Museums Galleries Australia National Conference: Day 1

The first day of the conference is unfortunately over! It was an incredibly interesting day consisting of a workshop at the State Library of Queensland and two sessions of speakers. I have so much to talk about I am going to try and be as succinct as possible.

State Library Workshop

My day started at the State Library of Queensland for a workshop titled Collection Care – Physical, Digital and Disasters! For two hours, we heard from leading conservators at the library about how to care for your collection. The time was divided between three speakers each of whom talked on the general topic of conservation from a different perspective.


Our first speaker was Rachel Spano, a senior conservator at the library. Her talk ranged from quarantining objects when they first arrive in the museum to organizing a disaster plan strategy. To ensure nothing nasty enters the collection, when you receive new objects or paper files, it is recommended they are isolated from other items in your collection and treated. This could be blasting it with nitrogen or simply placing the objects in a garbage bag for a certain period of time. If no bugs are present, then the time in quarantine can be shorter. Spano then went through categorizing objects from most to least significant. If a disaster strikes, you are pretty set then knowing which objects to save and which to live and let die.

Next was Grant Collins who has direct experience with managing disasters. Throughout his time at the library, he has managed twenty. The one in focus was the 2011 floods which were unbelievably destructive. He went through information on how to create salvage areas in case of disaster and how to start cleaning up the mess. It was so cool because he actually dipped a book (that was due to be disposed of) in water and showed us step-by-step how to manage the situation. I learned a lot from actually seeing the work in action.



Finally, Leif Ekstrom talked on digital collections and potential disasters. If there is one lesson I have learned from my numerous years of study it’s that you must literally always back up every single thing you are working on or else you have a good chance of losing everything.

The workshop was super informative and I was able to pick up so many great tips and tricks to take back to Sydney with me. Implementing a basic checklist of how to check up on the collection each day, week, and month will be so very helpful.

Plenary Speaker and Welcome

Post-workshop I registered for the conference and had a lovely lunch. One thing I absolutely adore about the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, & Museums) sector is that almost everyone is genuinely lovely. Makes the dreaded networking a little easier.


The plenary speaker, John Ryan, was interesting. The aim of his talk was to see how the human touch can combine with digital technology. The premise of the entire talk was that his company in New York prides itself on using technology to enhance visitor experiences in the museum and not to detract from the actual museum itself. So you have things like digital pens that you carry around and collect objects then use it to draw on walls etc. I literally could not help but think “if that technology crashed, there goes the experience”.


One of his projects was designing the digital technology in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. As you enter into the space, you hear the voices of numerous individuals saying where they were when 9/11 happened. You can then watch interviews with certain personalities and record your own answers to the posed questions.

The talk was, in the moment, impressive and had the wow-factor of super shiny new things. Critically reflecting on it though, I can’t help but wonder that’s great for your larger institutions but how can a smaller museum implement such technology? The focus was on keeping the stories central, but, I inevitably think that introducing technology changes things. For better or worse, that’s up to personal opinion.

Why Not Science? Concurrent Session

I was so excited for this session. An opportunity to speak about how to make science accessible is always welcomed. I have ended up working with a medical collection. Rather than being a hindrance, I learned from this workshop that it’s actually of great value.



We started by breaking into small groups and discussing our favourite moments of science. I talked about how amazing it is when members of the general public visit the Harry Daly Museum and leave with some great stories about early anaesthetics. I heard from some great professionals about their highlights including high school scientific experiments gone wrong and pythons eating possums. We then discussed how to make science accessible. At the end, we came together and had a larger discussion about the role museums can play in facilitating discussions. I left the workshop feeling more confident about my abilities in communicating science and stories of medical history.

Overall, it was a wonderful day and I cannot wait to see what’s in store tomorrow!

3 thoughts on “Museums Galleries Australia National Conference: Day 1

  1. We are so pleased that you enjoyed SLQ’s MGA Pre-conference workshop / Caring for Collections – physical, digital and disasters! Sorry we didn’t have more time to chat with you as I am sure you could share many tips with us as well.
    All the best,
    C. Cottle, Digital Collections Curator, SLQ


  2. Hi Rebecca thanks for your write ups of the conference! One of my interests is the history of science and medicine, Nice to make a connection with you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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