Saturday, 26 September 2020

'Cultural heritage and tourism in a COVID-19 world' webinar

 


Richmond Bridge
Image: Tourism Tasmania & Nick Osborne





















10am
 to 11.30am AEST

Friday 2 October 2020

FREE to Tasmanian museums*

Register via this link.   

*AMaGAT Members to quote a code at the checkout. Non Member Tasmanians to call lucinda.mccann@amaga.org.au (02 6230 0346).

International and mainland visitors flocking to Tasmania seems both a distant memory and an unattainable future for many museums. For some museums tourists bypassed their doors and were seen as nice to have but too difficult to manage. As museums carefully re open and Tasmanians are incentivised to explore their own state which visitors should be the focus?   

This webinar is for museum staff and volunteers with an interest in sharing, growing and promoting the stories of their area to all visitors including tourists in a sustainable way.  It will assist museums and associated places to encourage and welcome any out of town visitors through providing a better understanding of current visitor needs and expectations whilst at the same time building relationships with the local community. 


One of the key images for the 2019 'Come down for air' developed by Tourism Tasmania featured the Winter solstice swim, part of Dark Mofo. The 2020 campaign Make Yourself At Home is designed to encourage Tasmanians to holiday at home safely, and support the local tourism industry while traditional interstate and international markets are not available.  Make Yourself At Home features outdoor experiences probably in line with COVID 19 safe arenas. Despite the current pandemic eco tourism, sporting spectacles and outdoor adventure consistently generates excitement in government tourism strategies with festivals, food fairs and events  identified as the cultural go-to in developing tourism products and promotions.  

What of museums?

AMaGAT hopes that greater attention is paid to museums in complementing the totality of a region's tourism offer; either through their exhibitions, online collections, public programming and cross promotions.  Part of this strategy is to ensure that museums are better informed of the tourism landscape and ready for business. The current uncertainties makes planning for tourists appear superfluous but in fact this intelligence is becoming more relevant to future proofing our cultural institutions.   


Program

10am Welcome by Janet Carding

10 am Sensible and sensitive cultural tourism development

Professor Can Seng Ooi. Associate Head Research and Professor in Cultural and Heritage Tourism, UTAS

Sustainable tourism can work in many ways. Tourist destinations can be an integral and authentic part of the cultural landscape of the town and not simply a boutique activity for 'out of towners'.  Similarly the travel narrative can foster locals' understanding and appreciation of their place in a globalised world. 

How can we maintain the distinctive character of a place whilst sharing the benefits of tourism throughout the community?

10.25am: Tourism products

Alex Heroys, CEO Destination Southern Tasmania

Tourism will remain a key economic driver for Tasmania and considerable time and energy goes into research and strategies to guide an integrated approach. Destination Action Plans, market segmentation, and campaigns such as "Make Yourself at Home" are understood within the tourism industry but probably less so by museums.

 How can museums across the state become part of their local or even regional tourism offer? 

 

Museum case studies

There are many tourism success stories across the state whether it be in networking with bikers as for the Derby Museum; or in enticing tourists through a great cafe or shop such as the Tasmanian Wool Centre at Ross; or having open studios such as the Makers' Workshop; or simply being the destination experience itself as is the case with the Port Arthur Historic Site. The speakers below discuss their experience of cultural tourism.


10.50am The last boat

Dawn Oelrich, Director Burnie Regional Art Gallery

Both the Burnie Regional Museum and the gallery welcomed visitors off upwards of 30 cruise ships between November and March each year. The last cruise ship visit was Friday 13 March and we really do not know if or when they will resume. This poses some interesting challenges for our facilities into the future but it also is an opportunity to make a better connection with our community and regional audiences.

What are the expectations of the funding bodies for cultural tourism?  

11am Genealogy tourists

Maureen Martin Ferris, Curator East Coast Heritage Museum

The East Coast Heritage Museum is co located with the Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Society Inc. This has enabled the museum to build connections between local families and visitors through its archival material as well as its changing exhibitions.

