1.30pm – 3.00pm

Concurrent Session 11

Dr Kate Armstrong, Marni Pilgrim, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
Face up face plant: a social media activation falls flat

It’s what an old person would think is cool…

The words you never want to hear about your shiny new digital activation. To be fair to our much loved, super-popular-with-the-over-55s Museum, cool isn’t something we generally aspire to be (as rad as we personally feel democracy is). In the quote above, ‘cool’ could be replaced with any one of our core values. This time we just didn’t hit the mark with any of our audiences…

Face Up was a risky undertaking for our museum. Our goal – a participative experience where visitors could support a projected democratic idea or concept by tweeting their selfie into the projection. Like a proxy vote in a digital landscape. Our first daring moves started with messing with a nationally heritage-listed building and continued unabated with the installation of high-spec data projectors in an iconic and much loved historic space. The comfort zone was well and truly left behind when we decided to project moving phrases populated with photo-mosaic portraits on walls that had been home to traditional gilt-framed oil paintings of prime ministers. And we entered risky territory when the social media platform that would enable participation wasn’t one most of our onsite audience were au fait with. In this ‘bare all’ case study we will reflect on how we failed in relation to platform, concept and motivation and share what we learned on our Face Up journey.

Bronwyn Roper, National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
When digital ambitions exceed resources

What happens when you’re given sparkly new digital toys, but have limited software, skills and budget to operate them?

On 31 May 2014 Library at the Dock was opened to the public by City of Melbourne, Lend Lease and Places Victoria. Situated in Docklands in the Melbourne CBD, the library is the first 6-star green-rated public building in Australia. As well as being a traditional library, it also has a makerspace, recording studio, Mac Lab and a community gallery initially dedicated to telling Docklands-related stories. City of Melbourne employed specialist staff to manage these spaces, deliver technology workshops and curate temporary social history exhibitions. Technology was fitted throughout the building including touch tables and projectors in the gallery, but few resources were available to provide software platforms and produce content.

This presentation will map how technology was incorporated into temporary exhibitions in the Library at the Dock gallery. So what worked and what didn’t? How did library staff and community groups creatively deliver digital exhibition content with limited resources?

Culminating in The Docks: Melbourne’s Cultural Underground of the 90s, an exhibition about dance parties and raves held in abandoned warehouses in pre-development Docklands, library staff established a key partnership with Monash Art Design and Architecture to deliver interactive digital content. Incorporated into the Melbourne Music Week program the opening weekend of events booked out in just hours. But did the technology stand up to 3 months of public scrutiny?

Linda Barron, State Library of Queensland
What our visitors say

State Library of Queensland (SLQ) is committed to providing welcoming and engaging experiences for all visitors. Meeting this commitment requires understanding from our visitors’ perspectives. In 2014 SLQ implemented two significant mechanisms for collecting and analysing our visitors’ experiences.

SLQ implemented Tell Us, a centralised visitor feedback database managed by the Visitor Experience team. Tell Us allows us to gather, analyse and respond to complaints, compliments, suggestions and comments from multiple channels. These channels include online forms, comment cards and verbal feedback. SLQ commenced in 2014 using the specialist visitor exit survey Visitor 360. Visitor 360 captures visitor data on a number of attributes including visitation patterns, demographics, psychographic segmentation, attractors and intentions, needs and motivations and media consumption. As Visitor 360 is utilised around the world by the GLAM sector SLQ is able to benchmark ourselves against other institutions in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

As a result of implementing these two instruments, SLQ has greater visibility and awareness of our visitors’ needs and expectations. By analysing the feedback data we have identified changes and implemented improvements to what we do and how we do it.

This presentation will provide an overview of the collection and analysis of data from Tell Us and Visitor 360. It will also include data from our Happiness touchscreen exit poll which is available in our reception foyer. In particular it will focus on how we use the feedback to influence and improve our programming at SLQ.

Concurrent Session 12

Dr Charlotte Craw, Dr Blake Singley, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Searching for new pathways: the Identity magazine project

In this paper, we discuss a current project to curate digital access to Identity magazine. Identity was a significant publication produced by the Indigenous-controlled Aboriginal Publications Foundation between 1971 and 1982. It is an important window into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history of this time, providing insight into culture and politics, as well as a unique record of family and community.

We explore the development of new methodologies drawn from the digital humanities. We reflect on how these might be best applied to facilitate access to this important resource for AIATSIS’ key stakeholders, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Dr Scott Hill, Joanna Nicholas, Sydney Living Museums
Three gardens, three conservation approaches

Domestic gardens at historic house museums go beyond being mere decorative adjuncts to the main offer, the ‘frame’ surrounding the more important ‘painting’ as it were. They represent the accumulated evidence of the aspirations and tastes of their owners sometimes over several generations, and create the setting that is the intrinsic context for understanding the house itself. This case study examines three of Sydney Living Museums most well known gardens.

