1.30pm – 3.00pm

Concurrent Session 25

Margo Neale, National Museum of Australia
Curating country: custodial obligations

In his recent book, ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia’ (2011), Bill Gammage demonstrates how, contrary to popular belief, Aboriginal people farmed the land, fashioning it, changing it, mentoring it and effectively curating it. If Aboriginal people were the first farmers, I contend that Aboriginal people were also the country’s first curators who had the first museums, the first keeping places and the first archives which are embodied in the land. The term curator refers to one who cares for ‘things” aligning with the foundational concept of Aboriginal cultural practice, ‘Caring for Country’. Therefore, an Aboriginal curator is by extension curating Country and the learning environment can similarly be modelled on the principles of knowledge transfer in cultural practice, including learning along songlines. To represent indigeneity in museums of the 21st century these principles must inform the custodianship of the cultural landscape across multiple terrains in the museum. How might this look?

Marcus Hughes, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences
Pressure points: realigning the colonial agenda

“Aboriginal ways of understanding – Aboriginal ways of doing things, involve multiple knowledge systems. We work across dialogues, across ideas and we weave things together. In a more traditional Western approach, knowledge is often broken down into sections. What we are trying to do is put people at the table to talk together (again) and re-imagine a history that we have lost.” Jonathan Jones

This yarn-up is specifically focused on issues faced by mid-career Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural workers in major cultural institutions and other types of non-Indigenous arts and cultural infrastructures.

When confronted by a range of synthetic competitive cultural agendas that conflict with authentic cultural community agendas – how do we shift the post-contact paradigm?

The session provides a reflection on those environments citing practical examples where a focus on firmly establishing Indigenous cultural perspectives and innovation within the infrastructure has provided sustainable models of leadership with new understandings of different approaches to professional practice – despite the risk.

When culturally authentic frameworks for consultation and engagement are established, they ensure a shared cultural authority across exhibition and public programming with community endorsement, ownership and advocacy supporting the product. This is a simple process but is often complicated by the challenges that emerge when redefining the established status quo.

Success is reliant on the development of a range of mutually respectful understandings and relationships as we work to create a new approach that truly recognises Indigenous peoples as the primary guardians and interpreters of their cultures.

Brett Leavy, Virtual Heritage Jedi
Virtual Maiwar

Virtual Maiwar is the latest virtual heritage environment where user fly-over the Brisbane River as a wedgetail eagle, exploring and gathering traditional knowledge and histories of the original custodians. In this virtual landscape the significant sites, campsites, trade routes and hunting grounds are shown along with geospatially accurate representations of the native flora and fauna of the region.

Brett has been an active media producer for some time, spoken widely on the subject of Virtual Heritage and represented First Nations people at the World Indigenous Association of the United Nations Forum on Internet Communication Technologies in Tunisia – raising the subject of intangible heritage in virtual landscapes. He has held numerous Board roles with the Qld Trachoma Eye Health Program, South East Qld Black Community Housing, Brisbane Indigenous Media Association, Kooemba Jdarra Performing Arts Company, Qld and North Territory Cooperative Multimedia Centre, the Australian Indigenous Communications Association and the Community Broadcasting Foundation.

By day he manages Bilbie Pty Ltd and for over decades, has researched and developed Virtual Songlines. This application is planned to be a useful tool for rapidly developing, recording, preserving and presenting the knowledge passed down by the Traditional Owners since time immemorial. Brett’s Masters addresses the subject of Traditional Knowledge Management in Virtual Environments and he continues to explore methods to better and more immersively present the arts, culture and heritage of First Nations people.network that is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

How can virtual heritage and the most recent developments in 3D and VR, best represent the cultural, traditional knowledge and histories of Australia’s original custodians? Can virtual landscapes properly and respectfully represent the significant sites, original and permanent campsites, trade routes and hunting grounds within a geospatially accurate way whilst acknowledging the traditional owner’s connection to country?

