of chemical deterioration: use FilmCare.Org visual_decay. • Look after other collection items: segregate or isolate thesecellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate from other items. • Improve storage location and/or environment. • Store items in appropriate housing. • Digitise where possible with the resources available.

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  55

Table 2: Identification methods for plastic bases with evaluation of each technique plastic film bases used for photographs.

Identifies cellulose nitrate

Identifies cellulose acetate

Identifies polyester

Contextual Information Date

Non-invasive. No WHS Concerns. ?



Visual Examination Edge Printing



Adelstein, P., 2009, IPI Media Storage Quick Reference, 2nd Edition, Image Permanence Institute, https://www. imagepermanenceinstitute. org/webfm_send/301 Fischer, M., 2012, 5.1 A Short Guide to Film Base Photographic Materials: Identification, Care, and Duplication, Northeast Document Conservation Center, https:// preservation-leaflets/5.photographs/5.1-a-short-guide-tofilm-base-photographic-materialsidentification,-care,-and-duplication Fischer, M. & Robb, A., 1993, Guidelines for Care & Identification of Film-Base Photographic Materials, Topics in Photographic Preservation, Volume 5, pages 117-122, http:// resources.conservation-us. org/pmgtopics/1993-volumefive/05_12_Fischer.pdf


Reilly, J. 1996, IPI Storage Guide for Acetate Film, Image Permanence Institute, https:// www.imagepermanenceinstitute. org/webfm_send/299


Ronai, L., 2017, Preservation and management of cellulose nitrate and acetate film and negatives in Australian cultural collecting institutions, online survey monkey results, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.


Scott, M 2018, Conserving collections: “Finding the joy in detail,”’ Museums Galleries Australia Magazine, Vol. 27(1) pages 20-23, museumsaustralia/docs/mam_ vol27_1__summer_2018_-_web


Valverde, M. F., 2005, Photographic Negatives: Nature and Evolution of Processes, 2nd edition, Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation, Image Permanence Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, NY.

Not always available. Requires verification: periods of use overlap (see Table 1). Non-invasive. No WHS Concerns. Not always present. Requires verification: film duplication (for example from nitrate to polyester) can include previous edge printing.

 ‘Nitrate’

 ‘Safety’

 ‘Estar’ ‘Cronar’

Notches: ‘V’ usually on nitrate, ‘U’ usually on acetate




Not always present Requires verification: different manufacturers used notches to mean different things.





Not always present. Requires verification: some deterioration is common to both.

Polarisation test



Only identifies polyester. Requires verification: does not distinguish between cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate.

References 1.

Evaluation of technique

Shows interference colours

Chemical testing

Invasive & destructive (requires sample). WHS concerns (solvents or by products).

Float test

Requires verification: results can be difficult to interpret, since there are many different types of cellulose nitrate and acetate manufactured, and deteriorated film behaves diversely.

Diphenylamine spot test



Requires verification: cellulose acetate and polyester sometimes have a subbing layer of cellulose nitrate – can create a false positive.

Burn test



Requires safety measures: must be performed outdoors, requires bucket of water, and is generally no longer conducted.

Instrumental Analysis FTIR Reflectance Spectroscopy

Non- invasive. No WHS Concerns. 

Requires access to equipment and software as well as skills and training to operate, collect and interpret data.

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top: middle: bottom: left: right:


Perceptible signs of deterioration, called channelling, which is only seen on deteriorated cellulose acetate. Photo courtesy of ANMM.

top right:

An example of silver mirroring deterioration. Visual identification is challenging — is this cellulose nitrate or acetate? Photo courtesy of ANMM.

right: Perceptible signs of deterioration, called extreme yellowing, which is only seen on deteriorated cellulose nitrate. Photo courtesy of ANMM.

