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

In 2010–11, the Museum delivered six temporary exhibitions and toured eight travelling exhibitions, of which two exhibitions toured internationally.

Temporary Gallery

Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route
(30 July 2010 – 26 January 2011)

Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route was the result of a partnership between the National Museum of Australia and Western Australian arts group FORM. This groundbreaking exhibition told the story of the Canning Stock Route’s impact on Aboriginal people, and the importance of the country that surrounds it, through the works of senior and emerging artists and the stories of traditional custodians. It also featured an innovative 10-metre-long multi-touch interactive that won a MUSE award from the American Association of Museums. This exhibition is now touring Australia with venues confirmed in Perth and Sydney.

Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia
(17 March – 31 July 2011)

This fascinating exhibition revealed the extraordinary influence of the Irish in Australia, from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, to the continuing influx of young Irish backpackers today. From politics and religion to industry, art, music and dance, the Irish have had a far-reaching influence on Australia.

On display were more than 450 objects, large and small, from public institutions and private collections all over Australia, Ireland, the United States and New Zealand. An interactive iPad installation enabled visitors to listen to oral histories, poetry, songs and stories.

Gallery of First Australians Focus Gallery

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 exhibition, developed by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, with support from the National Museum of Australia, included beautiful baskets and kelp water carriers in contemporary and traditional styles.

A Map of Living Waters: Ngurrara Canvas I
(30 July – 8 November 2010)

This monumental canvas, acquired by the Museum in 2009, was displayed in the Gallery of First Australians Focus Gallery in conjunction with the Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route exhibition.

Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu
(7 December 2010 – 25 September 2011)

Developed in partnership between the National Museum of Australia and the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu is an exhibition of captivating artworks by the Marika family from north-east Arnhem Land, exploring the journey of the Djang’kawu ancestors. The exhibition included works produced at the Yirrkala mission in the 1930s, rare crayon drawings commissioned by Dr Ronald Berndt, monumental barks from the 1950s, and a series of contemporary prints, fibre items, barks and carvings. This exhibition is now touring Australia with venues confirmed in Darwin and Perth.

Studio Gallery

Exploration & Endeavour: The Royal Society of London and the South Seas
(14 September 2010 – 30 January 2011)

This exhibition, developed collaboratively between the National Museum of Australia and the Royal Society of London, commemorated the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. The exhibition featured significant documents and objects from the Royal Society’s collections to reveal the key role it played in the exploration and early documentation of the Australian continent. It included navigational instruments from the Endeavour, Resolution and Adventure, letters from James Cook and Matthew Flinders, and a mechanical planetarium, or orrery, made in about 1760 to demonstrate the principles of the transit of Venus.

Side view showing a man dressed in a striped, collared shirt and dark jumper, and wearing pale blue gloves, holding a dog ust before its rear legs. The brownish-gold dog hangs upside down from an illuminated display board.

Curator Dr George Main positions a wild dog taxidermy specimen in the Bowen Downs exhibit, as part of the new Landmarks gallery.

International travelling exhibitions

This year saw the Museum reach out to an international audience with the display of Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert at Beijing’s National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), 10 June – 26 August 2010. The exhibition marked the Museum’s status as a producer of world-class exhibitions.

The exhibition, which was originally shown at the Museum in 2007, was selected by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NAMOC to form part of the program for the Year of Australian Culture in China, Imagine Australia. Museum staff worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NAMOC to translate both the exhibition text and the catalogue into Chinese. The exhibition, which was opened by the Governor-General on 10 June 2010, tells the story of the artists and supporters of the Papunya Tula art movement between 1974 and 1981. The exhibition generated a high level of interest within China and a total of 120,000 people visited the exhibition.

The tour of Papunya Painting to China was supported by the Australian Government through the Australia International Cultural Council, an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the former Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts under its National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program (NCITO).

This year the Museum also toured League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia to Samoa.

