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The year at a glance

Highlights of the year

August 2008
Emily exhibition opens.
After its successful tour in Japan, the Museum brought Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye to Canberra for display to a national audience. This exhibition told the story of one of Australia's greatest contemporary artists, and was opened by The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts.

Craddock Morton, Margo Neale and Peter Garrett meet Hideki Hayashida. A large work of art is partially visible in the background.
(clockwise from left) Director Craddock Morton; Senior Curator Margo Neale; the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts; and Mr Hideki Hayashida, Director of the National Art Center, Tokyo, at the opening of Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

November 2008
Workplace Agreement strongly supported.
Highlights of the Museum's new Workplace Agreement included a provision for individual employees to negotiate pay and conditions enhancements, an increase in maternity leave entitlements and measures to encourage employment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

December 2008
Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.
The Hon Dr Barry Jones AO officially opened Darwin on 9 December 2008. The exhibition offered visitors a unique glimpse into Darwin's intellectual and personal life.

Two girls look at a model of a sailing ship.
Young visitors intrigued by an exhibit at the opening of the Darwin exhibition.

December 2008
Minister awards student prizes at the Museum.
The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, presented awards to student cartoonists at a ceremony held at the Museum. 'Drawing the lines', a national cartooning competition for Australian schools, attracted almost 700 entries from primary and secondary students.

January 2009
Australian Journeys opens.
The Museum officially opened the Australian Journeys gallery, the first permanent gallery to be redeveloped since opening in 2001. The gallery explores the passages of people to, from and across Australia and traces the ways in which migrants and travellers have made homes in Australia and overseas, and have built and maintained connections between here and abroad.

Two women look at a display panel at the front of a case containing Rolf Harris' leather jacket and wobble board.
Visitors enjoy the Rolf Harris exhibit at the official opening of the Australian Journeys gallery in January 2009.

February 2009
Barak address illuminates the past.
William Barak's illuminated address was acquired for the National Historical Collection. The address is a material reminder of the complexity of nineteenth-century race relations, and of William Barak himself.

March 2009
A new Chair of the Museum's Council.
Daniel Gilbert AM was appointed as the new Chair of the Museum's Council. Mr Gilbert has a broad background as the managing partner of the law firm Gilbert+Tobin and a range of public company and not-for-profit directorships. He has a long involvement with social justice and Indigenous issues, and the arts.

March 2009
Acquisition of Canning Stock Route collection.
This collection is the first significant attempt to document the Aboriginal experience of the Canning Stock Route. General Manager Mathew Trinca said, 'The Museum regards the collection as one of truly national significance, providing a unique archive of Indigenous social and cultural histories. It is an important addition to the nation's heritage and history collections'.

'Tapu Country', 2008, painting by Jukuna Mona Chuguna.
Tapu Country, 2008, by Jukuna Mona Chuguna, from the Museum's Canning Stock Route collection.

May 2009
Approval to go ahead with planning for collection storage.
The Museum received approval to progress the development of a business case for three collection storage options in the 2009–10 Budget.

June 2009
Record numbers visit the website.
Visits to the Museum's website continued to increase exponentially, growing from 1,521,926 last year to 2,533,138 this year.

June 2009
The Museum wins gold.
The Museum won a gold award in the Australasian Reporting Awards (ARA) for its 2007–08 annual report. According to ARA judges, 'Outstanding features of the Museum's report include the comparisons of measured performance with the targets, and design features that enhance communication'. The Museum's report was selected from over 450 entries and was appraised by 14 judges.

June 2009
Seattle Art Museum returns secret/sacred object to Australia.
For the first time an American cultural institution initiated the return of a secret/sacred object to an Australian cultural institution. Director Craddock Morton said, 'The Seattle Art Museum has shown great responsibility, as well as compassion and respect for Aboriginal culture, in deciding to repatriate this object. It is to be commended for its initiative and leadership'.

Performance summary

The National Museum of Australia is a statutory authority within the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts portfolio. The Australian Government funds the Museum to achieve an agreed outcome through a series of outputs and associated performance indicators, as specified in the annual Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS). The Museum's outcome is to ensure that:

Australians have access to the National Museum's collections and public programs to encourage awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture.
(National Museum of Australia, Portfolio Budget Statement, 2008–09)

Financial summary

The price of outputs was $47.775 million (anticipated $45.471 million). Departmental appropriations were $40.275 million (anticipated $40.275 million) and revenue from other sources was $7.504 million (anticipated $5.196 million).