Concurrent Session 26

Jackie Fraser, National Sports Museum
Caring about the here and now: challenges in contemporary collecting

The National Sports Museum (NSM) interprets not just our sporting past, but aims to engage with the present. It is important to us that we collect material associated with contemporary moments, issues and developments in Australian sport so that it is available for us to share with our visitors.

However, the sporting landscape is constantly changing, and responding quickly to current events can be a challenge.

How can we plan to collect from an event that has not yet happened? How do we approach an athlete to ask them to donate a treasured item they’ve only just started to enjoy? How do we make sure that the connections between event and object aren’t at risk of being lost over time? The NSM faces these and many other challenges in identifying and acquiring objects that relate to contemporary sport.

In the lead-up to 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, the NSM developed a contemporary collecting program in collaboration with the Australian Olympic Committee to ensure that significant objects relating to Australia’s campaign were preserved alongside material from Australia’s 120-year Olympic history.

This project aimed to address past challenges the NSM experienced in contemporary collecting, and drew on the lessons we’ve learned across several years of successful and unsuccessful donation solicitations.

This presentation outlines the objectives of the project, explores its development, analyses the problems and solutions we encountered along the way, and shares what we learned and how this will inform our future collecting strategies.

John Cheeseman, Mosman Art Gallery
Creating the cultural landscape – contemporary galleries setting the agenda

Galleries are setting the agenda for changes in the cultural landscape through their curatorial employment of contemporary art practices, social engagement, new technologies and partnerships.

This presentation provides an outline of the techniques and operations of effective contemporary art galleries and shows how they are practically applied in a range of project settings. Drawn from traditional museum techniques and subject matter, the curatorial tools utilised by galleries have allowed them to reflect upon and transcend the status quo, pushing social boundaries and creating new cultural realities and opportunities.

The presentation will illustrate the techniques and operations used from a variety of institutions and will provide two short project case studies.

Case Study 1 will examine the techniques and approaches used in the Bungaree’s Farm exhibition. This project worked with Aboriginal artists, curators, historians and community representatives to reinterpret a colonial foundation story from an Indigenous perspective. The project changed the cultural landscape of Aboriginal art practice and began the process of reclaiming Northern Sydney as a place of active Aboriginal engagement and cultural activity. The project has won numerous awards including the 2015 MAGNA National Award and was a featured project in the 2016 Best In Heritage conference.

Case Study 2 will look at the planned impact of the Cook 2020 project. While still in development, this project aims to work with multiple partners to provide a kaleidoscopic interpretation of the story of Captain James Cook  in recognition of the 250th anniversary of his journey to Australia and the Pacific.

Julie Banks, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Cinnamon Van Reyk, Department of Communications & the Arts
With a little help from my friends: a case study of collaboration between museums and

As a result of extensive industry engagement and consultation, in 2013 the Commonwealth Government passed the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act (PCOL Act). In early 2015 the government opened the PCOL Scheme, outlining standards and approval processes in support of the Act. Following input from across the sector, in 2014 the Government also released the Best Practice Guide to Collecting Cultural Material providing guidelines about provenance research and decision making for acquisitions.

From a museum perspective, the development and implementation of policies and procedures to support compliance with the PCOL Scheme and Best Practice Guide provides an opportunity to reconsider and articulate the institution’s position on fundamental aspects of collection development, management and programming. At its best, such a process involves robust and open cross-disciplinary discussions about the identification, evaluation and management of risks and how we achieve and demonstrate high standards of museum practice and ethics.

Considering the development of a suite of collection management policies and procedures by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), and the preparation of its successful application for approval under the PCOL Scheme, this paper will explore the PCOL application and policy development process from the perspective of both the Museum and Department of Communications and the Arts. We will consider the potential of cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches to managing uncertainty and risk, and consider how a collaborative and consultative approach can contribute to identifying and realising best practice.

Concurrent Session 27

Benita Tunks, Amy Wolgamot, National Museum of Australia
How many people does it take to create a gallery experience?

