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Temporary exhibitions

Developing and presenting exhibitions are key functions of the Museum, as specified in the National Museum of Australia Act 1980. This year, the temporary and travelling exhibitions program continued to grow, and included content that supports the Museum's core themes of land, nation and people.

In 2008–09 the Museum delivered four temporary exhibitions and hosted five externally developed exhibitions. Ten travelling exhibitions were toured throughout Australia and one exhibition toured internationally, bringing the total to 11.

Temporary Gallery

Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye
(22 August – 12 October 2008)

After its successful tour in Japan, the Museum brought this selection of powerful works to Canberra for display to a national audience. The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, officially opened the exhibition on 21 August and speeches were given by Janet Holmes à Court, a major lender to the exhibition, and Mr Hideki Hayashida, Director of the National Art Center, Tokyo.

This exhibition told the story of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, one of Australia's greatest contemporary artists, and also gave insight into her life as a senior Anmatyerre woman and a lifelong custodian of the desert country that inspired her work. Featured in this exhibition were 104 works drawn from some 58 private, public and corporate collections around the world — the first time such a comprehensive collection of Emily's work has been exhibited in Australia.

National Museum of Australia Press published a comprehensive catalogue to accompany the exhibition. The catalogue sold out and was shortlisted for the 2009 Australian Book Industry Awards in the category 'Best Illustrated Book' and in the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2009 (see National Museum of Australia Press).

Silhouetted view of three people looking at a large black and white painting, 'Big Yam Dreaming' (1995), by Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
Visitors admire Big Yam Dreaming (1995) at the exhibition opening of Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

(10 December 2008 – 29 March 2009)

The year 2009 was the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. To mark this international celebratory year, the Museum hosted a major exhibition, Darwin, developed by the American Museum of Natural History. The Hon Dr Barry Jones AO officially opened the exhibition on 9 December 2008.

Through artefacts, documents, film, interactive media, and live animals and plants, as well as Darwin's own personal items, Darwin offered visitors a unique glimpse into Darwin's intellectual and personal world and the experiences that first led him to formulate his groundbreaking theories.

The Museum also developed its own companion exhibition focusing on Darwin's experiences and encounters in Australia. Darwin and Australia included artworks and graphics by Australian artists that reflect the landscapes that Darwin encountered, as well as specimens of plants and animals that he observed and described in his diary. The exhibition text featured many of Darwin's observations of Australia, both positive and negative, and subsequent and contemporary Australian research that builds on his intellectual legacy.

Renee Osterloh shows a blue-tongue lizard to Alan Draeger, Katy McDonald and Michael Pickering.
Renee Osterloh, from the National Zoo and Aquarium, Canberra, shows the live blue-tongue lizard for the Darwin exhibition to (left to right) Alan Draeger and Katy McDonald, from the American Museum of Natural History, and Michael Pickering, Head, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program, National Museum of Australia.

Events held in conjunction with the exhibition included a symposium examining the life and times of Charles Darwin, the impact of his published work and his scientific legacy, held on 26 February 2009. The Museum also hosted a series of free drawing workshops for children with artists Elisa Crossing and Waratah Lahy. Participants drew orchids, reptiles and birds that were displayed in the Darwin exhibition. The Public Programs team developed a special family trail for the Darwin exhibition in two formats: one for children aged 5–8 and one for children aged 9–12. It was very successful, with 2151 children and their families enjoying the experience.

The Museum also developed its own publication, Charles Darwin: An Australian Selection, for the Canberra exhibition. The book won second prize in the 2009 American Association of Museums Publications Design Competition and was a joint winner in the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2009.

Voyages of the Pacific Ancestors: Vaka Moana
(5 June – 18 October 2009)

This exhibition, purchased from the Auckland War Memorial Museum, traces the dramatic story of human settlement of the Pacific Islands. Content includes the navigation methods and types of travel craft used, along with the evidence modern investigators have pieced together to retell the story.

The exhibition includes rare carvings, large canoes, and navigation instruments, as well as interactive multimedia that allow Pacific Islanders to share engaging stories of their ancestors and the strong cultural connections still held today.

To coincide with the Vaka Moana exhibition, a public program has been developed to examine the connections, in time and space, between significant Tongan cultural practices. 'Expert witnesses', a teacher-guided program that places a student in the role of an investigator who solves the mysteries of how and why the Pacific Ancestors made their way across the Pacific Ocean, was also developed to complement this exhibition.

