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Reaching a national schools audience

In 2011–12, the Museum received 84,282 visiting school students from all states and territories, the fifth highest total since opening in 2001. Three new facilitated programs were offered to visiting schools in the reporting period, including two new activities with an Indigenous history focus specifically linked to the new Australian Curriculum: History. In addition, video conference (VC) programming for schools unable to visit the Museum was increased, a precursor to ramping up its suite of VC programming for regional and remote schools over the next few years. Content for these is also linked to the Australian Curriculum.

In addition, the Museum continued to deliver a range of outreach programs for primary and secondary schools around Australia. It also continued to make a significant contribution to the development of the Australian Government’s national curriculum process, especially in the areas of history and English, and provided further digital resources for schools as part of the Australian Government’s digital education initiatives.

Australian Curriculum initiatives

During 2011–12, the Australian Government released the next group of draft learning areas for the Australian Curriculum: geography, the arts and languages other than English. It also produced the ‘shape paper’ for civics and citizenship. Each of these new curriculum areas provides opportunities for the Museum to contribute to its content. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority asked the Museum to provide comment on the revised drafts of national senior history courses. The Museum was also asked to provide feedback on both the senior modern and ancient history courses.

As in the previous reporting period, the Museum continued to contribute to the provision of digital teaching and learning material for schools as part of the Australian Government’s initiatives in this area. In May 2012, Education Services Australia requested that the Museum produce four new digital resources for the national history curriculum for the early years of primary schooling (Foundation–Year 4). This work will commence in the next reporting period and will enable the Museum to increase its provision of curriculum offerings in an important and challenging aspect of Australian schooling. The resources will act as exemplars for teachers as they begin to implement the curriculum.

Major curriculum resource developments

The Museum completed significant curriculum resources for schools in the reporting period and began to produce several others, continuing one of its major goals of being a provider of quality outreach materials for Australian classrooms, increasingly in support of the Australian Curriculum.

Australian Curriculum: History textbook series
The third in the series of Pearson Australia’s Australian Curriculum: History textbook series (Year 9) was published in the reporting period. As with the previous Year 7 book, the Year 9 textbook included a chapter written by education staff at the Museum in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history. The fourth and final book in the series written for Year 10 students is currently in production and also contains a chapter on Indigenous history written by education staff.

Lake Mungo case study
A new case study featuring the famous discoveries of ancient Aboriginal people at Lake Mungo in southern New South Wales was produced and made available to schools in the reporting period. This was the 16th case study in the Museum’s major national history curriculum multimedia resource for secondary schools — Australian History Mysteries — a partnership project with education writers and producers Ryebuck Media Pty Ltd. Each case study in the series contains a wide range of primary and secondary source evidence, including museum objects, national archival collections and historic sites. The new case study is directly relevant to an important aspect of the new Year 7 Australian Curriculum: History learning area. Reactions to date from teachers who have viewed the video, print and computer interactive materials have been very positive and the Museum is hopeful that many schools will use this resource. A case study which explores the significance of the crossing of the Blue Mountains, and which is relevant to Year 9 in the new national history course, was commissioned in the reporting period and will be made available to schools later in 2012.

Australian History Mysteries website
Of particular note in the reporting period was the redesign of the Australian History Mysteries subscription website ( The redesigned site can now be easily navigated and contains far more explicit links to the Australian Curriculum: History. There are currently more than 200 schools subscribing to the redesigned website, which has recently been entered into the 2012 Australian Teachers of Media Awards in the best secondary school curriculum resource category.

Studies of Society and Environment magazine
The Museum produced a further two secondary school units of work for the nationally distributed classroom curriculum magazine Studies of Society and Environment (distributed free of charge to all Australian secondary schools three times a year by Ryebuck Media). The first of this reporting period’s units focused on Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions, the Museum’s exhibition about the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, and contained particularly challenging material for school-aged children. The second, which was based on the Museum’s permanent gallery, Landmarks: People and Places across Australia, provided schools with a rich array of object-based historical evidence that could be used to address important themes in the national history curriculum for years 9 and 10. Both units were also made available on the Museum’s website.

