Friday, November 25, 2011

Museums Australia meeting in Perth

I spent last week in Perth with 600 fellow museum bods at the annual Museums Australia Conference. It was held at the splendiferous new Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre complex just north of the CBD, a great venue in terms of both the theatre itself and also the break out spaces, and Perth turned on some balmy weather to get us all in the mood. The conference was run jointly with Interpretation Australia, which was always going to appeal to me, as I believe strongly that one of the key reasons for our existence in this sector is to be able to tell the stories behind the objects we look after.

What did I come away with?

Some great papers (which I thought were to be posted on the MA website, but do not seem to be at present - I will explore further).
  • Susan Cross from the UK on the power of story telling, and the way in which people are looking for shared memories. Stories are contagious, namely by getting people talking they are more likely to pass them on. An inspirational speaker – you can get a flavour of her from a talk she gave in Scotland here.
  • Margaret Anderson from the History Trust of South Australia on the ‘About Time’ history festival, which in seven years has grown to a state wide festival of 500 events run by 300 organisations.
  • John Holden from the UK Demos Institute talking on the changing face of culture. John’s fellow Demos researcher, Sam Jones had talked at the AICCM conference in Canberra in October (see my blog), and their outputs are always worth reading/listening to. John’s angle this time was that creative culture has suffered from market failure, i.e. that not enough people are prepared to pay sufficient amount to support it, so it relies on government subsidies. In the long term this is unsustainable, and we need to move to a commercial model where the outputs are seen as providing a justifiable return on investment. This does not mean that there cannot continue to be government run models but that mainstream culture needs to get with the current generational aspirations in this radically different social, technological and political context of the 21st century.
A strong view that the mining royalties that are pouring into the WA Government treasury are about to be spent (finally) on a new WA Museum. Alec Coles, the recently appointed director, is clearly a man with a mission and appears to have the ear of government, judging by the relevant minister’s comments at the conference opening. Interestingly Alec said he was quietly pleased that the planned $450 million redevelopment of the Swan River powerstation as the new museum was canned as result of the GFC, as it would have been a disaster of a place for the Museum being so difficult to access.

A win for the work of the AICCM Taskforce on Environmental Guidelines for Museums and Galleries that I have been chairing. Not only did we pick up the MAGNA (Museums and Galleries National Awards) Sustainability Award but also the Overall Award. This is a great result as it gives us leverage into the senior corridors of power in museums and galleries to sell this message of the gains to be made by relaxing environmental parameters.

And finally the chance to view one of my favourite objects namely the Ife or Olokun Head from the British Museum (see my blog) It is part of a small but stunning exhibition currently at the WA Museum of treasures from the British Museum. If in Perth in the next few months, make a beeline to see it and the related objects. As always the real is much more spectacular than the image.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.