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Communicating and connecting with the community

Promoting and marketing the Museum

The Museum's marketing and communication strategy focuses on the strengths of the Museum, the depth of its knowledge of Australian history, and the research into and conservation of the National Historical Collection.

The Museum worked with key organisations responsible for driving visitation to Canberra. The Museum's Marketing, Sponsorship, and Tourism Manager continued as President of the National Capital Attractions Association, and as Director of the Tourism Industry Council (Australian Capital Territory). Membership of the Australian Capital Territory Tourism Minister's Advisory Board, and Chief Minister's round table discussions also enabled the Museum to keep abreast of key issues and trends in the tourism industry and business community. Work commenced on the development of a tourism strategy to ensure the Museum is positioned as a key part of the overall program to celebrate the centenary of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in 2013.

In collaboration with Australian Capital Tourism and other Canberra-based organisations, the Museum contributed to two major marketing campaigns developed to increase visitation from Sydney and the ACT. Firstly, the campaign to market the Vivid photographic festival, held from 11 July to 12 October 2008, highlighted the opportunity to see 100 contemporary and historical photography exhibitions across the ACT. The Museum's A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow 1903–1928 proved one of the most popular. Secondly, the Culture Shock campaign, held over the 2008–09 summer, used Sydney's print media to promote new worldclass exhibitions in four national cultural institutions, including Darwin at the Museum. Research indicated that in January more than half of the Museum's visitors had also visited another Culture Shock exhibition.

Work on assessing elements of the Museum's brand continued with a view to refreshing it over the next 12 months. A direct-mail strategy was developed to enhance the engagement of people already accessing Museum programs and services, and consideration of social media technologies as possible communication streams was commenced. Work also started on an integrated marketing, sponsorship and tourism strategy to enhance the Museum's profile, levels of support and visitation.

Advertising and market research

In accordance with reporting requirements contained in Section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Museum annually reports its total expenditure on advertising and market research. The total expenditure by the Museum on advertising and market research in 2008–09 was $817,266 and comprised payments to:

  • advertising agencies
  • market research organisations
  • media advertising organisations
  • recruitment advertising.

The Museum and the media

National, regional and local media featured events held at the National Museum of Australia in print, broadcast and online. The media focus has been on exhibitions, major acquisitions and events at the Museum.

The Museum continued to develop its relationship with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Local Canberra television and radio stations regularly featured stories and speakers from the Museum, and the ABC TV's Q&A program was broadcast live from the Museum on 14 May 2009. Discussions are also underway with the ABC about its role in the Museum's Defining Moments program, a national conversation about Australian history, on-air and online.

The coinciding of the 200th anniversary of the birth of renowned naturalist Charles Darwin with the Museum's hosting of an international exhibition, Darwin, saw the Museum lead the public debate and appreciation of his remarkable life. The Museum's companion exhibition (Darwin and Australia), a major seminar and a National Museum of Australia Press publication (Darwin: An Australian Selection) generated widespread and appreciative media coverage.

Following major overhauls of the engines of two of the vehicles in the Museum's collection, the Holden Prototype No. 1 and the tiny 1923 Citroën, both vehicles required a period of mechanical running in. This presented an opportunity to take the Museum and its behind-the-scenes work to a wider audience on breakfast radio and television, metropolitan daily newspapers and motoring magazines.

The announcement of the Museum's purchase of a 1954 portrait of Queen Elizabeth by William Dargie was widely reported, with a focus on the Royal Tour of 1954 as a cultural milestone during a period of immense social change in Australia.

Behind-the-scenes image showing a television set in a studio, with a camera in the centre of the image and a man seated at a semi-circular shaped table at the right. A man stands on the left of the image beside scaffolding, cabling and technical gear.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Q&A program was broadcast live from the Museum's Acton studio in Canberra.

Test driving at Oran Park

The National Museum of Australia prides itself on the standards it has set in the conservation of engines and motor vehicles. According to Conservation Manager Eric Archer, 'It is a Museum protocol to get the vehicles in our collection in running order'. This has been achieved so far in half of the 22 motor vehicles in the Museum's collection, including two of Australia's most important cars: the 1946 Holden Prototype No. 1 and the 1923 5CV Citroën.

The 1946 Holden Prototype No. 1 is the survivor of three test sedans hand-built by American and Australian engineers at the General Motors workshop in Detroit. Every Holden traces its lineage directly to this car.

The 1923 5CV Citroën is the first car to travel around Australia. Neville Westwood, a 22-year-old Seventh Day Adventist missionary, left Perth in August 1925 and headed east. Along the way punctured tyres were filled with grass and cowhides and the car was carried across the Fitzroy River by local Aboriginal people. Neville was welcomed back to Perth by a convoy of motorists on 30 December 1925.

