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Attracting visitors

Create internal and external experiences at Acton that attract and involve audiences, including:

  • renew the Museum’s permanent galleries
  • launch the new Kspace related extensive website and app.


  • Annual visitation to permanent exhibitions over 450,000.
  • Development of First Australians gallery Welcome Space ready for launch August/September 2016.
  • Open new Kspace digital learning experience for children.


  • Visitation to the Museum’s permanent galleries exceeded the target for 2015–16, with a total of 472,748 visits recorded.
  • There has been significant progress on the development of the First Australians gallery Welcome Space (now Orientation Space). However, the projected public opening date has been delayed until December 2016.
  • The new Kspace digital learning experience for children opened to the public in July 2015, ahead of its official launch in October 2015.


Permanent galleries

The Museum has five permanent galleries: First Australians: Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; Old New Land: Australia’s People and Environment; Eternity: Stories from the Emotional Heart of Australia; Journeys: Australia’s Connections with the World; and Landmarks: People and Places across Australia. Throughout the year, the Museum maintained and refreshed displays within the permanent galleries, including through regular object changeovers in the modules for each gallery.

First Australians: Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The First Australians gallery represents the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, as required by Section 5 of the Museum Act, and incorporates historical collections and exhibitions. To improve audience understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, the gallery presents stories, objects and images that explore the culture and experiences of Australia’s first peoples from time immemorial, through colonisation to contemporary Australian life.

Old New Land: Australia’s People and Environment

The Old New Land gallery presents an environmental history of Australia. It examines the history of Australian attitudes to the environment, looking at the relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the land and the adaptation of settlers from Britain and Europe to the continent’s diverse environments. The gallery also explores the personal and emotional attachments of people to the great range of Australian landscapes and places.

Eternity: Stories from the Emotional Heart of Australia

The Eternity gallery examines the lives of 50 Australians, famous and not famous, living and dead. The gallery uses these life stories to highlight larger moments, movements, events and themes in Australian history. The gallery’s display is based on emotions, such as joy, hope, passion and fear, and experiences, such as loneliness, mystery, thrill, devotion, separation and chance.

Journeys: Australia’s Connections with the World

The Journeys gallery explores the passages of people to, from and across Australia. It traces the ways in which migrants and travellers have made homes in Australia and overseas, and have built and maintained connections between here and abroad.

Landmarks: People and Places across Australia

The Landmarks gallery explores a broad history of Australia through stories of places and their peoples. The gallery considers 10 themes in Australian life, exploring how each has unfolded in particular places across the country. It looks at how people have engaged with landscapes, flora, fauna and technologies to develop distinctive Australian communities. The Landmarks gallery offers an imaginative tour of the country — the opportunity to ‘visit’ different places and to ask how, together, they create a history of Australia.

Visitation figures (excluding web visitation), 2011–16
Permanent galleries 407,786 452,947 423,691 436,496 472,748
Temporary exhibitions* 197,092 73,413 57,304 83,314 189,802
Travelling exhibitions and remote digital programs** 753,387 85,186 127,326 1,246,185 503,771
Public programs and events 37,891 27,541 32,028 43,556 74,352
Schools 84,282 87,263 83,642 85,473 81,854
Functions/venue hire 6404 1324 5154 12,854 18,637

* Visitation figures for temporary exhibitions do not include visits to the First Australians Focus Gallery, which, because of its location, are included in the permanent gallery figures.

** This figure includes national and international travelling exhibitions and participation in the Museum Robot program.

Permanent gallery object changeovers, 2015–16
First Australians 239 230
Old New Land 7 8
Eternity 5 13
Landmarks 156 161
Journeys 32 162

First Australians gallery: Orientation Space

The Welcome Space in the First Australians gallery was created when the Museum opened in March 2001. The aim of the Welcome Space was to introduce and welcome visitors to the First Australians gallery through a multimedia dance installation.

