Martha Sear, Senior Curator
From our blog
A lyre by the fire
By Martha Sear
28 Jun 2016
How did a firescreen made from the tail of one of Australia’s most iconic birds end up in a British home? That’s the question student...
I joined the National Museum in 2005, having previously been a curator at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and with the five museums in Hay, New South Wales. Over the years I’ve worked across a lot of different subjects, including taxidermy, the circus, childbirth, women’s work, and rural Australian’s responses to heat – but enduring interests have been human and animal interactions and understanding the history of exhibition-making.
I’m interested in exploring how museums can foster empathy, and increase awareness of the interconnections between all the things that make up the natural world – what Henry Miller called the ‘unthinkable, inconceivable collaboration that goes on under the ground and above the ground’.
At the moment I’m working with other members of the People and the Environment team on the Horses in Australia project exploring the intertwined lives and histories of horses and humans in Australia, which includes the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Sstory exhibition.
Tel +61 2 6208 5039
Museum Leadership Program, Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne, 2003.
Doctor of Philosophy (History), University of Sydney (Thesis: Unworded Proclamations: Exhibitions of Women’s Work in Colonial Australia), 2000.
Bachelor of Arts, First Class Honours and University Medal in History, University of Sydney, 1993.
Exhibitions and other media
Spirited: Australia's Horse Story, National Museum temporary exhibition on the history of horses and humans in Australia, 11 September 2014 – 9 March 2015. Role: senior curator.
Horses in Australia, new National Museum project exploring the intertwined lives and histories of horses and humans in Australia, 2014. Role: senior curator.
Old New Land, permanent exhibition gallery, 'Encountering Australia' module redevelopment and Diana Boyer exhibit, National Museum, 2012. Role: senior curator.
Landmarks: People and Places across Australia, permanent exhibition gallery at the National Museum, 2011. Role: senior curator.
Journeys: Australian’s connections with the world, permanent exhibition gallery at the National Museum, 2009. Role: senior curator.
Australian Journeys, 20-minute historical documentary produced for the National Museum’s Visions gallery, 2006. Role: senior curator.
Ned Kelly: Fact and Fiction, travelling exhibition, National Museum, 2005. Role: senior curator.
'Hot as Hell! How Rural Australians' Have Coped With the Heat', a combined thematic exhibition at Hay’s five museums, 2005. Role: project manager and team leader of curatorium.
'Clyde Wooden Windmills', permanent exhibition, Hay Gaol Museum, 2005. Role: curator and project manager.
'Lock and Key: Stories From Hay Gaol', a permanent exhibition about the history of Hay Gaol at the Hay Gaol Museum, 2005. Role: curator and project manager.
'The Architect’s Desk', multimedia installation at Bishop’s Lodge Historic House, Hay, 2005. Winner, Museums Australia Design Award – Multimedia Level A. Role: project manager and co-curator.
'Memento: Jewellery Inspired by Hay’s Museum's, temporary exhibition, Shear Outback, Hay, 2004. Role: project manager and curatorial guide to the team of local artists.
'Mary’s Gifts', a permanent exhibition at Bishop’s Lodge Historic House, Hay, 2003. Role: project manager and co-curator with volunteer curatorium.
'Australian Wool Innovation: The Cutting Edge', temporary exhibition, Shear Outback, Hay, 2003. Role: project manager and co-curator.
'Us and Them: Hay Prisoner Of War and Internment Camp 1940-1946', permanent exhibition, Hay POW and Internment Camp Interpretive Centre, 2002. Role: curator.
Permanent exhibitions for Shear Outback: The Australian Shearers’ Hall of Fame, Hay, 2001-2. Role: led local content team working with exhibition curators and designers.
Births of a Nation: Women, Childbirth and Federation, travelling exhibition, Powerhouse Museum, 2001. Role: co-curator. Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards in the Education – Corporate/Government category.
Built and landscape heritage interpretation in the 18th century dairy precinct and permanent exhibition in Burramatta Visitors’ Centre, Parramatta Regional Park, 1998. Role: curator
50,000 days: the Herald’s Sydney since 1831, temporary exhibition, Powerhouse Museum, 1997. Role: co-curator.
'Country Women’s Association of NSW 75 years', temporary exhibition, Powerhouse Museum, 1997. Role: co-curator.
'Circus! 150 years in Australia', major temporary exhibition Powerhouse Museum, 1996. Role: curator.
'National Council of Women of NSW Centenary Exhibition', Parliament House of NSW, 1996; and toured NSW 1996-1998. Role: curator.
'"Most curious and peculiar": Women Taxidermists in Colonial Sydney', major temporary exhibition, Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, 1996. Role: co-curator.
Online and digital features
'European voyages to the Australian continent'. Collection-based web interactive produced for the Journeys gallery and the National Museum website, 2009. Role: senior curator, content development. 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 Journeys gallery and the National Museum website, 2009. Role: senior curator, content development. 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.
‘History in Communities’ in Australian History Now, edited by Anna Clark and Paul Ashton, New South Books, 2013.
Landmarks: A history of Australia in 33 places, National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra, (co-editor with Daniel Oakman and Kirsten Wehner; co-author), 2013.
'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 Kirsten Wehner), 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, Kirsten Wehner and Jennifer Wilson), 2009.
‘Common neutral ground’: Feminising the public sphere at two Australian exhibitions of women’s work’, in Kate Darian-Smith et al (eds.), Seize the Day: Exhibitions, Australia and the World, Monash University Press, 2008.
‘Prescribing: teaching people how to live,’ co-authored with Megan Hicks, in Powerhouse Museum 125th anniversary history Yesterday’s Tomorrows, edited by Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber, Powerhouse Publishing, 2005.
‘Fair women’s worlds: Feminism and world’s fairs 1876-1908’, in Volker Barth (ed.), Identity and Universality: A Commemoration of 150 Years of Universal Expositions, Bureau International des Expositions, Paris, 2002.
‘Most curious and peculiar: the art of taxidermy’, in Joan Kerr and Jo Holder (eds.), Past Present: The National Women’s Art Anthology, Art and Australia/Craftsman House, Roseville, 1999.
‘Femininity that calmed the crowds: Lady Carrington at the Queen’s jubilee celebrations Sydney 1887’, Journal of Australian Studies, no. 52, 1997.
‘Opening the trunk: Stories of the Jandaschewsky collection’, in Kimberley Webber (ed.), Circus! The Jandaschewsky Story, Powerhouse Publications, Sydney, 1996.
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.