Conservators rebuilt some of the parts and completely overhauled the engines of both cars. In order to 'run in' the engines, Museum sponsors, NRMA Motoring and Services, provided access to the motor vehicle testing track at Oran Park near Sydney. The Holden and the Citroën were driven for about 100 laps of the park. NRMA engineers also tested the vehicles and compared their performance and handling with current Holden and Citroën models.

 A 1923 5CV Citroën car, with yellow bodywork and black roof, and the blue-grey 1946 Holden Prototype No. 1 sedan at the Oran Park raceway. A grandstand is visible in the rear.

Above image: The 1946 Holden Prototype No. 1 and the 1923 5CV Citroën during a test drive at Oran Park near Sydney. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

National Museum of Australia Press

National Museum of Australia Press was established in 2004 and currently has a list of 58 publications. The press supports the strategic priorities of sustaining research and scholarship, engaging national audiences and enhancing exhibitions, programs and services. It does this through publishing scholarly and special-interest titles, as well as books for general adult readers and children, and exhibition catalogues.

In 2008–09 the press published 10 books including four exhibition-related books, four children's titles and two scholarly publications, as well as two issues of the Museum's scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, reCollections: The Journal of the National Museum of Australia. The year's highlights included publication of:

  • Charles Darwin: An Australian Selection: a companion book to the Darwin exhibition. The book examines the impact that Darwin's short visit to Australia in 1836 had on the man himself and on the emerging nation. Illustrated with images of rare prints and paintings, Charles Darwin: An Australian Selection includes an introduction by Museum curator Michael Pickering, extracts from Darwin's Beagle diary and personal reflections by Robyn Williams, Tom Frame and Nicholas Drayson. The book won second prize in the 2009 American Association of Museums Publications Design Competition and was a joint winner in the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2009.
  • Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons 2008: a catalogue that brings together the best political cartoons collected by the National Museum of Australia in 2008. This is the sixth year the press has published this popular book.
  • Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye (edited by Margo Neale): a catalogue that supported the exhibition of the same name. Essays by national and international commentators offer readers different ways to approach and interpret these artworks, which were created in an environment far away from the influence of the Western art tradition, and yet have been acclaimed as modernist masterpieces. This publication, which includes nearly 100 colour plates of these superb works, was shortlisted for the 2009 Australian Book Industry Awards in the category 'Best Illustrated Book' and in the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2009.
  • A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow 1903–1928 (by David Kaus): a catalogue published to accompany the exhibition of the same name. This book draws on the National Museum of Australia's rich collection of Basedow's photographic work and includes revealing, sometimes confronting, images. It provides a fascinating historical record of the people and places Basedow encountered, and life in remote Australia in the early 1900s. The book received an Honourable Mention in the American Association of Museums 2009 Publications Design competition, and was shortlisted in the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2009.
Stack of three books. The cover of 'Charles Darwin: An Australian Selection' is visible on top, with 'Emily' and 'A Different Time' partially visible below.
National Museum of Australia Press publications Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Charles Darwin: An Australian Selection and A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow 1903–1928.

The contribution of volunteers

This financial year 75 volunteers contributed 6395 hours, or 3.6 full-time equivalents, to areas including public affairs, marketing, administration and Friends of the Museum, and for festival days. Volunteers also contributed to:

  • Education: Twenty-six volunteers contributed 2640 hours assisting in the delivery of the Museum's Education programs, enhancing the students' and teachers' experience of Australian history. The role of the Education volunteers has been expanded and enhanced over the second half of this financial year. Volunteers are assisting with programs and also actively facilitating programs such as 'Talking points' and 'Quiz' programs. Volunteers are assisting visitor services hosts with introductions for teacher-guided groups and, when time permits, accompanying these groups into the exhibition spaces to provide further guidance.
  • Public Programs: Six volunteers contributed 230 hours assisting the Museum's Public Programs staff deliver school holiday programs for families. Volunteers were also involved in events on weekends and after hours, such as the highly successful 'Starry night', in April 2009, celebrating the International Year of Astronomy.
  • Library: One volunteer spent 62 hours creating a database that summarises the exhibitions the Museum has created over the past 25 years.
  • Photography: One volunteer has contributed 207 hours assisting with documentation of the Papunya Art collection, the Darwin exhibition and photographing special events held at the Museum such as the Veteran Car Rally, in October 2008.
  • Records management: Three volunteers contributed 147 hours helping to prepare files before scanning.
  • Research: One volunteer has contributed 40 hours assisting researchers in the Museum's Centre for Historical Research.
  • Curatorial: Two volunteers have spent 221 hours transcribing letters and videos for various collections.
  • Conservation: Two volunteers have contributed 218 hours to several projects: creating protective covers for collection objects and restoring the Benson McDonnell telescopes and the Museum's collection of chronometers.