Technology-related education innovations

National Broadband Network partnership project
In 2011–12 the Museum was invited to participate in the CSIRO’s Mobile Telepresence Project, a research and development project designed to make videoconferencing more interactive by using robotics and a sophisticated camera system. Based on a partnership between CSIRO, the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy and the Museum, the project will enable school students from around Australia, and in particular rural and regional Australia, to ‘visit’ and interact with Museum galleries and objects through National Broadband Network (NBN) high speed connectivity and a mobile robot camera system.

As its contribution to the project, the Museum is designing stimulating, curriculum relevant learning experiences that exploit the opportunities presented by a virtual visit to the Museum’s galleries. Two educational ‘tours’ or programs are being developed, each referencing a key aspect of the national history curriculum — one primary (Year 5) and one secondary (Year 9).

Apart from being able to virtually visit the Museum through the robot’s camera system, participating students will also be able to access additional information about the objects they encounter on the tour through an ‘augmented reality feature’, which links information about objects in a dedicated database to hotspots on the screen that students use to view the gallery. It is anticipated that this project will be launched at the Museum in November 2012 and will be followed by an extensive trial phase with schools around Australia that are connected to the NBN.

A colour image of students playing a game on an iPad.
Students from Curtin Primary School try out the Museum Game. Trialled with a number of school groups this year, games can be set up to respond to themes in the Australian Curriculum or made more open-ended depending on the preference of the teacher or organiser

The Museum iPad game

In 2011–12, the Museum developed a prototype iPad digital learning game, provisionally called the ‘Museum Game’. This game enables school students (and potentially other audiences) to make connections between objects in the Museum’s galleries using a Museum Game iPad, the game’s software, the iPad’s camera and the Museum’s recently installed wireless network. Student teams compete to make the most interesting ‘resemblances’ or connections between museum objects in a series of rounds, with teams amassing points at the end of each round, leading to an eventual winning team after a set period of time. Games can be set up to respond to themes in the Australian Curriculum or they can be made more open-ended, depending on the preference of the teacher or organiser.

The Museum Game was trialled with a limited number of school groups in the reporting period and important modifications were made as a consequence of this. A much more extensive trial phase will occur in 2012–13 and it is anticipated that the Museum Game will become an option for schools visiting the Museum in 2013.

National outreach competitions

Australian history competition for years 8 and 10 students
In 2012, the History Teachers’ Association of Australia (HTAA) ran a national history competition for Year 10 students for the second year, following its successful inauguration in 2011. The HTAA also ran a similar competition for Year 8 students in 2012. Both competitions required students to select the most ‘correct’ answer to a series of multiple choice questions and, in 2012, the Museum contributed to both history quizzes by supplying object-related multiple choice Australian history questions with associated object images.

Supporting student history competition: National History Challenge
The Museum again contributed to the sponsorship of the History Teachers’ Association of Australia annual history challenge program for primary and secondary students through its special category on museum displays. The theme of the 2011 competition was ‘Defining moments’ and the winning Museum entry was submitted by Hannah Mitzi from St Mary’s Anglican School. Hannah’s display was exhibited in the Museum’s Hall in January 2012.

Professional development for teachers

Evaluation continues to indicate that efforts to provide teaching strategies and curriculum resources through a comprehensive professional development program have a positive impact on teaching in Australian classrooms. Professional development workshops for teachers, held at the Museum and at conferences around Australia, attracted over 500 participants in 2011–12.

Education staff delivered workshops and made presentations at a variety of conferences, including the Victorian and national history teacher conferences. In addition, through the National Capital Educational Tourism Project’s outreach program, the Museum presented at 11 regional and capital city professional development sessions for teachers.

Several teacher previews focusing on the Museum’s temporary exhibitions program were also conducted, mainly with teachers from schools in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounds, helping to continue to build a strong network of committed teachers across the region.

Curatorial outreach

All permanent galleries have a strong focus on place and community. Curators travel extensively to visit historic sites, research objects and stories, make presentations and consult with communities. Curators remain in constant and close contact with stakeholders in Museum programs, and work hard to maintain long-established relationships.

