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September 2010


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Andrew Simpson

The Great Museum Trek - up to the starting line!

Everything is booked and we're set to depart on the 2010 museum crawl this coming Saturday morning. The anticipation and excitement of a 10 day stretch of visiting and talking about nothing but museums is almost unbearable! This year we have the added bonus of attending the 2010 Museums Australia conference at the University of Melbourne to follow, see http://www.ma2010.com.au/

Life doesn't get much better than this!

There's lots of Macquarie participation lined up for the conference.

We'll be using this site to post comments whenever we can as the trip and conference take place. Hope you can join the conversation.



Elissa MacDonald

Have a great trip everyone!

I recommend that while in Orange you visit Bodhi Garden Restaurant and partake of a cup of tea and Icecream Spring Rolls!

Paul Meszaros

Hi Trekkers!
I just heard that Dave Mathieson has picked up the "Bus O'Fun" from the E5A compound ready to drive in early tomorrow morning to pick up the Merry Crew. One more sleep to go!

Paul Meszaros (Dr Andrew's Co-Conspirator)

Andrew Simpson

Hi everyone,

We've been underway for a few days and its been fairly hectic, but we've seen some remarkable places and met some remarkable people already.

Day one saw us with an early start at the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery checking out a great sculpure show called "form", this award winning gallery certainly has form! Back on the Bus-o-fun to scoot along the Bells Line with a great stop for coffee and apple pie at Bilpin.

Over the mountains and on to Bathurst to visit the Australian Mineral and Fossil Museum. A world class collection of minerals and fossils, including a T Rex, no site this time of the "collector", Warren Sommerville who assembled this remarkable and beautifully displayed natural history collection in the old "school of arts" in Bathurst after working some "deal" with various parties including the local council. Questacon were setting up an exhibit on water in their temporary exhibition space. Cameras flashed furiously as the group documented the venue.

Back on the bus (after a bakery stop) and it was off to Orange. Here the wonderful Jan Thomas the cultural dynamo of the central west gave the group a fabulous tour, and a great discussion on the vexed issue of convergence verses colocation.

A case of dinner envy for me as Paul and Dave's steaks were better than the fish!


Andrew Simpson

Day 2, Burrendong Arboretum, not as many spectacular blooms out this year despite the stunning greenery of the central west after the recent rain. A poetry slam was taking place (not as good as macquarie's no doubt) evidence of diversification of events to bring new punters in to your facility.

This was followed by the Gulgong Pioneers Museum, the Henry Lawson Centre and the sumptuous Cudgegong Gallery. The ceramic pieces on show were all out of our price range.

On to Wellington for the night, great digs at the Wellington Caves Park and a new interpretive "Fossil Trail" across Ruth and John's Golf Course section kept those with natural history inclinations happy.

Dinner at Wellington Services Club was a tentacular salt and pepper feast, followed by free rounds of pavlova donated by a generous group of replete young gentlemen fellow diners. It helps when the touring party is mostly female!

Some students have renamed this unit MSM"ate"04.


Andrew Simpson

Day 3 kicks off with a cave tour at Wellington led by the former biochemist turned marsupial mammalogist, Councillor Mike Augee. It was a great insight into the formation of the caves and Australia's megafauna, complete with models from the former "Lost Kingdom" exhibition from the Australian Museum. Mike also regaled the assembled masses with fascinating tales of palaeontology and the Australian Museum and we got to look at his Fossil Education Centre as an added bonus. Next time we'll include a program that involves sorting through some cave material.

A quick stop at Foy's Creek organised by Dave and we saw the unknown and unpublished Silrian large bivalve site, what a bonus! They were the biggest bivalves we'd seen all day, in keeping with the general tenor of the trip, some of us were imagining what they'd have tasted like served up on a plate.

This was followed by the Age of Fished Museum at Canowindra. It's moved on a bit since our last visit with the Cadia Mining sponsorship allowing the completiion of the outdoor time line and a general spruce up inside. All in all a great day for the scientifically inclined.

