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Reaching a national schools audience

The Museum continued to deliver a range of outreach programs to primary and secondary schools around Australia. It also continued to make a significant contribution to the development of the Australian Government’s national curriculum process, especially in the areas of history and English, and provided further digital resources for schools as part of the Australian Government’s digital education initiatives.

Australian curriculum initiatives

During 2010–11, the Australian Government finalised the development of the first four learning areas of the Australian Curriculum — mathematics, English, the sciences and history — while the arts, geography and languages other than English (LOTE) were further progressed. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which is tasked with organising and delivering the new curriculum, sought feedback from interested parties on various drafts of each subject. The Museum continued to play an important role among cultural institutions in relation to the draft history curriculum, providing significant feedback to ACARA under the auspices of the Museums Australia Education National Network.

The Museum also continued to contribute to the provision of digital teaching and learning content for schools as part of the Australian Government’s initiatives in this area. Working in partnership with Education Services Australia (ESA), the Museum continued to supply new digital resources to ESA’s digital resources repository for Australian schools, with new resources being developed in the English learning area, as well as history. These resources will act as exemplars for teachers as they begin to implement the national history curriculum.

Major curriculum resource developments

Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route education package

In the reporting period the Museum produced a significant education package to support Yiwarra Kuju. The package, which was funded through the Australian Government’s National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach (NCITO) Program, exploited newly acquired artworks and oral history collections. The package was sent free of charge to all schools in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory and was also made available to schools visiting the exhibition.

First Australians: Plenty Stories primary school series

The Museum’s major primary school curriculum resource, First Australians: Plenty Stories, a series of 18 books for children in years 3–6 that explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories through the Museum’s collections, was a joint winner of the best primary school resource category in the 2010 Australian newspaper’s Excellence in Education awards. The series, produced by leading Australian education publisher Pearson Australia, continues to sell well into Australian schools.

National history curriculum textbook series

The Museum completed drafts of four chapters for a forthcoming textbook series for secondary schools, also with Pearson Australia. These chapters feature different periods in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and have drawn on the Museum’s collections where possible. This resource will be made available to schools in 2011 and will ensure that the Museum’s content, and teaching and learning strategies will make a significant contribution to the implementation of the new national history curriculum in schools.

Australian History Mysteries website

The Museum’s major Australian history curriculum resource for secondary schools, the Australian History Mysteries website (, continued to be popular with schools. The website is designed to stimulate students’ interest in, and engagement with, aspects of their history and heritage, and to develop the skills needed in pursuing historical studies. Each of the current 15 case studies contains a wide range of primary and secondary source evidence, including museum objects, national archival collections and historic sites. It is ideally suited to key content areas and skills development objectives of the new national history curriculum. Australian History Mysteries 3 won the Australian Teachers of Media award for the best secondary school resource in 2010.

Studies of Society and Environment magazine

The Museum produced a further two units of work for the nationally distributed classroom curriculum magazine Studies of Society and Environment (distributed free of charge to all Australian secondary schools three times a year by Ryebuck Media Pty Ltd). This year, units covered themes relevant to the curriculum from the Museum’s exhibitions and collections.

Web-based school projects and partnerships

In 2010–11, the delivery of teaching and learning programs and projects over the internet remained a strong focus for the Museum.

Working with regional and remote schools

The longstanding Snapshots of Remote Communities photographic web-based outreach program was concluded in 2010–11 following its successful implementation in all states and territories (except the Australian Capital Territory) over a period of seven years. Snapshots was an outreach program for regional and remote primary schools that encouraged students to photograph and write about their communities. The photographs were subsequently exhibited in the local community, at a state institution and on the Museum’s website. The final 12 schools to take part in the project were from the Albany and Kalgoorlie regions in Western Australia, and the project operated in partnership with two Western Australian regional museums from these areas. The Museum’s Snapshots website has featured the photographic exhibitions of more than 80 remote and regional schools during the life of the project.

