Skip to content
  • Open today 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission

We are no longer updating this page and it is not optimised for mobile devices.

You are in site section: About

Public Programs (page 1 of 2)

One of the key ways in which the Museum promotes awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture is through its diverse range of programs, events and educational activities. Topics are linked to the content of permanent and temporary exhibitions, to the Museum's collections and to issues of historic or contemporary relevance.

The Museum's public programs team specifically designs activities with different audiences in mind. Programs are delivered at the Museum, throughout Australia and through technology-based outreach activities. They include talks, seminars, workshops, debates, concerts, theatrical performances, live radio and television programs, narrowcasting, websites and interactive online activities. Programs also make use of film, curriculum materials and publications in a variety of forms.

Details of all public lectures, forums, seminars, conferences and presentations are in Appendix 6.

Programs at the Museum

For families and children

Tinsmith John Yard showing his skills
Tinsmith John Yard shows his skills at the Rare Trades Fair Day. Photo: Dragi Markovic.

A significant number of programs for children and families related to the Museum's temporary exhibitions. As part of the Outlawed! programs, Tim the Yowie Man led a tour of bushranger sites around the ACT region; forensic scientists and anthropologists explored the world of forensic anthropology in a 'CSI at the NMA' workshop; and popular children's author Jackie French taught children how to write their own Outlawed! adventure story. Outlawed! also featured a trail specifically for children designed by award-winning children's book illustrator Roland Harvey.

Programs associated with Rare Trades: Making Things by Hand in the Digital Age focused on enabling children and parents to learn together. The Rare Trades Fair Day, a major event which featured tradespeople from the exhibition demonstrating their trades, attracted over 2000 visitors to the Museum. A range of public talks, storytelling sessions and performance character actors also proved popular. The Museum presented partnership programs at Lanyon Historic House and with the regional wine industry to present tours which focused on the art and science of winemaking.

Photo of the Monaro folkdancers
Monaro folkdancers get into period at the 125th birthday of the PS Enterprise. Photo: George Serras.

Other special programs for families and children included:

  • the second National Museum of Australia Annual Children's Week lecture, delivered by popular children's writer Morris Gleitzman
  • a range of activities celebrating Indigenous culture during NAIDOC week - these included workshops with Roy Barker, and artist Elaine Russell; storytelling with Ngunnawal elder Agnes Shea, June Barker and Larry Brandy; performances by Gerib Sik and didjeridu player Graham King
  • a workshop on forensic investigation and an archaeological dig as part of National Archaeology Week activities
  • an outdoor display of more than 100 FJ Holdens from as far afield as Queensland to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the FJ Holden
  • a day of celebrations to mark the 125th anniversary of the Paddle Steamer Enterprise - these included bush dancing, storytelling, a cooking demonstration by celebrity chef Ian Parmenter and a very large birthday cake.

Regular programs such as storytelling, writers/illustrators in residence programs, regular craft activities and play lunch with Friends for children under five years and their carers, the Museum's themed Christmas tree and musical performances in the Hall and Amphitheatre were also popular with families and children.

For young people and adults

Children in Museum's archaeological workshops
Children go forensic in one of the Museum's archaeological workshops. Photo: George Serras.

Innovative events for young people again proved popular during the year. A highlight was Sky Lounge, a new media and music event held over four nights in February in the Garden of Australian Dreams. This was the third year the Museum has presented Sky Lounge, and it was fully subscribed each night. Through a sponsorship arrangement with ABC Radio's Triple J, Sky Lounge also gained significant national media exposure for the Museum.

The Museum presented an extensive range of programs for adults interested in understanding, researching or discussing topics at an academic level. Representing Outlaws: Bushrangers, Rebels and Revolutionaries in Popular Culture, a two-day conference associated with the Outlawed! exhibition, brought together an international group of scholars, filmmakers, writers, curators and criminologists to explore the traditions of the outlaw hero. A forum featuring some of Australia's leading crime writers discussing their work was facilitated by crime fiction reviewer Stuart Coupe and was webcast to a broader audience.

The Museum regularly provided a forum for debate on contemporary issues by featuring a range of Australian and international experts, scholars and researchers. In addition to the very successful partnership with the Australian National University, which saw 33 lectures, symposiums and seminars held at the Museum, other partnerships with educational organisations resulted in programs such as:

  • Forensic Anthropology Conference - experts and professionals concerned with forensic anthropology came together for the first time to explore death scene investigation, forensic recovery and mortuary archaeology
  • National Archaeology Week - marked by lectures given by Dr Peter Veth, Acting Director of Research, AIATSIS, and Professor Jonathan Kingdon
  • Dust II, the annual student presentation night for the Centre for New Media Arts (previously Australian Centre for Arts and Television) and the Film and Television Awards, the Canberra Institute of Technology's presentation night for film and television students.

The Museum's commitment to learning-based programs and activities for older Australians was strengthened through a number of University of the Third Age learning circles (based around Museum exhibitions or collections) and by assisting the Centre on the Ageing to launch their Learning Communities online resource.

Celebrating Australians

As part of its commitment to showcase Australians who have made a significant contribution to the nation, the Museum presented poet laureate, Les Murray; historian Susanna de Vries; and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley in conversation with journalist George Negus. The latter presentation formed part of the Museum's Australia Day celebrations.


