2.00pm – 3.00pm

Concurrent Session 1

Maryanne McCubbin, Helen Privett, Museum Victoria
Managing hazardous substances in collections

The museum profession’s awareness of the presence and implications of hazardous substances in collections has grown over the past few decades. These hazards may be inherent, for example in radiation-emitting mineral specimens or in domestic technology such as capacitors in microwave ovens, or they may be applied as found in scientific and cultural collections where heavy metal or organic pesticides have been used after museums have collected the items.

Museum Victoria has spent the last seven years addressing the management challenges of hazardous substances in collections. The significant achievements made within the organisation are the result of multi-disciplinary commitment to creating a safe working environment for our staff, and to fully understanding the range and breadth of hazardous substances contained in our collections. By adopting risk management frameworks and developing staff awareness and understanding Museum Victoria has driven a major shift in cultural practice.

By working with occupational hygienists and other external specialists and organisations Museum Victoria has developed a range of controls for hazardous substances. These include engineering solutions for safer access to collections during interventive processes such as preparation and conservation, and development of a suite of specialised procedures and accompanying training.

This paper will outline the initiative, the achievements to date and the aims for the future management of hazardous substances in the collections of Museum Victoria. It will also discuss the legislative frameworks within which collections must operate, with particular emphasis on the management of pharmaceuticals.

Managing hazardous substances in museum collections – a paper on Museum Victoria’s approach and legislative requirements for museums.

Concurrent Session 2

Wendy Lugg, Royal Western Australian Historical Society
Creating an exhibition of substance despite meagre resources

How do you mount a major war exhibition with scant military knowledge, a sparse collection of relevant items, a short lead time and very little money? This was the dilemma museum volunteer Wendy Lugg created for herself when she took on the challenge of developing a WW1 commemorative exhibition for the Royal Western Australian Historical Society.

The short answer is that you need an idea, flexibility, and blind faith – the sort that gives you courage to tackle the impossible.   The long answer is of course much more complex. It involves focusing on your strengths; knowing how to improvise; drawing on other organisations with relevant collections and knowledge; and being willing to change direction to grasp unexpected opportunities. It also helps to love research and writing, and not to need much sleep.

“Beyond the Battlefields”, mounted to coincide with the centenary of the ANZAC Gallipoli landing, was an overwhelming success. Placing items from the Society’s collection alongside memorabilia and significant historic artefacts borrowed from private and major state collections, it told personal stories of war’s impact on Western Australia. The Society’s first major on-site exhibition, it took six months from idea to installation and cost the Society just $1,000.

This case study has insights useful for any small organisation, examining in detail how a professional result was achieved with such limited resources. From sourcing exhibition objects to printing and mounting didactics and creating exhibition furniture from unlikely sources, limitations can become opportunities if you approach them from a different perspective.

This case study examines in detail how to create a substantial and professional exhibition despite meager resources.

Cash Brown, Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka
Innovations in exhibition delivery; 19th century bling | Goldfields jewellery

The presentation of over 220 pieces of rare goldfields jewellery in a site specific exhibition presented a range of curatorial and conservation challenges. With objects selected mainly from private collections nationally, BLING was the first exhibition of its type to be held in Australia by examining the invention of uniquely Australian motifs and their international impact. BLING utilised touchscreen technologies, on line exhibition, site texts, a 166 page catalogue, short films and information cards to deliver information. The rationale behind exhibition development and evaluation will be discussed in relation to audience accessibility and engagement. Modes of content delivery in relation to the available technologies, budget and physical space demonstrated a combination of digital and analogue materials engaged audiences and significantly lengthened the duration of visits. How we achieved this within a short time frame and on budget will add add to the scope of exhibition development for curators, designers and educational professionals in the sector.

19th Century BLING | Goldfields jewellery, what did we learn? How a combination of digital, print and analogue technologies made visitors linger longer.

Concurrent Session 3

Veronica Macno, Melissa Smith, Arts Tasmania
Arts Tasmania’s Roving Curators: operating within a regional landscape

Arts Tasmania’s Roving Curators operate within a regional and remote landscape to provide expertise to a diverse range of collections. The objective is to endorse best practice and extend the reach of small museums and galleries across Tasmania to increase their access and to engage wider, more varied audiences.

The Roving Curators are part of the Cultural Heritage Program that work directly with the state’s community museums, history groups and organisations on a range of project types, including: cataloguing, collection management, preventative conservation, planning displays, interpretation plans, significance assessments and volunteer management and more. This highly successful program is in its 10th year and supports the preservation of Tasmania’s heritage in over 140 small museums and galleries. Tasmania’s community museums and collections play an important role as storytellers and custodians of our state’s unique cultural heritage.

