Collaboration comes in many forms and provides the opportunity for us to come together, connect and understand each other in a more complex light. Collaboration includes the ways we work together as professionals within and outside of institutions, cultural spaces and digital platforms; and the ways we work with our communities who guide, consult, co-create, deliver and activate exhibitions in a range of spaces. This session centres around bringing diverse voices together to talk about processes, challenges, negotiations, and the journey to the outcome.
Maggie White – National Research Collections Relocation Manager, CSIRO
Having joined CSIRO in 2021, Maggie leads the National Research Collections Relocation Project, managing a team of curatorial technicians preparing 12 million natural sciences specimens for their move to the new National Collections Precinct in Canberra.
She began her career in Collections management at the British Museum, working on the Museum’s largest ever storage and move project, rehousing 400,000+ culturally significant objects. This project ignited a passion not only for registration, but for collections management and logistics more broadly.
Returning to Australia in 2019, Maggie spent three years in Sydney in various registration roles at the Australian Museum and Powerhouse Museum working on large-scale collection relocation and digitisation projects. These projects offered unique opportunities to work collaboratively with diverse and multi-disciplinary teams to positively impact collections whilst improving accessibility to wider audiences.
She holds an MPhil in Archaeology, specialising in Museum Studies and Archaeological Heritage from the University of Cambridge.
Mana ngarli – Exhibition as Agency
The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) and Museums Victoria in 2019 launched ngulu wurneet, galada-al wurrung-u, parniwaru tyalingi, waran woorroong-ee, barringgi dyaling – River of Language exhibition in the Birrarung Gallery. The exhibition was in celebration of UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages and VACL’s 25th Anniversary. VACL curators Vicki Couzens and Brendan Kennedy, asked visitors to take the time and, “learn to see the world through our eyes, through our words, stories and images.”
The exhibition filtered visitors through the spears and shields, where they were Welcomed to Country, and listened to and learnt from the laws of the Bunjil being offered. A collaboration between young indigenous creatives and the exhibition curators resulted in the wall of the Birrarung Gallery coming to life with a striking 28-metre mural depicting Ancestral Creation Beings and honouring Victoria’s 44 language groups. Our aim was to invite people to Walk in respect. Enter our space. Listen. Learn. This idea was often harder to maintain in practice. A busy museum space of school groups, families, corporate events and much more puts pressure on the team and the exhibition space. In creating such a personal and cultural place, that is handed over to the public, we felt uplifted, compromised, respected, and disrespected, strength and vulnerability.
Despite these challenges, the main exhibition infrastructure, the spears, and shield installation were reclaimed and reinvigorated in subsequent community-driven exhibitions.
In this presentation, Brendan Kennedy will share some experiences and processes of letting go and regaining ownership.
Building a Museum Community in Hong Kong
Julie Traitsis & Jo-Fan Huang
M+ is Hong Kong’s new museum of visual culture that opened to the public on 12 November 2021. It is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, boasting 17,000 square meters of exhibition space, a collection of over 6400 works and a dedicated conservation and collection storage facility.
But building M+ was much more than erecting a building and filling it with objects. Prior to 2012, M+ had no pre-existing collection, staff or local museum suppliers to draw from. As senior staff in the Collection & Exhibitions team were recruited, we realized that for the museum to achieve a high standard of exhibitions, we needed to deliver ongoing training programs to staff, and collaborate with local suppliers willing to service the very specific needs of a museum. This presentation will look at the methods used to achieve this, enabling M+ exhibitions to be delivered at standards aligned with international museums. It will also address how our approach to collaboration created a pathway for more environmental and culturally sustainable practices and a greater network of museum professionals across Asia.
Unsettled: A case study of First Nations-led exhibition and methodologies for community-centered collections care and conservation
Dr Mariko Smith, Kyra Kim & Rehan Scharenguivel
The Australian Museum’s First Nations Collections & Engagement team work closely with the Collection Care & Conservation (CC&C) team to care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage material in line with best practice and culturally appropriate collections management and conservation requirements. First Nations Collections & Engagement Manager and Exhibition Assistant Curator Dr Mariko Smith, along with CC&C conservators Kyra Kim and Rehan Scharenguivel will discuss together as a panel about the ground-breaking Unsettled exhibition, covering the significance of community-led consultation and exhibition development processes. The panel will explore specific conservation-related challenges faced by collections, exhibitions, and conservation staff during the preparation, install, and deinstall of this important exhibition. These case studies include community informed pest management treatments of new acquisitions, the heat treatment of a wooden sculpture and the gendered handling of objects during install and de-install. Such discussions emphasize the significance of prioritizing the needs of objects through the recognition of the primary rights and responsibilities of those who know the objects best – the First Nations makers and their communities.
Working collaboratively in an exhibition environment at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Pippa Thorogood McLennan
In 2018 the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia (NFSA) relaunched their exhibition programme and I was hired as the Exhibitions Registrar. The exhibitions team is small and required a collaborative effort across teams and skills set to develop and deliver exhibitions suited for a national institution. In 2022 the NFSA launched a collection management system for exhibitions, enabling the organisation to build on already created relationships across teams and build skills for exhibition development. Teams work together to enhance exhibition development, design, and production in the areas of conservation, audit, documentation of loans, exhibition labelling and overall layout. Along the way setting new goals, creating new practices, and challenging the concept of what exhibition development is about for registration and conservation.
Roots, plants, cures, and affection: a museological exhibition in Brazil
Jéssica Tarine Moitinho de Lima & Thayana Campos Silva
Approaching the healing properties, local importance and ancestry of the native medicinal plants present in the metropolitan area of Belém do Pará, in Brazil, the exhibition Raizes: plantas, curas e afetos (Roots: plants, cures, and affection) addresses how these plants are inserted into the daily lives of those who live here and how they are significant when it comes to the shaping of memories and identities. This exhibition is the result of an evaluative subject, mandatory to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Museology at the Universidade Federal do Pará, planned and executed between 2021 and 2022. Focusing on the influence it has on the economic, medicinal, and religious spheres, it relies heavily on the narratives of people who have medicinal herbs as an essential part of their lifestyle. The displays’ layout and content were based on five interviews with representatively diverse people, members of the community, who each had their unique perspectives. It influenced how the objects were made and displayed across the project’s major themes. As sustainable approaches were one of the exhibitions themes, most of the objects on display were handmade, recycled, or made of wood.
Sustainability is the future
Sustainability is the future. We know this, but we may not know exactly what this looks like yet. And even more to the point, we may not know how we, as cultural professionals, can help get there. The exciting part is that culture is the key to a sustainable future. Art and heritage have the capacity to drive the paradigm shift our society needs by connecting people to contemporary issues through deep emotional and personal understanding. Through the stories we tell and the works we display, we can impact our audiences, our communities, and the public at large to illustrate not only why sustainability matters, but what we can do.
However, it is important for us to not only feel comfortable in addressing these issues, but also to lead by example. An exhibition on climate change is only effective if we are transparent about the exhibition’s carbon footprint. An exhibition about Indigenous knowledge is only authentic if the community which is addressed is included.
So how do we start to tackle these issues, and what is our role in these larger conversations? Every job is a climate job, and every cultural professional has the power to make a huge difference. From our own daily practice, to our global impact, this session will explore how we, as individuals and institutions, can shape the future through culture.