Curators working on the Landmarks: People and Places across Australia gallery maintained relationships with communities throughout the country that are featured in the gallery. This included site visits, research and support for related public programs and events. During site visits, curators were often in contact with community groups, local museums and other organisations to develop knowledge and appropriate conservation and display options for collections to be displayed in Landmarks.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program (ATSIP) is committed to the delivery of projects relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories that are based on thorough consultation. Many outreach projects incorporate elements of community advice and training.

During the reporting year the Museum formalised a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Gab Titui Cultural Centre based on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. This MOU supports the National Museum of Australia ‘History through art’ award as a part of the national Gab Titui Art Awards encouraging artists to articulate the past and support cultural traditions and continuity.

Two issues of Goree: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander News were published and delivered to more than 10,000 communities, schools, organisations and individuals across Australia. The newsletters are also available online.

Curators have also served on a number of community support panels, including the Australian Capital Territory Government’s Historic Places Advisory Committee and the National Capital Authority’s Regatta Point project.

International outreach

Museum staff were involved in two major international projects in 2011–12. The Papua New Guinea project, which commenced in May 2011, focuses on the Hugh Stevenson collection, an important contemporary Papua New Guinea collection housed at the University of Papua New Guinea. This year project participants:

  • completed assessment of, and prepared a risk assessment and storage plan for, the Hugh Stevenson collection
  • developed a collection management training program in consultation with key Papua New Guinea cultural and educational institutions.

Museum staff will return to Papua New Guinea in 2012–13 to deliver the training program and assist with the rehousing of the Hugh Stevenson collection into new purpose built storage.

The Encounters project is a collaboration with the British Museum, the Australian National University and Indigenous communities across Australia. It is an important project that is reconnecting Indigenous communities with the most significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects from the British Museum. It is enabling curators from Australia and the United Kingdom to share information about this material with local Indigenous communities and building capacity within these communities to engage with the British Museum.

Research on objects for this exhibition is in the final stages of completion, and informed the early stages of the community consultation and engagement process. The exhibition is scheduled to open at the British Museum in early to mid-2015 and at the National Museum of Australia later that year.

Repatriation of remains and secret/sacred objects

The Museum advises on and assists federal, state and territory cultural heritage institutions, Indigenous communities and representatives with the repatriation of Indigenous human remains and secret/sacred objects. It also provides information to the media and public about repatriation. The management of human remains and secret/sacred objects is strictly controlled to ensure that material is cared for in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner, as well as in accordance with museum best practice.

The Museum does not actively seek to acquire human remains or secret/sacred objects. However, as the prescribed authority under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, the Museum can be the repository for unprovenanced remains referred to the Australian Government minister. To date, no remains have been deposited with the Museum under this Act.

The Museum also holds human remains and secret/ sacred objects mostly transferred from the Australian Institute of Anatomy collections in 1985. These have been de-accessioned and do not form part of the National Historical Collection.

During 2011–12, the Museum continued to consult with communities regarding the repatriation of ancestral remains and to house remains as requested by communities. Museum staff provided specialist advice to the repatriation unit of the Australian Museum in Sydney on provenancing and cataloguing. The Museum responded to repatriation requests in the international sector by providing briefings for Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff on postings, and requests for information on the Museum’s holdings of international remains and objects.

The Museum provided contacts and introductions to a number of individuals to facilitate the return of secret/ sacred items to Indigenous communities.

The Museum has received funding from the Office for the Arts for storage and management of remains returned from overseas. Repatriation activities during 2011–12 were primarily supported by Museum resources.

Sharing our resources and expertise

Indigenous development

During 2011–12 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program continued to provide development opportunities and support to Indigenous communities and individuals in the cultural sector, in particular through the Indigenous Curators’ Mentorship Program. The Museum provided internships for two interns from Gab Titui Cultural Centre (Thursday Island in the Torres Strait), one from the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery and one through the Australian Public Service Graduate Program.

