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Temporary exhibitions

Developing and presenting exhibitions are key functions of the National Museum of Australia, as specified in the National Museum of Australia Act 1980. This year, the temporary and travelling exhibitions program continued to be strong, and included content that supports the Museum’s core themes of land, nation and people, linked strongly to the National Historical Collection.

In 2012–13, the Museum delivered five temporary exhibitions and toured five travelling exhibitions.

Temporary Gallery

Travelling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World
(31 March – 29 July 2012)
13,928 visitors

The Museum partnered with the American Museum of Natural History, New York, to present its exhibition, Travelling the Silk Road. The Museum was the only Australian venue to host this exhibition, which allowed audiences to step 1000 years back in time to experience the sights, sounds and stories of the greatest trading route in history. The exhibition featured remarkable dioramas, interactives and impressive artefacts. Audiences were transported on an exciting journey along the legendary Silk Road, exploring the ancient cities of Asia and the Middle East over six centuries.

Museum Workshop: The Art, Science and Craft of the Conservator
(25 October 2012 – 28 January 2013)
30,465 visitors

Museum Workshop was a dynamic exhibition that allowed visitors to experience how the conservation team, the people responsible for the physical care of objects in the Museum’s collection, prepare objects for exhibition. Three working conservation laboratories were set up in the Temporary Gallery: large technology, objects and paintings, and paper and textiles; and conservators worked within these laboratories preparing objects for exhibition. Visitors were able to talk with conservators about their work and take advantage of this special access to the world of a museum conservator, including:

  • observing work on the 1948 Daimler landaulette used by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1954 tour of Australia
  • discovering how cracks and splits are treated in Aboriginal bark paintings
  • watching conservators servicing the Museum’s chronometer collection.

Glorious Days: Australia 1913
(7 March – 13 October 2013)
29,020 visitors

Glorious Days transports visitors back in time to explore the fashion, cars, design and ideas that expressed a nation’s dreams before the world changed forever. In 1913 Australians saw their new nation as progressive and free to make its own future in the world. The new capital, Canberra, was the expression of a national dream and the year culminated in the arrival in Sydney Harbour of Australia’s own navy.

Glorious Days features artworks and costumes, music and newsreel footage from Australia a century ago. The Temporary Gallery has been transformed into a streetscape from 1913, immersing visitors in the colour and vibrancy of what has been described as a ‘hinge year’ in Australia’s history.

First Australians Focus Gallery

Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture
(12 July – 14 October 2012)
28,002 visitors

The Museum hosted this exhibition, which was developed through a collaboration between Object: Australian Design Centre and the Australian Museum. This engaging exhibition exposed the richness and breadth of contemporary Indigenous sculpture in Australia.

Menagerie included both well-known and emerging artists who produced outstanding sculptural works depicting a variety of animals. Through these works, the artists shared with us their cultural knowledge, expressions of identity and connections to country. Menagerie highlighted the sophistication and complexity of the art and culture of Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

Warakurna: All the Stories Got into our Minds and Eyes
(7 December 2012 – 3 November 2013)
57,957 visitors

This is an exhibition of contemporary paintings and sculptures that document a new art movement emerging from the Western Desert community of Warakurna. These paintings combine familiar Western Desert symbols and dots with a new, more figurative style, to recreate scenes of everyday life and to tell historical and contemporary stories. The works are the creative vision of a group of artists including Eunice Yunurupa Porter, Judith Yinyika Chambers, Dianne Ungukalpi Golding, Jean Inyalanka Burke and Dorcas Tinamayi Bennett.

National travelling exhibitions

In 2012–13, five exhibitions travelled to a total of seven different venues across New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Of these venues, four were in metropolitan areas and three were in regional areas, and they attracted a total of 85,186 visitors. Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route and Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu were national travelling exhibitions. Yiwarra Kuju was supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program and Yalangbara was supported by Visions of Australia. Both these Australian Government programs aim to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

National and international travelling exhibitions, 2012–13

A Different Time: The Expedition Photographs of Herbert Basedow, 1903–1928 
A fascinating historical record of life in remote Australia in the early 1900s Liverpool Regional Museum,
New South Wales
6 April to
13 July 2013
League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia 
A photographic exhibition that emerged from the major temporary exhibition of the same name Rockhampton Art Gallery, Queensland 12 Oct to
25 Nov 2012
Grafton Regional Gallery,
New South Wales
27 Mar to
12 May 2013
Places that Matter 
A banner display exploring the National Heritage List Albury Library Museum,
New South Wales
5 Nov to
15 Dec 2012
Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu 
An exhibition of objects and artworks from north-east Arnhem Land Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 24 Nov 2011 to
15 Jul 2012
Western Australian Museum,
1 Sep to
4 Nov 2012
Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route
An exhibition exploring the history and communities of the Canning Stock Route region Queensland Museum,
25 May to
14 Jul 2013

Note: date spans are for duration of exhibition, but figures are calculated from 1 July 2012.

Number of exhibitions at venues, 2001–13

Financial year Number of exhibitions
2001–02 1 at 4 venues
2002–03 5 at 6 venues
2003–04 6 at 9 venues
2004–05 5 at 9 venues
2005–06 8 at 28 venues
2006–07 9 at 28 venues
2007–08 9 at 26 venues
2008–09 11 at 32 venues
2009–10 9 at 17 venues
2010–11 8 at 25 venues
2011–12 9 at 23 venues
2012–13 5 at 7 venues
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