Shedding light with spectroscopy To investigate whether there is a simpler way to identify their extensive historic photographic collections, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and Sydney University’s Macleay collections turned to the Sydney Analytical Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility at the University of Sydney. Infrared reflectance spectroscopy (IRS) is a vibrational spectroscopy technique that measures the reflected light from a sample to investigate its chemical composition. This technique offers several advantages for film identification — for example: ease of use, short data-collection times, non-contact analysis, non-destructive analysis, and relatively inexpensive portable instrumentation. The collection and analysis of spectroscopic data requires scientific training and acquired skills. Working with Sydney Analytical gave access not only to the equipment needed, but also professionals with the specific skills and knowledge. Using data gained from both ANMM and Macleay, Sydney Analytical developed a statistical model that distinguishes between cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate film bases. The data (spectra) can be inputted into the model that then outputs the identification of the film sample in question.

The next stage of our research will be to expand our data-set to test our model further. In the future we hope to be able to distinguish the various stages of deterioration of the sample, establishing differentiated levels, and to make this technique available to the GLAM sector.

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Figure 2: Schematic diagram illustrating the process of data collection and analysis for the identification of film using infrared reflectance spectroscopy.

In conclusion Through the collaborative project between Sydney Analytical, the Macleay Museum, and the Australian National Maritime Museum, we now are better able to identify and manage the cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate photographs found in collections around Australia. The project shows how spectroscopy can light the way, and the importance of working with allied professionals to gain access to needed skills, knowledge and techniques that would otherwise be unavailable. Cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate photographs are challenging items to have in our collections. However, by using the resources available to us, and sharing specialised knowledge, we can manage change to protect ourselves and our collection items. [ ] Acknowledgements: This research is supported by the Australian Government through ARC Linkage Projects funding scheme (project LP160100160).

Elizabeth Carter is the manager of the Sydney Analytical Vibrational Spectroscopy node which is the largest facility of its type in Australia. Liz is responsible for all day-to-day management and operating activities. She also provides advice, research support and assistance to technical staff, researchers and students from USYD and other organisations. Jude Philp is Senior curator, Macleay Collections (formerly Macleay Museum, University of Sydney). Through research projects, consultation and exhibitions she seeks to increase the purposefulness of museum material. She is part of a team working to reopen the Macleay, Nicholson and University Art Collections in the University’s Chau Chak Wing Museum (mid-2020). Lucilla Ronai is a conservator and professional member of Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material, with over six years of international conservation experience. She is currently the Paper Conservator at the Australian National Maritime Museum, and likes to think of her job as saving the world, one piece of paper at a time. Citation: Elizabeth A Carter, Jude Philp and Lucilla Ronai, ' The positive and the negative: How spectroscopy can light the way!', AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 52–57.

58  Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019

Recovered history transforming the future at an Indigenous community museum in regional Queensland

The Ration Shed Museum (Barambah/Cherbourg): A community museum in an Aboriginal community

Mark Newman

top: Entrance to Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in the 1960s. above:

Mark Newman.

At the entry to the Ration Shed Museum and Precinct is a sign saying: ‘NOTICE. It is an offence to enter this reserve without authority. Every person entering this reserve is required to report to the Superintendent. Action will be taken against offenders. The Superintendent . It is a replica of the sign that stood at the entry gate to the historic Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in Queensland. It left no doubt about the status of those who lived within and those who lived without the boundaries. This was Australia in the 20th century. The Museum Precinct today comprises buildings that were previously at the heart of the administration of the Cherbourg settlement — the Superintendent’s Office, the Boys’ Dormitory, the Domestic Science building, and the Ration Shed itself. These historic buildings are located north of the road that originally divided the community into two groups. Besides those who were obliged to live in the dormitories, Aboriginal people were only allowed to come on the officials’ side on day-to-day business: to collect rations, to go to school, to attend to the domestic needs of the officials, to work on the farm, or to front-up to the Superintendent when he called you. Over on the south side was the ‘camp’, where the Cherbourg community lived, some in houses and others out bush in shacks and humpies.

