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Public programs and events

The Museum enhances the public's awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture (one of its PBS outcomes) through a broad range of public programs, events and educational activities, for a wide diversity of audiences participating in onsite, offsite and website programs.

Subjects explored through these programs relate to the content of permanent and temporary exhibitions, to the Museum's themes, collections and research, and to historic and contemporary issues. The Museum was successful in attracting audiences to its programs this year: a total of 53,097 participants in public programs and events.

A crowd of spectators in the Museum's Hall watch a group of children pretending to be lifesavers. The children are wearing red and yellow swimcaps and carrying a surf-reel.
The Museum meets the beach at the Between the Flags Family Festival held on Australia Day.

Programs and events at the Museum

Young visitors climbing on a large Thomas the Tank Engine.
Young visitors to the Museum enjoy the Thomas the Tank Engine storytelling sessions.

For families and children

The Museum conducted school holiday programs linked to both temporary and permanent exhibitions including:

Between the Flags: 100 Years of Surf Lifesaving

  • Between the Flags Family Festival, held on Australia Day, 2007
  • 'Surf, sea and sand' dance workshops for young children
  • a family film festival inspired by the exhibition
  • 'Safety tips in the surf', with Tim the Yowie Man and lifesavers

Beaded Links: The Beaded Links of the Commonwealth of Nations

  • an afternoon of beading for the family
Visitors at the Museum learning to play the didgeridu.
Visitors celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture by learning to play the didjeridu during NAIDOC Week.

Miss Australia: A Nation's Quest

  • children's workshops and a family film festival

Great Railway Journeys of Australia

  • Thomas the Tank Engine storytelling sessions, linked to the journeys featured in the exhibition.

School holiday programs also included regular events such as NAIDOC Week, which celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander culture, through storytelling, workshops and demonstrations, as well as the second annual didjeridu competition. The regular Tim the Yowie Man 'Grossed-Out' and 'Mystery' tours continued to attract enthusiastic audiences, as did craft activities. Storytelling and didjeridu-playing in the First Australians gallery were popular throughout the year. The Museum also supported important community events, such as Children's Week, reflecting the fact that children and families are core audiences for the Museum.

Image on left: Amaroo Preschool students watch Museum Education officer Deborah Frederick decorate her face with ground ochre. Image on right: Preschoolers stroke a possum skin in the 'Tooloyn koortakay' exhibit.
Image left: Amaroo Preschool students watch Museum Education officer Deborah Frederick decorate her face with ground ochre. Image right: Preschoolers stroke a possum skin in the 'Tooloyn koortakay' exhibit.

For adults and young people

The Museum hosted a number of forums and panel discussions, which interpreted the Museum's collections and highlighted significant moments in Australian social history. These included:

  • Discovering Lake Mungo, examining the discovery of 20,000-year-old footprints
  • Leichhardt: The Man, the Mystery, the Science, the History, a symposium examining Leichhardt in all his facets — explorer, scientist, figure of literature and mystery
  • 'Ben Chifley: A local man', focusing on the life and times of the former prime minister
  • Whitefella Forgetting, Blackfella Remembering, reflecting on the cult of forgetfulness about Aboriginal people in Australian history alongside Aboriginal people's own will to remember the colonial past
  • Stories from the 1967 Referendum, developed in association with Reconciliation Australia, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum with campaigners from around the country.
Six members of the forum panel seated on stage with a large image of a young soldier and a woman on a screen behind them.
Some of those who lobbied for change for Aboriginal people during the 1967 Referendum campaign reflect on their experiences during the Stories from the 1967 Referendum forum.

Other events interpreting the exhibitions included a panel discussion featuring political cartoonists Bruce Petty, Peter Nicholson and Jon Kudelka (linked to the Behind the Lines exhibition), and the first forum of the Eternity Series, featuring shark attack victim Rodney Fox. The Museum also launched a new series, 'The Historical Imagination', featuring informal conversations between artists, historians and curators. Sessions included writer Frank Moorhouse in conversation with historian Dr Lenore Coltheart; and writer Nick Drayson, discussing his book Love and the Platypus with environmental historian Dr Libby Robin.

