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What do you want in a museum?

By 19 July 2011 35

Having read numerous comments on here about how much people dislike the National Museum, I am curious as to what people want the museum to be like?

NB: I DO NOT work at the museum.  I just have an interest in museums in general.

Please post your thoughts on what you would like your National Museum to be like. Please note, I am not asking what you DON’T want it to be :)

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35 Responses to What do you want in a museum?
#1
braddonboy11:43 am, 19 Jul 11

According to Encyclopedia Britannica a museum is an institution ‘…dedicated to preserving and interpreting the primary tangible evidence of humankind and the environment.’ This is what the National Museum does. Through its displays of historical objects, it tells a story of everyday life in this country through the eyes, mostly, of the common people – black and white. What more could you ask for?

#2
shirty_bear2:45 pm, 19 Jul 11

My over-riding impression of the National Museum was how dark it was, especially upstairs. The gear on display may well have been worthy … who could tell?

#3
colourful sydney rac3:03 pm, 19 Jul 11

I like the museum but would like some dinosaurs :)

#4
shadow boxer3:25 pm, 19 Jul 11

+1, I like the museum but would like some more convicts

#5
SSrb3:26 pm, 19 Jul 11

Not having to pay for the one exhibit that looks remotely interesting.

#6
Jethro4:15 pm, 19 Jul 11

SSrb said :

Not having to pay for the one exhibit that looks remotely interesting.

That hits the nail on the head. The exhibits need to be interesting. I think of the QLD museum, which has dinosaurs along with the cast of a dino stampede, one of Kingsford Smith’s air planes, a WWI tank, a great collection of native animals and birds.

The only display I have found interesting at the N.M are the Thylacine and the Diprotodon. Most of the stuff on display is dull.

#7
dungfungus6:22 pm, 19 Jul 11

The National Museum of Australia is not my idea of what a museum shoul be like. The warm and fuzzy Encyclopedia Brittanica version sounds like politically correct bullshit to me.
The building is ugly and is all over the place like a dead squid. It is too overweighted with Aboriginal history and while this part of Australia’s story is important (to relentlessly remind us of our guilt) it is not easily understood by visitors from overseas. I don’t recall that there is actually anything there referring to the current trendy version of European settlement as “the invasion of Australia” but I am sure it will be imposed on us soon. There are much better museums in smaller places e.g., the one at Launceston in Northern Tasmania.
Lots of spelling mistakes on the display blurb cards as well. Apparently, “good spelling” is not in the job description.
On a positive side, the food at the cafe has improved but if you choose to eat al fresco, one has to compete with the raucous silver gulls who must come from out of town as they are working 7 days a week.

#8
I-filed6:28 pm, 19 Jul 11

I think it’s time the museum building was replaced. It’s tacky, and based on the floorplan of the Holocaust Museum in Germany. Hence the weird atmosphere. (Yep, architects slipped that one past the committee). I’d like to see a museum that relied less on tricked-up digital effects, and spent less on marketing. Seriously, NMA’s exhibition marketing is OTT. Must we see endless TV ads for the Irish exhibition? I’d like to see the artifacts in the shop audited – I’ve seen “Indigenous” baskets in there that have clearly been manufactured in China. And I’d like to see a ban on exploitation of Latin American workers producing “Australian Aboriginal themed” objects for a pittance, under the misnomer of mutual engagement between Indigenous communities around the world. I’d like to say that the museum should encourage more engagement with its outdoors – but unfortunately it is too big for the peninsula and the surrounds are unattractive. Shame so many beautiful old trees were chopped down to make way for it …

#9
Wily_Bear6:30 pm, 19 Jul 11

Usually one to avoid museums, I love that the National Museum is the story of a nation. The first time I went there, I was awed by the sheer audacity of the architecture,how our story is inscribed in braille on the walls, the ever present water in the background reflecting the nature of Australian life.

I would like to see more experiential type exhibits for kids, and more on the contemporary, urban Aboriginal experience. There are plenty of Aboriginal artifacts and art- but we have an art gallery for that. How about the social history of the ‘block’ in Redfern, or something like that? It ain’t pretty, but there it is

#10
whitelaughter6:34 pm, 19 Jul 11

The Museum *owns* some truly awesome stuff – sitting in storage in Mitchell. Want a wing displaying famous Australian cars? How about the original set for Playschool, complete with props? The staff at the Musuem are constantly pushing for creative displays to be released from storage, and it gets shot down by blockheads further up the chain.

#11
whitelaughter6:39 pm, 19 Jul 11

I-filed said :

I think it’s time the museum building was replaced. I

Everything you say is true, but this point in particular: the building is disintegrating. The roof leaks – not acceptable when you consider the priceless displays held here. The ceiling collapsed in the admin corridor – shelves have collapsed taking out priceless artifacts.