Partnerships: Centre for Learning Innovation

The Museum’s most recent partnership project with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training’s Centre for Learning Innovation, focused on one of the centre’s Australia-wide digital storytelling competitions, concluded in the reporting period with the presentation of awards in November 2010 in Sydney to the winning school entries for this joint project. The theme of the competition was ‘migration’, and students who entered were encouraged to use a specifically designed and produced digital education resource that utilised content from the Museum’s Australian Journeys gallery as preparation for their entry. The competition produced several commendable winning entries and the Museum benefited through increased exposure for this gallery. A new digital learning resource based on the gallery was also produced by the Centre for Learning Innovation and is now available on the Museum’s website for general use by all schools.

National competitions

In association with its annual Behind the Lines political cartooning exhibition, the Museum continued to run its popular national cartooning competition for Australian schools. This year the Museum used social media services Flickr, Facebook and Twitter to help facilitate and record the various stages of the competition, including the listing of the winning entries. ‘Drawing the lines’ attracted almost 250 entries from primary and secondary students covering a range of issues including asylum seekers, political leadership, the role of independents, hung parliaments, multiculturalism and assimilation.

Prizes were awarded to the winning student cartoonists by the Canberra Times cartoonist David Pope at a ceremony held at the Museum in December 2010. First prize in the primary school category was won by Brenton Knight, Sawtell Public School, in New South Wales. Two first prizes were awarded to secondary students: one to Simon Cutler, St Joseph’s Nudgee College, Queensland, in the years 7–9 category, and the other to Cairo Modoo-Loy, Darwin High School, Northern Territory, in the years 10–12 category.

The Museum again contributed to the sponsorship of the History Teachers’ Association of Australia annual history competition, the National History Challenge for primary and secondary students, through its special category on museum displays. The theme of the 2010 competition was ‘Celebrations, memories and history’ and the winning entry by senior secondary student Juliet Morelli, from Loreto College in Adelaide, was a sophisticated and empathetic display that explored the association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the game of Australian Rules football. The display was exhibited in the Museum’s Hall throughout January 2011.

Professional development for teachers

Evaluation continues to indicate that efforts to provide teaching strategies and curriculum resources through a comprehensive teacher professional development program have a positive impact on teaching in Australian classrooms. Professional development workshops for teachers, held at the Museum and at conferences around Australia, attracted over 600 participants in 2010–11.

Education staff delivered workshops and made presentations at a variety of conferences, including the Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland history teacher conferences. In addition, through the National Capital Educational Tourism Project’s outreach program, the Museum presented at several regional and capital city professional development sessions for teachers.

Several teacher previews focusing on the Museum’s temporary exhibitions program were also conducted, mainly with teachers from schools in Canberra, helping to continue to build a strong network of committed teachers across the Australian Capital Territory.

Curatorial outreach

All permanent galleries have a strong focus on place and community. Curators travel extensively to visit historic sites, research objects and stories, make presentations and consult with communities. Curators remain in constant and close contact with stakeholders in Museum programs, and work hard to maintain long-established relationships.

Curators working on the Landmarks: People and Places across Australia gallery visited many communities, including Hobart, Tasmania; Bendigo and Sunshine in Victoria; Grenfell, Castlecrag and Parramatta in New South Wales; and Perth and Rottnest Island in Western Australia.

During these visits, curators created relationships with community groups, local museums and other organisations to develop knowledge and appropriate conservation and display options for collections to be displayed in Landmarks. This work strengthens the representation of these communities at the Museum and contributes to local knowledge and preservation of cultural heritage.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program is committed to the delivery of projects relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories that are based on thorough consultation. Many outreach projects incorporate elements of community advice and training. This year curatorial staff travelled to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, and staff from Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Thursday Island travelled to Canberra for training and mentoring. One issue of Goree: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander News was published and delivered to over 5000 communities, schools, organisations and individuals across Australia. The newsletter is also available online.