Forums held in partnership with external organisations included the Sustainable Energy Options for Australia forum, held in conjunction with the Australian Science Festival, and a series of talks by the Canberra Skeptics including 'Was Canberra a good idea?' and 'The future isn't what it used to be'.

The Museum's association with The Australian National University resulted in an extensive program of lectures, forums and conferences. Major conferences included:

  • Discovering Cook's Collections: A Public Symposium, which explored the significance of the Cook–Forster ethnographic collection acquired during Captain James Cook's eighteenth-century Pacific voyages
  • Addressing Poverty: Pro-Poor Growth and Financial Inclusion in Asia Pacific, focusing on key issues and current economic initiatives
  • Climate Law in Australia, addressing the emerging legal dimensions of global warming.

The Museum's strong association with students and staff from The Australian National University and the Canberra Institute of Technology continued, with several events presenting student work in the fields of film and television, new media and fashion.

Performance, film and music

The Museum again made extensive use of performance as a form of interpretation and maintained its position as a leader in this field by presenting:

  • a return season of The Dora Fay Davenport Show, a reminiscence theatre piece specifically designed for older Australians to evoke memories of the 1950s and encourage discussion about the past and how it has influenced the present
  • storytelling and performances by 'Robbie the Rat', who interpreted the Cook's Pacific Encounters exhibition, and the PS Enterprise
  • performances by John Shortis and Moya Simpson, interpreting the political events of the year through cabaret to accompany the annual cartoon exhibition Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons.

Music continued to enhance the visitor experience with choirs, bands, instrumentalists and visiting musicians from both interstate and overseas performing in the Hall and Amphitheatre. A large number of film events were programmed especially for a young adult audience, including short::seasons, Lights! Canberra! Action!, the Canberra Short Film Festival, the Art of the Documentary, ACT Filmmakers lecture series, and film programs to accompany NAIDOC Week and the temporary exhibitions program.

In May the Museum's collection of stringed instruments, made by renowned violin maker AE Smith, was played by the Grainger Quartet in a highly successful concert at the ABC's Eugene Goossens Hall in Sydney. Four hundred people attended the performance which was broadcast live on ABC Classic FM radio to about 70,000 listeners. The pre-recorded interval talk included an interview with the Museum's senior conservator Robin Tait, who spoke about the history of the instruments and how the Museum cares for them.

Culturally diverse programs

The Museum delivered a range of programs focusing on Indigenous culture, including workshops, performances, talks and special events such as NAIDOC Week. A program for Indigenous young women was held in conjunction with the 'Goolarri: The sounds of Broome' exhibit in the Museum's Gallery of First Australians. Links between the Museum and Goolarri, the Broome Aboriginal Media Association, were enhanced by the presentation of two workshops at the Museum as part of the Kimberley Girl competition held in Broome.

Image on left: Young visitors participate in a program inside the Goolarri radio studio exhibit. Image on right: Two young dancers wearing brightly coloured necklaces and feather headpieces.
Above left: Young visitors participate in a program associated with the 'Goolarri: The sounds of Broome' exhibit. Above right: Dancers from the Tongan Association of Canberra and Queanbeyan who performed at the festival day for Cook's Pacific Encounters.

Other programs designed to reflect Australia's cultural diversity included:

  • 'An afternoon of Pacific encounters' (in association with the Cook's Pacific Encounters exhibition), which celebrated Pacific Islander culture with family activities including craft, dance and music
  • a forum on contemporary Vanuatu culture, featuring anthropologist and Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre Ralph Regenvanu and historian Lissant Bolton who discussed the role of sustaining Indigenous cultural practices in Vanuatu
  • a Latin American film festival, held for the third consecutive year and again supported by nine Latin American embassies in Canberra
  • lectures examining Italian culture, presented in association with the Embassy of Italy, the Association of Research between Italy and Australia, and the Italian Institution of Culture
  • a St Patrick's Day concert, a celebration of the work of Irish performer Delia Murphy, featuring local Irish musicians, linked to the 'If I were a blackbird I'd whistle and sing' display in the Hall, celebrating 60 years of Irish diplomatic representation in Australia
  • a series of lectures by Lama Choedak Rinpoche examining the Buddhist religion.