Cultural and historic needs were served at the Cowra Tourist Information Centre where we viewed the "ghost midget" educating everyone about the Cowra breakout. This great show, unbeknown to us, was actually written up in a Bill Bryson book which has done wonders for its popularity with the passing tourist trade. The day finished in the tranquil and reflective setting of the Cowra Japanese gardens.

Big queues for dinner that night, everyone in Cowra eats out on Monday!


Andrew Simpson

Day 4 started with a visit to one of our favourites, the Lambing Flat Folk Museum. The "Roll Up Flag" and the three legged chook were the highlights as in previous years. The township of Young has suffered recently with the closure of its jam factory. But we were still able to find some of their wonderfull cherry pies at a local bakery and the title of cherry capital of Australia is still appropriate.

Then it was on to check out David Lowry's great collection of aircraft at the Temora Aviation Museum where we got another fabulous volunteer who filled us full of aviation facts and figures.

Then the Temora Rural Museum was the last stop of the day. Bill Spiers, the driving force behind Temora Rural gave us some great insights on the massive expansion of this facility that is taking place right now. This man's a dynamo, what he has managed to acheive with this museum puts many of the larger well resourced players in the shade. This is a museum you will hear a lot more about in years to come.

Limped in to Wagga Wagga at twilight, tired but happy.

One of the things we're required to do as a university field trip is report back to base on how we are going, so consider this our report.

Anyone from Human Geography reading it?


Elissa MacDonald

Hi All,

Sounds like a wonderful trip Andrew. Sounds like interesting museums and fabulous food has been had all round!

Brings back many memories of my own museum jaunts - and while I love Gulgong, I do hope you chose one section of the museum. Trying to do the whole lot in one go might make ones head spin!


Andrew Simpson

Day 5 and we are out at the Junee Chocalate and Licorice Factory for highly museological purposes only, because its the best example of adaptive reuse of industrial architecture in the central west. We discovered that the factory holds the Guinness Book of Records for the longest extruded length of licorice, what a great acheivement! The owners won the gong with a magnificent 228m piece of work, but are so assured that they reckon if any challenger if game enough to take them on, they can stretch it out to 4kms. Some of Australia's most impressive technology is in the regions.

Our thanks to Steve, Linda and Mark the dynamic team from the Wagga Regional Gallery for a fabulous exposition on the workings of a regional gallery and national art glass collectiion.

One of our students on the tour, the redoubtable Clare Power was part of the team that put together the swim suit exhibition on show at the Museum of the Riverina. One of her tasks was to source authentic objects in support of exhibition themes. The inflatable Jane Mansfield Bachelor's hot water bottle was one of the stars of this show.

We'll be putting an image of this object in the adults only section of the gallery.



Andrew Simpson

Day 6 and the team roll into the Verandah town of Lockhart, Tim Fischer country for those in the know. There is a portrait of Tim made entirely from wool in the local museum. There is no other art form in the world that compares with this, there are pictures made entirely of a mix of black and white wool of the following famous personages: Hawkey, Evonne Goolagong, Newkes, Joh and Wal Fife. Her last work was a self portrait, but because of the artist's failing eyesight was never completed.

Laurie the local historian at Jerilderie retold the story of Ned who held up the town for 3 days. Billabong Creek at the back of the Willows Cafe was a banker! It provided a fine setting for a musical interlude from a local troubador who sang his own eclectic composition about how Ned had the soul of a poet!

The day finished off in grand style with a steamboat cruise on the mighty Murray River, full to the gunnels as it wends its lazy way through the lurid green pastures of the Riverina to the historic port of Echuca.

Amanda's birthday was celebrated in fine style.


Andrew Simpson

Day 7 and it's an all day cultural festival at Bendigo. We started at the Chinese Dragon Museum where we met the Director and Founder, Russell Jack, who gave us some inspirational insights into the great community work of the Chinese Association. We heard all about the imperial five toed dragon, the longest in the world, that appears at each Easter Monday parade in Bendigo and takes more than 50 men to operate. Extraordinary collection, consisting of finely carved imperial screens decorated with semi precious stone and jade, rare and valuable silk garments, ancient bronze coins, extensive gardens and a temple are parts of an amazing cultural precinct.

We then proceeded to the Bendigo Regional Art Gallery, former workplace of Macquarie PhD student, Corinne Perkin.

