Museums Australia Conference Day 2

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To keep things interesting, I am going to slightly change the format of my post today. Enjoy!

9.00 am – 10.30 am

I arrived at the conference after battling Brisbane’s ‘peak-hour’ traffic. First up was another plenary session consisting of a welcome and talks from Janet Laurence and Megan Cope. Laurence, who is currently in Germany, sent a video for us to view. I was immediately captivated when she started talking about medical history and botanical specimens. Check out her work, ‘Inside the Flower’, which was on display in Berlin. In this installation, you could walk inside a mini-Reichstag looking glasshouse and be instantly surrounded by a variety of medicinal plants. All of her work highlights this relationship between the human and natural worlds.

Our next speaker, Megan Cope, presented on the interweaving of geography, maps, and identity. This includes breaking apart myths of colonization. Cope spoke so passionately about her work and the messages she yearns to deliver. I was in awe of her ability to challenge herself.

10.30 am – 11.00 am

Morning tea time, yum.

11.00 am – 12.30 pm

The first session of concurrent speakers. I spent some time deciding on which session to attend and went with ‘Working with Diverse Communities’. The first speaker was Amy Wegerhoff from the Western Australian Museum. Her talk was an interesting look at how you can involve communities in shaping your museum content. There were two takeaway messages – engagement takes a long time and think of community in a narrow, not broad, sense. With regards to the latter, this can mean finding communities within a larger community to avoid excluding significant stories or groups. There is a greater chance then of being more inclusive, in theory. What struck me most about Wegerhoff’s talk was how you can’t just assume groups are willing to be participants. Sometimes, you have to go that little bit deeper and care just that little bit more to really get a response and create a ‘people first’ exhibition.

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Wegerhoff was followed by Craig Middleton and Dr Nikki Sullivan from South Australia. I was particularly interested in their talk on including LGBTIQ in museums. Their talk, however, went above and beyond. They started with a fantastic discussion on how you should never include groups in the museum space to increase visitor numbers or as an act of tokenism. This can lead to further marginalization. Their involvement with the LGBTIQ community in South Australia has led to wonderful integration in both museum and community spaces. Although there is much room for progress, their work is truly a great step in the right direction.

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Finally, we heard from Lynne Seear from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. This hospital is supporting the amazing integration of art and cultural programs. This is partly to create an environment of normality and beauty in a space associated with illness and sadness. Seear stated at the end that art will not cure a disease, but, it can help in the overall mending process. It reminded me of this dystopian novel (the name has totally escaped me). In the face of destruction and death, the one thing that kept people going was a small traveling theatre society that reminded people of the joy that the arts can bring.

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12.30 pm – 1.00 pm

Lunch and chats. Don’t want to use the dreaded word ‘networking’.

1.00 pm – 1.30 pm

During this half hour, I sat in on the Museums Australia AGM.

1.30 pm – 3.00 pm

I am so excited to write about the first speakers in the ‘Experiential Learnings’ session. Dr Kate Armstrong and Marni Pilgrim, I salute you. To get up there and talk about something that failed IS WHAT I HAVE WANTED TO HEAR THIS ENTIRE CONFERENCE. If you are reading this and want to submit something next year, please do the same. It’s great to hear about success stories, but, since I’m at the start of my career I want to hear about when things go wrong. More importantly, I want to learn what you’ve learnt so I can be more aware! Anyway, thank you for being honest about a selfie Twitter program that did not succeed. Issues about social media platforms, agency with uploading selfies and the composition of photographs were all such interesting things to consider. I took so much away from this session especially that you can’t tell people what to do, but, you can foster creative thinking and fun engagement. The latter is definitely more likely to work and now I have an actual example of why.

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Similarly, Bronwyn Roper spoke on the Library at the Dock in Docklands Melbourne. This was more of a journey through how digital technology in the museum space has been used to its full potential. Digital touch tables were transformed by Monash University students to complement ‘The Docks’ exhibition. The main message was – reach out and find people who can fully utilize the technology.

Finally, Linda Barron from the State Library of Queensland provided an insight into visitor feedback. I really enjoyed this talk because it highlighted the importance of front-of-house staff.

3.00 pm – 3.30 pm

Another food break – honestly being fed really well here.

3.30 pm – 4.00 pm

I could only stay for the first speaker in the next session. Madeleine Borthwick from Kiss the Frog presented on her company’s amazing work in creating immersive experiences. I highly recommend you to google this company and see their work for yourself. They have tackled everything from taking over entire art gallery floors with immersive games and challenges to setting up audio guides.

As you can see, day two was just as exciting as day one. Tomorrow is the final day of the conference then it’s back to Sydney!

One comment

  1. Thank you so much Rebecca, the warmth and support from the crowd today made sharing our big boo boo a breeze. Really appreciate your kind words and happy to be a sounding board for any museum experience you ever want to test!

    Liked by 1 person

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