Vaucluse House, the 19th century Sydney estate of the Wentworth family, combines a remnant Picturesque landscape combining mature plantings and remnant native vegetation within which are the recreated details of the original garden. Surrounding Elizabeth Farm is a garden that seeks to evoke the early Macarthur period; an interpretive garden that draws on textual evidence to encapsulate the key interpretive themes of the property. Surrounded by remnant pastureland, the garden at Rouse Hill House is preserved intact. It is a fragile, senescent garden, created over multiple generations, and where the conservation policy seeks to preserve that most fragile and elusive of elements, its atmosphere.

All three gardens incorporate their houses’ individual interpretation and conservation policies, yet pose challenges characteristic of cultural landscapes. Over time landscapes change, grow, decline, are replaced or are lost. Conservation in this context comes to mean something quite different to the preservation of static objects and built form. This study examines the approaches to the three landscapes that sit intrinsically with the way the built fabric and the collections within the houses are themselves conserved.

Margaret Ferguson, University of Canberra
Beyond the bling: Catholic textile collections in their cultural landscapes

Catholic communities across Australia care for diverse collections of textiles which embody a rich historical tradition and deep cultural significance which are often studied in terms of their art historical context and material opulence or beauty.

This study explores how, why, and by whom different kinds of significance are attributed to these collections and the ways in which custodians work to preserve this significance within a variety of cultural landscapes. The study draws on collection analysis, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with custodians of collections held in diocesan archives, cathedral and parish churches, convents and monasteries, and religious schools. The views of curators from public art galleries and museums offer a contrasting, ‘official’ perspective of the heritage values of such textiles.

Initial analyses suggest that there is a diversity of views about the significance of ecclesiastical textiles within the Catholic community. Of particular interest is how community memory and identity is expressed as embodied in the textiles collected by convent communities – where textiles act as devices for recalling past individuals and events, thus continuing their presence in those communities.

In contrast Catholic archives and museum collections, which have adopted heritage and collection management methods, often emphasize the historical connections, aesthetics and art historical context of their textiles. Cultural dissonance arising from this diversity of approaches has the potential to impact on the conservation of this heritage, particularly as churches or religious communities are closed and their textile collections moved into different contexts and cultural landscapes.

Concurrent Session 13

Georgia Rouette, City of Port Phillip
Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming

Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it, a Bowie quote, aims to explore the dichotomies and perceptions of Public Art in Victoria. On the one hand the media is highly critical of any public art expenditure and at the same time it rides on the successes of art in the public realm. Councils tend to react to public art accordingly; The Art of Bansky exhibition in Melbourne is a poignant example of the push pull attitudes towards art in public spaces- in this instance, street and graffiti art.

If we as manages of public art programs and collections can hear tomorrow, how do we grab at opportunities and influence decision makers to engage in meaningful artistic and social conversations about the value of public art and remove the reaction based decisions which asphyxiates all creativity.

We know that public art, whether it is permanent sculpture, ephemeral, developer art, can create tourism opportunities, incite community to take up an issue such as the environment, open conversations about health and well-being, support artists through collaborations and actively engage in art discourses.

The paper will explore my own experiences working with Public Art within local government constraints. I will discuss my successes and my failures and the ongoing conversations that loop around the organisation consistently. As Public Art is not core business for local government there is no room for complacency and the need to be fully alert and across the organisation’s operations is critical to how projects can be delivered.

Dr Colin Langridge, Contemporary Art Tasmania
Shotgun – building partnerships that deliver professional outcomes for artists

Shotgun developed as a flexible exhibition and curatorial model to deliver targeted support and opportunity for Tasmanian artists. Beginning in 2010 this series of projects is the outcome of significant public private collaborations between Detached Cultural Organisation and Contemporary Art Tasmania (CAT) and now from 2015 with the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Shotgun recognizes that success in the contemporary art field is enhanced by immersion and engagement. Through exhibitions, mentoring, meetings with industry professionals, workshops, discussions and commissioned texts artists are placed in situations that allow them to present their current practice and also to find ways that extend it in unanticipated directions. Shotgun aims to reinvigorate the practice of artists selected from any career stage by fast tracking their engagement with industry professionals over an extended but intense period.

Industry partnerships combined with a flexible and custom-made program have enabled a unique situation to evolve, one that offers great opportunities for professional development and industry liaison. Shotgun has become a key component in the Tasmanian contemporary art landscape through combining the experience and networks of individuals and major organisations.

This talk relates to the Social Landscape of contemporary art through focusing on the benefits that have derived from industry collaboration.