Then we discovered the remarkable Latrobe Visual Arts Centre across the road where we engaged with the Director and exchanged views and experiences on working in the universty sector and what art and culture means in higher education. There were many similarities and comparisons to be discussed. We are looking forward to welcoming him to visit Macquarie, perhaps for one of our art gallery openings.

The final event for the day was the Central Deborah Gold Mine underground tour, an absolute pearler! We learnt so much about the history and heritage of the Bendigo mine fields and the importance of gold to the social development of Victoria. The tour was led by a "hands on" ex primary school teacher, who was a born showman and educator. This was science communication at its best when set in it's own "vein" and cultural context.


Andrew Simpson

Day 8 and we were in Ballarat. First stop was the Eureka Centre which is currently undergoing an expansiion with federal stimulus money. Paul and Dave gave the background to the Eureka Stockade while Paul showed his miners right from the 1860s purchased the previous day in Bendigo.

The Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill was the next stop, always one of the highlights of the trip. This was followed by a few hours on site at Sovereign Hill soaking up the atmosphere of the 1850s, plus a few retail opportunities interspersed within the rigours of museological investigations.

Last stop for the day was the Ballarat Fine Aty Gallery. The Flag is off for conservation work, the staff couldn't say when it would be back and were tired of being asked that question. Bit of an attitude problem here despite, or perhaps because of, the fabulous collection.


Elissa MacDonald

Hi All,

Sounds like this was a great trip, and very satisfying on the retail front too! I have very fond memories of the Murray Region and now I'm itching to visit again. Perhaps with Roy!


Andrew Simpson

Last official day of the trip and we head off south into unexplored territory (at least for this unit) to the south west of Victoria. The Hamilton Regional Art Gallery was an absolute delight. Set in western Victoria's grazing country, looking incredibly lush after the recent rain, it is a remarkable gallery led by a dynamic director, Daniel McOwan, who came in especially on a Sunday morning to meet the group. We had a behind the scenes tour, learnt about the Shaw bequest, and Daniel engaged in a lengthy Q & A session with all of us. Our thanks for his kind and generous hospitality.

On to the historic coastal town of Portland where we visited the Maritime Museum, an interesting building, shaped as a ship's anchor and full to the plimsol line with artefacts from the district documenting its unique maritime history.

The end of the trip was celebrated in fine style with a seafood extravaganza at the Thistle Inn, we all agreed "thistle do" it is time for a return home.

Dave set off the next day in the "Bus O fun" with weary expeditioners heading for Beechworth while others moved on to Melbourne in preparation for the Museums Australia conference (reports to follow).

A bit behind with loading up images from the trip but will try and rectify this in the next few days.


Carolyn Wulff

A great trip. We arrived home tired, but happy.
Thanks to Dave for his supurb driving skills, sense of humour and never ending patience. Thanks, also to Andrew and Paul and to all involved in the wonderful experience. I had a great time.

Andrew Simpson

Glad to hear everyone made it home safely!

The MA conference started today after the welcome reception at the Melbourne Museum last night. Quite a few people with sore heads this morning!

Macquarie Museum Studies is everywhere you look. People spotted already at the welcome event include:- Rachael Vincent, Paul Meszaros, Lyn Hicks, Rhonda Davis, Leonard Janisewski, Corinne Perkin, Alison Leeson and Morwenna Pearce. Not spotted yet but appearing in the program are Jessica Allen, Deane Montesin, Belinda Bauer, Carole Hammond and Aimee Deaves.

Lots of friends and fellow travellers here as well, including the redoubtable "Kuratorman" making a rare but highly anticipated public appearance.

Should be great fun!

Elissa MacDonald

Hi All,

Sounds like a fascinating few days ahead, I look forward to the next update!


Andrew Simpson

More ex Macquarie people spotted including Bronwyn Alcorn and Edwina Huntley.

On the first day of formal presentations we had one from Rhonda and Leonard on the new integrated vision for the Macquarie University Art Gallery. The focus was on cross disciplinary engagement exemplifying how a university gallery can work with all parts of the university to produce a value added exhibition program. Gallery practice is informed by the teaching and research needs of different areas of the university. This was a theme that came up in a few other papers later in the conference.

