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14 March 2023

The White Family and National Museum partner on Australian Garden History

Exploring the positive influences of regeneration and conservation through sustainable gardening in times of global warming is one focus of the inaugural White Family Fellow in Australian Garden History at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The White Family and the National Museum of Australia jointly appointed Dr Luke Keogh to the new role for 2022–24.

The Fellow’s goals include enhancing public understanding and recognition of gardens by engaging with the Museum’s collections and developing exhibitions, events and programs. Exploring garden history and the challenges and opportunities posed for Australian garden design by a warming climate will be one aspect of the program.

The new Australian Garden History Fellow is inspired in part by the Museum’s central Garden of Australian Dreams which is a symbolic landscape exploring ideas of place and Country, and the acclaimed Christina and Trevor Kennedy Garden, which includes a Welcome to Country, mosaic plantings of Australian natives and a Welcome Wall in which visitors see themselves reflected in the long human history of Australia.

Across his tenure, Dr Keogh will showcase several projects and programs including artist activations, pop-up experiences, public presentations and online publications to support the National Museum in highlighting its collections and activating its beautiful outside spaces.

The Senior Fellow appointment was made possible with the generous financial support of the White Family.

Sally White of the White Family commended the position and the role it will play in important conversations.

‘We are delighted to support the inaugural Fellow in Australian Garden History at the National Museum. As a family of pastoralists, we have always been passionate about this country’s landscape, its unique flora and Australian gardens. We are confident that through the Museum and Dr Luke Keogh we are working with an institution that will explore how gardens play a role in sustainability and conservation – encouraging conversations and facilitating change,’ said Ms White.

National Museum Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said the appointment will expand the Museum’s focus in this area and strengthen its reputation as a trusted voice in exploring issues of National significance.

‘The Senior Fellow in Australian Garden History program will concentrate on the effectiveness of investigating garden histories to capitalise on sustainability and regeneration. Exploring these matters in a time of climate change is particularly important and will help us to forge a brighter path for future generations,’ Dr Trinca said.

‘The White Family have been very supportive in establishing the program and I’d like to thank them for their generosity,’ Dr Trinca said.

Dr Keogh is a passionate curator and garden historian and says he hopes to build recognition of gardens, plant life and sustainable land practices.

‘I’m really looking forward to exploring garden history at the National Museum of Australia. Delving into the Museum’s National Historical Collection and activating its garden spaces will produce many exciting and engaging experiences for the public. Global environmental problems pose both challenges and opportunities for Australian gardens, and the program aims to enrich the public’s understanding and appreciation of gardening practices by capitalising on our shared histories and past practices,’ Dr Keogh said.

‘Many museums across Australia have gardens as part of their footprint, yet they are often forgotten as important spaces in engaging audiences and telling stories. At the National Museum we have the iconic Garden of Australian Dreams and the Christina and Trevor Kennedy Garden. Part of this project will be to highlight and explore these important spaces,’ Dr Keogh said.

Dr Keogh was selected from an outstanding field of applicants. A passionate curator and historian, Dr Keogh is an active researcher in the museums and collections fields and has published widely on the role of museums in the Anthropocene. His book about a lost museum object, The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World, won the NSW Premier’s General History Prize and was Garden Media Guild’s Garden Book of the Year. The book was also listed as a Top 10 Book of 2020 by the American Horticultural Society and won the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Library’s Excellence in History Award.

He has previously been a fellow of the National Library of Australia, the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Most recently he was the senior curator at the National Wool Museum in Geelong, where he was lead curator of the award winning On the Land: Our Story Retold, which won both the Museums and Galleries National Awards (MAGNA) and the Australian Museums and Galleries Awards Victoria (AMAGA). Dr Keogh is currently a Lecturer in History at Deakin University.

Media contact: Matthew Heap 02 6208 5006 | 0459 949 172 or

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