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First Australians: Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
First Australians: Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples explores the history of Australia through the experiences, stories and images of Indigenous Australians. Visitors are introduced to the distinct Indigenous groups and shown the wide diversity of languages and cultural differences between communities from different regions, exploring the overarching themes of identity, cultural diversity, spirituality, family and connections to country. The gallery also aims to explore a diverse range of Indigenous responses to cultural interactions from conflict to cooperation and coexistence.
Of the 682 objects displayed in the First Australians gallery, 81 objects were replaced during the year.
In addition, a new exhibition, Paipa, was launched in the Torres Strait Islander section of the gallery in July 2002. This exhibition explores the migration of Islanders to mainland Australia, the impact of Christianity, their contribution to the Second World War, their involvement in the pearling, cane-cutting and music industries, as well as Islander youth responses to the changing environment.
Development began on new exhibits for the small exhibition which draws on the Museum's collection of 4000 children's art, to include contemporary views of the visits by Macassans to Arnhem Land from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
The Open Collections gallery, which provides enhanced public access to the Museum's collections and enables Indigenous communities and researchers to share their knowledge about objects, drew increased interest this year from researchers and the general public.
An exhibition of Indigenous children's artwork from the Museum of Victoria was displayed in the First Australians Focus Gallery from November 2002 to January 2003. Thookay Hgaweeyan, Young Voices of Australia told important stories about the experiences and concerns of the young artists, whose innocence and depth provided a moving and contemporary view of the importance of family, community and culture.
Development of a significant research collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Indigenous communities in Victoria and Tasmania began in preparation for an exhibition on Indigenous toolmaking at the Museum in 2004.
The exhibition Melting Pots of Culture opened at Reconciliation Place in Canberra to celebrate Reconciliation Week in 2003. This exhibition, at a new site below Old Parliament House, was developed by the Museum as a pilot project for the exhibition of collections off-site in non-institutional spaces. It features works by the prominent ceramicist Thancoupie from Weipa in north Queensland, the internationally acclaimed Warburton and Wathaurong glassworks in Victoria, as well as grinding stones and tools from the Museum's collections. The exhibition presented some unique challenges for curatorial, conservation and graphics staff including extreme light and heat conditions, security, and suitable display treatments for collection material located in an off-site venue.
Other local activities supported in the Canberra region included:
- an exhibition, Kamberry Dreaming, held at the Museum to highlight the work of local Indigenous artists
- Indigenous training placements at the Museum for students from the Australian National University and the Commonwealth Development Employment Program
- cross-cultural training for Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade graduates.
Our members really enjoyed the guided tours through the Gallery of the First Australians and the Eternity exhibition. We left with a greater understanding of what makes up the Australian nation.
National President, Pan-Pacific and South East Asia Women's Association of Australia Inc. April 2003
Horizons: The Peopling of Australia since 1788
Horizons: The Peopling of Australia since 1788 is an exhibition about the major role that migration has played in the development of Australia. The aim of the exhibition is to convey that Australia is a land of migrants, and that each Australian has a heritage of migration, settlement and the sense of leaving one place for another. Horizons seeks to present migration as a strategy for Australia's economic and social development and to place it in the broader contextual framework of government policy.
Over the last 12 months 110 objects in the Horizons gallery were replaced. More than 240 individual objects are now on display supported by audiovisual and multimedia presentations.
One of the significant additions to Horizons was a new story documenting the migration experience of Walter Eddison and his family. Walter arrived in Australia from England in 1913 to pursue his dream of owning a farm and providing a new future for his family. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined the Australian Light Horse and in 1919 returned to Australia with his wife and children to establish a property in the area of Canberra now called Woden. The new objects on display include one of the suitcases in which he carried his belongings, a child's farmyard set and his war service medals.
Another addition to Horizons was the loan of objects from the South Australian Museum documenting the diversity of the British Empire. These are on display in the Under the flag exhibit. Discussions also took place with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to select material from the Cumberland and Gloucester Street excavation in The Rocks area of Sydney for display in the Who were the convicts? exhibit. The artefacts selected belonged to the convict family of Richard Byrne and Margaret Kelly who lived in one of the earliest houses in The Rocks, and they will be on display later in 2003.
