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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 be strong, and included content that supports the Museum's core themes of land, nation and people.

In 2009–10 the Museum delivered four temporary exhibitions and hosted three externally developed exhibitions. Eight travelling exhibitions were toured throughout Australia and two exhibitions toured internationally.

A colour photograph of two men, Craddock Morton and Brothablack, laughing uproariously.
Director Craddock Morton (left), learns some rap moves from Indigenous rap artist Brothablack (Shannon Williams) who performed at the opening of From Little Things Big Things Grow in the Gallery of First Australians.

Temporary Gallery

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

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

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

Water: H20=Life (3 December 2009 – 16 May 2010)

Water: H20=Life was developed by the American Museum of Natural History and toured to the National Museum, which was the only Australian venue to host it.

The exhibition provided a contemporary and in-depth look at one of the most pressing environmental issues facing society today. It explored the many ways that water shapes life on earth and makes our planet liveable, and also provided information on how people can help preserve our planet's water.

The Museum added an Australian component to the exhibition, called Australia's Water Story. It exhibited locally sourced live animals from the National Zoo and Aquarium, including mudskippers, tetras, green tree frogs and a Murray cod.

Gallery of First Australians Focus Gallery

From Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920–1970 (10 September 2009 – 8 March 2010)

From Little Things Big Things Grow highlighted the struggle for Indigenous civil rights in the period 1920–70. During these years most Indigenous Australians did not enjoy the same civil rights as other Australians. There were restrictions on where they could live, what occupations they could hold and where they could travel. They also experienced social discrimination in places such as cafes, cinemas and swimming pools.

Using a chronological approach, the exhibition followed the history of the efforts of Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to improve the social and legal status of Indigenous Australians. The exhibition highlighted some key relevant events in this history, such as the 1938 Day of Mourning protest, the 1958 arrest of artist Albert Namatjira, the 1965 Freedom Ride through western New South Wales and the 1967 referendum. It also highlighted the personal stories of the activists who fought to change Australian society.

This exhibition is now touring Australia with venues confirmed in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

Tayenebe: Tasmanian Aboriginal Women's Fibre Work (30 March – 25 July 2010)

Tayenebe, a Tasmanian Aboriginal word meaning 'exchange', celebrated the revitalisation of Tasmanian Aboriginal weaving that has been taking place over the past three years. The project supported Tasmanian women in regenerating weaving practices and knowledge of traditional plants within their community.

The Tayenebe exhibition included beautiful baskets and kelp water carriers in contemporary and traditional styles, along with a historical basket made in around 1845 that had not been seen outside Tasmania. This exhibition was developed by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, with support from the Museum.

Nation Focus Gallery

A Fine Yarn: Innovations in Australia's Wool Industry (22 July – 8 November 2009)

A Fine Yarn: Innovations in Australia's Wool Industry examined the fine wool industry in Australia today and recognised the importance of wool in Australia's social and economic history. The exhibition also examined the role of wool competitions and awards in encouraging innovation within the industry.

The exhibition explored innovation in a variety of contexts — from wool farming techniques and practices, through to clothing manufacturing and product marketing — and was developed to acknowledge the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's launch of the International Year of the Natural Fibre.

It featured 40 objects including traditional and contemporary superfine wool garments, a prize-winning fleece, competition trophies, photographs and archival footage of the top wool fashions from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

A colour photograph of two people sitting on a bench, looking at iPod. Framed cartoons are visible on the walls in the background.
Student Dahna Knight shows cartoonist David Pope her prizewinning cartoon for Behind the Lines 2009 on her iPod.

Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons 2009
(8 December 2009 – 31 January 2010)

Each year the National Museum of Australia collects political cartoons to help build a visual archive of Australian political history. Each cartoon provides us with a snapshot of a personality or event in the life of the nation.

Some of the year's best works are presented in this exhibition, providing an opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months in Australian politics.

The major themes from 2009 featured in the exhibition were the GFC (global financial crisis) and natural disasters. The exhibition featured works from Australia's leading cartoonists including Bill Leak, Alan Moir, Cathy Wilcox, Mark Knight and Warren Brown.

Small displays in the Museum Hall

The Museum featured 13 small displays in the Hall this financial year. Key objects included the Endeavour cannon, a replica of the craft used in the first successful heavier-than-air flight by George Augustine Taylor in 1909, and a collection of items from the Johnny Warren collection that was recently donated to the Museum.

Schedule of Hall displays

Title Description Dates
Macdonnell's telescope Telescope dating from about 1885, which belonged to respected nineteenth-century astronomer WJ Macdonnell. 5 May –
16 July 2009
NAIDOC Week 2009: Sharing our History, Sharing our Future A diverse range of photographs of First Australians engaged in storytelling and expressing their cultures and heritage. The photographs were taken by National Museum of Australia photographers' George Serras and Lannon Harley, and freelance photographer Wayne Quilliam. 3 July –
27 July 2009
Namatjira's Gift An Albert Namatjira painting, given to the girls of Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home in 1957. 3 July –
27 July 2009
Australians in the Himalayas: 25 Years of Achievement To mark the 25th anniversary of the first Australians to climb Mount Everest, the Museum displayed a number of items loaned and donated by Geoff Bartram. 16 September –
5 November 2009
Barks, Birds & Billabongs: Exploring the Legacy of the 1948 American– Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land Coinciding with the Barks, Birds & Billabongs symposium, a number of items collected and used in the 1948 Expedition were displayed. Items included the Kodak Junior 620 folding pocket camera used by Raymond Specht; and two smoking pipes, spear-throwers and a palm basket collected by Specht and Peter Bassett-Smith. 23 October – 30 November 2009
National History Challenge Winner The winning entry in the National History Challenge, a researchbased competition for school students in years 5–12. 2 December 2009 –
5 February 2010
Behind the Lines 2009 A small collection of works to advertise the larger exhibition of political cartoons in the Nation Focus Gallery. 8 December 2009 –
31 January 2010
Jack Howe: Gun Shearer A display of medals won by record-breaking shearer Jack Howe, as well as shears similar to those used by Jack Howe to shear 321 sheep with hand shears — a record that still stands today. 15 December 2009 –
9 March 2010
Endeavour cannon The Endeavour cannon is one of six jettisoned from HMB Endeavour when it ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. 27 January –
13 May 2010
Black Saturday

A commemorative display marking the first anniversary since the Victorian bushfires of 7 February 2009, also known as Black Saturday, which killed 173 people and destroyed over 2000 homes.

1 February –
1 March 2010

The Centenary of Flight in Australia

A replica of George Augustine Taylor's biplane glider, produced by the Australian Gliding Museum and purchased by the Museum, was displayed to mark the centenary of the first successful heavier-than-air flight in 1909. 1 April –
19 October 2010
'I told you so': Johnny Warren and Football in Australia

Coinciding with the World Cup, some of the 174 items from the Johnny Warren collection were displayed to pay tribute to Australian football legend Johnny Warren and examine the evolution of the world game of football in Australia.

15 May –
9 August 2010
Everyday Heroes To commemorate NAIDOC Week 2010, a collection of 'bush toys' were displayed to celebrate the theme 'Unsung heroes — Closing the gap by leading their way'. 8 June –
18 July 2010