The Museum enhances awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture through its exhibitions and also its broad range of public programs, events and educational activities. Subjects explored through these programs relate to the content of permanent and temporary exhibitions, to the Museum's collections and research, and to issues of historic and contemporary relevance.
The Museum's Public Programs and Events section plans activities with different audiences in mind. Programs are delivered at the Museum, throughout Australia and through technology-based outreach activities. They include conferences, talks, seminars, workshops, public forums, concerts, theatrical performances, film screenings, storytelling, family festivals, live radio and television programs, websites and interactive online activities. The Museum seeks to maintain existing audiences and attract new audiences to its onsite, offsite and website programs.
Programs at the Museum
For families and children
A number of programs for children and families related to the Museum's temporary and permanent exhibitions were held. A variety of successful programs accompanied Extremes, including the family festival A day in the extremes, Nigel Sutton's performance as Sandy de Parched, and craft activities for children of all ages. A popular family weekend was held in association with the new First Australians gallery exhibits Tooloyn Koortakay and We're Here - activities conducted by members of the Tasmanian and Victorian Aboriginal communities included making kelp necklaces, possum skin bracelets and shell necklaces. During June 2005, storytellers told Hans Christian Andersen stories and the film Hans Christian Andersen was shown.
Photo (right): Larry Brandy shares Aboriginal artefacts with visitors to A day in the extremes.
Other special programs for families and children included a range of activities celebrating Indigenous culture.
During NAIDOC Week in July a series of activities featured writer Pilawuk White (Ngangiwumeri), Aboriginal storytelling, the Wombat Wobble Show with Shades of Brindle, a workshop with Phillip Brown and a dance performance by Wiradjuri Echo. In September, Wiradjuri artist and performer Darren Wighton presented a didjeridu workshop.
Photo (left): Storyteller Patsy Allan outside the boab tree at Floriade.
For adults and young people
Forums linked to temporary exhibitions included Stories of Polio, featuring people who had suffered from polio and members of the medical profession; Sunken Treasures of Brunei which explored the nature of underwater archaeology and diving; the Sundays in the Desert series of forums associated with Extremes that explored seeing, writing, surviving and singing the desert; and Philip Adams in conversation with cartoonists Geoff Pryor, Cathy Wilcox and Mark Knight to accompany Behind the Lines .
The Museum presented an extensive range of programs for adults interested in understanding, researching or discussing topics at an academic level. The Museum's relationship with the Australia National University resulted in a substantial program of lectures, forums and conferences and this year the Museum co-hosted a record 44 events, many of which spanned several days.
As part of the Museum's contribution to an ARC Linkage grant, a one-day symposium on War and Citizenship brought together a range of scholars and academics who explored internship during the Second World War. Metal 2004: Triennial Metals Conservation Conference was conducted with the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation. The Interpretation Australia Association national workshop on the theme of interpreting difficult stories addressed topics including Bali, Anita Cobby, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra bushfires, and international sites of trauma.
The Museum held a series of public events to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli. Historians, journalists and pilgrims discussed the meaning of the Anzac legend, people's pilgrimages to Gallipoli and the way the Anzac legend has evolved through film. A lighter side of the Anzac legend was explored through the Great Anzac Biscuit Bash which featured Margaret Fulton and representatives from the Country Women's Association from around Australia.
The Museum's commitment to learning-based programs and activities for older Australians was strengthened through a number of University of the Third Age Learning Circles based upon Museum exhibitions or collections and specialist tours during Seniors Week.
During the year, Celebrating Australians (now a discontinued program) aimed to provide a look into the more personal life of an Australian who has made a significant contribution to society. It sought to explore the challenges, accomplishments, defeats and memories in an informal presentation. This year, the Museum's Celebrating Australians program recognised three outstanding Australians and their contribution to Australian society: Indigenous musician Jimmy Little, author Robert Dessaix, and outgoing Senior Australian of the Year Tehree Gordon.
The Museum's association with staff and students from the Australian National University and the Canberra Institute of Technology continued with several events showcasing student work in the fields of new media, fashion, film and television.
In March, Canberra played host to over 5000 members of the Ulysses Motorcycle Club as they held their annual AGM in the nation's capital. To welcome club members, the Museum staged a motorcycle display in the Hall and presented an event in the Garden of Australian Dreams with Andy Caldecott, a Paris to Dakar rider, in conversation with journalist Jim Trail, followed by the classic Australian motorcycle film, Stone. The film's producer, writer, director and star, Sandy Harbutt, was also present for discussion with the audience.