While Barambah/Cherbourg and other similar settlements across Queensland were initially created at the turn of the 20th century as places of safety and succour for landless victims of the Frontier Wars, quite soon they became reserves dedicated to control and assimilationist policies. People were brought from all over Queensland onto the settlement on Wakka Wakka land. Through the 80 or so years that the Barambah/Cherbourg people lived ‘under the Aboriginal Protection Act’, a new community was born with its own depth of personal histories and shared memories. In 2004, when a few community women got together with the aim of ‘telling our story’, they were extremely fortunate to inherit the old historic buildings and to be able to use them to create a museum and a community cultural centre. The buildings themselves are special, with an almost unique heritage status for the commemoration of this aspect of Aboriginal history and continuing culture. In all the other Aboriginal communities that were created and administered under the Aboriginal Protection Acts in Queensland, the historic buildings of their early history have almost entirely been lost. However, to create a museum at Cherbourg, the group faced some tough challenges. First — a real ‘museum’ challenge — was the situation that there were barely any artefacts remaining that speak to peoples’ lives as lived over generations. But

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  59

the buildings, and their physical setting, were an important witness to history and the reality of daily lives. The Ration Shed Museum group began to think how to tell this community’s story in and around the very buildings that spoke of its oppression, and to reflect and embrace a new era, presenting its challenges. The answer, at least initially, was found in turning to historic photographs. Many photographs had been taken over the years by visitors, the officials and their families, by government photographers and, in some cases, by visiting anthropologists. The Cherbourg photographic records, when considered together, provided a fairly solid visual record from the earliest days of the settlement. They were housed in libraries, museums and archives in Queensland and other states. Also few, if any, of the Barambah/Cherbourg residents themselves had access to cameras until after the end of the Protection era. The result was that the Barambah/Cherbourg people had hardly seen any images of themselves or their community — and in many cases, none at all. The Ration Shed Museum’s founding act was to obtain copies of these dispersed images from the past and to paste them on the walls of the Ration Shed for the community to see for the first time. The impact was immediate, impressive, and emotional. People saw images of themselves as children, saw relatives long deceased, saw the old physical environment as

it had been recorded, and were able to piece together an historic picture of their world for the first time — albeit through images which, most often, treated them as objects of interest. Then, inevitably, what followed was an upwelling of ‘story’ — of the Cherbourg community telling and recording their history, and offering it up both to themselves and to the wider world. The process was collectively renewing, transforming the sense of the photographs and the texts from ‘they’ to ‘we’; from ‘them’ to ‘us’; from ‘their’ to ‘our’. This process of community involvement and ownership of the peoples’ history became the core strength of the museum: a reclaiming of the spaces, the images, and the stories. First, the Barambah/Cherbourg community came to see for themselves; all generations looking, learning, explaining, sharing. They were followed soon afterwards by others from the surrounding districts who came to look; and then more from the wider region, including many Murris from Brisbane and around Queensland. Many people wanted to know the true story of Cherbourg. For 15 years now, it has been heartening and a little surprising to see how schools, the general public and the media have been attracted to the Ration Shed, to a museum that tells a story of the recent history of this area. It is not a ‘soft’ story of the ancient Aboriginal ‘Dreamtime’ so beloved by certain sectors of the


Spike and Nellie from Mitchell River, at Barambah Aboriginal Settlement, 1911.

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Recovered history transforming the future at an Indigenous community museum in regional Queensland

wider society. It is a story of survival. It is a positive statement in a context where many people are still struggling, where profound social issues still abound. Meanwhile the Ration Shed’s impact has spread wider. It has become a ‘must-see’, ‘must-do’ destination and experience for many schools in the South Burnett area, the Sunshine Coast, and further afield to Brisbane, for the wider Indigenous community, as well as for interstate and international audiences. The museum and community centre’s success, we think, indicates a welcome shift towards learning, hearing, and connecting in our region, building resources for today’s youth and the community’s future — in an area where these were historically quite absent. The Ration Shed ‘experience’ and positive attitude was beautifully captured by a young boy, a pale ginger-haired fellow from nearby Kingaroy, who looked up from his place on the bean bag and said to the smiling Elder ‘I want to come and live here, Aunty Ada. Yet equally important is another part of the Ration Shed’s story: the connection to community and all its wider networks. Not only was there initial buy-in by the local community, as sketched above; there have also been many longer-term benefits built steadily over time. The Museum has grown into a broader community centre, serving a wide range of needs largely unprovided for in a poor, marginalised, historically isolated and confined settlement. Through community-led events and activities today — such as the annual Reconciliation Fun Run, a women’s sewing group, an art studio, a developing pottery business, community NAIDOC week celebrations and many others — new activities have been woven into the community-focus and future of the Ration Shed. It ‘feels’ like the Museum has had a significant impact on the Cherbourg people in those intangible markers of a ‘good’ and ‘happy’ community: identity, pride, hope… Finally, it is interesting to reflect again on how the Ration Shed Museum and Precinct came into being out of the vision of some far-sighted women elders, and how it exists today as a not-for-profit community museum, essentially outside the mainstream GLAM sector. Until recently, when we received a one-off 3-year grant for ‘core’ funding (from the Indigenous ‘bucket’, not Arts and Culture), the project has existed on project grants, some sponsorship, and its own takings. (It should also be said that we have been awarded significant state grants to upgrade our buildings.) Like the situation for all regional and rural museums, this is ‘never enough’ for our real potential. But being relatively poor has also given us an enormous freedom to operate and tell our community’s stories, mainly un-trammelled by bureaucratic constraints or political ‘inputs’ from outside.

