Kirsten Wehner, Head Curator
From our blog
It’s normal! Women in science
By Kirsten Wehner
17 Aug 2015
Why is it that most Australian scientists are men? It may be, as University of NSW professor of engineering Veena Sahajwalla argued last year in The...
I'm the Head Curator of the Museum’s People and the Environment team, and in this role I’m responsible for shaping and building the section’s overall collection, research and exhibition activities. I work on a wide range of projects, usually together with other team members, and for me each project is about exploring how museums, and material culture more broadly, can develop Australians' empathetic and ecological knowledge and practice. In other words, I'm interested in how museums and objects can help Australians better understand how we are inherently inter-connected with each other and with the rest of the natural world, with the aim of helping to build more culturally and ecologically resilient and sustainable communities.
I first joined the National Museum of Australia in 1997 as a PhD student researching the development of the institution’s Acton Peninsula facilities, and particularly the exhibitions, that opened in 2001. I worked as a curator on the Museum’s Nation: Symbols of Australia gallery, and then spent time as a documentary writer and producer at Australian Parliament House and as a researcher at the Australian War Memorial.
I re-joined the National Museum in 2004 as a senior curator in the Museum Enhancement Program and, in this role, led the refurbishment of the Circa theatre experience, and, as content director, the development of the Journeys and Landmarks galleries. I became Head Curator, People and the Environment, in July 2011.
In 2013 I’m working with the People and the Environment team on a range of projects. These include the continued development of the Landmarks gallery, some new temporary and travelling exhibitions and the enhancement of our People and the Environment website and blog. I also co-convened the international conference, 'Collecting the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change', looking at museums' roles in engaging climate change and a range of collections that record Australians’ engagements with nonhuman species – from rabbits to birds to seaweeds.
Tel +61 2 6208 5408
Exhibitions and films
Cycling in Australia, new National Museum travelling exhibition on the role the bicycle has played in the lives of Australians since the late 19th century, opening in 2014. Role: curatorial direction.
Horses in Australia, new National Museum temporary and travelling exhibition on the history of horses and humans in Australia, opening in 2014. Role: curatorial direction.
Landmarks: People and Places across Australia, permanent exhibition gallery at the National Museum, 2011. Role: curatorial direction, content development, program management and delivery.
'Macdonnell's telescope', temporary display at the National Museum, 2009. Role: concept and content development.
Journeys: Australia’s connections with the world, permanent exhibition gallery at the National Museum, 2009. Role: curatorial direction, content development, program management and delivery.
Circa, new program and concept for the National Museum’s introductory theatre, 2009. Role: senior curator, content development, program management and delivery.
Nation: Symbols of Australia, ongoing conceptual and content development and program management for permanent exhibition gallery at the National Museum, 2004-10. Role: senior curator.
Australian Journeys, 20-minute historical documentary film produced for the National Museum's Visions theatre, 2006. Role: senior curator, script advice, archival research and program delivery.
Nation and Horizons galleries, 'Australia’s own car', 'Paddock to plate', 'Native harvest', 'Rocks to riches', 'Encounters' and 'Sport' exhibition modules, 2006. Role: senior curator.
'A House for the Nation', four x 30 minute video documentary series produced for the Department of the House of Representatives for educational distribution and inhouse theatre. Distributed by Ronin Films, 2003. Role: script research and writing and creative production.
Urban Farming and the Agricultural Show. Website exploring agricultural shows as arenas for the development and performance of understandings of agriculture, 2013. Role: co-researcher, co-curator and co-author.
'Flemington on Cup Day'. Collection-based web interactive produced for the Landmarks gallery and the National Museum website, 2011. Role: senior curator and content director. Highly commended, Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2012.
'Exploring the world at Port Macquarie'. Collection-based web interactive produced for the Landmarks gallery and the National Museum website. Role: senior curator and content director. Highly commended, Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards 2012.
'European voyages to the Australian continent'. Collection-based web interactive produced for the Australian Journeys gallery and the National Museum website, 2009. Role: senior curator and content director. Winner, Australian Teachers of Media Award, Best Multimedia 2010; Winner, ICOM International Committee for Audiovisual and Image and Sound New Technologies, Best Interactive 2010; Finalist, Australian Interactive Media Industry Association Awards, 'Best cultural, lifestyle or sport interactive' 2010.
'Cricketing Journeys'. Collection-based web interactive produced for the Australian Journeys gallery and the National Museum website, 2009. Role: senior curator, content direction and production. Highly commended, Museums Australia Multimedia and Production Design Awards, 'Best online multimedia' 2010; Silver award, W3 awards, International Academy of the Visual Arts, Los Angeles, 2010.
'The Crimson Thread of Kinship'. Collection-based web interactive produced for the National Museum, 2007. Role: curator. Finalist, Australian Interactive Media Industry Association Awards, 'Best cultural, lifestyle or sport' category 2007; Highly commended, Museums Australia Multimedia Publication and Design Awards 2009.
‘Looking and Seeing: Interactive visuality at the National Museum of Australia’, in David Dean (ed), A Companion to Public History, Wiley Blackwell, 2014 (forthcoming).
Collecting the Future: Museums, communities and climate change, Routledge, (co-editor with Jennifer Newell and Libby Robin), 2014 (forthcoming).
Landmarks: A history of Australia in 33 places, National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra, (co-author of the introduction with Mathew Trinca, co-editor of the volume with Daniel Oakman and Martha Sear), 2013.
'Collection Stories: An introductory essay', in Collection Stories, National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra, 2012.
'Engaging the Material World: object knowledge and Australian Journeys' in S. Dudley (ed), Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretation, Routledge, London and New York, (co-author with Martha Sear), 2010.
'Living in a material world: object biography and transnational lives', in Penny Russell, Desley Deacon & Angela Woollacott, Looking Out: Australian Lives in the World, ANU e-press, Canberra, (co-author with Karen Schamberger, Martha Sear and Jennifer Wilson), 2009.
'Macdonnell’s telescope: Amateur restoration, museum conservation and historical interpretation', in Proceedings of METAL 07, ICOM – CC Metal Working Group, 2008.
'Pluralism and exhibition practice at the National Museum of Australia', in Chris Healy and Andrea Witcomb (eds), South Pacific Museums: Experiments in culture, Monash University ePress, Melbourne, (co-author with Mathew Trinca), 2007.
National Museums: Negotiating Histories – Conference proceedings, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, (co-editor with Darryl McIntyre), 2001.
Presentations and articles
Horses in Australia is part of the National Museum's People and the Environment program. Discover more stories about people's relationships with Australia's natural and built environments on our People and the Environment website.