Jennifer Coombes, National Film and Sound Archive, Penelope Grist, National Portrait Gallery
Collaborative curating; four principles from Starstruck: Portraits from the Movies

Co-curators of a major exhibition project “Starstruck: Portraits from the movies” present a case study in collaboration between an archive, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), and a gallery, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). It is the first ever collaboration of this kind between Australian national cultural institutions and will be the first exhibition surveying the role of portraiture in cinema. Starstruck’s first two years we have extracted four important principles of collaborative curating. We take as a given the standard practice of effective project management and communication. How collaboration changes our institutions as locations for exploring culture and identity is our central concern. The four principles are:

1. Survey existing topography. A heightened awareness of the contrasting disciplines and methodologies within an archive and gallery prepared us to question assumptions about our collections; for example, the relative importance of iconic subjects, artist biographies and original formats.

2. Carefully choose the site for building collaboration. We built a firm foundation for the project on an honest assessment of our institutional strengths.

3. Re-imagine collections. Collaboration requires both parties to re-imagine their territory. In our project, previously unseen casting books and scrapbooks from the 1930s become a group portrait, ‘documentation’ of working on set becomes ‘portraiture’ and publicity stills are fine art photography. New eyes bring new discoveries to collection practice and visual strategies.

4. Recognise new diplomatic relations. Collaboration enlivens interest, discussion, new commitment to well-trodden cultural landscapes made new again within and outside the institutions.

Concurrent Session 14

Athena Cabot, Georgia Close, Museum of Contemporary Art
If the museum was my school…

“If the Museum was my school, I wouldn’t miss a day.” Joel, Year 6 student and MCA Work Experience participant.

In 2016, we were curious. How could we support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to develop a meaningful relationship with the MCA? How could we help students learn that the Museum is a place for them? How could we extend this relationship to their families? What were the barriers and could we overcome them?

Our investigation started with Merrylands East Public School and Principal John Goh, a school highly regarded for pioneering initiatives supporting student achievement. Primarily from refugee or newly arrived families, many Merrylands East students have experienced disrupted schooling and speak English as an additional language. The school emphasises self-directed learning and real world projects, supporting students to achieve through their interests, passions and skills – success is not defined by the results of standardised testing.

Mr Goh also had questions for us: How could a learning program at the MCA integrate with the students’ school experiences through the application of real world, project-based learning?

Through this partnership we began to explore our questions and create new ones together: What were the possibilities for a museum learning program designed for one school community? What happens when school leaders and museum educators work together to integrate the learning priorities of the Museum and the school? What is the impact on students, families, teachers and museum educators?

Through an intensive work experience program at the MCA we began to find answers.

Michael Harvey, Australian National Maritime Museum
Digital voyaging – 21st century technology, 18th century ship

One of the challenges for a national or state museum is that of reaching the whole state. This presentation explores a transformation in the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Learning team, from a site-focused education model to a digital outreach model, which has been happening over the last few years. It also details a current case study involving collaboration between the museum and the CSIRO to develop novel infrastructure, new education programs, and new digital engagement skills. The nature of collaborative working between museums and applied tech researchers, and the process of transitioning from “risky/innovative” pilot project to “live” program to “business as usual” will also be explored.

HMB Endeavour – a replica of the Captain Cook’s ship – is a key part of our on-site experience. It connects visitors with both history and science, giving them a very real sense of the challenges of eighteenth century navigation and shipboard life. Now, CSIRO-developed technology enables us to extend the HMB Endeavour experience outside Sydney. Students control live-streaming panoramic cameras, hidden in eighteenth century lanterns, to explore the ship. To make the experience as similar to a physical excursion as possible, museum educators interact with students, asking and receiving questions, and highlighting key objects and areas on board.

The approach has been “collaborate – pilot – learn – develop – fundraise”. Our initial pilots addressed technological and educational issues, to develop a program that produces a great classroom outcome – and which has achieved funding for the next two years.


Lara Torr, South Australian Museum
Bats, biology and blindness: transforming disability access through community collaboration

Museums have an important role to play in ensuring that people with disability have full access to cultural participation however modes of display and conservation requirements can impede access, particularly for visitors who are blind or vision impaired. Furthermore, access initiatives often face challenges in relation to audience development.

In response to these challenges and in tandem with the development of a museum-wide access blueprint, the South Australian Museum (SAM) asked the question: would an accessible program take a different shape if we developed it in tandem with our audience? The response was a twelve-month collaboration with the staff and students of the South Australian School for Vision Impaired (SASVI). ‘The Bat Project’ – an exploration of bats, echolocation and the technology behind non-visual ways of navigating the world – incorporated museum visits, workshops, school-based education sessions and a field trip in which students participated in research alongside leading Australian bat expert (and SAM scientist) Terry Reardon.

This paper explores the practicalities of making SAM’s displays, collections and research practice accessible to children who are blind or vision impaired, the outcomes of the project for SASVI staff and students, and the influence of the project on the ongoing development of accessible programs at SAM.