Early in 2015, internal stakeholders held a workshop to create the project intent for the new Welcome Space. One of the recommendations from the workshop was that a clear welcome to visitors should be created at the main entry to the Museum. The workshop also recommended that the space should have more of an emphasis on providing an orientation to the gallery and that visitors would be welcomed to the space by the local Ngunawal, Ngunnawal and Ngambri communities. The Museum is currently redeveloping the existing Welcome Space into an orientation area, and is creating a new multimedia interactive with spaces for resting and pausing nearby. The new Orientation Space is scheduled to open to the public in December 2016.

In October 2015 the project team held a series of eight workshops with audience and Indigenous community representatives, including a workshop with some of the Museum’s Indigenous Reference Group members and their nominated representatives. In November 2015 the concept designs were amended to reflect the feedback received from all the workshops, and the following month the project team commenced the content and design development stage of the project. From January to June 2016 the project team continued to consult with stakeholders and refine the designs, and to progress to final design documentation and testing, in order to proceed to public tender.


The Museum’s new Kspace digital learning experience for children opened to the public in July 2015, and was officially launched in October 2015, replacing the previous Kspace, which closed in June 2014.

Kspace is a three-stage interactive adventure game, designed for children aged 5 to 12, with up to 12 visitors able to take part in each stage. Visitors start their adventure in the Design Station, where they use touchscreens to create a time-travelling robot. They then enter a Time Pod, where they are blasted back to a mystery location, such as the Victorian goldfields of 1854 or Sydney in the 1930s to witness the Harbour Bridge being built. Visitors use their robots to explore the location and collect points before teaming up with others as one big robot to complete a mission unique to that time and place. At the end of the adventure, visitors move to the ‘cool-down’ area to reflect on the experience, learn more about the location visited and send home a postcard.

An important part of the Kspace redevelopment project was involving audiences – and in particular children – throughout the development process, from concept stage through to delivery. This process included brainstorming concepts for Kspace, providing feedback on the game world designs, prototype testing and testing beta versions of each of the scenes. Kspace took around three years to develop from scoping to commissioning, and was produced by a team of Museum, multimedia, design and construction professionals at a total cost of about $2 million.

Kspace won the MAGNA Interpretation, Learning and Audience Engagement Award at the Museums Australasia conference in Auckland on 18 May 2016. The MAGNAs recognise excellent work nationally in the categories of exhibition, public programs and sustainability projects. Kspace also won a silver MUSE Award in the Multimedia Installations category at the 2016 American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, on 26 May 2016. The MUSE awards recognise outstanding achievement in media and technology programs by galleries, libraries, archives and museums around the world.

A girl leans forward to touch a screen.
A student from Curtin Primary School, Australian Capital Territory, enjoying the revamped Kspace

Redevelop Acton Peninsula and West Basin

Redevelopment of Acton Peninsula and West Basin in partnership with Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Australian National University (ANU), Land Development Agency (LDA) and National Capital Authority (NCA).


  • Development of site Structure Plan for Acton Peninsula with Peninsula Partners.
  • Submission of joint design, curation and funding proposal for West Basin.
  • Stage 1 — Acton Peninsula site preparation plan.
  • Detailed documentation and construction documentation for the Forecourt.


  • The development of site Structure Plan for Acton Peninsula is on track, with Peninsula Partners (AIATSIS, ANU, LDA, NCA and the Museum) working on a public release date for the Structure Plan.
  • Detailed design documentation for the Forecourt project has been prepared and reviewed. Review and approval processes are ongoing, prior to progression to the construction documentation stage.


Structure Plan

In September 2015 the Structure Plan, a joint design and works approval application for development of the West Basin, was submitted to the NCA by key stakeholders. The plan embodies a shared vision for Acton Peninsula by AIATSIS, the NCA, the ANU, the LDA and the Museum, known collectively as the Peninsula Partners. The structure plan reinforces the Peninsula Partners’ aspirations to create a precinct of connectedness, innovation, activity and creativity through the collaboration of national centres of education, culture, and business.

The plan sets out principles and policies for the development of future urban areas and at a macro level provides guidance for the assessment of projects submitted for works approval under the National Capital Plan.