The Museum's financial statements disclose an operating surplus of $0.004 million compared with the 2007–08 operating surplus of $0.171 million. The Museum also received an equity injection of $1.089 million in 2008–09, which related to the implementation of the Review of Exhibitions and Public Programs 2003.

The revenue from non-government sources increased by $0.118 million this year. The increase was the result of increased retail sales. Donated assets for 2008–09 were valued at $0.141 million.

Total expenses decreased by $0.204 million. The balance sheet discloses an increase in the Museum's net assets to $391 million. In 2008–09 there was an increase in the asset revaluation reserve following an independent valuation of land, buildings, infrastructure, plant and equipment ($3.4 million) and heritage cultural assets (not revalued).

Cash as at 30 June 2009 totalled $1.5 million (30 June 2008: $1.3 million) and investments totalled $47.2 million (30 June 2008: $46.5 million).

Net cash received from operating activities increased by $3.8 million in 2008–09.

Output summary

The extent to which awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture is increased

The target of 75 per cent for the proportion of visitors and users who indicated the Museum's exhibitions and public programs contributed to a new or different awareness or perspective on Australia's history or culture was reached (75 per cent achieved).

Output Group 1.1: Collection development and management

The price of Output 1.1 was $8.201 million (anticipated $10.069 million) Departmental appropriations were $9.666 million (anticipated $10.069 million).

Quality

The target of 100 per cent for the proportion of acquisitions acquired in accordance with the Collection Development Framework was achieved. The estimate for the percentage (75 per cent) of the National Historical Collection being packed or stored at, or above, appropriate museum standards was achieved.

Quantity

The Museum acquired 88 collections as part of the National Historical Collection. The number of conservation treatments completed was 2138, against an estimate of 1000 treatments. Against the anticipation that documentation for 7500 collection items would be made available on the Museum's website, 10,742 were made accessible.

Output Group 1.2: National exhibitions, programs and services

The price of Output 1.2 was $39.574 million (anticipated $35.402 million). Departmental appropriations were $30.609 million (anticipated $30.206 million) and revenue from other sources was $6.458 million (anticipated $5.196 million).

Quality

Visitor satisfaction (95 per cent) exceeded the target (85 per cent), and the satisfaction of schools with the Museum's schools programs meeting core curriculum requirements (99 per cent) also substantially exceeded the target (80 per cent). The target of 75 per cent for the proportion of visitors and users who indicated the Museum's exhibitions and public programs contributed to a new or different awareness or perspective on Australia's history or culture was reached (75 per cent achieved).

Quantity

The target of 2,300,000 for the number of visitors or users of Museum exhibitions and programs (including web) was substantially exceeded with a total of 3,474,499 (941,361 visitors or users and 2,533,138 web visitors).*

* The target for 2008–09 as recorded in the Portfolio Budget Statement was erroneously noted as 1,150,000.

Achievement of strategic and business priorities

Strategic and business priorities: Summary of activities and achievements, 2008–09

1. Key strategic priority: Enhance exhibitions, programs and services

The National Museum of Australia strives to ensure that Australians have access to its collections and programs and to encourage awareness and understanding of Australian history and culture. The Museum will achieve this by developing and delivering exhibitions and activities that are audience-focused, object-centred and rich in content.

Business priorities
for 2008–09
Reports

1.1 Deliver the new Australian Journeys gallery

The refurbishment of the gallery was completed in July 2008, followed by five months of exhibition and object installation. The gallery was officially opened in January 2009.

See Permanent galleries - Australian Journeys.

1.2 Continue development of the new Creating a Country gallery

Significant progress in the development of this new permanent gallery included:

  • finalisation of the storyline and content
  • commencement of the exhibition design.

See Museum development - Creating a Country.

1.3 Develop and deliver a temporary gallery program

The temporary exhibitions program promotes knowledge of Australian history and provides access to Museum collections throughout the country.