Unfortunately the timing clashed with Aimee's presentation on the Australian Tennis Museum.

Museum Studies PhD student Corinne Perkin gave an excellent paper on youth engagement in the UK elaborating the complex government framework for the development of such projects.

Later that afternoon Alison Leeson presented a great paper on the development of the Museums Appreciation Society (MAS) at Macquarie. This was the only paper in that focussed on a student initiative and was warmly received by those present with lots of comments on how this is a model for other universities. It's still generating comments in some other blogs by conference attendees, see:-


Of particular interest to university museums was the paper by Andrew Jamieson and Amanda Burnitt. The University of Melbourne has established, through the Potter, a new position that develops new academic uses for collections. It's very similar to the current project at Macquarie on using objects for cross disciplinary engagement. It appears that Melbourne's new position was funded by an external donation.

Off for drinks with the Govenor of Victoria that night, nice bloke, wonderful comestibles, phew, what a day!


Andrew Simpson

The second day of formal presentations included two very interesting plenaries in the morning. Warren Bebbington, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Melbourne spoke about the university's collections and their links to the university's cultural policy. A thought provoking presentation that shows what can be acheived by taking an institutional level approach to the diverse collections that develop on any campus. This is a great model for other universities to follow, the Council of Australian University Museums and Collections (CAUMAC) should applaud this strategy.

Patrick Greene spoke about modern natural history exhibitions, in particular the development of "Wild" at the Museum of Melbourne. I hope this ends up being a published paper as there was lots of interesting historic insights.

In the afternoon I chaired a session entitled "new roles for university museums". Some great papers including Janie Mason talking about the Nursing Museum at Charles Darwin, Lyn Hicks talking about the relationships between amatuer and professional science, Andy Reed (AKA K-man) talking about the Integrated Pathology Learning Centre at the University of Queensland (they like to steer clear of the term museum up there for some reason) and Petronella Nel talking about new uses for the Cypriot pottery collection at the Potter.

Conference dinner at the NGV that night.


Andrew Simpson

Day three at the conference and the pace is quickening, too many clashing presentations to be able to catch everything of interest.

Morwenna Pearce presented the results of her honours thesis in Museum Studies from last year. The paper on the state of natural history museums in the Australian tertiary education sector has been accepted as a peer reviewed publication and should be available soon.

Lyn Hicks presented in a lively session entitled "Management, Leadership and the Way Forward" on her topic of new ways of contextualising volunteerism in the museums sector. Lots of interesting discussion ensued.

In the next session former Masters student Belinda Bauer, from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery was a copresenter of an interesting paper on natural history specimens as cultural heritage.

Managed to escape for a couple of hours in the afternoon to look at the displays at the Melbourne Museum, including the visually overwhelming "Wild" (will load some pics up). There is a new multimedia display on the 600 million year evolution of Victoria is due to open soon.

The evening was a sublime treat! A special behind the scenes look at the Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne. It's due to reopen to the public in a couple of weeks, the new displays and interpretation are of the highest quality.


It will do a lot to introduce the public to this enigmatic and little known or understood Australian musical genius. From here it was on to University House to relax with friends and associates of the Grainger.

Last day coming up!

Andrew Simpson

Last day and the focus is regional and remote museums. Great presentation from Lynda Kelly on the future of museum audiences. It covered an immense range of stuff including natural history specimens as social media stars.


Another interesting presentation was Vicki Warden speaking about collecting Queensland festivals that covered the great work done by a small team of regional museum officers. A great example of contemporary collecting in the regions.


People who work in community museums love to have a chat, and much of the rest of the day was spent in a range of informal discussions before heading off to Lygon St for a big Italian pasta feast with the community museums people. Many are interested in getting interns from Macquarie's program and can even help with board and support for those students who wish to head inland to kick start their museum career.

There's an Italian Museum opening around the corner from our retaurant tommorrow that will be acompanied with all day festivities that may just include spectacular food. Alas, finally turning my back on MSM"ate"04, its time to pack up and head back to work - so sad!


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