New displays within Coming to work were developed for opening late in 2003. The story of Rose Pappas, who migrated from the small Greek island of Castellorizo after the Second World War, will be a feature of this exhibition which will include her traditional Castellorizian costume. Rose wore this dress at her wedding in 1920 and it is one of the most complete examples of Castellorizian costumes held in a museum collection.
Tangled Destinies: Land and People in Australia
Tangled Destinies: Land and People in Australia presents an environmental history of Australia, using a cross-disciplinary approach to elaborate on how Australians have come to know and live in this land. Reflecting the remarkable diversity of Australian society and landscapes, the gallery reveals a 'history of ideas' about the relationships between people and places. It entwines the stories of Indigenous and non-Indigenous attitudes to environments, the adaptation of Europeans and the plants and animals they brought with them, and the way that our understanding of the land has changed over time. Tangled Destinies brings together ideas, artefacts and images from a host of disciplines, including archaeology, social history, ecology, botany and zoology.
The gallery contains 259 objects and 14 multimedia installations and during the year 24 objects were replaced. New loan agreements were negotiated to refresh and enhance exhibits relating to urban environments, biological invasions, and stories of place.
The thylacine skin, the buffalo catcher and diprotodon skeleton remained visitor favourites. The module examining the incidence of fire in Australian environments was reviewed to reflect the 'bush capital fires' becoming part of the national record.
A mix, not concentrating on any one aspect. Modern history, not a lot of fossils.
January 2003 visitor
Eternity: Stories from the Emotional Heart of Australia
Eternity: Stories from the Emotional Heart of Australia examines the lives of 50 Australians, famous and not famous, living and dead. The exhibition uses these stories as windows onto larger moments, movements, events and themes in Australia's social history. The themes of the exhibition are based on the 10 emotions of joy, hope, passion, mystery, thrill, loneliness, fear, devotion, separation and chance. A mix of multimedia enables visitors to explore these personal stories while Your story provides them with the opportunity to record their own story for inclusion in the exhibition.
The Eternity exhibition of 161 objects continued to be very popular with visitors. The Your story video booths again captured stories from thousands of visitors including highly moving stories related to the Bali bombing in October 2002 as well as the Canberra bushfires.
The gallery underwent major changes with the introduction of 25 new stories in May 2003. Winter Olympic skater Steven Bradbury, former Young Australian of the Year Tan Le, and developer of the bionic ear Professor Graeme Clark, helped launch the stories which were drawn from the endeavours of sport, science, women, military and community interests in Australian society.
A full list of the extraordinary Australians who joined Eternity in 2002-2003 are included in Appendix 6.
Courage in explaining the past - very brave, a sign of maturity as a nation.
January 2003 visitor
Nation: Symbols of Australia
Nation: Symbols of Australia is an exhibition of 691 objects and 11 multimedia installations which explores Australian history and culture through the lens of national symbols, both official and popular.
The main focus for the Nation gallery this year was the changeover of 34 objects, particularly in the Snapshots of Australia exhibit, which features a series of significant moments in Australian history. New objects acquired include a Rugby League jersey from the 2003 World Sevens tournament, signed by Rugby League players and relatives of the Coogee Dolphins Rugby League Club players who died in the 2002 Bali bombings. This will be installed in Nation late in 2003.
The Looking around exhibit, which enables community groups to create photographic essays of their suburbs, also underwent a major changeover. In 2001-2002 the exhibit focused on communities in South Australia and Western Australia, and this year Tasmanian communities were featured, including the Penguin Primary School, the Grassy Bottom Regional Arts Group, the South Hobart Progress Association, and the Devonport Camera Club.
There was significant national response to the Museum's Anzac pilgrims appeal launched in April 2003. A new exhibition on Anzac pilgrims is planned for next year and the purpose of the appeal is to obtain information and objects from Australians who have travelled to Turkey to attend dawn services at Gallipoli. Over 30 offers have already been received, including photographs, journals, T-shirts and other souvenirs.
Things from my era - nice to be affirmed as an Australian.
March 2003 visitor