A number of other programs were developed as part of the Museum's commitment to providing access for all audiences:

  • a performance by community-based women's integrated dance group Radiance Dance Troupe to celebrate International Day of People with a DisAbility
  • support of the AIDS Action Council's International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Vigil.

Museum events

Museum events such as launches, previews and openings provide an opportunity to acknowledge donors, lenders and sponsors, and are effective promotional tools for highlighting the Museum's achievements. Key events included:

  • 'Dhari a krar: Headdresses and masks from the Torres Strait', opened on 10 July 2006 by Craddock Morton, Director, National Museum of Australia
  • Beaded Links: The Beaded Links of the Commonwealth of Nations, opened on 10 August 2006 by Louise Douglas, General Manager, Audience and Programs, National Museum of Australia, with exhibition curator Jumoke Debayo as guest speaker
  • a press conference held on 23 November 2006 at which Senator the Hon Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport, announced the acquisition of explorer/scientist Ludwig Leichhardt's nameplate, and attended by former owner of the plate, Mrs Catherine Bristow-Smith
  • on 27 November 2006, the unveiling of the National Rugby League Centenary logo by the Hon John Howard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia, season launch and announcement of the Museum's partnership with the Australian Rugby League and National Rugby League to create an exhibition reflecting on 100 years of rugby league in 2008, attended by Senator the Hon Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport, and rugby league champions Laurie Daley and Johnny Raper
Senator the Hon Rod Kemp surrounded by Terry, Sandy and Barry who are dressed in surf lifesaving costumes and holding red and yellow flags.
Senator the Hon Rod Kemp with Terry, Sandy and Barry at the opening of Between the Flags: 100 Years of Surf Lifesaving.
  • Between the Flags: 100 Years of Surf Lifesaving, opened on 5 December 2006 by Senator the Hon Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport
  • the display of the winning entry in the 'Collector Cam' competition from the popular ABC-TV series Collectors, launched by the program host Andy Muirhead on 8 January 2007
  • 'If I were a blackbird I'd whistle and sing', a display in the Hall opened on 13 February 2007 by His Excellency Mr Máirtín Ó Fainín, Irish Ambassador
  • the book How a Continent Created a Nation, by Dr Libby Robin, launched on 21 February 2007 by CSIRO ecologist Dr Steve Morton
  • Miss Australia: A Nation's Quest, opened on 8 March 2007 by Deborah Thomas, Editorial Director, Australian Women's Weekly, with Gay Walker, Miss Australia 1972, as guest speaker, and attended by 14 Miss Australia titleholders
  • Miss Australia: A Nation's Quest, media and tourism preview on 8 March 2007 with Miss Australia 1988, Caroline Lumley, and attended by 10 other Miss Australia titleholders.

Museum staff also assisted in the launch of Keeping Culture: Aboriginal Australia. Contributing author Rodney Dillon officially launched the book on 11 August 2006 at the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery.

A group shot of fourteen Miss Australia titleholders. Ten are standing in the back row and four are seated on a couch at the front with Sophie Jensen in the centre.
Miss Australia titleholders from all over Australia celebrate at the opening of Miss Australia: A Nation's Quest with curator Sophie Jensen (centre front).
Image on left: Rosie Barkus in front of the display case containing her textile work. Image on right: The Hon John Howard, MP, being photographed by the media as he unveils the National Rugby League Centenary logo.
Above left: Thursday Island artist Rosie Barkus poses with her textile work printed with a dhari (headdress) motif in 'Dhari a krar'. Above right: The Hon John Howard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia, unveils the National Rugby League Centenary logo.