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Promoting and marketing the Museum

The Museum's media strategy focused on the strengths of the Museum, the depth of its knowledge about Australian history and the research, and conservation of the National Historical Collection. Highlights of the year included:

  • national media for the handover of the Johnny Warren Collection and the 1934 Melbourne Cup, won by the racehorse Peter Pan
  • Montreal Expo '67, a Hall display that attracted widespread positive coverage as the media keenly revisited this era
  • working with industry professionals from around the Pacific on the Australian and Pacific Museums conference provided an opportunity for the national media to share some of the work of the Museum's Centre for Historical Research.

For the fifth time running, the Museum won the Best Major Tourist Attraction category at the annual ACT and Region Tourism Awards. This award signifies the Museum's success within the tourism industry, and its commitment to providing a quality experience for the domestic and international tourists who make up approximately 70 per cent of our visitors.

The Museum worked actively with key organisations responsible for bringing visitors to Canberra, and is represented on the Tourism Industry Council and the Tourism Ministers' Advisory Board and, at the local level, on the Canberra Business Council. The Museum's marketing and sponsorship manager was elected President of the National Capital Attractions Association. Participation in these organisations ensures that the Museum is effectively informed of issues and trends in the tourism industry and business community, which may affect its capacity to achieve strategic outcomes.

Brand awareness campaigns included television commercials and print advertisements highlighting the visitor experience and a selection of the Museum's significant and popular objects. Newspoll research undertaken in May 2008 showed that public awareness of the Museum remains high. The Museum's sponsorship program ( see Internal and external scrutiny – Sponsorship and development ) also built the Museum's brand through marketing and communication opportunities created by partnerships with sponsors.

A particular focus of the Museum's marketing this year was the successful development and implementation of a communication plan to ensure that visitors were aware of the impact of the Museum Enhancement Program, which necessitated the closure of Circa and the Horizons gallery. In addition, effective marketing campaigns were developed for public and schools programs and temporary exhibitions ( for details of temporary exhibitions see Temporary exhibitions ).

National Museum of Australia Press

National Museum of Australia Press was established in 2004 and currently has 48 publications on its list. The press supports the strategic priorities of sustaining research and scholarship, engaging national audiences and enhancing exhibitions, programs and services. It does this through publishing scholarly and special-interest titles, as well as titles for general adult readers and children, and exhibition catalogues.

In 2007–08 National Museum of Australia Press published 10 books and two issues of the Museum's scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, reCollections: The Journal of the National Museum of Australia. It achieved record revenue from national book sales. The year's highlights included:

  • Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert (edited by Vivien Johnson): a catalogue that supported the exhibition of the same name, it reveals paintings from the Museum's collection of Papunya Tula art that have never been seen in the three decades since they were painted. This beautifully illustrated book includes essays from experts in the field and provides readers with interpretation of the iconography of the artworks. It situates the artworks in place and time, and provides readers with a unique insight into the Papunya artists' lives and cultures.
  • Strangers on the Shore: Early Coastal Contacts in Australia (edited by Peter Veth, Peter Sutton and Margo Neale): a scholarly publication that explores contacts between Indigenous Australians and outsiders, including the Macassans, Dutch, English, French and others, which are known to have occurred for over 400 years. It traces these diverse, dynamic and volatile first encounters from Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives. It also looks at the myriad elements of these cross-cultural exchanges, which resulted in profound outcomes for the First Australians.
  • Making Sense of Place: Exploring Concepts and Expressions of Place Through Different Senses and Lenses (edited by Frank Vanclay, Matthew Higgins and Adam Blackshaw): Making Sense of Place explores place from different perspectives and through evocative encounters. The Great Barrier Reef is experienced through the sense of touch, Lake Mungo is encountered through sound and 'listening', and light is shed on the meaning of place for deaf people. Iconic landscapes, lookouts, buildings, gardens, suburbs, grieving places, the car as place — all provide contexts for experiencing and understanding 'place' and our 'sense of place'.
  • Making Tracks: five new titles were added to this children's series making a total of 13 books published so far. The books are inspired by objects from the National Historical Collection and are written and illustrated by well-known Australian children's authors and illustrators. The authors of this year's titles were Jackie French, Sally Morgan, Hazel Edwards, Christopher Cheng and Kirsty Murray. The titles are complemented by educational support material and interactive activities on the Museum's website. One title from the series, The Other Side by Sally Morgan, was shortlisted for the 2008 Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children's Literature.

The Museum's website:

This year the Museum's website had its highest number of visits ever, increasing from 797,368 last year to 1,521,926. This result exceeds the target specified in the Museum's PBS performance measures for Output group 1.2: National exhibitions, programs and services ( see The year at a glance and Output group 1.2 National exhibitions, programs and services ).

This continuing increase in website visits was largely due to the ongoing development of new content by Museum staff. Three comprehensive and new online exhibitions supported and extended public access to the following exhibitions: Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert; League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia; and Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons 2007.

An audio-on-demand service was launched, with 43 programs added during 2007–08 to extend the reach of the Museum's public programs. The Museum was listed third in MuseumPods 2008 Top Ten Competition, an international ranking of audio-on-demand services provided by museums.

A new web interactive program provided an in-depth exploration of one of the Museum's treasured objects, the Crimson Thread of Kinship. This program won an Excellence in New Media award at the 2007 Print and Graphic Excellence Awards and was a finalist in the 14th Australian Interactive Media Industry Association Awards category for 'Best cultural, lifestyle or sport'.

