I find it quite difficult to talk about a museum that is meant to represent my identity and nationality. I’m writing this blog sitting in the museum itself – mainly because I’m tired of navigating. I am going to start by talking about what I enjoyed at this museum.
The Eternity gallery was my favourite by far. In here fifty stories about Australian personalities are told through the means of digital technology. The stories are divided into themes such as chance, hope, and joy. Accompanying each theme is a touch screen where you can learn more about the individuals on display and see a short oral history video. It was quite a dark space meaning I couldn’t read all the object labels. Having the technology meant I could at least interact with what was on display to an extent. Personalities included Harold Holt, The Wiggles, and Benita Collings. It was a compact space with everything on display in two large glass cabinets.
In terms of the other exhibitions, both my friend and I found it quite difficult to navigate the space often finding ourselves lost and confused. This was especially the case when we exited the ground floor of the First Australians Gallery and could not find any signage to re-enter the museum to the Landmarks gallery. The map is a little open to interpretation. Fortunately there were many Visitor Service Officers around who were very helpful. We were not the only ones who were lost. Often we found individuals with their maps open and confused looks on their faces.
The other exhibitions also utilized a very eclectic colour scheme that often detracted from the thematic panels and object cases. For example, in the First Australians Gallery bright orange is mixed with bright red, purple, black, and olive green. The colour and the architecture combined were quite busy and distracting.
We did enjoy reading and seeing the diversity of stories that the museum tells. From Greek Milk Bars to Chris the sheep’s mass of fleece, there is no stone left unturned by the exhibition spaces. There definitely isn’t an overriding Australian narrative which I think is a good direction to take. Rather than one story, the museum tells many that all contribute to this elusive idea of Australian nationalism. A bit more chronology in some of the spaces, however, would have been beneficial.
Overall, the National Museum was interesting from the perspective that you can learn about many facets of Australian life and how other people interpret what being Australian means. These stories are told thanks to a rich variety of objects in the collection. I think the museum is definitely suited to tourists who are looking for a snapshot of Australia. I think it’s important to visit this museum with the understanding that Australia is a multicultural and multi-dimensional society that, in my opinion, does not lend itself to one overarching story.