National travelling exhibitions

Engaging national audiences, as outlined in the Strategic Plan 2007–10, has been an important priority for the Museum. Travelling exhibitions are one way of achieving this goal. The Museum aims to tour exhibitions to all Australian states and territories within a two-year period. In 2010–11, eight exhibitions travelled to a total of 23 different venues (with two venues hosting more than one exhibition) across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Of these venues, 13 were in metropolitan venues and 12 in regional areas, and the Museum’s exhibitions attracted 736,811 visitors. The following national travelling exhibitions were supported by the NCITO Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians: Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock RouteFrom Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920–1970, and Symbols of Australia.

National and international travelling exhibitions, 2010–11

Exhibition and visitationDescriptionVenueDates
A Different Time:
The Expedition
Photographs of
Herbert Basedow:

A fascinating historical
record of life in remote Australia in the early 1900s

Port Augusta Cultural Centre, SA

Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Qld

Cockatoo Island, NSW

9 Oct – 28 Nov 2010

12 Mar – 22 May 2011

3 Jun – 31 Jul 2011

Behind the Lines:
The Year’s Best
Cartoons 2009

Works by Australia’s
leading political
cartoonists in 2009

The Constitutional Centre of Western
Australia, Perth, WA

Northern Territory Library, Darwin, NT

State Library of Queensland, Brisbane,

24 Jun – 20 Aug 2010

15 Sep – 7 Nov 2010

11 Dec 2010 – 3 Apr 2011

Behind the Lines:
The Year’s Best
Cartoons 2010

Works by Australia’s
leading political
cartoonists in 2010

Museum of Australian Democracy,
Canberra, ACT

Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, NSW

Old Treasury Building, Melbourne, Vic

9 Dec 2010 – 20 Mar 2011

25 Mar – 20 May 2011

28 May – 3 Jul 2011

From Little Things
Big Things Grow:
Fighting for
Indigenous Rights

Objects and photographs
highlighting the struggle
for Indigenous civil rights in the period 1920–1970

Melbourne Museum, Vic

Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural
Institute, Adelaide, SA

Museum of Sydney, NSW

Western Australian Museum,
Kalgoorlie-Boulder, WA

7 Jun – 7 Nov 2010

11 Dec 2010 – 6 Feb 2011

21 Feb – 8 May 2011

28 May – 9 Oct 2011

League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia
Photographic exhibition
that emerged from the major temporary
exhibition of the same name

Museum of Samoa

Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, Qld

Liverpool Regional Library, NSW

Wollongong City Gallery, NSW

14 Jun – 30 Jul 2010

16 Mar – 8 May 2011

18 May – 16 Jun 2011

25 Jun – 21 Aug 2011

Ned Kelly banner

Banner display based on
the Ned Kelly: Fact and Fiction touring exhibition

Gold Museum, Ballarat, Vic

Black Diamond Heritage Museum,
Bulli, NSW

Willows Museum, Jerilderie, NSW

Benalla Historical and Pioneer
Museum, Vic

14 Jun – 29 Aug 2010

11 Sep – 12 Dec 2010

4 Jan – 5 Mar 2011

10 Apr – 30 Jun 2011

Symbols of Australia
Explores symbols that Australians have chosen to represent themselves and their nation

Albury Library and Museum, NSW

Museum of Tropical Queensland,
Townsville, Qld

Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Qld

Liverpool Regional Library, NSW

Museum of the Riverina,
Wagga Wagga, NSW

10 Jun – 8 Aug 2010

6 Sep – 25 Nov 2010

4 Dec –26 Feb 2011

9 Mar – 15 May 2011

20 May – 7 Aug 2011

Papunya Painting:
Out of the Australian

Highlighted the National
Museum’s extraordinary
collection of Central and Western Desert region
Aboriginal paintings, and
travelled to Beijing as part of the Year of Australian Culture in China
National Art Museum of China, Beijing10 Jun – 26 Aug 2010

Note: date spans are for duration of exhibition but figures are calculated from 1 July 2010.

Number of exhibitions at venues, 2001–11

Number of
2001–02 1 at 4 venues
2002–03 5 at 6 venues
2003–04 6 at 9 venues
2004–05 5 at 9 venues
2005–06 8 at 28 venues
2006–07 9 at 28 venues
2007–08 9 at 26 venues
2008–09 11 at 32 venues
2009–10 9 at 17 venues*
2010–11 8 at 25 venues*

*Two venues hosting more than one exhibition

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