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Exhibition program

Developing and presenting exhibitions are key functions of the National Museum of Australia, as specified in the Museum Act. This year, the temporary and travelling exhibitions program continued to be strong, and included content that supports the Museum’s core themes of land, nation and people,which are linked to the National Historical Collection.

In 2014–15, the Museum delivered seven temporary exhibitions and toured three travelling exhibitions and one international travelling exhibition.

Temporary exhibitions

Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists (6 December 2013 – 20 July 2014), Temporary Gallery, 7180 visitors (41,003 total visitation)

Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists presented 122 works on bark from east and west Arnhem Land, from the Museum’s extensive bark painting collection – the largest held anywhere in the world.

Old Masters celebrated the genius and art of 40 master bark painters including Narritjin Maymuru, Yirawala and Mawalan Marika. Overwhelmingly positive feedback was received in the exhibition visitors’ book and from the media.

Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story (11 September 2014 – 9 March 2015), Temporary Gallery, 52,943 visitors

Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story explored how horses have enriched our lives, built our society and shaped our environment. It invited Australians to reflect on the enduring and sometimes complex relationships between people and horses.

The exhibition featured 500 historical artefacts that told the nation’s horse story, including icons of Australia’s thoroughbred racing history, horsedrawn vehicles and riding equipment, and trophies won by leading equestrians and rodeo stars.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie (15 September 2014, ongoing), Macquarie Group Limited, 50 Martin Place, Sydney, 15,239 visitors

This exhibition, hosted by the Macquarie Bank, features historical artefacts from the early days of the colony, including key documents issued by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, a holey dollar, love tokens inscribed by convicts and breastplates that were presented to Aboriginal people. It also includes specially produced digital features exploring early currency, land grants and Macquarie’s legacy. The exhibition is anticipated to be on show for several years, with content being updated regularly.

Rosie Batty, Australian of the Year and crusader against domestic violence, with her childhood doll on display at the Museum
Rosie Batty, Australian of the Year and crusader against domestic violence, with her childhood doll on display at the Museum

On Country: Connect, Work, Celebrate (22 November 2013 – 20 July 2014), First Australians Focus Gallery, 7190 visitors (48,430 total visitation)

On Country: Connect, Work, Celebrate was supported by the Department of Environment (previously the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) and featured photographs from the department’s Working on Country and Indigenous Rangers programs.

The exhibition showcased contemporary Indigenous land and sea management practices across Australia. These practices build a connection to country that is strengthened through caring for country, being on country and celebrating country.

Warlpiri Drawings: Remembering the Future (15 August 2014 – 28 June 2015), First Australians Focus Gallery, 62,963 visitors

Warlpiri Drawings: Remembering the Future tells the story of an intriguing collection of Indigenous artworks created by Warlpiri people in Australia’s Northern Territory in the 1950s and beyond. This exhibition was curated by Dr Melinda Hinkson, the Australian National University, in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation and Warnayaka Art and Cultural Aboriginal Corporation, Mrs Joan Meggitt and the Pintupi Anmatyerre Warlpiri Media Association. It was assisted by the traditional owners and community members of Yuendumu and Lajamanu.

Australian of the Year 2015 (17 December 2014 – 28 February 2015), Main Hall, 91,251 visitors

This exhibition paid tribute to the eight extraordinary Australians chosen as the 2015 Australian of the Year finalists. The exhibition featured personal objects selected by the finalists that had special significance to them and communicated something about their lives and experiences.

The Home Front: Australia during the First World War (3 April – 11 October 2015) Studio Gallery, 23,191 visitors
The Home Front explores the pride, sorrow, passion, wonder and joy experienced by Australians far from the battlefields of the First World War. Through personal stories, this exhibition looks at life on the Australian home front, and explores people’s choices, opportunities and challenges in a time of heightened emotions.

Travelling exhibitions

In 2014–15, three exhibitions travelled to a total of six different venues across South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. Of these venues, one was in a metropolitan area and five were in regional areas. The exhibitions attracted a total of 897,026 visitors. Warakurna:All the Stories Got into our Minds and Eyes, Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions and Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia were national travelling exhibitions. Warakurna was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts Visions of Australia: Regional Exhibition Touring Fund and Insidewas supported by the Department of Social Services.

The Museum’s international touring program was also very successful. In conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and with the assistance of Australian diplomatic missions, the Museum delivered a panel display of Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route to venues overseas. In 2014–15 the Museum delivered the display to China, Turkey, Chile, India, the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Russia, Tonga and Indonesia. A total of 347,238 visitors viewed the exhibition.

The combined audience for the Museum’s national and international travelling exhibitions was 1,244,264.

Number of national travelling exhibitions at venues, 2010–15

Financial year

Number of exhibitions

2010–11

8 at 25 venues

2011–12

9 at 23 venues

2012–13

5 at 7 venues

2013–14

5 at 6 venues

2014–15

3 at 6 venues

National travelling exhibitions, 2014–15

Title and visitor numbers

Description

Venue

Dates

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions 237,401

An exhibition about the experiences of some of the half-a-million children who spent time in institutional care in Australia in the 20th century.

Queensland Museum,
Brisbane

9 Aug – 17 Nov 2014

Freewheeling:
Cycling in Australia

578,568

An exhibition exploring the history of cycling in Australia.

Queensland Museum, Brisbane

The Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville

29 Nov 2014 – 8 Jun 2015

27 Jun – 5 Oct 2015

Warakurna: All the Stories Got into Our Minds and Eyes

37,098

An exhibition of contemporary paintings and sculptures documenting a new art movement emerging from the Western Desert community of Warakurna

Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre,

Katherine, Northern Territory

Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery, Port Pirie,
South Australia,

Western Australian Museum, Geraldton, Western Australia,

Western Australian Museum, Albany,
Western Australia

20 Jun – to 2 Aug 2014

19 Dec 2014 – 26 Jan 2015

13 Mar – 24 May 2015

6 Jun – 24 Aug 2015

Note: date spans are for duration of exhibition, but figures are calculated from 1 July 2014.