Photo (right): Museum staff member Luke Cummins and members of the Ulysses Motorcycle Club.
Music, performance and film
The Museum makes extensive use of performance as a form of interpretation. This year's program included Arborio, developed by Jigsaw Theatre Company in celebration of the International Year of Rice; and two programs presented by Nigel Sutton, who appeared as Robbie the Rat, telling fantastic tales of his life in early Australia, and Sandy De Parched, a thirsty French adventurer revealing the mysteries of the southern deserts in the Extremes exhibition.
Music continued to enhance the experience of visiting the Museum, with performances held regularly in the Hall and Amphitheatre. The diverse music program included youth bands, local choirs and instrumentalists, and visiting musicians from both interstate and overseas. A second Eternal Strings concert was performed by the Carl Pini Quartet playing stringed instruments from the Museum's collection, crafted by world-famous Australian violin-maker AE Smith.
In conjunction with the National Folk Festival, the Museum sponsored a number of lunchtime concerts as well as performances and workshops by a group of women and children from Ernabella in central Australia.
Film has become a major medium for programming that appeals to audiences of all ages, including youth. The Museum hosted very successful film events such as short::seasons, Lights! Canberra! Action!, the Canberra Short Film Festival, the Art of the Documentary and film programs to accompany NAIDOC Week, the Extremes exhibition and Science Week.
Culturally diverse programs
The Museum hosted a number of culturally diverse programs, including a Latin American Film Festival, supported by the Latin American embassies in Canberra. The Gyuto Monks from Tibet presented several talks and performances and public talks were delivered by the Lama Choedak Rinpoche and Buddhist Teacher Lama Ole Nydahl. A public forum on belly dancing, featuring women from different communities in the Australian Capital Territory, also proved popular.
Continuing its commitment to researching cultural diversity, the Museum completed a comprehensive report, 'Representing Cultural Diversity at the National Museum of Australia' (undertaken by an intern through the Australian National Internships Program at the ANU).
A high level of public interest in the Museum's conservation activities resulted in the following public programs:
- tours of the collections for special interest groups such as the Friends of the Museum
- talks to community groups including the Friends of the Museum on the preservation of musical instruments.
Launches for exhibitions and publications
The exhibition Lost for 500 Years: Sunken Treasures of Brunei Darussalam was jointly opened by His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brunei Darussalam and the Hon. Alexander Downer, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Hon. Kim Beazley, MP, launched A World without Polio: Truly Remarkable, an exhibition developed by Rotary Australia in partnership with the Museum. A suite of events to promote the exhibition Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere included a media and tourism industry preview of the exhibition and the launch of four books relating to the desert theme.
ABC presenter and photojournalist Michael Bowers opened Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons. The Danish Consul General Jorgen Mollegaard launched Hans Christian Andersen 2005, a travelling exhibition produced by the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation to celebrate 200 years since the birth of the world-famous writer.
A series of exhibitions and modules in the First Australians gallery were opened during the year. Richard Frankland, Gunditjmara film-maker, playwright and political figure launched We're Here and Tooloyn Koortakay. In June, Our Community: A Great Place to Be and Pooaraar: The Great Forgetting were opened by Senator Gary Humphries, Senator for the Australian Capital Territory.
The unveiling of two major acquisitions, the Holden Prototype No. 1 and the Holden No. 215, was attended by Mr Jack Rawnsley, an engineer who constructed the original prototype in 1946; John Morrison, Holden's Resident Director, Corporate Affairs, Sydney; and Don Loffler, Holden expert historian and author. Ian Metherall and Mary Munckton, two members of Essington Lewis's family from Melbourne, unveiled the vehicles.
On International Museums Day in May, the Museum celebrated its acquisition from Scope Victoria (formerly the Spastic Centre of Victoria) of the Miss Australia crown worn by winners of the prestigious Miss Australia Quest from 1965 to 1991.
Former Miss Australia 1973, Michelle Downes, spoke about the significance of the Miss Australia Quest at the event.
The historic Royal Agricultural Society Challenge Shield was acquired from the Dally Messenger family. David Messenger III, former owner of the shield, and David Gallop, Chief Executive of the National Rugby League, spoke at the handover event.