How can you attract genealogy tourists?

 11.20am Tasmanac

Janet Carding Director TMAG

Introduction to Tasmanac-the digital platform that connects Tasmania's cultural collections and encourages visitor dispersal into regional towns.

How can you get involved with Tasmanac?

 11.25 am Questions, thanks and way forward from Janet Carding


About the speakers

Professor Can Seng Ooi. Associate Head Research and Professor in Cultural and Heritage Tourism, UTAS

Can Seng is currently the Professor of Cultural and Heritage Tourism at the University of Tasmania. His other positions are Associate Head (Research) at the School of Social Sciences, and Co-Director of the Tourism Research and Education Network (TRENd). He is the Vice-President (Program, World Congress of Sociology), Research Committee 50 (International Tourism) of the International Sociological Association. 


Along with Anne Hardy he recently edited the interesting Tourism in Tasmania, published by Forty South.  This book is written in an accessible manner, for the general public. Twenty seven scholars, most from the University of Tasmania, came together to give diverse perspectives on the state of tourism in the state. Well worth a look and available for free here

Alex Heroys, CEO Destination Southern Tasmania

Alex manages Destination Southern Tasmania the peak tourism body for Tasmania’s southern region, stretching across the municipalities of Hobart, Glenorchy, Clarence, Brighton, Sorell, Kingborough, Huon Valley, Derwent Valley, Tasman, Central Highlands and Southern Midlands. Previously with the City of Hobart, although most of his tourism experience has been in the private sector, including owning and building my own tourism business which, at its height, had seven scuba diving centres across five countries. 



Dawn Oelrich, Director Burnie Regional Art Gallery

Dawn moved to Tasmania to take up the role as Director of Burnie Regional Art Gallery after working as Curator at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Dawn sat on several committees in Queensland including the Master Planning Committee, all new building committees, Chaired the Public Art and the Vice Chancellors Art Advisory Committees (VCAAC). Prior to the move to the Sunshine Coast,  she was the Exhibitions Coordinator at Redcliffe City Gallery from 1995 to 2003 and, in addition, a past board member of the Regional Galleries Association of Queensland (RGAQ), a member of the National Standards Review Committee and a member of the national University Art Museums Association (UAMA). 


Maureen Martin Ferris, Curator East Coast Heritage Museum

Maureen is the curator, researcher, historian, genealogist, author and complete dynamo at East Coast Heritage Museum, Glamorgan Spring Bay Council. She records, researchs, photographs, cleans, stores and exhibits the community's wonderful collection of photographs, books, documents and objects. You can see more about her museum and an interview wih Dawn on this blog as part of the museum standards series. See here




Janet Carding Director TMAG

Janet is our President. She began her career in the UK at London’s Science Museum, before moving to Sydney as Assistant Director, Public Programs & Operations with the Australian Museum. In 2010 Janet became Director and CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (ROM). Under her leadership the ROM broadened its audience, created new formats and raised the profile of the ROM’s important research. In April 2015 Janet commenced as Director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) in Hobart.

Don't forget to book. The webinar is THIS very Friday! I'll be introducing speakers and so on and hope you zoom with us.

Cheers

Helen Whitty

Monday, 22 June 2020

Improvise, adapt and overcome



In #4 of our series about the impact of COVID19 on Tasmanian museums David Maynard, QVMAG Senior Curator Natural Sciences, shared his experiences. David continues to reflect on the impact of this pandemic focussing on some positive outcomes. This becomes article #5.

The COVID19 restrictions have presented challenges and opportunities for us all. To quote actor Clint Eastwood (as I am sure that we all do in the face of adversity*) "Improvise, adapt and overcome!" (Heartbreak Ridge, Malpaso Productions 1986). One of the benefits for the QVMAG Natural Sciences team has been the opportunity to tackle work that would normally stay on the back burner. Here are a few examples from QVMAG.