Oh, next time you go past, take a look at the heritage listed buildings further up the road – with gutters choked with bark/leaf material. They’ll all go up in flames next time there’s a fire near there.

#12
creative_canberran6:50 pm, 19 Jul 11

I have fond memories of the Melbourne Museum. So too, the Immigration Museum in Melbourne and even the National Wool Museum in Geelong. The first is a very large and broad institution while the latter is relatively tiny and narrowly focused, yet they were all engaging and well laid out.

I think the National Museum tries to be all things to all people, ending up in a confusing and jumbled mix. The building is not practical nor stylish and is not conducive to a positive visitor experience. The foyer is a tremendous waste of space as is the courtyard while the actual galleries are full of cramped spaces of hidden dead spaces.

So in the end, they’re saying too much in too small a space with too little focus and too few blockbusters draw cards to bring back repeat visitors.

#13
geoffrah7:21 pm, 19 Jul 11

How about putting an admission charge on it ?
4 million visitors currently – put a token $5 admission charge on – this could generate close on $20 million dollars a year (almost half the current annual operating budget of $47 million). If all of that additional revenue could be ploughed back into the Museum, then I’m sure we could get something more fitting for a National Museum, with more of the collection on display instead of being housed in a Mitchell warehouse.

#14
I-filed9:29 pm, 19 Jul 11

geoffrah said :

How about putting an admission charge on it ?
4 million visitors currently – put a token $5 admission charge …

$5 is not token! Institutions have tried many times to impose an entrance fee and they always reverse out of it. e.g. NGA. Taxpayers pay for the frigging institutions through their taxes already, thanks!

#15
clueless709:38 pm, 19 Jul 11

Please post your thoughts on what you would like your National Museum to be like.

An original design showing fidelity to place, dialogue with the four elements, evident structure and functional convergence.

Original design: the building was not copied – badly – from a design by Daniel Libeskind. The building is a unique and aesthetically satisfying adaptation to the different factors in the design brief, such as the site and the proposed function of the building.

Dialogue with the four elements: the integral structure of the building adapts to cold and hot weather, is watertight, and does not break if the subsoil moves. You can see aesthetically satisfying things inside from outside, and outside from inside.

Evident structure: you can see how the building works by looking at its various parts, and you don’t have to take the cover off to do so.

Functional convergence: the building can do various things, or give its users ways to do various things, with finite supplies of space and materials.

Bearing in mind the other condition of your request, may I suggest that the present museum satisfies few if any of these standard architectural desiderata. I personally think it defies comprehension that the winning design for this significant national building was stolen from Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin. Of all things one might have wrenched from a specific cultural and historical context and slapped on that site…! The effect is one of low farce in architectural form, like the imitative follies in Arab oil states. So one Australian thing the National Museum does preserve for perpetuity, just by standing there in its present form, is the cultural cringe.

#16
Henry8210:26 pm, 19 Jul 11

More focus on Australian Inventions and ingenuity.

I think there also needs to be a little more ‘practical displays’ that people can touch, particularly in the first area past the Quad movie theatre

.

whitelaughter said :

How about the original set for Playschool, complete with props? .

Well there was a small area about that about 5 years ago. They had a setup with the history of childrens games (some of which you could hold), and from memory big ted was in a glass cabnet. I remember it because i was there for the opening, and I was on WIN news ;)

#17
Rangi11:38 am, 20 Jul 11

+1 too overweighted with Aboriginal history

#18
EvanJames11:59 am, 20 Jul 11

I would like it to be interesting and not embarassing. Rooms full of “Aboriginal Axe Heads” (shards of rock) are not interesting. At all. Important objects showing the whole story of Australia are what we come to see, modern and ancient.

#19
Henry8212:02 pm, 20 Jul 11

Rangi said :

+1 too overweighted with Aboriginal history

+1

#20
colourful sydney rac12:12 pm, 20 Jul 11

dungfungus said :

It is too overweighted with Aboriginal history .

Most of this countrys history of human habitation is Aboriginal history. Surely you are not suggesting that the museum should disproportionately focus on the last 200 years?

I have to ask why you think ‘visitors from overseas’ would not be able to understand Aboriginal Australian history????

#21
colourful sydney rac12:14 pm, 20 Jul 11

EvanJames said :

Rooms full of “Aboriginal Axe Heads” (shards of rock) are not interesting. At all.

You think that is not interesting? I suspect that says more about you than the exhibit.

#22
johnboy12:16 pm, 20 Jul 11

Less axeheads and more context might make them more interesting.

#23
Thumper12:26 pm, 20 Jul 11

Rooms full of “Aboriginal Axe Heads” (shards of rock) are not interesting

Actually, I find them extremely interesting.

