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The Defining Moments Discovery Wall has been a major feature of the new Gandel Atrium at the National Museum for two years. During that time visitors have voted on the moments they believe to be the most significant in Australia’s history.

Person standing in front of a large multimedia touch-screen interactive which is mounted on an off-white wall. The screen, with a background resembling a dark blue sky filled with tiny stars, displays a number of animated figures, such as a horse and an airplane, as well as numerous pop-up boxes containing information about Defining Moments in Australian History

Defining Moments Discovery Wall

Discovery Wall top five

It’s interesting to look at the top five:

  1. 1880: Ned Kelly’s last stand (1971 votes)
  2. 1978: First gay Mardi Gras march, Sydney (1715 votes)
  3. –20,000 years ago: Earliest evidence of the boomerang (1214 votes)
  4. 2015: Michelle Payne first female jockey to win Melbourne Cup (1029 votes)
  5. 1936: Tasmania’s thylacine becomes extinct (986 votes)

From a curatorial perspective this list is fascinating as it shows that people are interested in events with which they feel a connection. Species extinction is on many people’s minds given our current environmental challenges. Many Australians watched the Melbourne Cup that Michelle Payne won, and are engaged in equal rights. Boomerangs are an unofficial symbol of Australia around the world. Mardi Gras is one of the most visible celebrations on the Australian calendar, and the recent same-sex marriage legislation was a triumph for the LGBTQI+ community. Ned Kelly is an iconic personality in our nation’s history.

Website top five

This list differs dramatically from the top five moments viewed on the Defining Moments website which are:

  1. 1901: White Australia policy enshrined in law (65,479 views)
  2. 1851: Gold rushes in New South Wales and Victoria begin (52,309 views)
  3. 2009: ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires kill 173 people in Victoria (38,330 views)
  4. 1854: Rebellion of goldminers at Eureka Stockade, Ballarat, Victoria (28,877 views)
  5. 1932: Height of the Great Depression, with 32 per cent unemployment (28,373 views)

Unlike the Discovery Wall, there is no voting function online, so this list is drawn from the number of views.

A screenshot of the National Museum of Australia's Defining Moments in Australian History homepage which features a compilation of small square-shaped images
Defining Moments in Australian History homepage

All of these moments have strong connections to the Australian national school curriculum. The online moments feature much more information than those on the Discovery Wall (the wall only displays one-third of the moments available online).

It appears that people using the Discovery Wall are choosing stories that connect directly to their lives and interests, whereas those reading moments online are focused on their academic learning.

Either way, the Museum is delighted that people are reading and engaging with the stories, personalities and objects that have helped shape this country. Through the Defining Moments in Australian History project the Museum is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And through our suggest a moment button you can propose your own defining moment.

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