Australian Museums and Galleries Association Conference Day 1

Greetings from Alice Springs! Today was the first day of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association Conference for 2019. I can already feel that this is going to be quite an interesting conference. Here is what I got up to during the day.

9.00 am

This morning there were a few tours on offer. I selected the Alice to Mparntwe Sacred Sites Tour led by Doris Stuart Kngwarreye (Apmereke – artwye), Dan Murphy and Lucy Stewart. This tour has been running since 2008 when it was launched for the ‘Art in the Heart’ National Regional Arts Australia Conference.

The tour guides visitors through some of the most sacred sites in Alice Springs with Doris sharing stories of her culture and family along the way. At times, it was very emotional. Doris shared some incredible stories with the group including her community’s struggle to try and maintain the sites and compromise with developers. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see these sacred sites around town. It was eye-opening and will stay with me for the duration of my stay.

We finished the tour in Araluen, at the Arts Centre.

10.30 am

After the tour, I wandered around the Museum of Central Australia. I hope to return later in the week and spend longer reading the labels and immersing myself in the permanent display. There are some skeletons that I want to more closely observe. Overall, my first impression was quite positive. Side note – if you are currently at the conference, entrance to the Museum is free.

12.30 am

Registration opened. I have to admit that seeing the word ‘speaker’ on my name card has made me very excited for Wednesday.

1.30 pm

Indigital – Using New Technology to Tell Ancient Stories, Mikaela Jade, Indigital

I’m so glad I tweeted my thoughts (although sometimes incoherent) throughout the day. It really helps me to remember what happened when. I’ve also learned from past experiences that it proves to be a great reminder when it comes to writing my blog post. For those who are interested, the conference hashtag is #amaga2019 and you can follow me @LotteNaughton.

After being welcomed to the conference, we had our plenary speaker, Mikaela Jade, who Zoomed in to talk about her company Indigital. It was actually quite incredible that Zoom worked smoothly. Shout out to the conference team for making that dream happen. It was also quite fitting that technology was used to give a talk about technology.

Indigital is a company started by Mikaela Jade that focuses on utilising technology to tell the stories of Indigenous culture. There is an Indigital app that we were able to play with during the presentation. One thing I greatly appreciated was a slide basically stating what is AR, VR and Mixed Reality. As someone who doesn’t always come into contact with these concepts, it was great to have them outlined.

AR – digital content on top of your real world

VR – digital environments that shut out the real world

Mixed Reality – content interacts with the real world

This app has been introduced in schools as a way for students to interact with cultural stories and language. In one case study, students heard stories from their Elders then selected an element to bring to life via the technology. They also created word cards with Indigenous and English words appearing together. I do hope to use the app around Alice Springs at newly opened stations to see some Megafauna (just need to find the time!). Here is a list of the stations:

1. ANZAC Hill

2. Todd River, adjacent to Undoolya Road and Leichardt Terrace

3. Megafauna Central

4. A public garden between Alice Plaza and Todd Mall

5. A public garden outside Adelaide House, Todd Mall

6. The ‘Coolamon Garden’ outside the Alice Springs Town Council Chambers

7. Olive Pink Botanic Garden

8. The Museum of Central Australia lawn

9. The entrance to the Alice Springs Desert Park

10. Adjacent to the Dingo enclosure, Alice Springs Desert Park

2.15 pm

Concurrent sessions started. I decided to attend the 1B session that had the following talks:

Curator’s Perspective: a journey of discovery and shared experience, Lynette Nilaweera, Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, and Brooke Wandin, Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation

Engaging community members as collaborators and citizen curators, Erin Wilson, Devonport Regional Gallery

In the first presentation mentioned above, Nilaweera and Wandin focused on their journey creating the exhibition dhumba-njan (speak I) dhumba-njarr (speak you) now on display at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum. There were so many memorable quotes from the presentation including, “a good working relationship makes a bloody good exhibition” and “we cannot move faster than the community we seek to represent – we must move at their pace” (the latter quote has been paraphrased). It served as a reminder that sometimes you have to take a chance and step outside your comfort zone.

The second presentation focused on three projects that have been sparked by The Robinson Collection (photograph collection) in the Devonport Regional Gallery. These photographs show the people, landscape, and streetscape of Devonport from around the 1920s until the 1950s. Originally, they were displayed thematically. Wilson, the Curator of this collection, discussed how this has transformed. These were the three projects/exhibitions mentioned: displaying the photographs alongside voices of those in the community, displaying the photographs as curated by youth and digitising the photographs creating an online memory box. A great way to look at the Collection through a new lens.

3.15 pm

Afternoon tea.

3.30 pm

The final session I attended was:

Thinking it through: Using design thinking to tackle common problems for small museums, Amanda James, History Trust of South Australia

This was a workshop where participants had to isolate a problem faced by small museums and work out a possible solution. As a large group, we decided on the problem that locals aren’t interested in the museum. In smaller groups we then had to figure out why locals might not be interested. We wrote down, for example, that they might not know we exist and that the museum/gallery might not be offering anything relevant.

From there, we had to break down one idea even further. We selected that people might not know we exist and brainstormed creating a new advertising campaign, changing the signage and painting the museum/gallery building bright yellow. Finally, we discussed how to implement a solution. We selected painting the building and ended up talking about covering the building in Hi Vis shirts that the community could stitch together. Not only would this make the building a whole lot more obvious, but, it could lead to discussions on safety in the community. This was especially pertinent considering many in our group were from industrial and agricultural towns.

5 pm

Day 1 – done and dusted and looking forward to tomorrow.

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