Museums Collections Officer (and employee for 42 years!) Judy Rainbird focused on legacy tasks that have been hanging around for years, and in some cases decades. One of the treasures that Judy found amongst her the sections files was a newspaper article from 1947 that references the Museums important colelction of megafaunal remains discovered in 1941. The article states "What is probably a very important scientific discovery is still mouldering in the vaults of the Launceston Museum awaiting an expert to examine it". Well, moulder no longer megafauna! We can now say that, after waiting 73 years, an expert has been found and the "important scientific discovery" will be discovered in the next few months.

For me, COVID19 has meant that I have been able to focus on writing a book chapter about the thylacine and how QVMAG has portrayed it in our exhibition Tasmanian Tiger: Precious Little Remains. This was a challenge for me as I am normally focused on the scientific aspects of the species and its extinction however, I was required to tease out the historical and cultural aspects of thylacine 'rememberance.' Another writing challenge has been a manuscript about the behavioural pattern of a little known Tasmanian endemic wasp. This was based on a opportunistic discovery on my farm during the first week of the COVID lockdown (insert inspiring Clint Eastwood quote here). The biggest challenge for me was that I know very little about insect behaviour (I am a fish person), but COVID has given me the time to research the topic and wordsmith the manuscript to within an inch of its life!

Lastly and most impressively, Museum Collections Officer (and insect pinning machine) Simon Fearn has dedicated his COVID time to processing a donation of historical 'papered' butterflies into pinned specimens. This donation was tacked onto a larger donation that QVMAG, and was unlikely to recieve any attention in the foreseeable future. Simon has carefully and delicately relaxed the papered specimens and pinned them to the highest standard. This particular donation was collected mostly in the early 1970s from Australiasia. They will be registered into the QVMAG collection and their data uploaded to the Atlas of Living Australia. Other than being aesthetically stunning, these specimens and their data tell us where these species were present in the 1970s (are they still there? is their habitat still there?).



We are all looking forward to getting back into the Museum and the collections but I think that we will reflect on the COVID19 restrictions as an opportunity arising from adversity.

Good one David. Always heartened to hit an optimistic note.





* Note from the ed. I turned to The Pandemic is a Portal by Arundhati Roy   

Thursday, 28 May 2020

TASLASKA: sharing digital content across the globe



TASLASKA an innovative and virtual space

Burnie Regional Art Gallery is working with Project O (Big hART) and the Anchorage Museum (Alaska) to support TASLASKA, an innovative and virtual space . TASLASKA was created to make a connection between young people from Alaska and Tasmania, and  northwest TAS in particular. We are hoping to promote the strong similarities (northwest location, isolation, coastlines, ports isolation, wild landscape, First Nation heritage) and few differences (…okay bears, subzero temperatures, opposite hemispheres) BUT we are focussing on similarities. Young people from Alaska and Tasmania can connect and share digital content across the globe, between two regions that share many commonalities.
In this time of social distancing, we are encouraging photos, audio, portraits, illustrations, animations, poems, maps, etc to eventually create a virtual tour and zine via  Anchorage’s youth program Seed. (seed@anchoragemuseum.org)

Follow link to Taslaska, to see the open call for submissions or young people can share submissions anytime on their own platforms with tag #Taslaska .

Deadline 1 August 2020

The Anchorage Museum (Alaska) 

The Anchorage Museum (Alaska) sits on the traditional homeland of the Eklutna Dena’ina. The museum is committed to recognizing and honoring the land, culture and language of the Dena’ina people. We recognize and respect the continuing connection, by Alaska Native people and all Indigenous people, to the land, waters and communities.  Through a combination of art and design, history, science and culture, the Anchorage Museum creates a rich, deep understanding of the human experience and offers something for everyone. One of its initiatives is the SEED Lab. 

