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The National Museum of Australia strives to create a culture that places its audiences at the centre of everything it does. The Museum’s community extends far beyond its building in Canberra and support, too, comes from far and wide. The visitor who drops a gold coin into the donation box, the donor who contributes to an annual appeal, the benefactor who distributes major gifts — each member of our philanthropic community has an impact and is vital to the continued growth of the Museum and the broader cultural sector. As a collective, they help the Museum to achieve things that might not otherwise be possible.

The entrance to the National Museum of Australia's building. Above the door, there's large signage in white spelling 'Gandel Atrium'.
The renamed Gandel Atrium

Over the past two years, the Museum has made a major commitment to establishing a program of fundraising campaigns and appeals to assist it in realising its ambitions. There are potentially great rewards for the Australian public through increased philanthropic support for the cultural sector, including clear benefits to the community from having dynamic, strong and sustainable cultural institutions. The success of the Museum’s fundraising program to date has stemmed from its recent focus on developing relationships with the philanthropic community.

In 2018, the Museum received its largest ever single donation of $1.5 million from Gandel Philanthropy. This gift will support the delivery of the Defining Moments Digital Classroom project, an innovative digital history program that will be made available to classrooms across Australia. The Gandels’ donation was also used to acquire Indigenous artist Reko Rennie’s Bogong Moth, the sculptural centrepiece of the Museum’s expansive Main Hall. The hall has been renamed the Gandel Atrium in recognition of the Gandels’ generosity. This is the first time naming rights have been granted at the National Museum of Australia, underscoring the importance of the gift.

National Museum of Australia Director Mathew Trinca, Pauline and John Gandel AC and Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts.
(l–r) Museum Director Mathew Trinca, Pauline and John Gandel AC and Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts

John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel established Gandel Philanthropy, one of Australia’s largest family philanthropic funds, in 1978. Since then they have donated over $100 million to the arts, sciences, medical research and education. The National Museum is the latest beneficiary in a series of significant gifts to Australia’s cultural institutions. At the official launch of the Gandel Atrium on 15 May, John Gandel noted the importance of supporting Australia’s cultural development. Mr Gandel, whose Polish parents migrated to Australia almost a century ago, explained:

As our population expands, it raises the question, ‘What do you give people beyond infrastructure?’ How do you not only accommodate people, but also help to make life good for them here? I think the answer is you give them more culture — a broader education, some breathing space, places they can go to relax, have an experience and, most importantly, learn.

The Defining Moments Digital Classroom project brings together the Gandels’ passion for education and culture. The project will enable students to explore history through digitally interactive tools and lesson resources, bringing history to life. It will be aligned to the national curriculum, tailored to year groups and available nationally from 2020, promoting access to the Museum’s impressive collections and high-quality educational materials.

The Digital Classroom builds on the foundations of the Museum’s Defining Moments in Australian History project, established in 2014. The original list of 100 defining moments, drawn up by an expert panel of historians, continues to expand through an ongoing conversation with the Museum’s visitors. Defining Moments features on the Museum’s website, social media platforms and the digital discovery wall that was installed in the Gandel Atrium in late 2017. It is supported by a wide range of programs including panel discussions and cultural tours.

The Defining Moments Digital Classroom is a testament to the Museum’s community of donors and supporters and their positive impact on the cultural life of our nation. Their investment will assist the Museum in its commitment to lifelong learning through innovative and engaging experiences.

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