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Programs and events

In 2014–15, 43,556 people attended organised programs and events at the Museum. These were developed to reflect the ongoing importance of the Museum’s core activities such as collections, exhibitions and conservation, and the preferences and interests of its increasingly diverse audience,both on-site and throughout the country.

An important strategy in 2014–15 was to increase audience numbers and diversity by developing one-off programs and series relating to particular demographics. The increasing use of digital technologies to reach national audiences, including uploading recorded highlights of events, was another feature of the Museum’s programs and events in the reporting year.

Overall, the programs and events developed for families and children, adults and people with disabilities, reflect the Museum’s Portfolio Budget Statement outcome of increasing the public’s awareness and understanding of Australian history and culture.

Families and children

Programs and events for families and children continued to provide a valued and well-attended range of creative and relevant activities that connected to temporary exhibitions and the collection.

The NAIDOC on the Peninsula festival held in July 2014 attracted more than 2500 people to the Museum, strengthening the Museum’s connection with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and highlighting the Museum’s Indigenous collection and galleries, particularly the redeveloped Lag|Meta|Aus: Home in the Torres Strait exhibition in the Torres Strait Islander gallery.

The Australia Day festival on 26 January 2015 highlighted the Museum’s major temporary exhibition Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story through a variety of engaging activities and including prominent interstate performers. The event attracted 4329 visitors, making it the largest family festival event ever held at the Museum.

The July 2014 holiday program in the Discovery Space, ‘Discovery Island’ was inspired by the Lag|Meta|Aus exhibition and attracted 3106 visitors. A second program, ‘Horse toys’, was held in October 2014 in conjunction with Spirited. This program incorporated a collaborative sculpture activity in the Museum’s Main Hall and attracted 1525 participants. The exhibition was also the inspiration for the January 2015 school holiday program ‘Carts, carriages and carousels’. In this program, participants experimented with sculpture and collage to create a hobbyhorse or toy carriage. This program attracted 1313 visitors.

The Pollock Toy Theatre, on display in the Journey’s gallery, was the inspiration for the April 2015 holiday program, which drew its theme from musical instruments in the Museum’s collection. In ‘Play with plays’, children built and decorated puppets, props and a toy theatre.They also participated in a puppet performance and workshop in the centre of the Main Hall with puppeteer Marianne Mettes. There were 1440 participants in this program.

Young visitors get creative at the Discovery Space school holiday program. Photograph by Kate Siu
Young visitors get creative at the Discovery Space school holiday program. Photograph by Kate Siu

Access programs

The Museum has an ongoing commitment to providing access to its collections, exhibitions and programs for all Australians, including people with different levels of ability. In 2014–15, the Access team continued with successful programming initiatives such as music and art workshops as well as‘reminiscent’ workshops for people living with dementia (both off site and on-site) and a festival day celebrating International Day for People with Disability.

Access programs also trialled new programs contributing to the development of Museum-wide policies, such as the Disability Action Plan and the Reconciliation Action Plan and, as part of a focus on inclusive programming, collaborated with other Museum teams to facilitate access to the existing programs on offer at the Museum. During 2014–15, 919 people participated in access programs at the Museum.

Adult learners

The Museum develops programs for adults with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds that highlight the collections, exhibitions and core business of the Museum in fresh and exciting ways.

A highlight of the 2014–15 year was the consolidation of the Night at the Museum series for younger adults. The Night at the Museum program is an after-hours, adults-only evening of music, bars, art, talks and hands-on experiences aimed at an 18-to-35-year-old audience. Drawing inspiration from the Museum’s Eternity gallery, the themes of Thrill, Fear and Joy were used to explore the collection in new and unexpected ways.