SEED Lab (Solutions for Energy and Equity through Design) is a collaborative project that embeds equity in community development and solutions through art and design.one of five winners of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. The Municipality of Anchorage is a partner with the Anchorage Museum to create public art that explores pressing social issues. 

PROJECT O

From https://projecto.bighart.org/about/










Project O is a project of BIGhART a Social Change, Arts and Media organisation, delivering non-welfare projects which help counter disadvantage, caused by hidden issues, in isolated communities. Project O drives change in rural, regional and isolated communities affected by family violence as a primary prevention project. Through Project O, young women gain new skills and resilience, equipping them to drive attitudinal change in their community, challenge entrenched gender inequality and help prevent the normalisation of family violence. Through this primary prevention program young women develop new skills and learn how to connect to their community, using their unique voices to campaign for change. It builds gender equality locally through grassroots action, highlighting the leadership of young women and their potential to be change makers.

Project O currently operates in 3 communities: Wynyard, TAS,  Roebourne, WA and Frankston, VIC.

Let us know what YOU are working on--we are always looking for blog content.



Burnie and the ARC Linkage Collaborative Research Project 2020 – 2022



Paper on Skin (wearable art)from https://burnieartscouncil.com/

To take our minds off the calamity for a moment. Here is some interesting information via our committee member Dawn Oelrich about the QUT – ARC national study Burnie Regional Art Gallery is taking part in.  Dawn of course is the Director of BRAG. The preliminary work was done in 2019 and BRAG only just got started this year and then of course everything halted. BRAG have had interviews and some zoom meetings but apart from being interviewed myself, Dawn is also liaising and organising with the researchers to contact and connect with arts programs and  activities up here. Paper on Skin (wearable art) and Burnie Shines are two projects that are in doubt at this stage so she is communicating with  the researchers about how they go from here.

The Role of the Creative Arts in Regional Australia: A social impact model

This project, headed up by Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Brisbane, will address the challenge to effectively target regional arts funding to programs and activities that build capacity and have lasting impact for end-users. It will deliver a framework for evaluating the arts, to argue for the arts to be included in a broader understanding of community and national wellbeing and success. This framework will position Australia as an international leader in articulating and responding to the social impact of the arts. The research field sites have been chosen in consultation with our partners as communities whose capacity and challenges are reflected throughout much of regional Australia. Included in the partnership are Burnie City Council (Art Gallery as liaison), the combined Red Ridge Councils of Central Queensland, the Australia Council, the Regional Arts Institute, Regional Arts Australia and the Central Western Qld Remote Area Planning & Development Board.

The term regional arts is a catch-all for vastly different activities and areas, from large prosperous regional centres to isolated remote townships. The current ‘one size fits all’ approach to regional arts funding, by Federal/State/Local governments and philanthropic bodies, leaves communities on the margins of decision making and often dealing with unwanted and expensive fly-in-fly-out arts programs. While social impact is an increasing field of research and investigation, its application to the creative arts has not been significantly understood or examined from an end user perspective. This research will collaborate with two geographically opposed regional communities, northwest Tasmania and central Queensland, both of whom face considerable challenges while also having an activated creative landscape, to develop a social impact toolkit. This holistic toolkit will consist of an engagement and evaluation framework to uncover, articulate and measure the social impact of the creative arts in their communities in order to secure funding and investment for community-led and sustainable arts programs.

The processes and outcomes present a radical new approach to collaborating with communities to create avenues of communication about the centrality of arts and cultural activities to the success and wellbeing of regional communities. The specific benefits include evidence based research to maximise existing investment in regional arts programs, to develop responsive long-term policy for sector stability, and to advocate for a recalibrating the “urban-centric” approaches to regional arts services. Collaborative research from the respective centres presents a rare opportunity to address the long standing problem facing regional and remote communities in Australia of how to strategically communicate and effectively evaluate the social impact of the creative arts in their communities. The consequence of this ongoing issue is the lack of policy for regional arts funding that responds to community capacity and need, which is potentially failing regional communities.

Thankyou Dawn!  