Helen Sartori holds a small text panel while John Atafu, wearing white gloves, holds a wooden canoe prow sculpture.
Helen Sartori, Assistant Manager, Temporary and Travelling Exhibitions, discusses Nguzunguzu, a canoe prow sculpture from the Solomon Islands, with John Atafu from the Auckland Museum, during the installation of the Voyages of the Pacific Ancestors: Vaka Moana exhibition.

Gallery of First Australians Focus Gallery

A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of
Herbert Basedow 1903–1928

(11 July – 12 October 2008)

Herbert Basedow was an anthropologist, geologist and medical doctor who used photography to document his expeditions into central and northern Australia in the early decades of the twentieth century. This temporary exhibition drew on the Museum's rich collection of over 2250 negatives and lantern slides taken by Basedow. These revealing, sometimes confronting, images provide a fascinating historical record of the people and places he encountered, and life in remote Australia in the early 1900s. Images from nine of his expeditions, as well as journeys to the Flinders Ranges and the 'Top End' of Australia, were included in this exhibition. Basedow's extensive knowledge of the country and his opinions were highly valued by scientists, politicians and businessmen of his era.

Part of the Vivid — National Photography Festival 2008, this exhibition's opening coincided with the official festival opening held at the Museum on 10 July 2009. The Museum also ran a series of children's photographic workshops as part of the festival.

National Museum of Australia Press published a comprehensive catalogue, written by the exhibition curator David Kaus, to accompany the exhibition (see National Museum of Australia Press). The Museum also developed a substantial online feature including 77 Basedow images published on the Museum's Flickr site.

ReCoil: Change and Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art
(15 November 2008 – 14 June 2009)

Developed by ArtBack NT Arts Development and Touring, this exhibition explored the coiled basketry technique and the way it has spread and diversified, establishing new fibre movements in a range of remote Aboriginal communities. The exhibition displayed a wide range of two- and three-dimensional baskets and innovative sculptures, including a smaller version of Tjanpi Grass Toyota, the grass sculpture that won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art award in 2005.

Multi-coloured striped woven basketry works by Helen Guyula Djaypala.
Work by Helen Guyula Djaypala, from Gapuwiyak, Northern Territory, at the Selling Yarns conference in Darwin; Selling Yarns II took place at the Museum in March 2009, in conjunction with the ReCoil exhibition. Photo: Louise Hamby.

Nation Focus Gallery

Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café
(11 July – 16 November 2008)

This photographic exhibition of Australia's Greek cafés explored the key role that Greek Australians played in Australian cultural identity. Part of the Vivid — National Photography Festival 2008, Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café was a touring exhibition developed as part of the In Their Own Image: Greek–Australians National Project, based at Macquarie University, Sydney.

The photographs in the exhibition, both historical and contemporary, capture the decor of the cafés, their customers and the owners who worked hard to make their businesses successful. The Museum borrowed objects to add to the exhibition from several Australian Greek cafés, including classic art deco furniture from the Busy Bee Café in Gunnedah, and silverware from the Blue Bird Café in Lockhart, both in New South Wales. Café signs designed by Leonard French and Clement Meadmore for the Legend Café, Melbourne, as well as advertising for delicacies such as icecream sodas and Peach Melba, were also on display.

Most of the photographs were taken by the co-curator of the exhibition, Effy Alexakis. Alexakis is a freelance documentary photographer who has worked with historian Leonard Janiszewski since 1982 to research and document the Greek–Australian historical and contemporary presence in both Australia and Greece.

Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons 2008
(2 December 2008 – 1 February 2009)

Each year, the National Museum of Australia explores the twists and turns of another year in Australian politics through the eyes of cartoonists. The 2008–09 exhibition traced the major events of the year including Kevin Rudd's first year in office, the Apology to the Stolen Generations, the 2020 Summit, global warming and the world financial meltdown. The cartoons represented the best Australian political cartoons sourced by the Museum throughout the year. Featured artists included Bill Leak, Cathy Wilcox, John Spooner, David Rowe, Geoff Pryor, David Pope, Mark Knight and First Dog on the Moon (Andrew Marlton).

The Museum produced a catalogue to support the exhibition, which once again proved extremely popular with exhibition visitors (see National Museum of Australia Press). As in previous years, Behind the Lines was also fully accessible to online audiences.

