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11 October 2005

The power of performance in tackling controversial and contemporary issues will be explored in a landmark international conference in Canberra this week.

The National Museum of Australia is convening the fourth biennial International Museum Theatre Alliance (IMTAL) conference on performance in cultural institutions - taking place in the southern hemisphere for the first time from 13 to 16 October.

More than 120 delegates from across the globe are attending Extending Our Reach, which features keynote speeches from performer and festival director Robyn Archer and Professor Sam Ham, an expert on audience psychology, from the University of Idaho.

Convenor Daina Harvey said the conference would examine ways of reaching new audiences and the possibilities created by interpreting history and culture through performance.

'Performance is a really powerful way of drawing visitors into cultural institutions and engaging them in content,' Ms Harvey said. 'The conference explores the changing nature of cultural institutions and the way in which their themes and collections are interpreted.'

Performer and director Robyn Archer will deliver her keynote address in the Studio at the National Museum of Australia, at 10am this Thursday, 13 October. Robyn will be available for media interviews at 11am.

Other speakers include:

  • Armagh City Council living history coordinator Robert Forshaw on turning murder mysteries into cold, hard cash;
  • Ohio University's Catherine Hughes on how visitors connect emotionally to performance and how this affects memory and learning;
  • Associate Professor Jon Lipsky from Boston University on collaborative script writing;
  • Nanette Anslinger from Pennsylvania on the Multisensory Art Gallery, where costumed actors pose as living portraits, using sound, scent and taste to enhance visitor experience.
  • Karen Ougthred from New York's Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden on reaching the elderly and disabled, using a period actor to elicit memories through song and dance.
  • Canberra performance consultant Steve Barker on using popular culture to prompt considered responses to a museum collection

The Extending Our Reach program also involves Old Parliament House, Questacon, the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive.

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