National Collecting Institutions- COVID-19 re-opening protocols

https://mymodernmet.com/tussen-kunst-quarantaine-recreate-art-challenge/
One of the brilliant re purposing of artworks by @kelsigiguerevia  #tussenkunstenquarantaine 




Introduction

These Protocols are provided to assist the public in understanding the considerations that are informing the re-opening of public archive, gallery, library and museum spaces. Hopefully both small and large institutions will find them useful. It is still intended that some Tasmania-specific guidelines will be published as well in the next week or two via Worksafe Tasmania--stay tuned. Many local councils are issuing advice to agencies within its area. There is a lot to take in but hopefully you can put together a plan for your museum that takes into account both national and local advice.  Every museum and gallery will need to prepare a safety plan by 15 June in order to re open. These particular Protocols have been informed by the Australian Government’s 3 Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia (the Framework), with a focus Steps 2 and 3 as galleries and museums are required to stay closed to the public under Step 1.

Australia’s galleries, libraries, archives and museums exist for the public benefit. They each preserve, interpret and make accessible our nation’s history fostering an understanding of the issues, people and events that have shaped Australia. Notwithstanding their digital outreach, it is important for each institution to safely open to the public as soon as conditions allow. 

Each and every institution is unique, due to its location, size, the nature of its offering, the visitors it attracts, and the number of visitors it typically hosts on a daily basis. Therefore, it remains the responsibility of each institution to undertake risk assessments and develop controls that apply to their circumstances. It is for this reason that specific and detailed controls cannot reasonably be contained within these protocols. Each institution will develop its own detailed COVIDSafe plan in consultation with the relevant authorities and in line with these protocols.

Prioritise health and safety

Follow National Cabinet and the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance, as well as recommendations from federal/state/territory governments and state and local health officials. (A list of references is provided at the end of this document.) Review and incorporate these into relevant guidance for communities, workplaces, and events. The Framework requires all Australians to maintain 1.5m distancing and good hygiene, and to stay home if they are unwell. Institutions are required to frequently clean and disinfect communal areas, and develop COVIDSafe plans for their workplaces and premises. Where premises are shared with institutions in other states and territories, consideration should be given to aligning practice with that of the co-location partner.

Develop a phased timeline

 A gradual approach allows institutions to prioritise health and safety of both staff and visitors while taking progressive steps to restore regular operations. It also provides flexibility for regular monitoring and revision of reopening plans. Institutions should also be prepared for future closures at short notice, including those required if there is a confirmed case in a staff member or visitor, or local health jurisdictions re-impose tighter restrictions in response to local outbreaks. Under Step 2 of the Framework institutions will be permitted to open to the public but under strict conditions to manage the health and safety of visitors and staff. These conditions include limiting the size of gatherings to up to 20 people unless the relevant State or Territory allows larger numbers in some circumstances. For example, the ACT Government has announced that from 20 June the size of gatherings may increase to up to 50 people. Under Step 3 of the Framework the size of permitted gatherings will be increased to up to 100 people and larger gatherings will be considered, and our institutions will adjust their accessibility arrangements accordingly.

Restrict contact, capacity, and access

As part of the phased approach, institutions will consider how to limit person-to-person contact, regulate the number of visitors and/or staff in particular spaces, and restrict or prohibit access to certain areas or resources of the institution, consistent with the Framework and relevant State or Territory arrangements. Practical measures will be implemented to ensure physical distancing rules are understood and enforced, such as appropriate signage and other guidance for visitors, and the availability of sufficient trained staff to manage the safe flow of visitors within and between particular spaces. Some activities and spaces at the institutions may remain unavailable as they cannot be safely undertaken or used while observing necessary physical distancing and hygiene measures. Access to collection material is the driving tenet of all institutions. Where physical access cannot be managed within safe parameters, consideration should be given to making alternative arrangements, including digital access.