The Museum increased its sports-related programming by broadcasting significant live sporting events on the large screen in the Hall. The major international sporting event of 2003, the Rugby World Cup, was marked by displays of Rugby memorabilia from private collections in the Hall and Friends Lounge (to complement the Snapshots of Glory exhibition) and screenings of key games in the SAS Visions Theatre.

The Melbourne Cup was featured twice during the year. The cup itself made a stopover at the Museum as part of its national tour (with one of the Museum's iconic objects, Phar Lap's heart, on special display for the day). A seminar titled 'Why Australia stops for the Melbourne Cup', presented with Manning Clark House, featured Australia's leading sports historians including Professor Richard Waterhouse from the University of Sydney.

Music and film

Photo of an Ernabella dancer
Ernabella dancer, Kyla Windlass, performs at the Museum during the National Folk Festival. Photo: George Serras.

Music was used regularly to enhance the experience of visiting the Museum, with performances held regularly in the Hall and Amphitheatre. In conjunction with the Friends of the National Museum of Australia, a special concert, Eternal Strings, was performed on instruments from the Museum's collection, crafted by world-famous Australian violin-maker AE Smith.

In conjunction with the National Folk Festival, the Museum sponsored a number of lunchtime concerts as well as performances and workshops by a group of women and children from Ernabella in Central Australia.

Partnerships with universities and film organisations enabled the Museum to increase the level of film-based programming, maximising the use of the Museum's state-of-the-art screening facilities. International events included:

  • Art of the Documentary, a three-day conference with a number of panels, screenings and film premieres (with the Australian National University)
  • Asia-Pacific Film Week (with the Australian National University)
  • Indigenous Filmmakers Forum, a forum connecting filmmakers in Australia, New Zealand and Canada via video conferencing (with ACT Filmmakers' Network)
  • Scinema, a week-long film festival incorporating the most recent science films from around the world (part of National Science Week and produced with the CSIRO).

Festivals and events showcasing regional filmmakers included Short::Winter and Short:: Spring, two highly popular short film events attracting around 1000 people; Lights Canberra Action, a competition for regional filmmakers using Canberra itself as the backdrop for storytelling; and the Canberra Short Film Festival, four days and nights of films with national competitions and workshops.

Conservation programs

A high level of public interest in the Museum's conservation activities resulted in the following public programs:

  • tours of the collections for special interest groups such as the Museum's Friends, and the Crossley Car Club
  • talks to community groups including the Canberra Spinners and Weavers Group, Museum Friends on the conservation of the AE Smith stringed instrument collection, the conservation of the Sir Ivor Hele collection of drawings, and the history and preservation of the wet specimen collection
  • advice to community and professional groups at the Kodja Place Visitor and Interpretive Centre at Kojonup Western Australia, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory and the Colonial Navy Museum
  • advice to the public on caring for family memorabilia at the Museum's annual Treasures Day.

Openings and launches

Photo of Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson at the opening of Outlawed! Photo: George Serras.

The Museum's Events Management section regularly worked with community organisations to organise occasions strategically linked to Museum themes or corporate objectives. The majority of events were staged around temporary exhibition openings and media previews/ launches for content changeovers in the permanent exhibitions. These included:

  • a suite of events for the exhibition opening of Outlawed! Discover the Stories behind the World's Rebels, Revolutionaries and Bushrangers, including a spectacular opening with more than 700 guests. The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon. Richard Alston, was special guest speaker, and long-time Museum supporter Mr Jack Thompson AM was master of ceremonies
  • the exhibition opening for Behind the Lines: The Year's Best Cartoons with Senator Gary Humphries as guest speaker
  • an outdoor event in the Garden of Australian Dreams to celebrate the opening of Snapshots of Glory, featuring Rugby World Cup images from the archive of Colin Whelan, and the launch of the Museum's Rugby World Cup 2003 program with Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport
Photo of Mal Meninga
Rugby League legend Mal Meninga launches Refined White. Photo: George Serras.
  • the exhibition opening of Royal Romance: Queen Elizabeth II's 1954 Tour of Australia by Sir David Smith AO
  • the exhibition launch of Native Title Business: Contemporary Indigenous Art - a national travelling exhibition presented by the Gurang Land Council (Aboriginal Corporation) and toured by the Regional Galleries Association of Queensland. This exhibition was opened by Professor Mick Dodson, Chair of Indigenous Studies, Australian National University
  • the launch by Mr Mal Meninga AM of Refined White, a travelling exhibition from the Australian Sugar Museum in the First Australians gallery.

The Museum also provided event and venue coordination for the following community events:

Photo of Broadcaster Robyn Williams
Broadcaster Robyn Williams at the launch of Eureka! Highlights of 50 Years of Australian Science. Photo: George Serras.

The Museum also provided event and venue coordination for the following community events:

  • Adult Learning Australia's launch of their Learning Communities Catalyst website
  • The Mental Heath Foundation's Ceremony of Planning to commemorate World Mental Health Day, as well as a media forum during Mental Health Week
  • My Australia! Banners exhibition launch to celebrate International Day of People with a DisAbility. This exhibition was undertaken in partnership with a number of disability groups in the Australian Capital Territory
  • The launch of Eureka Moments! Highlights from 50 Years of Australian Science - a travelling exhibition developed by the Australian Academy of Science in partnership with the Museum.
Return to Top