Forecourt redevelopment

The Museum has engaged the building’s original architects, Ashton Raggatt MacDougall (ARM), to provide an overall concept design for the redesign and reinvigoration of spaces immediately adjacent to the main Museum building on Acton Peninsula. The overall design scheme for the project comprises a Welcome Sequence and the Forecourt space.

A key priority for the Forecourt project is to provide a meaningful welcome for visitors. The new Welcome Sequence is being developed in consultation with local Indigenous representatives and other community groups. The design of the Forecourt is intended to create a ‘sensory adventure’ for visitors, through the use of native plants and the provision of shade and seating. The addition of well-designed lighting and infrastructure, with space set aside for events, functions and gatherings, will enable the area to be used for a variety of purposes.

A new Discovery Centre

Commence planning for a new Discovery Centre facility.


  • Completion of concept brief.


  • The Discovery Centre project has been rescheduled to commence in the first half of 2017.


The proposed Discovery Centre is part of the Museum’s broader gallery development project and hence is dependent on the overall scheduling of the various projects that make up this larger program.

In 2015–16 it was decided to prioritise the Main Hall refurbishment project, and the First Australians gallery Orientation Space and Forecourt redevelopment projects. This will enable the Museum to make progress on a ‘master planning’ process to align and prioritise all major projects within a broader strategic and operational framework, before developing the concept brief for the Discovery Centre in early 2017.

Engage our audiences

Promote the Museum’s exhibitions, facilities, programs and products to targeted national and international audiences.


  • Develop a four-year audience engagement strategy for onsite, offsite and online visitors.


  • The Museum has commenced development of a draft four-year audience engagement strategy for onsite, offsite and online visitors, and has commissioned a national awareness survey to commence in 2016–17.


The Museum convened a new Audience Research and Analysis working group in April 2016 to oversee and coordinate the Museum’s research and evaluation activities across the institution. A key output from this working group will be the development of a four-year Audience Engagement Strategy, which will take into consideration all aspects of the Museum’s operations that require information about audiences, markets, programs and brand. As part of this strategy, the Museum aims to create a centralised store of audience research and evaluation information and capture relevant visitor and participant data in a Customer Relationship Management System.

In 2015–16 the Museum continued to raise its brand presence and product awareness nationally and internationally through partnerships and traditional and digital media channels. The Museum focused on opportunities to develop longer-term partnerships with national and global companies. A greater focus was also put on consolidating and growing existing partnerships with Prime 7, Fairfax (The Canberra Times), the EVT Group (previously known as Amalgamated Holdings), Twitter and Foxtel.

The Museum continued its support of the tourism industry through committee representation on the Australian Tourism Export Council and the Tourism Advisory Council (ACT branches). Through these industry partnerships, activities and events the Museum continues to build awareness and increase distribution to national and international audiences.

Promotional campaigns

A major achievement in 2015–16 was the development and implementation of the marketing strategy for Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum. The marketing strategy for this exhibition was the Museum’s most comprehensive to date and included traditional, social and digital marketing activities. The exhibition was also heavily promoted through our partners’ distribution networks and tourism industry channels. Other successful strategies and creative campaigns included those for Happy Birthday Play School: Celebrating 50 Years, the new Kspace app, ACO Virtual and the Australia Day festival.

National awareness survey

From 2009 to 2015, Newspoll was commissioned by the Museum to measure public awareness of the institution nationally, including visitors’ overall attitudes and their awareness of other places of interest in and around Canberra. With Newspoll ceasing operations in June 2015, the Museum commissioned a new format for its national awareness survey in May 2016. The new survey will retain an annual awareness ‘snapshot’, but incorporate future awareness surveys into a new four-year audience research and evaluation plan.

The main objectives of the new survey are to gauge awareness of the Museum across each state and territory; to understand how the Museum compares with other places of interest in Canberra, particularly the other national institutions; to discover whether members of the public across the nation think the Museum is worth visiting in future; and to gather data that can assist the Museum in making fully informed decisions in the future. Results of the survey will feed directly into the Museum’s marketing and engagement activities.

A man on a brightly-lit stage.
Crowds on the Museum foreshore enjoying Dan Sultan performing at By the Water, February 2016
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