Individual COVIDSafe plans may include measures such as:

-Establish one-way flow through public spaces, with separated entry and exit points, to facilitate physical distancing.
-No or limited access to theatres, high traffic areas, and particularly tight spaces in the institution. 

-Online ticket sales only or alternatively touchless payment options.
-Recording visitors contact details and/or asking if they have activated the COVIDSafe application on their smartphones.
-Providing digital visitor guides and materials instead of physical copies. o -Regulating interactive exhibits (e.g. touchscreens) by providing disposable stylus pens, or if unavailable, signage or physical barriers to prohibit use.
-Cancelling or restricting group visits, guided tours, public programs, and special or private events until safe to offer them, and then limiting the number of participants.


Establish clear cleaning protocols

Update cleaning protocols based on Department of Health and Safe Work Australia recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting facilities, including communal areas or surfaces frequently touched, and industry-recommended practices for collections care, food service and retail operations. Require third parties involved in food and retail activities at the institutions to comply with relevant protocols.

Communicate clearly and frequently

Communicate proactively with both staff and the public about plans and the protocols in place for their health and safety (this should include signage at premises). Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are trusted by the public and can play an important role can play an important role in public education and community support in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provide training for staff

Institutions should provide training for staff on how to protect staff and promote safe interactions with other staff and/or visitors. The Department of Health offers educational resources intended for workers who are at risk of exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff should be given clear guidelines for how to respond if other staff or visitors are not following health and safety protocols and/or appear unwell.

Review and update workplace policies

-Policies for pandemics, employee leave and working from home arrangements should be reviewed and updated to protect staff, provide flexibility, and encourage sick employees to stay home.
-Coordinate approach and connect with the collections community
-Connect and collaborate with other collecting institutions and portfolio departments for consistency and to identify and resolve common issues.

References

These reflect current health advice and the obligations of employers.
COVID-19 Guidance and Resources (including work health and safety obligations, compensation and rehabilitation entitlements and responsibilities). 
Safe Work Australia checklists


[1] To maintain the average density of 4m2 per person, institutions will divide the total area of a distinct space such as room by 4. For example, if an institution had a room that was 160m2 , a maximum of 40 people would be permitted in that room, subject to any gathering size restrictions

Issued by Tasmanian Department of State Growth

Note: the current list of testing clinics can be found here

Stay Safe Team


Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Continuing work during COVID-19

QVMAG Natural Sciences preserves a record of biodiversity.
Natural Sciences is responsible for three collections;
zoology, geology and botany. 

This is #4 in our series about the impact of COVID19 on Tasmanian museums and staff. QVMAG Senior Curator Natural Sciences, David Maynard shares his experiences. 

The City of Launceston has temporarily closed the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.  They are taking this step as a public health precaution in support of measures to contain COVID-19, especially for those in our community who are most vulnerable. QVMAG has moved all staff to working from home apart from staff involved in essential services.  

This situation has presented challenges but surprisingly many opportunities.  A large part of my normal day to day work was closely tied to the Museum's collections and facilities, and dealing with the community. COVID19 changed all of that. For the past four weeks I have been ‘working from home’ (l’ll return to this phrase later) as have my colleagues. This presents problems with the care and maintenance of the collections, access to physical resources, and personal interactions like face to face meetings. However, I am quite surprised at how productive my time at home has been. I have been able to focus on research and writing towards a number commitments due in the next few months. I really doubt that I would have met all of these commitments without this opportunity, or the depth of research or quality of writing would have been less. 

Technology is keeping me in contact with my colleagues; email, Microsoft Teams, text messaging, phone calls. We are all keeping fairly regular office hours, so contact is nearly always immediate. My managers know what I am doing and how I am progressing, and I know how my staff are faring. I am still able to answer public enquiries, and communicate with our volunteers, some of who are continuing with desktop work at home. So, other than social interactions, and access to the collections and facilities, it is really business as usual.