However, the museum has taken a particularly strange path in that it does not really show historically important or significant items but more so displays the every day and, in some cases, mundane.

I was involved in some of the early cateloguing of items and the amount of stuff they have is incredible, most proably due to everyone in Australia thinking that their great grandmother’s crockery or hat pins were significant and therefore donated.

Whatever the case, I think the museum, for all its faults, and there are many, has found its niche.

#24
Classified12:28 pm, 20 Jul 11

I love the old Holden, and the stuff about Australia during the middle of last century. Perhaps some more interesting exhibits from around white settlement through to the end of last century. The Aboriginal stuff is ok, but gets boring because it’s just items in isolation that don’t seem to mean much.

#25
Mysteryman12:42 pm, 20 Jul 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

dungfungus said :

It is too overweighted with Aboriginal history .

Most of this countrys history of human habitation is Aboriginal history. Surely you are not suggesting that the museum should disproportionately focus on the last 200 years?

I have to ask why you think ‘visitors from overseas’ would not be able to understand Aboriginal Australian history????

I think the suggestion makes sense but not because of the reasons stated. More information about the last 200-250 years would be appropriate as the greatest amount of change has occurred in that time.

I doubt visitors from overseas would have trouble understanding the indigenous history of Australia.

#26
dungfungus1:01 pm, 20 Jul 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

dungfungus said :

It is too overweighted with Aboriginal history .

Most of this countrys history of human habitation is Aboriginal history. Surely you are not suggesting that the museum should disproportionately focus on the last 200 years?

I have to ask why you think ‘visitors from overseas’ would not be able to understand Aboriginal Australian history????

With respect, the nomadic Aboriginals did not leave any lasting relics of civilisation (such as the Incas did for example) so there is little in history to justify the amount of space and resources at the museum devoted to Aboriginal culture. The history of “AUSTRALIA” over the past 200 years is what overseas tourists I have taken there would prefer to see more of and so would I.
Your comment is a perfect example of the “guilt” syndrone I referred to earlier. It is almost as if some people (like you) want this “need for reconciliation” to continue forever. All the people of Aboriginal descent that I know moved on ages ago.

#27
colourful sydney rac1:36 pm, 20 Jul 11

dungfungus said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

dungfungus said :

It is too overweighted with Aboriginal history .

Most of this countrys history of human habitation is Aboriginal history. Surely you are not suggesting that the museum should disproportionately focus on the last 200 years?

I have to ask why you think ‘visitors from overseas’ would not be able to understand Aboriginal Australian history????

With respect, the nomadic Aboriginals did not leave any lasting relics of civilisation (such as the Incas did for example) so there is little in history to justify the amount of space and resources at the museum devoted to Aboriginal culture. The history of “AUSTRALIA” over the past 200 years is what overseas tourists I have taken there would prefer to see more of and so would I.
Your comment is a perfect example of the “guilt” syndrone I referred to earlier. It is almost as if some people (like you) want this “need for reconciliation” to continue forever. All the people of Aboriginal descent that I know moved on ages ago.

Please point to the ‘guilt syndrome’ in my post.

#28
colourful sydney rac10:56 am, 21 Jul 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

dungfungus said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

dungfungus said :

It is too overweighted with Aboriginal history .

Most of this countrys history of human habitation is Aboriginal history. Surely you are not suggesting that the museum should disproportionately focus on the last 200 years?

I have to ask why you think ‘visitors from overseas’ would not be able to understand Aboriginal Australian history????

With respect, the nomadic Aboriginals did not leave any lasting relics of civilisation (such as the Incas did for example) so there is little in history to justify the amount of space and resources at the museum devoted to Aboriginal culture. The history of “AUSTRALIA” over the past 200 years is what overseas tourists I have taken there would prefer to see more of and so would I.
Your comment is a perfect example of the “guilt” syndrone I referred to earlier. It is almost as if some people (like you) want this “need for reconciliation” to continue forever. All the people of Aboriginal descent that I know moved on ages ago.

Please point to the ‘guilt syndrome’ in my post.

Also, given that my first post was a plea for more dinosaurs, is that evidence of ‘guilt syndrome’ over their extinction???

#29
shirty_bear11:36 am, 21 Jul 11

Henry82 said :

More focus on Australian Inventions and ingenuity.

+1

Henry82 said :

Rangi said :

+1 too overweighted with Aboriginal history

+1

+ 1 more

#30
colourful sydney rac2:02 pm, 21 Jul 11

shirty_bear said :

Henry82 said :

More focus on Australian Inventions and ingenuity.

+1

Henry82 said :

Rangi said :

+1 too overweighted with Aboriginal history

+1

+ 1 more

Which Australian inventions do not have enough prominence?

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