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Programs and events

The financial year 2010–11 has been particularly strong for public programs at the Museum, with 36,653 people attending organised events and activities during the year. The Museum presents a broad range of public programs for visitors in order to achieve its PBS outcome of increasing the public's awareness and understanding of Australian history and culture.

The Museum develops these programs to ensure they are accessible to a wide range of audiences and represent the diversity of the Australian community. The primary audiences are families with children aged 5–12 and adult learners. A new program has been developed this year to improve access to the Museum for people with disabilities.

For families and children

The Public Programs interpretation strategy for families with children, which includes a free Discovery Space and other facilitated workshops and festivals, is continuing to deliver results for the Museum.

Program highlights included:

  • in winter 2010, school holiday workshops that encouraged children to make a symbol that represented Australia, and cartooning and photography workshops that were inspired by Symbols of Australia, the Old New Land gallery and the Garden of Australian Dreams. The Museum also organised a mini festival linked to NAIDOC Week, celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through storytelling, dancing and the Museum's annual didjeridu competition
  • during spring 2010, 'A strange new land', the theme for the Discovery Space, inspired by the Exploration & Endeavour exhibition. Children became explorers to new lands, like the explorers in the exhibition, and were able to discover and create new species of animals to take home. Over 1400 families and children enjoyed this activity during the eight days it was available
  • summer programs inspired by Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route. In the Discovery Space, children could paint their own mini canvas in a similar style to the paintings in the exhibition, using mark-making tools rather than paintbrushes. Children could also contribute to a large collaborative mural canvas. Over 12 days, 2741 children and their parents enjoyed this program
  • autumn programs focusing on the Not Just Ned exhibition. The highly successful Not Just Ned Irish festival, which attracted a record 2628 visitors, kickstarted the program and included singing, dancing, poetry, talks, storytelling and craft activities, especially a very successful family flag-printing activity. The Discovery Space attracted 1511 participants with the 'Who am I?' program where children could make their own 'Not Ned' mask and decorate it to reflect their personality.

Recognising that children and families are core audiences, the Museum also supported important community events such as Children's Week.

For access audiences

The Museum believes that all people have a fundamental right to access and enjoy the Museum. As part of this commitment, access programs for audiences who do not usually visit the Museum have been developed. These include programs such as Music for Everyone, for people with disabilities, dementia and Alzheimer's disease that have been developed in collaboration with community associations and workers. These programs will be expanded in 2011–12.

For adult learners

The Museum developed many programs for adult learners designed to highlight significant aspects of Australian social history and relate to temporary and permanent exhibitions.

Programs linked to temporary exhibitions included:

  • Canning Stock Route Festival Day, linked to Yiwarra Kuju and featuring music, activities and talks by some of the contributing artists
  • 'Letter readings from the voyages of discovery', linked to Exploration & Endeavour and featuring actor Rhys Muldoon, Director Andrew Sayers and curator Michelle Hetherington
  • programs held to coincide with Not Just Ned, including the 'Sunday sessions', a series of lectures on family history, a concert by The Alan Kelly Quartet from Ireland, curator talks and the 18th annual Australasian Irish History Conference.

Public programs were also designed to promote the permanent exhibitions. These included:

  • 'By the water', a concert featuring Dan Kelly and the Falling Joys, attended by 1652 people. The event gained widespread media coverage
  • 'The happiest refugee': historian and biographer Nicholas Brown spoke to Anh Do about the extraordinary true story of Anh's journey from starvation at sea to becoming one of Australia's best-loved comedians
  • 'Collectorfest': legendary Australian food writer Margaret Fulton talked about her love of cooking, and visitors brought their cookbooks and shared their stories.

'Come into our shed', an open day at the Museum's Mitchell storage space to show objects that are not currently on display, attracted 1600 people. Part of the success of this program was due to an extensive marketing campaign that trialled new tactics such as street signs, electronic billboards and an active social media campaign using Twitter and Facebook.

Collaborative programs

The Museum collaborates with a variety of other cultural and educational institutions in a range of ways. These partnerships add vitality to our programs as they often help us interpret the Museum from new perspectives.

Events in collaboration with other cultural and educational institutions included:

  • Indigenous writers' workshops run by author Anita Heiss, in association with the ACT Writer's Centre
  • a seminar entitled 'Coral reefs in a changing environment' with Robin Williams
  • '"The lost Gallipoli sonata": Frederick Septimus Kelly', a concert held in collaboration with the Canberra International Music Festival
  • The Latin American Film Festival, in association with a consortium of 10 Latin American embassies.

For school students

In 2010–11 the Museum received more than 83,000 visiting school students from all states and territories, and several new facilitated programs were offered to visiting schools in the reporting period. In addition, the first trials of videoconference programming to schools were undertaken, the forerunner of a suite of videoconference programming that will be rolled out for regional and remote schools in the next few years.

The Museum continued to prepare for the implementation of the Australian curriculum by extensively mapping its existing programs to the content and skills requirements of the new history curriculum.

Overall, 99 per cent of schools were satisfied with the programs provided by the Museum. When asked to evaluate the programs, teachers commented that they appreciated and enjoyed the programs' 'hands on' nature, describing them as 'engaging, child-centred and positive'.