Supporting the Museum's strategic priority of sustaining research and scholarship, a new 'Research' section was added to the website. The Museum also completed its 'Collaborating for Indigenous rights, 1957–73' website, an outcome of an Australian Research Council funded project. The final site expands the preview released in 2006–07 by adding six additional sections on civil rights, and six sections on land rights now provide a comprehensive overview of the 1957–73 period. This website is an educational resource that enables students to explore this significant moment in Australian social history and includes two teachers' resources developed by the Museum in collaboration with Ryebuck Media.

The extensive research undertaken to authenticate the Leichhardt nameplate, one of the most significant objects in the National Historical Collection, was made accessible on the Museum's website. Access to the Museum's collection database, an important tool for researchers, was improved, with 9115 records made available online in 2007–08, making the total number available 20,302. The Museum also made its Library catalogue accessible to the public this year.

In keeping with the Museum's program of periodic review, two significant website improvements were undertaken: redevelopment of the online calendar, and of the Snapshots of Remote Communities program. Both now offer improved search and display functionalities for users. An upgrade of the online shop also began.

The contribution of volunteers

Museum volunteers are an important part of the Museum's wider community network. This year 74 volunteers contributed 5900 hours to the Museum.

Education: Twenty-one volunteers contributed 1896 hours assisting Education staff in presenting many of the programs for booked and unbooked school groups.

Public programs: Nine volunteers contributed 520 hours to a range of public programs including the Festival Day for the Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert exhibition. Primarily, public programs volunteers assisted with the exhibition in the Tjitjti gathering place designed for children.

Museum Library: One volunteer contributed 68 hours assisting with cataloguing, repair, protection and security of the Library's collection.

Photography: One volunteer contributed 80 hours assisting with the documentation and photography of the League of Legends and Bendigo Pottery exhibitions, as well as photographing material supporting the new Australian Journeys gallery objects.

Records management: Two volunteers contributed 86.5 hours assisting with the preparation of Museum collection files before they were scanned.

Conservation: Three volunteers contributed 83.2 hours assisting with preventive conservation of collection objects and conserving the 1883 six-inch Grubb refractor telescope from the Darren Benson collection.

Curatorial research: One volunteer contributed 68 hours assisting with the organisation of the Herbert Basedow collection.

Centre for Historical Research: One volunteer contributed 40 hours assisting with research.

A further 628 hours were contributed by our volunteers in other areas and events. These included public affairs, marketing, events, administration projects, training and festival days.

Group of 23 people standing in front of the paddle steamer at its dock. The lake and hills can be seen in the background.
The PS Enterprise with members of its volunteer crew.

The Museum's most significant volunteer program supports the former Murray River paddle steamer, PS Enterprise — its crew is drawn entirely from volunteers. The volunteers fulfil different roles depending on their qualifications and experience, bringing the PS Enterprise to life. Thirty-eight volunteers contributed 2430.5 hours to ensuring the PS Enterprise operated at least one day of each weekend from November 2007 to May 2008. Usually, the PS Enterprise operates from September each year and is part of the annual Floriade festival held at Commonwealth Park.

In September 2007, the Museum identified that maintenance work on the keels of the PS Enterprise was required, and Museum conservators working with members of the volunteer crew replaced the keels over an eight-week period. In spite of the reduced operational period, the PS Enterprise had a total of 2310 visitors in 2007–08, with an average of 129 visitors each day, an increase from the 2006–07 average.

Our ambassadors: The Friends of the National Museum of Australia

The Friends continued its role of maintaining and enhancing community support for the Museum throughout 2007–08. The Friends provided a range of benefits to members in the Australian Capital Territory and beyond, including more than 67 Friends events, which were attended by more than 2470 people. Highlights included:

  • the popular series Playlunch with Friends and Get Messy with Grandma ... (or Grandpa)
  • two new programs, exclusively for Friends members and aimed at under-5s — Storytelling with Friends, and Making Music with Friends
  • the Women's Voices series, now in its fifth year, continues to be strongly supported by Friends members and visitors
  • curator-led previews of all Museum exhibitions
  • a very successful series of talks featuring Museum curators presenting their research into key collection objects linked to the Museum Enhancement Program
  • a continuing series of talks on Museums of the World, featuring embassy representatives speaking about museums in their country
  • an exclusive cruise on the lake aboard the PS Enterprise during the steaming season.

A number of events were presented in partnership with other organisations, including the Australian Federation of Friends of Museums, the Australian Capital Territory Branch of Museums Australia, the Australia–Chinese Historical Society, the University of the Third Age and the Museum's own Centre for Historical Research.

Friends also appreciated the benefit of special 'Friends reserve' seating at popular Museum events including talks by Jenny Kee and Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.

In June 2008, there were 1149 Friends memberships, comprising 3259 individuals.

The Friends quarterly magazine, published in July, September, March and June, continued to showcase the activities of the Museum and the Friends. The magazine is also distributed widely to parliamentarians, libraries and museums in Australia and to Australia's diplomatic missions overseas.

The Friends received support from the Hyatt Hotel, Pauline Hore (auditor), and Hugo Ellwood from Duesburys Nexia.

A new memorandum of understanding was signed between the Friends and the Museum enabling the Friends to develop and manage membership programs and services for the next three years. In addition, the Museum continued to provide invaluable in-kind support.