Museums Galleries Australia National Conference: Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of the Museums Galleries Australia 2018 National Conference. While what was discussed wasn’t entirely tailored for the audience, there were still some fascinating topics on offer. Similar to last year’s conference, what I planned on seeing vs what I actually attended was a little different. Before I continue, I just want to say that the most valuable part of these conferences is meeting new people and catching up with others. Now that I’m so far away from Sydney and Melbourne, I am really valuing this time! Notice that I didn’t use the dreaded word ‘networking’ – this is because it’s so much more than that. I am truly lucky to be a part of such an incredible industry.

Back to the first day. To start, we heard from Adam Macfie and Rhonda Inkamala. Both work at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory or MAGNT (nice acronym). Their talk focused on the newly opened exhibition ‘A Frontier Journey: Photographs by Otto Tschirn 1915-18’.

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The exhibition showcases photographs by Otto Tschirn that were taken on a Kodak Folding Camera. Tschirn’s images capture life in Central Australia documenting both Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals. From what we saw during the presentation, there are some truly remarkable images – a very valuable archive. If you would like to read more about this exhibition click here.

This is the first exhibition on display at MAGNT with labels in both English and an Indigenous language. Rhonda Inkamala spoke on translating the labels into the Aranda language. Not modern-day Aranda, but, how the language was in the early 1900’s. It was fascinating to hear about the research involved in this project and how historial records as well as community knowledge fused together so beautifully and resulted in this exhibition. The entire exhibition will eventually be gifted to Hermannsburg. Both speakers were able to provide such great insights into how this exhibition was pieced together and how they collaborated to produce the content.

Next up was Wendy Pryor talking about Smart GLAM – big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. One of her first slides talked about a hotel in Tokyo run by robots, including velociraptors. I honestly did not expect that this would be a topic raised at the conference. I am sure glad it was though.

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I completely agreed with her point that technology should not just be used because it’s available, but, should be well-integrated. An example she provided from the Tate Britian was quite interesting. The program ‘Recognition is an artificial intelligence programme that compares up-to-the-minute photojournalism from Reuters with British art from the Tate collection’ (source). It’s a way of renewing artworks held in a collection that may not be on display and available to the public.

After momentarily breaking from our silent disco headphones, yes this conference has silent disco headphones, the first concurrent sessions began. I went to the education stream because it’s super relevant.

Out of all the presentations, the one delivered by Sarah Rusholme and Andrea Milligan from Wellington was most relevant to me. They spoke about the importance of including teachers in the education programming process and helping them to recognise the multiple benefits of excursions to the museum. It was particularly interesting to hear about how introducing emotion into a tour can lead to more critical thinking among primary and secondary school students. Not involving teachers from the beginning when developing tours etc can lead to a less successful program and less desirable outcomes.

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I also want to give a quick shout out to Kate Phillips and Lena Gan who presented on how to engage seniors in lifelong learning. They asked the question, although we know our population is aging, what is being done at museums and galleries to accomodate?

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Finally, I attended the Indigenous Workshop session (originally had planned to see the community engagement talks). I am so glad I made this decision as Terri Janke was an incredible speaker and we had some great discussion in the room about meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities. To discover more about the project click here.

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To finish the day, there were drinks and a welcome reception at the State Library of Victoria. A stunning venue and a great opportunity to meet Twitter friends in real life.

There is honestly so much more I could write about but this post is getting too long. One last thing, after the conference you can plant your name tag. Yep, our names are printed on seed paper. I am hoping that my Swan River Daisy can stay alive between now and the conference next year. Knowing my track record with killing plants, this is going to be a major challenge.

A huge thank you to all the wonderful speakers from Regional, Remote and Community day! A great way to start the conference.

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Author: Rebecca Lush

Curator at the Integrated Pathology Learning Centre.

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