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left (top): Former dormitory girl Joanne Wilmot sees a picture of herself as a child for the first time. left (bottom): Aerial View of Cherbourg, c.1939. this page [clockwise from top left]:

Junior Wakka dancers.

Ration Shed staff and artists waiting to greet a tour. Showing students the timeline of ‘Life under the Protection Act’ in the Ration Shed Museum. Pink Ribbon Day 2018. Group from Kingaroy State High School visiting to the Ration Shed.

Equally important is another part of the Ration Shed’s story: the connection to community and all its wider networks

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Recovered history transforming the future at an Indigenous community museum in regional Queensland

Like most, if not all, community and volunteer-led organisations, the Ration Shed Museum faces the issue of sustainability. But the future for continued and growing visitor engagement — particularly from schools — seems assured. The Museum has, in its way, shown that neither the dominant ‘settler achievement’ narrative nor the often-simplistic pre-invasion narratives are the only ones that the public will connect with. Our peoples’ stories of survival and determination in the context of a modern 21st century Aboriginal museum clearly have their place. [ ] This article is based on a joint-conference presentation in May at the Australian Museums and Galleries Association 2019 National Conference at Mparntwe (Alice Springs) on Arrernte Country, prepared by Mark Newman in close consultation with Uncle Eric Law.

Uncle Eric Law AM was born in Cherbourg in 1950. After schooling he joined the Army, which included a tour of Vietnam in 1969. After military service he started his teaching life. This career took him all over Queensland and he rose to the position of Principal and TAFE Director. In the mid-1980s, Eric was appointed Superintendant of his home area at Cherbourg, and at this time was also elected Mayor of Cherbourg. Since his 2008 retirement, Eric has devoted himself to the Cherbourg Junior Police Rangers and his work at the Ration Shed Museum. In 2008, Eric was admitted to the Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to Indigenous Education and Housing.


Cherbourg grandmothers at the entrance to the Ration Shed Museum.


Mark Newman has worked as a filmmaker in South Africa, France and the UK before coming to Australia in 2001. He taught film and television at QUT Brisbane for several years, during which he made a few short documentary films with the Cherbourg Aboriginal community. He developed a close relationship with some of the community Elders and became part of the founding Cherbourg Historical Precinct Group in 2004—5. He has since worked closely with Cherbourg for the Ration Shed Museum (making films, curating exhibitions and creating a digital archive, raising funds and overseeing building operations). In 2018—19 he is part of a curatorial team producing a permanent exhibition on the dormitories and the Stolen Generations, and producing an AR project for the Boys from Barambah Anzac project. Citation: Mark Newman, ‘The Ration Shed Museum (Barambah/Cherbourg): A community museum in an Aboriginal community,’ AMaGA Magazine, Vol. 27(2), Australian Museums and Galleries Association, Canberra, Winter 2019, pp. 58–62.

Uncle Eric Law AM.

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Magazine – Vol. 27(2) – Winter 2019  63

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Galleries of Remembrance The Shrine of Remembrance Photographer Vlad Bunyevich.

The National Anzac Centre Albany WA Photographer Lee Grifďƒžth.

Galleries of Remembrance The Shrine of Remembrance Photographer Vlad Bunyevich.

Showcasing Australia For The Past 40 Years

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