Museums Galleries Australia National Conference: Final Day

I want to begin this blog post by thanking the organisers and sponsors for the Museums Galleries Australia National Conference 2018. Also, a huge shout out to all the wonderful people I met over the four days – including some Twitter friends! I am going to share with you the top 3 things that I will take away from this conference. Firstly, however, here is a quick summary of the day.

The day started strong with a fantastic presentation by Angelita Teo, Director of the National Museum of Singapore. Teo spoke about the four pillars of Singapore’s heritage plan: ‘our places, our treasures, our cultures, and our communities’. While talking about an exhibition, Witness to War, Teo discussed the amazing intergenerational work fostered by the museum with youth interviewing older generations to capture their stories.

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After presenting on a few more projects undertaken by the National Museum of Singapore, Teo concluded by stating that technology is only meaningful if it encourages human interaction. Yes, so much yes.

Another talk I want to mention was presented by Andrea Cunningham from the V&A Museum of Childhood. Firstly, if you have never seen their ‘about us’ page on their website, definitely visit. Each member of staff is introduced alongside their childhood photograph. Something so simple, yet keeping to the brand.

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As part of Cunningham’s talk, we watched a video on the Children’s Forum. This is an iniaitive that focuses on integrating children into the museum experience and not just tacking them on as an afterthought. On one day, children were able to take over museum roles (guided by members of staff). They became the directors, curators, conservators and tour guides. Even though Cunningham spoke about this being tokenistic, I thought it was actually a great way to get children involved in the different areas of the museum and learn exactly what it is we do. Other museums around the world are similarly turning to the creativity of children to assist with exhibitions and providing that, what I would see as necessary, perspective.

There were other great talks during the day, but, I want to now focus on what exactly did I learn and what I will be taking away from this conference.

1. So who should be an agent of change – every single one of us!

I’m going to start big or go home. One thing that stood out to me in every single presentation was the fact that literally everyone can be an agent of change through their work. You don’t have to be a director in order to actually implement meaningful change.

As illustrated in the talk by Simon Chaplin and Brian Lobel, it all starts with asking the ‘difficult’ or ‘uncomfortable’ questions. Who is absent? Why? How can we bring those voices into the museum?

I do actually think one of the most incredible accomplishments of this conference has been to provide more questions than answers.

2. So I can change things tomorrow right? No. Slow and steady wins the race.

The number of times I heard the fable of the tortoise and the hare as a child reaches into the hundreds of thousands.

As I said in the previous point, it is so important to start thinking about how we can all be agents of change. It is equally important, however, to realise that you can’t change things overnight. If you do, it’s probably going to be something superficial. Of course there are some expceptions to this rule, but, if you want to implement real change, it has to be done over time.

It has to be done in a way that means it will become ingrained in your institution.

3. We have the most amazing support network – each other.

Over the entire conference I had the incredible opportunity to meet so many professionals who are already beginning to be their institution’s agent of change.

We are a small industry, but, on the whole, a very supportive one. One of the best resources we have is each other!

So to summarise my entire conference experience in one blog post was difficult, but, I think I managed it. I hope to see everyone soon and no doubt I will be planning my future travels around the amazing places and sites that were discussed this week.

Author: Rebecca Lush

Curator at the Integrated Pathology Learning Centre.

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