The Museum's largest volunteer program supports the 130-year-old paddle steamer, PS Enterprise — the crew being drawn entirely from volunteers. Depending on qualifications and experience, the 36 volunteers perform various roles aboard the vessel: master, mate, engineer, leading deckhand, deckhand and galley hand. The crew brought the PS Enterprise to life each weekend from September 2008 to May 2009. In 2008–09 the volunteer crew contributed 2314 hours, ensuring the PS Enterprise operated each weekend.

In October 2008, the PS Enterprise celebrated its 130th birthday and 20th year of operation on Lake Burley Griffin. Four crew members also celebrated 20 years of service to the PS Enterprise and the Museum: engineer Ron Saunders, leading deckhands Robin Brinton and David Wardle, and deckhand Stephen Bailey were awarded certificates recognising their individual contribution to the Museum.

In the lead-up to the celebrations, the travelling exhibition Still Steaming: Commemorating 130 Years of the Paddle Steamer Enterprise was developed by Museum curators and staff from the Museum's Volunteers unit, with assistance from the crew (see Travelling exhibitions).

In December 2008 the PS Enterprise was taken out of the water for nine days at the Barrenjoey Slipway for its biannual hull inspection and licensing by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Some long-awaited maintenance on the superstructure and main crank shaft was also carried out. The vessel was fully repainted and the decks re-oiled. The volunteer crew, under the direction of Museum conservators David Hallam and Ian Cramer, significantly contributed to this work.

The PS Enterprise missed seven weekends of operation due to maintenance of the vessel and the National Capital Authority closing Lake Burley Griffin to all users because of blue-green algae infestation. Despite this, visitor numbers increased from 2310 in 2007–08 to 4258.

Paddle Steamer Enterprise

The wooden paddle steamer 'Enterprise' on Lake Burley Griffin, with the National Museum in the background. Four crew members stand on the steamer's deck.

The PS Enterprise steamed into another chapter of its remarkable story in October 2008 when the boat celebrated 130 years on Australian's waterways. The paddle steamer, which is a prized object in the National Museum of Australia's collection, was built at Echuca of river red gums. When she was launched in 1879, her certificate of survey listed her length as 56 feet (17.1 metres) and her beam or width as 15 feet (4.6 metres). The distance between the surface of the water and the bottom of her keel measures just 75 centimetres. PS Enterprise is still powered by a 12-horsepower, two-cylinder steam engine, making her one of the world's last operating paddle steamers.

For the past 20 years, the PS Enterprise has steamed on Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin. A dedicated team of highly skilled volunteers form the paddle steamer's crew and aid in its conservation. This year, four of the volunteers were recognised for 20 years' service during a lakeside ceremony.

Meredith Sack, Visitors Services Coordinator, said, 'Our volunteers enhance the Museum's work by sharing their skills, knowledge and experience with our visitors and staff'. Without volunteers, the PS Enterprise could not be adequately crewed for regular steaming.

Above image: The Paddle Steamer Enterprise steams across Lake Burley Griffin.

Our ambassadors: The Friends of the National Museum of Australia

In June 2009, there were 1246 Friends memberships, comprising 3629 individuals. This is an increase of 9 per cent on 2007–08 memberships. The Friends continued its role of maintaining and enhancing community support for the Museum throughout 2008–09. The Friends provided a range of benefits to members in the Australian Capital Territory and beyond, including more than 70 Friends events, which were attended by more than 3135 people. Highlights included:

  • the popular series Playlunch with Friends and Get Messy with Grandma ... (or Grandpa)
  • two programs, exclusively for Friends members and aimed at under-5s — Storytelling with Friends, and Making Music with Friends
  • the Women's Voices series, which is now in its sixth year and continues to be strongly supported by Friends members and visitors
  • curator-led previews of all Museum exhibitions
  • a very successful series of talks featuring Museum curators presenting their research into key collection objects linked to gallery redevelopment
  • a well-attended series of talks, Museums of the World, featuring embassy representatives speaking about museums in their country
  • exclusive cruises on the lake aboard the PS Enterprise during the steaming season.
A young girl, singing, is in focus at the centre of the shot, with her mother, smiling, and slightly out of focus in the background.
Mother and daughter enjoy Making Music with Friends, a popular event held in the Friends Lounge.

Events were presented in partnership with other organisations, including the Australian Federation of Friends of Museums, the Australian Capital Territory Branch of Museums Australia, the National Trust, the University of the Third Age and the Museum's own Centre for Historical Research.

Friends also appreciated the benefit of special 'Friends reserve' seating at popular Museum events including talks by Janet Holmes à Court and Peter Cundall.

The Friends quarterly magazine, published in July, September, March and June, continues to showcase the activities of the Museum and the Friends. The magazine is also distributed widely to parliamentarians, libraries and museums in Australia and to Australia's diplomatic missions overseas.

The Friends received support from the Hyatt Hotel, Pauline Hore (auditor), and Hugo Ellwood from Duesburys Nexia. In addition, the Museum continued to provide invaluable in-kind support.