'Drawing the lines', a political cartooning competition for upper primary and secondary students, attracted highly creative entries with a strong focus on current political issues (see National outreach competitions). At the prize-giving ceremony the Museum's Director Craddock Morton also presented an award to David Rowe, editorial cartoonist for the Australian Financial Review, for winning the National Museum of Australia Political Cartooning Competition 2008.

The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, and David Pope, editorial cartoonist for the Canberra Times, also participated in a video conference in the Museum's Studio with students from Stromlo High School and Gilmore Primary School in the Australian Capital Territory, and JJ Cahill Memorial High School in Mascot, New South Wales.

David Pope and Peter Garrett sit laughing, with crossed hands, in front of a banner showing a caricature of Kevin Rudd as a kangaroo, barbecuing an Australia-shaped steak.
Cartoonist David Pope and the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, engage with the young audience at the National Museum of Australia Political Cartooning Competition 2008.

We Came as Workers, We Stayed as Citizens: Celebrating More than 40 Years of Turkish Migration to Australia
(6 March – 14 April 2009)

In 1967 the Australian and Turkish governments signed an agreement that led to the assisted migration of people from Turkey to Australia for residence and employment. In 1968 the first assisted migrants were welcomed by Cypriot Turks who had settled in Australia. Together they formed the nucleus of Australia's Turkish-speaking community.

Celebrating more than 40 years since Australia and Turkey signed the assisted immigration agreement, this graphic exhibition explored the challenges faced by early Turkish immigrants as they settled into life in Victoria, and charted their successes and contributions to Australia's multicultural community. This exhibition was developed and presented by the Turkish 40th Anniversary Celebrations Committee, Melbourne.

Small displays in the Museum Hall

The Museum featured 14 small displays in the Hall this year. Key objects included Alan Puckett's custom-painted Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which has since been returned to the Eternity gallery, and the Endeavour cannon, one of six jettisoned from HMB Endeavour when it ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770, and which will be put on permanent display in the Australian Journeys gallery next year. A display about the history of paddle steamers in Australia, and the PS Enterprise in particular, is currently touring regional venues around Australia.

Schedule of Hall displays




Bendigo Pottery Featured 66 items from a significant collection of Bendigo Pottery recently acquired by the Museum 19 March –
22 July 2008
Eternity motorbike Alan Puckett's custom-painted Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH 1200 motorcycle, on display while the Eternity gallery was closed during the building works conducted on the mezzanine level 20 June –
1 September 2008
Kingsford Smith Objects displayed included a gold cigarette case given to Charles Kingsford Smith by Charles Ulm after their trans-Pacific flight, and a working model of the Southern Cross 3 July –
22 August 2008
Day of Mourning Banner display marking the 70th anniversary of the 1938 Day of Mourning 1–22 July 2008
Still Steaming: Commemorating 130 Years of the Paddle Steamer Enterprise Objects from the extensive PS Enterprise collection, displayed to commemorate the 130th birthday of the Museum's paddle steamer 23 August – 12 October 2008
9/11 flag Australian flag recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001 8–14 September 2008
Delaunay Tourer Display featuring the Museum's 1913 Delaunay-Belleville Tourer 22 October – 5 November 2008
Southern Cloud Clock and tachometer plate recovered in 1958 from the wreckage of the aeroplane the Southern Cloud, which disappeared in 1931 12 October – 30 November 2008
Geoff Pryor/ Behind the Lines 2008 Retrospective of works by cartoonist Geoff Pryor, displayed in conjunction with Behind the Lines 2008 29 November 2008 –
1 February 2009
National History Challenge

Winning entry of the National History Challenge, created by Annabelle Walker

19 December 2008 –
30 January 2009

Endeavour cannon

Cannon from HMB Endeavour, returned to the Museum in 2009 after being on long-term loan to the Australian National Maritime Museum 28 January – 6 April 2009
Anniversary of Apology Day

Banner display marking the anniversary of the Australian Government's Apology to the Stolen Generations

13 February – 26 March 2009
Macdonnell's telescope Telescope dating from about 1885, which belonged to respected nineteenth-century astronomer WJ Macdonnell 5 May –
16 July 2009
Leichhardt nameplate Small brass nameplate engraved 'Ludwig Leichhardt 1848', the first relic with a corroborated provenance from Leichhardt's ill-fated 1848 expedition 11 May –
11 June 2009
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