Over 100 people participated in design thinking and audience-centred processes to create the National Museum of Australia’s new First Australians Welcome Space. We collaborated with audience representatives, designers, software developers, fabricators, specialist consultants, artists and Aboriginal Host Nation peoples. This new cross-cultural experience has active Indigenous protocols and embeds cultural knowledge in both the design and the content represented.

Using this project as a case study, we will share our process, lessons learned and practical solutions we used to produce a cross-cultural gallery experience.

Emily Wubben, Australian War Memorial
Mapping a digital landscape: an AWM online exhibition

The Australian War Memorial’s online exhibition Art of Nation is a new example of digital landscapes created by Museums and Galleries for audience engagement. Utilising visualisation and GIS technology, this online exhibition presents the Memorial’s collection in a multidimensional way, not possible in a physical exhibition, and facilitates the significant outreach potentials offered via an online platform. In keeping with the MGA’s conference theme, this paper will explore the motivations, development and use of the AWM’s Art of Nation exhibition.

This exhibition is structured around a digital, navigable, 3D environment based on Charles Bean’s 1919 design for the Memorial building. The art collection is exhibited in this digital environment according to Bean’s curatorial vision. Online ‘visitors’ can click on the paintings displayed in this virtual gallery, thereby opening maps that trace the journeys travelled by Australia’s official war artists. Field sketches by these artists are pinpointed on interactive maps, giving viewers ready access to compare ‘then and now’ images of specific locations. In this way, the physical landscape of the First World War, as it was captured by the official artists, is shown alongside reality today, offering a new method of interacting with the Memorial’s collection. Online users are provided with an innovative means of learning about history with a sense of the place and time experienced and depicted by Australia’s first war artists.

Rebecca Jones, Museum Consultant GLAM Peak, John Petersen, Heritage & Museum Consultant GLAM Peak
Significantly digital – the GLAM Peak Digital Access to Collections project

The success of Trove, Victorian Collections and other aggregated databases shows the demand for information about our culture. While processes to digitise and make collections accessible are advanced, the percentage of items digitally accessible remains relatively low. What are the barriers and opportunities experienced by small organisations, including community museums, across rural and regional Australia? In 2016, the GLAM Peak national body of 9 sector associations and organisations engaged consultants John Petersen and Rebecca Jones to survey and interview small organisations across Australia including 6 GLAM case studies. This resulted in a national GLAM Peak framework and an online toolkit, created to encourage and support small and medium sized organisations through the process of digitising their collections and providing internet access to them. In this session, John and Rebecca will discuss their travels, give voice to the survey participants and case studies, and suggest potential ways forward.

Concurrent Session 28

Changing theories, assumptions and expectations – challenging how we operate
Jilda Andrews, National Museum of Australia, Alistair Brown, UK Museums Association, Kim McKay, Australian Museum, Alex Marsden, Museums Galleries Australia, Linnae Pohatu, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Phillipa Tocker, Museums Aotearoa

The theoretical landscape for museums and galleries is constantly changing. Using the metaphor of environment, landscape and climate change, this session will explore the economic, political, geographic and technological systems which affect our museum operations.

– What can we learn from changing theories in political and world contexts?
– What research is being done within our operational museum landscape?
– How do these theories apply to new generation museums?

Four (or 5) presenters will each take a different theoretical/operational aspect and/or geographical perspective, looking at Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the UK and USA. We will then consider what equipment museum and gallery staff and governing bodies need to navigate these changing landscapes, and invite delegates to take part in this discussion.

Concurrent Session 29

Travelling across the country – Part 2

Jeff Powell, Queensland Museum Network
Cobb and Co across the country

Dr Geraldine Mate, Queensland Museum Network, Dr Celmara Pocock, University of Southern Queensland
A disconnected journey: travelling across landscapes by automobile

Jennifer Edmonds, Transport Heritage NSW
More stories, fewer objects: cultural change in land-based mass transport museums in NSW