Director's Award for Excellence 2016
Dr Ian Coates
Dr Ian Coates has made a profound contribution to the life of the National Museum of Australia since he joined in 1999 to work on the initial development of the Tangled Destinies gallery. As a curator and researcher, Ian was responsible for helping to develop the organising principle for the gallery, as a ‘landscape of ideas’ about our relationship to the Australian continent – a theme that permeates the Museum’s work today.
Ian’s intellectual and conceptual strength has been critical to the success of a series of major exhibition programs over many years. He has played a key role in some of the Museum’s most notable achievements, such as Cook’s Pacific Encounters, Papunya: Out of the Desert, and Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route.
As head of the Collections Development Team, he has also made a series of notable acquisitions for the Museum and has responsibility for coordinating the collections work of the Curatorial and Research section.
From 2007, Ian has been responsible for fostering and developing the substantial relationship between the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum, which culminated in the twin exhibition programs Enduring Civilisations: Indigenous Australia and Encounters: Revealing stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects from the British Museum. His initial work researching the Indigenous Australian collections at the British Museum inspired this relationship, and led to the establishment of enduring contacts between communities of origin in this country and the British Museum. Moreover, his research uncovered artefacts previously unknown to Australians, such as the illustrations of Torres Strait Islander life made by the artist Tom Roberts in the 19th century.
Ian has made a substantial contribution to research about museums and collections, not least in his role in the two Australian Research Council funded research programs between the National Museum, the British Museum and the Australian National University. More broadly, he has been a key voice in developing the thinking culture of the Museum, and he brings a great sense of clarity and thought to his advocacy. Ian has also been a great encourager and mentor to staff and colleagues, and his calm, unflappable approach is greatly valued by all.
The Director’s Award for Excellence recognises the quality of professional practice and achievement of a Museum staff member. Dr Ian Coates’s work has been an important element in the Museum’s successes since opening its doors, and he continues to search for ways to bring the stories of this country alive, to engage, inform and entertain audiences. This award celebrates his exemplary contribution to the life of the National Museum of Australia.
Director's Award for Excellence 2015
Rebecca Coronel’s career at the National Museum of Australia dates from 2000: a time when the institution was in an early period of development and growth. Working initially in front-of-house areas, Rebecca’s career progressed into leadership positions at the Museum, principally in exhibition coordination and planning. She has also supported the broader museum industry through her work with the peak body, Museums Australia.
Rebecca’s commitment as Manager of Exhibitions and Gallery Development at the Museum has been exemplary. She has led the increasing professionalisation of exhibition project management with clear and lasting results. Her conceptual grasp of core ideas, together with her practical approach to project management and delivery, has enhanced the Museum’s reputation for high-quality exhibitions and related programs finished to an exceptional standard. In addition, her strong personal commitment to travelling exhibitions has ensured the Museum has reached audiences throughout the country and overseas.
Rebecca has also taken a lead role in developing the Museum’s work culture, and she is highly regarded by her peers. Her calm and unflustered approach to problem-solving is welcomed by colleagues who rely on her capacity to deal with challenges and issues as they arise. As a result, her counsel and advice is sought by staff throughout the organisation, and she has supported and developed her team members, with benefits both to them and the Museum.
The Director’s Award for Excellence recognises the quality of practice, achievement and organisational contribution of a Museum staff member. Rebecca Coronel’s work has been a key part of the Museum’s success over the past decade and she continues to search for ways to improve the organisation’s approach to making high-quality experiences for the public. This award celebrates her exemplary contribution to the life of the National Museum.
Director’s Award for Excellence 2014
Professor Mike Smith, AM, FAHA, FSA
Mike Smith’s distinguished career in desert archaeology spans more than four decades, almost half of which has been spent in senior roles at the National Museum of Australia. His recent book, The Archaeology of Australian Deserts, published by Cambridge University Press in 2013, has been hailed as ‘a landmark work in Australian History’. It synthesises much of what he has learnt over the course of his career about the ‘deep history’ of these remarkable landscapes.
Mike’s research work has been important in Australia and abroad, placing the desert archaeology of this continent in a comparative international context. His establishment of an international southern deserts conference in 2003 has left an enduring scholarly legacy, with meetings of that group now held regularly around the world. In recognition of his ‘significant service to archaeological scholarship, particularly of Australia’s desert regions’, Mike was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2013.
Mike has made exceptional contributions to the Museum in many areas, including in research, exhibitions and collections, educational material, public programs, archival and publishing initiatives, and online content. In particular, he inspired and led development of the Museum’s research endeavour, culminating in the establishment of its Research Centre and scholarly journal, reCollections, in 2006–07.The annual Director’s Award for Excellence recognises the quality of practice, achievement and organisational contribution of a Museum staff member. In this inaugural year, the award celebrates the excellence of Mike Smith’s scholarly record, his professional leadership, and the pivotal part he has played in the success of the National Museum of Australia.