Australian Rugby League Commission

The Museum is working in partnership with the Australian Rugby League Commission to produce a permanent exhibition at Rugby League Central, at Moore Park in Sydney, the new headquarters of the game in Australia. The Museum has provided curatorial advice and assistance with cataloguing and storing the commission’s extensive collection of rugby league memorabilia. Entitled Heroes and Legends, the new exhibition explores the story of the establishment of rugby league in Australia and displays the best of the Rugby League Commission’s collection. At the centre of the exhibition is a display of rugby league’s major trophies, including the Giltinan shield and the original State of Origin shield. The Museum is proud to be lending the Royal Agricultural Society Challenge shield as part of this display of iconic rugby league objects.

Online outreach — the Museum’s website:

Colour photograph of a man resting with folded arms on a table. In front is a framed set of three circular medals.
A personal collection of material belonging to well-known Australian swimmer and Olympic gold medallist John Konrads (pictured here with his medals) was just one of the Museum’s new acquisitions. The media coverage of this acquisition made it one of the most popular stories of the year

The Museum continued to engage with online audiences via social media. The Museum’s Flickr collection increased to 5260 items, mostly photographs taken of the artworks created as part of the Museum’s school holiday Discovery Space programs: Future space, Think ink!, Discovery Road and Wrapped! Photos were also posted from the festivals and the Silk Road night market.

Feature websites were developed for exhibitions Bipotaim: Stories from the Torres Strait, Travelling the Silk Road, Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture, Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions, A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art and Off the Walls: Art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Agencies 1967–2005. Exhibition visitors to Off the Walls were invited to browse the collection of more than 2000 items, both in the exhibition and online, and add comments. The Museum is keen for exhibition and web visitors to help us to learn more about the histories and people behind the collection.

Eleven collection highlights — short online articles — were developed, featuring the CSIRO WLAN collection, Warakurna history paintings, Zilm family furniture, the agricultural medal collection, Nelson the Newfoundland’s dog collar, the Victorian gold nugget, the holey dollar, the 1867 Melbourne Cup and Queen’s Plate trophies, John Konrads’ Olympic medals, Yvonne Kennedy’s September 11 collection, and the Johnny Warren football collection. Collection highlights aim to display the Museum’s collection and highlight the diversity of Australian histories embodied in the objects.

Two new online interactives were developed for the Landmarks gallery, Exploring the world at Port Macquarie and Flemington on Cup Day. Digital and photo media students from the Australian National University participated in a program with the Museum to develop the third Australian Digital Journeys project: works based on their responses to the Australian Journeys gallery.

The Museum updated its website design and architecture in 2011–12, migrating site content to a new content management system with enhanced functionality. Complementing the new architecture, the Museum will move to a new statistics analysis methodology in 2012–13. The new analytics will enable fine-grained tracking of site visitor behaviour. However, the change is likely to result in a decrease in numbers in the first year.

The Friends of the National Museum of Australia

In June 2012, there were 1105 Friends memberships (1089 in 2010–11), comprising 3678 individuals (3836 in 2010–11). The increase in memberships is largely due to the popularity of the paid temporary exhibitions held at the Museum during the year.

Friends continued its role of maintaining and enhancing community support for the Museum throughout 2011–12. The organisation continued to provide a range of benefits to members, including 39 events attended by more than 1440 people.

Highlights included:

  • commencement of work on a new and updated Friends lounge
  • well attended curator-led previews of all Museum exhibitions
  • a successful series of talks featuring Museum curators presenting their research
  • our continuing popular series ‘Landmark women’, ‘Creative craft’ and ‘Get messy with Grandma (or Grandpa)’
  • the ‘Rare book’ series hosted in the library.

‘Friends around the Lake’ events, presented in partnership with other cultural institutions in Canberra under the auspices of the Australian Federation of Friends of Museums (AFFM) banner, were very successful. Events with other partners included the Canberra Theatre Centre and Australians Studying Abroad. Friends continued to receive invaluable support from all sectors of the Museum and had generous assistance from Rowlands Catering and Pauline Hore (auditor).

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