Curators have also served on a number of community support panels, including the Australian Capital Territory Government’s Historic Places Advisory Committee and the National Capital Authority’s Regatta Point project. Staff from across the Museum also continue to deliver lectures and training programs to a number of Australian tertiary institutions including the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and the Canberra Institute of Technology. Staff also provided tours and briefing for visiting journalists from Pacific and Asian countries, as well as tours for overseas recruited diplomatic staff employed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

A close-up shot showing two hands extending from the left to part the fleece on the head of a taxidermied sheep. The sheep's snout and head are clearly visible.
Conservator Cathy Collins prepares a sheep taxidermy specimen for the Springfield exhibit in the new Landmarks gallery

International outreach

The Museum was approached by the Vatican to curate a permanent exhibition of the Vatican’s century-old collection of Aboriginal cultural material. The invitation provided the Museum with an opportunity to continue its commitment to reconnecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with their cultural legacy through historic collections overseas.

The objects in the collection were originally sent to the Vatican from Aboriginal Catholics in the Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory; and Kalumburu and New Norcia in Western Australia in the 1920s. These objects had not been displayed for 40 years. The exhibition opened to coincide with celebrations of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop.

Rituals of Life: The Spirituality and Culture of Aboriginal Australians through the Vatican Collection was co-launched on 15 October 2011 by the Hon Kevin Rudd, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Hon Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and officiated by the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Tim Fischer. The exhibition was supported by Qantas Airways Ltd, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See and Tourism Australia.

Other international projects involving Museum staff in 2010–11 included:

  • the Papua New Guinea project, which commenced in May 2011, with a staff member from the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery taking up an internship at the National Museum of Australia. This was the first stage of the project, which also aims to provide practical assistance to Papua New Guinea with collections assessment, mounting exhibitions and collections management training
  • Making History, a collaborative project with the British Museum and Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, which will culminate in a major exhibition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects represented in the British Museum’s and the National Museum of Australia’s collections. In 2010–11 research and consultation proceeded towards this exhibition, which is due to open in London in 2014 and at the National Museum of Australia the following year.

Repatriation of remains and secret/sacred objects

The Museum advises on and assists federal, state and territory cultural heritage institutions, Indigenous communities and representatives with the repatriation of Indigenous human remains and secret/sacred objects. It also provides information to the media and general public about repatriation. The management of human remains and secret/sacred objects is strictly controlled by the Museum’s Repatriation section to ensure that material is cared for in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner, as well as in accordance with museum best practice.

The Museum has not actively sought to acquire human remains or secret/sacred objects. However, as the prescribed authority under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, the Museum can be the repository for unprovenanced remains referred to the Australian Government minister. To date, no remains have been deposited with the Museum under this Act.

The Museum also holds human remains and secret/sacred objects transferred from the Australian Institute of Anatomy collections in 1985. These have been de-accessioned and do not form part of the National Historical Collection.

This year the Museum returned the remains of two individuals to the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, in the United States. These remains were among a large number originally sent to the Peabody Museum at Harvard. In 1933, Professor Scott of the Peabody Museum gave a number of artefacts plus the two sets of human remains to the new Australian Institute of Anatomy in Canberra. In 1985, the Australian Institute of Anatomy closed and its collections were transferred to the new National Museum of Australia. In 1999, institutions in the United States returned approximately 2000 remains to Jemez Pueblo for reburial. The two sets of remains in the care of the National Museum of Australia were unaccounted for until the Museum contacted the Jemez community.

During 2010–11, the Museum also:

  • returned the remains of four individuals to the Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders in Council, Queensland
  • returned 10 secret/sacred objects to Central Australian communities
  • received 22 remains from Austria, and seven remains from the United Kingdom, facilitated by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for the Arts.

The Museum holds repatriated remains at the request of a number of communities. The Museum is funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for the Arts to assist in the storage and repatriation of remains returned from overseas collections.

Repatriation activities during 2010–11 were primarily supported by Museum resources. Some funding was also provided through the Return of Indigenous Cultural Property Program, an initiative of the Cultural Ministers Council and administered by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for the Arts.

