This year saw substantial progress on the Museum's program to redevelop two major permanent galleries and the revolving theatre, Circa.
In 2003, the Council of the National Museum of Australia initiated a review of the Museum's exhibitions and programs. Among the recommendations, the review panel advised the Museum to reconsider selection of themes and narratives for the existing Horizons and Nation galleries. In 2004, the Museum produced the Collections and Gallery Development Plan 2004–08 to address the review's findings.
The plan proposed that Horizons should be redeveloped as Australian Journeys to represent voyages of discovery, exploration and settlement of the Australian continent. It also proposed redeveloping the Nation gallery as Creating a Country to provide a general history of Australia's economic, social and political conditions.
In 2006–07, the Museum's first business priority, 'Implement permanent gallery redevelopment Year 3 plan', focused on further developing a number of exhibition projects set out in the Collections and Gallery Development Plan, as outlined below.
The revolving theatre, Circa, at the entrance to the Museum's exhibition spaces, is a popular feature with visitors. Since opening in 2001 Circa has offered a staged audiovisual experience, presenting diverse perceptions of contemporary Australia through the key themes of land, nation and people.
As with its exhibitions, the Museum intends to keep Circa fresh, engaging and purposeful. The theatre itself serves as a transitional zone from the outside world to the Museum's interiors, and the new audiovisual, to open in 2008, will be an introduction to the Museum's exhibitions and collections, with the aim of connecting visitors to the experiences they will encounter in the permanent galleries.
Researchers and curators worked on developing the script for Circa, and a production company, Bearcage Media Services Pty Ltd, was appointed in May with a view to opening the refurbished theatre in early 2008.
Development of the permanent galleries
Content development for the new galleries included considerable targeted collecting, with a particular focus on acquiring material related to European voyaging and migration to Australia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A short film exploring the theme of journeys to and from Australia was installed in the Visions theatre.
In May 2007, exhibition design consultants Cunningham Martyn Design Pty Ltd were appointed to manage the design and documentation stages of the new galleries.
Australian Journeys: Due to replace the Horizons gallery in 2008, Australian Journeys will explore the passages of people to, from and across Australia. The gallery will trace the ways in which migrants and travellers have made homes in Australia and overseas, and built and maintained connections between places here and abroad.
Creating a Country: This gallery will replace the Nation gallery in 2009, and will present a general history of Australia through 10 key themes that focus on events in particular times and places. The gallery will explore how people have responded to the challenges of living in this continent and developed distinctive social, political and economic practices. The objects in the gallery will communicate the physical character of responses to the continent, and the ingenuity and determination Australians have displayed in making their lives here.