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Open day 2011

WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


The sun shone brightly, the objects were all neatly displayed with signage, the concrete had been swept and activities were laid out for children. The Museum was ready to throw open the gates to Open Day 2011.

Visitors at the Museum's store

So much work goes into an Open Day — it seems flinging open the gates is the easy part! Most of the Museum works together to make events like this happen: Registration, Conservation, Curatorial and us, in Public Programs and Marketing, and also Publishing, Visitor Services and Volunteers, Facilities and Security, the Shop, Friends of NMA … the list goes on. We all put a huge effort into making the day interesting and family friendly.

Choosing what to put on show is the hardest part. How do we pick those objects out of the millions that we have in the collection? Sometimes the decision is easy: if a large object (such as a car or tractor) is stored in a location that is accessible to visitors, then we leave it where it is. In the Objects and Paper and Textiles labs, however, there was more flexibility to choose items specifically for viewing by the visitors on Open Day. The whole idea is that the public can see how and where the Museum stores and conserves the objects in the collection that aren’t on display. If you want to see an exhibition, come to visit us at Acton Peninsula!

The Objects Lab displayed a selection of the barks and paintings representing Walmajarri, Ganalbingu, Kartujarra and Rirratjingu language groups. In Unit 3, the Playschool windows made a welcome return, much to the delight of children and their parents, and the giant kewpie doll from the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics kept an eye on everyone. Objects from the Museum’s Aboriginal Stone Tool collection, which comprises over 95,000 items, were displayed in their storage boxes and the Saw Doctor’s Wagon drew crowds who were fascinated by the trinkets glued to or dangling from every surface.

Outside, large objects were crouched on the concrete, ready to show off for admiring crowds. The ABC-TV outside broadcast van entertained people as they walked past, and particularly fascinated children who saw themselves on television, often for the first time, on a tiny black and white screen. The ‘Peace Bus’ encouraged children to contribute to a giant chalk drawing, while the float designed by Bundjalung artist Bronwyn Bancroft as part of the Journey of a Nation — The Federation Parade, in 2001, raised questions about its purpose and design.

It was a great day — an opportunity for people to see how the Museum keeps its collection, to visit familiar objects and to chat to staff who love what they do. Next time we have an Open Day, we’d love to see you. But, don't wait until then, come and see us soon on the peninsula.

Heidi Pritchard, Assistant Manager Public Programs