Sharing our resources and expertise

Working spaces

For the fourth year, the National Museum of Australia was a valued partner in ‘Working spaces 4’, a weekend of workshops for museum volunteers organised by the Lachlan Chapter of Museums Australia at Galong, New South Wales. Many Museum staff gave presentations at these workshops, providing quality training and museum expertise.

The workshops drew delegates from a range of regional museums across New South Wales and Victoria.

ICOM Australia Museum Partnerships

The National Museum of Australia continued its institutional membership of the International Council of Museums Australian Committee Incorporated (ICOM Australia) and had two staff members on its Executive.

Community Heritage Grants Program

The Museum continued to support the Community Heritage Grants Program with a grant of $20,000. This program aims to preserve and provide access to nationally significant Australian cultural heritage material held by community groups across the country by providing small grants for preservation projects and collection management training. The program is administered by the National Library of Australia with funding partners the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for the Arts; the National Archives of Australia; the National Film and Sound Archive; and the National Museum of Australia.

Online outreach — the Museum’s website:

The total number of website visitors increased slightly from 3,291,874 in 2009–10 to 3,379,774 in 2010–11. Of these, some 306,000 used the collection database and more than 160,000 engaged with the Museum through social media spaces including Flickr, Facebook and the Museum’s blogs.

The number of podcasts on the Museum’s website increased by 43 programs to a total of 265. The Museum continued to engage with online audiences via social media. The Flickr collection increased to 1900 images, including 211 cartoons submitted to the 2010 ‘Drawing the lines’ competition. Exhibition visitors used the ‘Tell Your Irish Story’ video kiosk in Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia to record more than 80 videos for the Museum’s Vimeo channel. The Irish exhibition included a family history research website and weekly research assistance provided by the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra.

The Museum’s blog and website supporting the upcoming exhibition Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions continued to facilitate community outreach to the Forgotten Australians. The Museum received personal stories, photographs, paintings, poetry, documents and music via the blog, and some 79,000 views in 2010–11.

Feature websites were developed for exhibitions Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route, Exploration & Endeavour: The Royal Society of London and the South Seas, Behind the Lines: The Year’s Best Cartoons 2010 and Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia, and also for the new gallery Landmarks: People and Places across Australia. Online exhibition content included audio and video of curatorial talks, conservation treatments and gallery installations. The Museum also published an online professional development resource, Understanding Museums: Australian Museums and Museology, for museum professionals and students of museology.

The Friends of the National Museum of Australia

In June 2011, there were 1089 Friends memberships (1131 in 2009–10), comprising 3836 individuals (3621 in 2009–10). The increase in individual memberships is largely due to the popularity of the temporary exhibitions held at the Museum during the year. Friends continued its role of maintaining and enhancing community support for the Museum throughout 2010–11. It continued to provide a range of benefits to members, including 67 events attended by more than 2600 people.

Highlights included:

  • the popular series ‘Creative craft’ and ‘Get messy with Grandma (or Grandpa)’
  • the well-attended ‘Women’s voices’ series
  • curator-led previews of all Museum exhibitions
  • a successful series of talks featuring Museum curators presenting their research into key collection objects linked to gallery redevelopment
  • a Canning Stock Route study tour of Western Australia in conjunction with the Australian National University Institute for Professional Practice in Heritage and the Arts
  • exclusive cruises on the lake aboard the PS Enterprise during the steaming season.

Events were presented in partnership with other organisations, including the Australian Federation of Friends of Museums, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Trust and the Museum’s own Centre for Historical Research. Friends also appreciated the benefit of special ‘Friends reserve’ seating at popular Museum events.

The Friends quarterly magazine was distributed widely to parliamentarians, libraries and museums in Australia and to Australia’s diplomatic missions overseas, and Friends continued to receive invaluable support from the Museum. Support was also received from the Hyatt Hotel and Pauline Hore (auditor).

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