Earlier in November I attended the Museums Australia National Conference in Perth. I gave a paper about the South Australian Community History Website and caught up with lots of interstate colleagues about community museum matters. The conference was in conjunction with interpretation Australia, so there were lots of interpretation focused sessions to go to and a whole stream of the conference dedicated to education and curriculum topics.
One session I went to was an overview of the new Australian History Curriculum and there’s plenty in it where community museums could be very useful resources for their local schools. For example, year three curriculum looks at who lived in local community, how community has changed, what features have been lost and retained; year four lends well to history of local schools (and what local museum doesn’t have items relating to local schools and schooling!); year 5 deals with life, work, social and economic development in the 1800s – lots more opportunities for museums to find links with their collections.
There was also a fair bit of discussion about the future sustainability of community museums and whether or not (and if so how) they should be fewer or different. An interesting statistic was given for Australian museums per head of population – one museum for every 24,000 people in the USA, every 17,000 in the UK and for every 7,500 in Australia. And in smaller communities that statistic could be much higher.
I also went to an interesting session about ‘Pop-up Museums’, where non-permanent spaces are used for display of usually informal and quickly put together very short-term displays. The idea is that members of the community are invited to bring along objects that relate to a theme or particular topic, write a label, and then the resulting ‘exhibition’ consists of whatever people have brought along. Might be a good way of engaging with schools? Or an outcome that’s a bit different from a community anniversary celebration or even a family reunion? A recent Pop-up Museum talked about at the conference was the North Perth Share House Pop-up Museum– take a look for a bit of an insight into what pop-up museums are about and see some images here.