This paper will present Arts Tasmania’s Roving Curators program in more detail using several case studies to illustrate its effectiveness in supporting Tasmania’s community museums. Other initiatives include a comprehensive workshop program and the development of the annual 10 Objects – 10 Stories: Celebrating Community Collections exhibition.

Tasmania’s cultural heritage is being preserved with the help of Arts Tasmania’s Roving Curator program.

Belinda Ensor, Museums Galleries Australia (Victoria)
The Veteran’s Heritage Project: capacity building in non-traditional collecting organisations

Ex-service organisations such as the Returned and Services League (RSL) and the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA) are custodians of Australia’s war heritage and hold significant roles in local communities. Although collecting is not their core business, over time they have become repositories for Australia’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Their members and collections hold important stories about service, sacrifice and everyday Australians’ experiences of war.

The Veterans Heritage Project, a two-year project funded by the Veterans Branch, Victorian Government and administered by Museums Australia (Victoria) will facilitate the preservation and recording of veterans’ heritage in Victoria. It is being delivered in two streams, the War Heritage Collections Training Program and the Oral History Training Program. Selected participants receive intensive museological support to catalogue, digitise and publish their collections on Victorian Collections, or to interview ex-service men and women for the recording of oral histories.

This project is motivated by the need to build capacity for the long-term preservation of Australia’s cultural heritage. Ex-service organisations, like other non-traditional collecting organisations, are non-profit and volunteer-run. Often lacking resources, museum training and controlled environmental conditions, their collections are at major risk of damage and loss. Through this project, RSL and VVAA volunteers and staff will learn key museum skills and record vital information about provenance and history of their objects. This partnership has important benefits, including connecting the next generation with our military heritage, increased research potential and knowledge exchange between the community and museum professionals.

Preserving Australia’s wartime heritage through capacity building in non-traditional collecting organisations.

Concurrent Session 4

Ian Tully, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery
The Acre Project

ACRE is an ongoing project involving rural communities along the Murray River in Northern Victoria and Southern NSW. ACRE focuses on seminars, events, and projects which look at ways that art and agriculture intercept with history, community resilience and future planning.

One of these programs was the innovative TWIG Project; a series of “artist on farm” residencies.

The artist and farming family worked closely together in the day to day running of the farm. This immersive experience culminated in a production at the end of the residency with friends, farm workers and neighbours invited to a small bonfire (twig). This was a chance to share in rural hospitality and witness the artist’s experience.

At a time when drought was having an acute effect on the mental health and well being of farmers, and particularly men, the TWIG Project was successful in bolstering the self esteem of the farming family, through the sharing of stories and discovering new ways of seeing the commonplace and everyday. The partnering of the two professions; artist and farmer, resulted in making the unremarkable into the remarkable, the ordinary into the extraordinary, and acknowledged the inventiveness and importance of farming to a small and supportive audience at the TWIG.

One of the characteristics of the TWIG Project was the small number of participants involved. This talk will reflect on measuring success, and the legacy of these experiences.

It could be argued that a project targeting 25 to 35 people at a time, could be an excessive spend…. until you appreciate the potential for change through meaningful relationship building.

Padraic Fisher, Sara Pearce, National Wool Museum
Reminiscence Cottage: a multisensory space for people living with dementia

The Reminiscence Cottage was created through the redevelopment of an existing and popular component of the NWM’s core exhibits – the replica Millworker’s Cottage. The space is specifically designed for an audience with dementia; incorporating new lighting, ramps and furnishings in a multisensory environment of objects to touch, smell, listen to, look at and use within their original context. The Cottage is designed to enhance the experience of a person with dementia, through quality of life indicators like humour and personal identity, in encouraging a person with dementia to interact in a public space. Support materials for carers and loved ones help enhance and support the visitor’s experience.

With a clear audience and program offering now developed, the Cottage project is in the midst of a 12month research partnership with Deakin University to look at audience engagement and participant impact during visits to the Cottage. The research project is looking at types of engagement, level of engagement, and identifying specific examples of objects or experiences creating engagement in the Cottage space.

Over three years of operation the Cottage has engaged a new audience for the Museum and resulted not just in Cottage visitation but to increased Museum visitation from aged care and day therapy programs to our other exhibition spaces. The Museum is seen as a safe, accessible and supportive facility to visit.

The Reminiscence Cottage is an immersive space where visitors with dementia quickly feel safe, a familiar and multisensory space that prompts memories and supports their reminiscence journey. Three years into the project the space continues to engage new audiences and to enhance the visitor experience for all our Museum visitors.