This year the Museum delivered:

  • three major exhibitions in the temporary gallery space: Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Darwin and Voyages of the Pacific Ancestors: Vaka Moana
  • five exhibitions in the Nation Focus Gallery and First Australians Focus Gallery: A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow 1903–1928; Recoil: Change and Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art; Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café; Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons 2008; We Came as Workers, We Stayed as Citizens: Celebrating More than 40 Years of Turkish Migration to Australia
  • Work also continued on planning to host the major international exhibition Water: H2O=Life, content and design development for an exhibition based on the Canning Stock Route collection and preparation of a Memorandum of Understanding with the British Museum to develop an exhibition based on its Australian Indigenous collections.
See Temporary exhibitions.
1.4 Plan and develop increased exhibition space

The Museum continued further detailed planning to extend the administration wing to accommodate staff currently located in back-of-house areas behind the permanent galleries. It is anticipated that should funding become available, the administration wing will be complete by mid-2012 and the conversion of the back-of-house area into gallery space will commence post-2012.

The Museum commenced planning to convert the Studio facility into a new temporary exhibition gallery. The Museum anticipates that the new gallery will be completed by September 2010.

See Management performance - Facilities management.

2. Key strategic priority: Develop the National Historical Collection and improve collections storage

The National Museum of Australia is mandated to develop and maintain a national collection of historical material. The Museum will continue to develop its acquisitions program, maintain its collections to the highest possible standards and improve its collections storage.

Business priorities for 2008–09 Reports

2.1 Develop the collection through key acquisitions and targeted collecting projects

The Museum's Council approved 88 significant collections for inclusion in the National Historical Collection. All were acquired in accordance with the Collection Development Framework as set out in the PBS performance indicator. Targeted collecting projects supported gallery development and future exhibitions. A series of operating procedures concerning collection assessment and documentation were reviewed, and improved procedures were implemented.

See Developing the collection and Appendix 3.

2.2 Develop storage and management plans that ensure the long-term preservation and sustainability of Museum collections

The Museum undertook a survey of Canberra's climatic conditions over the past 100 years to provide critical data for the design specifications of a dedicated storage facility for the National Historical Collection. The Museum also engaged a conservation architect to provide advice on design specifications for an environmental passive facility and undertook a site evaluation report on possible sites for a dedicated collection storage facility.

See Managing the collection - Centre for National Museum of Australia Collections.

The Museum implemented its conservation work plan, and exceeded PBS performance indicators, with 2138 objects treated for all purposes by conservators.

See Managing the collection - Conserving the collection.

2.3 Increase the quantity, quality and accessibility of collection information

Collection information was increased as follows:

  • 3566 objects were accessioned
  • 12,863 object records were added to the collections database
  • approximately 10,742 object records were digitised and uploaded to the Museum's website.

See Managing the collection - Documenting the collection.

3. Key strategic priority: Strengthen research and scholarship

The National Museum of Australia aims to be a centre of excellence for research and scholarship, and to contribute to the body of knowledge about Australian history and culture. The Museum will significantly develop its research and scholarship activity over the coming years.

Business priorities
for 2008–09
Reports

3.1 Establish the Centre for Historical Research and implement a program of research, conferences and publications

Research and scholarship continued to be fundamental to Museum activities.

Highlights included:

  • publication of two issues of the scholarly e-journal reCollections
  • hosting conferences including Using Lives, the annual Collections Symposium and Violent Ends: The Arts of Environmental Anxiety
  • publication of Rugged Beyond Imagination: Stories from an Australian Mountain Region, the first book from the Centre for Historical Research to be published by National Museum of Australia Press
  • publication of Boom and Bust: Bird Stories for a Dry Country and Captain Cook Was Here, and over 70 articles and conference papers.

See Research and scholarship.

3.2 Integrate the operations of the Centre for Historical Research into existing Museum research in history, museum studies and material culture

The Centre for Historical Research:

  • cooperated with colleagues to present talks and conferences such as the annual Collections Symposium held in March 2009
  • developed a program of talks based on the research of visiting fellows and associates.

See Research and scholarship - Making Museum research accessible.

3.3 Continue a program of research in history, museum studies and material culture

A diverse range of research projects informed exhibitions, audience development and website content and included:

  • the Collaborating for Indigenous Rights 1957–1973 website, developed as a result of an Australian Research Council funded project led by Monash University
  • evaluation of the recently opened Australian Journeys gallery.

