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Temporary exhibitions

Developing and presenting exhibitions are key functions of the National Museum of Australia, 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 2011–12, the Museum delivered six temporary exhibitions and toured nine travelling exhibitions.

Temporary Gallery

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 in Australia, Ireland, the United States and New Zealand. An interactive iPad installation enabled visitors to listen to oral histories, poetry, songs and stories.

A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art
(30 September 2011 – 29 January 2012)

The Museum was proud to be the exclusive Australian venue for A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art, a powerful and important exhibition of contemporary Chinese art from the National Art Museum of China.

A New Horizon featured more than 70 paintings, sculptures and new media installations created since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Some of China’s leading contemporary artists were represented, including Qian Songyan, Shen Jiawei and Liu Xiaodong, with works divided into three sections: New China (1949–1977), New Thinking (1978–1999) and New Century (2000–2009). The artworks reveal the developments that have taken place in Chinese art over the past 60 years, and mirror the significant social changes in China during that time.

Travelling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World
(31 March – 29 July 2012)

The Museum partnered with the American Museum of Natural History, New York, to present its exhibition, Travelling the Silk Road. The Museum was the only Australian venue for this exhibition, which allowed audiences to step 1000 years back in time to experience the sights, sounds and stories of the greatest trading route in history.

The exhibition featured remarkable dioramas, fascinating interactives and impressive artefacts. Audiences were transported on a thrilling journey along the legendary Silk Road, exploring the ancient cities of Asia and the Middle East over six centuries.

First Australians Focus Gallery

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

Developed in partnership with 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 includes 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.

Off the Walls: Art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Agencies 1967–2005
(28 October 2011 – 10 June 2012)

Off the Walls explored the world of Indigenous art, and the politics and history of a time of great change. It featured works by internationally renowned artists including Rover Thomas, Narritjin Maymuru and Fiona Foley.

These works, now in the collection of the Museum, literally came ‘off the walls’ when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission was closed. The collection was built over 40 years by government bodies dealing with Indigenous affairs. The exhibition featured a selection of striking paintings, prints and carvings placed back in the office and displayed alongside documents to help give a glimpse of a fascinating and tumultuous time in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.

The exhibition also included a searchable database with records for thousands of the objects from the collection.

Studio Gallery

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions
(16 November 2011 – 26 February 2012)

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions featured the words, voices and objects of the Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and those who experienced institutional care as children. About half a million children spent time in children’s homes and institutions, mostly run by state governments, charities and churches from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Inside examined how children were committed to ‘care’, what it was like to grow up on the inside and reactions to the Australian Government’s 2009 National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants. This exhibition was supported by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

National travelling exhibitions

In 2011–12, nine exhibitions travelled to a total of 23 different venues (with one venue hosting more than one exhibition) across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Of these venues, 10 were in metropolitan areas and 13 were in regional areas, and they attracted a total of 753,387 visitors. Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock RouteFrom Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920–1970Symbols of Australia and Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu were national travelling exhibitions supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program or Visions of Australia, Australian Government programs aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

National and international travelling exhibitions, 2011–12

Exhibition and visitationDescriptionVenueDates
A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow: 1903–192833,782A fascinating historical record of life in remote Australia in the early 1900s

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, Sydney, NSW

QANTAS Founders Museum, Longreach, NSW

South Australian Museum, Adelaide, SA

3 Jun – 31 Jul 2011

15 Aug – 24 Oct 2011

11 May – 24 Jun 2012

Behind the Lines: The Year’s Best
Cartoons 2010
Works by Australia’s leading political cartoonists in 2010

The Constitutional Centre of Western Australia, Perth, WA

Northern Territory Library, Darwin, NT

10 Jul – 17 Aug 2011

5 Sep – 16 Oct 2011

From Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920–1970376,855

[Figure includes whole-of-Museum visitation]

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

Western Australian Museum, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, WA

Museum of Tropical Queensland,Townsville, QLD

Queensland Museum, Brisbane, QLD

28 May – 16 Oct 2011

4 Nov 2011 – 29 Jan 2012

10 Feb – 27 May 2012

League of Legends:100 Years of Rugby League in Australia18,247Photographic exhibition that emerged from the major temporary exhibition of the same name

Wollongong City Gallery, NSW

Hurstville City Museum and Gallery, Sydney, NSW

Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, NSW

Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth, NSW

5 Jun – 21 Aug 2011

29 Oct – 18 Dec 2011

4 Feb – 1 Apr 2012

12 May – 9 Jun 2012

Ned Kelly banner display

[Figure includes whole-of-Library visitation]

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

Liverpool Regional Library, Sydney, NSW

Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach, NSW

8 Jul – 4 Sep 2011

12 Apr – 18 Jun 2012
Symbols of Australia
Explores symbols that Australians have chosen to represent themselves and their nation

Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga, NSW

Rockhampton Art Gallery, Rockhampton, QLD

Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, NSW

Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery, Port Pirie, SA

20 May – 7 Aug 2011

19 Aug – 11 Nov 2011

26 Nov 2011 – 18 Mar 2012

30 Mar – 27 May 2012
Places that Matter35,586Banner display exploring the National Heritage List

National Sports Museum, Melbourne, VIC

Mildura Information Centre, Mildura, VIC

Blue Mountains Heritage Centre, Blackheath, NSW

10 Dec – 16 Dec 2011

15 Jan – 26 Feb 2012

1 Jun – 30 Jun 2012
Yalangbara – Art of the Djang’kawu90,729Exhibition of objects and artworks from north-east Arnhem LandMuseum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT24 Nov 2011 – 15 Jul 2012

Yiwarra Kuju –
The Canning Stock Route


[Figure includes first week of Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting]

An exhibition exploring the history and communities of the Canning Stock Route region

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, Perth, WA

Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW

24 Oct – 27 Nov 2011

17 Dec 2011 – 29 Apr 2012

Note: date spans are for duration of exhibition but figures are calculated from 1 July 2011.

Number of exhibitions at venues, 2001–12

Financial yearNumber of exhibitions
2001–021 at 4 venues
2002–035 at 6 venues
2003–046 at 9 venues
2004–055 at 9 venues
2005–068 at 28 venues
2006–079 at 28 venues
2007–089 at 26 venues
2008–0911 at 32 venues
2009–109 at 17 venues
2010–118 at 25 venues
2011–129 at 23 venues
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