Each Night at the Museum program is built on a participatory model that places the emphasis on creating hands-on experiences with the aim of encouraging people to develop a deeper appreciation of the Museum. In 2014–15, audiences were invited to do everything from the ‘thrilling’ experience of learning to ride a unicycle (August 2014), to facing their ‘fears’ by climbing into a coffin (November 2014), to jumping for ‘joy’ in the Garden of Australian Dreams (March 2015). Each program was designed to create unique audience experiences that encouraged participants tore-imagine the Museum and its collection.

Programming was linked to the Museum’s major temporary exhibitions such as Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story, which provided an opportunity for programs to connect with horse enthusiasts. The award-winning Boggy Creek Show, featuring Tim O’Brien from Tumbarumba presenting live horseshows over a two-week period, was held in January 2015. The show explored historical themes interspersed with modern horse-handling techniques. Audiences responded passionately, often returning several times and enjoying the games and other activities that were presented prior to the show. Tickets to the Boggy Creek Show included entry to Spirited, which increased exhibition visitor numbers.

The regular lunchtime lecture series for Spirited featured a variety of speakers, including Professor Paul McGreevy, University of Sydney, illustrating equine welfare; Karen Hood from Heavy Horse Heaven; and Tammy Ven Dange, Chief Executive Officer of RSPCA ACT, reflecting on animal welfare and rescue/rehoming. In addition, both the lecture series associated with the exhibitions Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists and The Home Front: Australia during the First World War continued the Museum’s commitment to giving core audiences ‘behind the scenes’ insights into major temporary exhibitions through knowledgeable and engaging speakers.

Seminars linked to Museum activities and research projects continued to be delivered in 2014–15. A seminar associated with the screening of the documentary Remembering Yayayi, held in April, was a collaboration with the National Film and Sound Archives and featured film footage shot by respected film director, Ian Dunlop. A second seminar, following the screening of the film In the Shadow of Ebola, encouraged its audience to find out more about Australia’s involvement with contemporary health and disaster relief issues, such as the recent Ebola epidemic.

The Museum built on the success of the previous year’s music concert series by producing a further two concerts in the reporting period. In September 2014, the Museum ‘told’ Australia’s popular music history of the 1980s ‘one song at a time’ with a winter concert featuring Pseudo Echo and a mega-band consisting of Scott Carne (Kids in the Kitchen), Brian Mannix (Uncanny X-Men) and David Sterry (Real Life). The concert was attended by more than 400 people. A concert associated with Canberra’s Enlighten Festival was held in the Museum’s lakeside amphitheatre in late February 2015 and featured Katie Noonan and Uncle Jed performing to almost 600 people. Noonan’s performance included a song inspired by the Museum’s collection of convict love tokens.

Adult programs also continued to make connections with a variety of audiences through a range of events such as the 2014 DESIGN Canberra Festival, a TEDxCanberraWomen program, a Mirramu Dance Company demonstration and a Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club show. The latter brought several hundred vintage riders and their bikes to the Museum from all over Australia and resulted in most exploring the Museum’s galleries. Many later said that this had been their first visit to a museum and that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The focus of the adult learners program has been on non-traditional uses of the Museum for non-traditional audiences, which has resulted in an increased reach to a wide cross-section of the Australian community.

School students

In 2014–15, the Museum offered a range of programs for students and teachers that drew on the collections of the Museum and illuminated aspects of the Australian Curriculum.

The Museum continued to deliver professional development sessions for practising and pre-service teachers both on-site and across Australia at teaching conferences. Professional development focusing on Indigenous culture and history, pedagogy relating to history teaching, and sessions based on the Australian Curriculum were conducted for more than 300 teachers and post-secondary learners.

Delivery of excellent on-site programs for both local and interstate schools continued to be a key aspect of the Museum’s education program. In excess of 27,000 students participated in a facilitated education program at the Museum in 2014–15. When surveyed, 99.54 per cent of teachers reported their experience was satisfactory, with 99.85 per cent reporting that the programs provided by the Museum were relevant to the Australian Curriculum. Teachers also commented that interpretation provided by the Museum’s educators was highly relevant and engaging for students.