Research was also undertaken on the 'Material histories' program, the impact of bushfire on a small Victorian town, the history of repatriation, and economic and ecological exchanges in the Pacific.

3.4 Establish partnerships with academic and institutional partners

Partnerships continued with:

  • Australian universities such as The Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, Curtin University and the University of Canberra
  • the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies and the Royal Society, both in London.
See Research and scholarship - Strategic research partnerships.

4. Key strategic priority: Enhance national and international profile

The National Museum of Australia's vision is to be a recognised world-class museum. The Museum will continue to develop as a national institution of international standing through leadership in museum practice, by fostering partnerships and delivering effective, engaging outreach programs.

Business priorities
for 2008–09
Reports

4.1 Build relationships and collaborations with the museum sector in Australia and internationally

Relationships and collaborations were established or continued during the year with:

  • the British Museum, London (Indigenous collections)
  • American Museum of Natural History, New York (Darwin and Water: H2O=Life exhibitions)
  • Australian Museum, Sydney (venue for Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert exhibition)
  • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin (forthcoming Yalangbara exhibition)
  • Auckland War Memorial Museum (Voyages of the Pacific Ancestors: Vaka Moana exhibition)
  • Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (forthcoming Tayenebe exhibition)
  • Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery (forthcoming exhibition highlighting the contemporary art and culture of Papua New Guinea).

Negotiations commenced with Australian museums in relation to touring the Canning Stock Route exhibition (due to open at the National Museum in July 2010).

4.2 Deliver travelling exhibitions and other outreach programs

High-quality outreach programs delivered included:

  • 10 exhibitions, which travelled to 31 venues in five states across Australia, including nine metropolitan and 17 regional centres, and five rural locations, attracting more than 344,500 visitors
  • one international exhibition, Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, which was held at Tokyo's National Art Center
  • significant new online content including exhibitions, audio-on-demand and interactive programs.

See Outreach (page one).

4.3 Continue development of rich web content to extend access to the Museum's National Historical Collection and programs, exhibitions, education and research activities

Improvements to and new content made available on the Museum's website in 2008–09 included:

  • revisions of and enhancements to the collection highlights pages
  • online features focusing on the new Australian Journeys gallery, and the Museum's temporary exhibitions
  • programs made available as audio-on-demand increasing to more than 80
  • substantially improved access to the Museum's collection database
  • 100 new online learning resources, in partnership with the Learning Federation.
See Outreach (page two) - Online outreach - the Museum's website.
4.4 Engage with key Australian Government cultural, educational and equity initiatives

Highlights of the Museum's engagement with key cultural, educational and equity initiatives included:

  • contribution to the development of the Commonwealth Government's national curriculum initiative

See Outreach (page one) - Reaching a national schools audience.

  • continued employment of three people under the Indigenous Cadet Program
See Taking care of people - 'The best of both worlds' and Supporting and making workplace diversity a priority.

5. Key strategic priority: Develop staff, business practices and infrastructure

The National Museum of Australia will continue to review the way business is conducted. The Museum will operate in a way that utilises better practices and provides an environment to assist staff to undertake their work.

Business priorities
for 2008–09
Reports

5.1 Develop staff
accommodation plan

A staff accommodation planning exercise was completed to review current staff accommodation pressures, provide baseline data and analyse future accommodation planning options. A cost report for the recommended options was also developed.

See Management performance - Facilities management.

5.2 Support workforce diversity and skill retention

The Museum continued to implement the Workplace Diversity Plan with a focus on recruitment and retention of Indigenous staff. Along with a comprehensive induction program, corporate training concentrated on building capabilities in cultural awareness, leadership, teamwork and communication skills.

See Taking care of people - Supporting and making workplace diversity a priority.
5.3 Implement the new Workplace Agreement

The new Workplace Agreement, which was strongly supported by staff, commenced in November 2008. Highlights included:

  • a competitive but not excessive pay outcome
  • provision for individual employees to negotiate pay and conditions enhancements through Individual Flexibility Agreements
  • an increase in maternity leave entitlement by one week, to 14 weeks
  • provisions to better manage excess leave accrued by employees
  • measures to encourage employment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
See Taking care of people - Impact and features of workplace agreements.