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Programs and events

In 2011–12, 37,891 people attended organised events and activities at the Museum, an increase of 1238 on the last year’s figures. 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. This year the Museum has increased its focus on access programs for people with disabilities, and has achieved strong attendance figures for festival days. The Museum has a strong commitment to these programs and ensuring they are accessible to the Australian community.

For families and children

The programs for families with children have continued to increase in popularity, shown by a high return rate of visitors to both new and repeat programs.

Program highlights included:

  • ‘Little big things’, a Discovery Space program linked to the Landmarks exhibition, where children could explore the Australian tradition of ‘Big things’ by building landmarks of their own
  • ‘Future gen’ family festival, and ‘Future space’ in the Discovery Space, which encouraged families and children to imagine what cities of the future might look like
  • ‘Think ink!’ a Discovery Space program featuring some of the techniques of Chinese art featured in A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art
  • the very popular Silk Road night market, which featured stalls selling items that would have been traded along the Silk Road, traditional music and dancing, puppets and displays.

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’, ‘Art for everyone’ and the ‘Eternity reminiscent’ workshop for people with disabilities, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These popular programs have been developed in collaboration with community associations and workers.

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:

  • a conference, The Irish in Australia, linked to Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia, that included local and international speakers on the Irish diaspora
  • a practical family history series that was designed to help people begin to research their family histories, or to assist people that were already on that path. Speakers included academics, researchers and online experts
  • a lecture about contemporary Chinese art by the Director of the National Art Museum of China, Mr Fan Di’an
  • a forum, Inside Children’s Homes, looking at some of the contemporary issues facing the Forgotten Australians today, a year after the Apology.

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

  • two events in the Platform Conversation series: ‘Cultural recognition – so what?’ and ‘How ethical is Australia?’ Speakers included Mal Brough, Garth Nettheim, Alison Page, David Speers, Peter Singer and Jenny Brockie
  • a ‘Supper club’ and night tour of the First Australians gallery, presented as part of Canberra’s Enlighten program
  • By the Water, a dusk concert on the lake featuring Clare Bowditch and The Clouds
  • Mabo: 20 Years On, a forum looking at contemporary Indigenous politics and how Australia has, or has not, changed since the Mabo High Court decision.

A second open day at the Museum’s Mitchell storage space, designed to show objects that are not currently on display, attracted 1064 people. Part of the success of this program was due to an extensive marketing campaign 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, highlighting the Museum’s commitment as a cultural leader.

Events in collaboration with other cultural and educational institutions included:

  • the Dymphna Clark annual lecture featuring Jackie French, presented in association with Manning Clark House
  • a conference, Art and Nation: Chinese Art 1949 to Now, presented in partnership with the Australian Centre on China in the World (the Australian National University)
  • Heritage without Borders, a conference presented in association with the University of Canberra
  • the annual ‘Weekend of ideas’ presented by Manning Clark House
  • two concerts presented in association with the Canberra International Music Festival, The Tulip and Music from the Silk Road.

For school students

With the introduction of the Australian Curriculum: History, the Museum is receiving a growing number of requests from schools for programs that are explicitly linked to the new courses. In response to this, the Museum has made its school visits programs directly related to the national history curriculum and the Museum’s website now includes information for teachers that indicates which aspect of the curriculum each program relates to.

In addition, the Museum has developed three new school visits programs in the reporting period, each one further strengthening the Museum’s relevance to the national history curriculum. Two of these programs have an Indigenous history focus and the other one specifically relates to the teaching and learning of historical skills. These programs also use iPads and will be extensively trialled in the second half of 2012 with a view to making them fully available in 2013.

Work also began in the reporting period on school visits programming related to the Centenary of Canberra in 2013.

Overall, 95 per cent of schools believed the programs provided by the Museum met the core curriculum requirements. When asked to evaluate the programs, teachers commented that they appreciated and enjoyed the hands-on, engaging, child-centred and positive approach taken by the Museum and its education staff.