But, I want to return to the phrase ‘working from home’. This is not quite correct, well at least for me, and probably for many people. I think that the correct phrase is ‘at home, try to work’. This is particularly true in my household because my wife is also working at home, my daughter is attending school at home, and lastly and most relevantly, my special-needs son is home with us instead of attending school. I am constantly interrupted to meet his needs. Some days are more productive than others, and to try and stay productive I start my day at 7.30 am and go for as long as I can. Our house isn’t big, my “office” is the lounge room, and the interruptions are continuous, as is the noise. It’s hard to focus or maintain a train of thought for very long. But I persist! and have found one solution. It is ear muffs, and the primary reason for this need is not 2 ft behind me -Shaun the Sheep on repeat, day in day out, for my son’s amusement!


Due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, The City of Launceston will continue to monitor advice and adapt accordingly.  QVMAG will be providing regular updates on our website and Facebook.

Stay safe everyone.

David 





Monday, 4 May 2020

Strange Days Indeed



This article is #3 in our series about the impact of COVID19 on Tasmanian museums and staff. Thankyou Dawn Oelrich for your contribution. Dawn is Director of the Burnie Regional Art Gallery.

The Covid-19 crisis happened here in the northwest with blinding speed. Thinking we were very fortunate to be on an island along with the quick action of the premier, we felt safe here in the remote northwest. News was filtering in and the expression “we have a moat and we are not afraid to use it” splashed across the news.

Burnie, however, is a venue for cruise ships with 40+ visits over the summer, many of those diverted first from the fires on the mainland and then from Asia. We had an unscheduled ship coming, our last cruise visit, ominously, on Friday 13 March. On the Thursday prior I went out and bought two large containers of hand-sanitiser for the front entrance and some alcohol wipes for phones and keyboards. I put extra soap and paper towels in the toilets.

Disgruntled passengers from the Sea Princess, who had just started a 28-day cruise around Australia and New Zealand, had been told that morning that they would instead be returning to Sydney, after Hobart. They coughed and spluttered their way around the gallery, as confused and dismayed as we were (we heard later that they were not allowed to disembark in Hobart). By Monday 16 March we were told that we were to cancel all public programs and events indefinitely and starting with the exhibition opening planned for Friday evening and the jazz fund-raising concert for Sunday 22 March. Staff continued to install the new exhibitions (a group exhibition) as planned with people in and out of the gallery while I was on the phone cancelling guest speakers, caterers, art classes, tutors, early years and school holiday programs, school visits and networking events. I was told at the time to think October.

On 23 March we were told to close the gallery, museum and the arts and function centre. This would allow staff to continue useful work but without the public. The Exhibitions Coordinator took scheduled leave which left two of us working in the gallery and two working in the museum. As it was I was happy with the opportunity to get to work that I was not able to normally as we were approaching Easter. Unfortunately I was also told there was no opportunity to engage casual staff although there were several jobs they could have been doing but I was told that we were only to keep full/part-time staff. I called each casual staff member and told them of the situation. A few were quite distraught so it was stressful but as casuals they were able to apply CentreLink. I was also able to give them the contact details of the online and phone support that council has for employees undergoing mental health, financial or family issues.  

On 6 April we were asked to take leave in the week following Easter Tuesday and plan to return to work on 20 April. By this time the situation at Northwest Hospital was escalating as we watched in horror as both public and private hospitals were closed. We heard about the first death and rumours that the patient had come from the Ruby Princess. Colleagues had family and friends who were hospital staff who were also infected and stories circulated about hospital staff buying PPE equivalents at Bunnings. The messages of hand washing, social distancing, unnecessary travel etc were endless.

During that short week before not-so-Good Friday, I did a few things in readiness for a long closure:
·         I packed up the textile exhibition that we had just installed thinking it may be hanging in an empty gallery for an unspecified time and that is was vulnerable to environmental changes.
·         Recorded home contacts for all gallery and museum staff, including casuals. Only one other staff member has a council mobile phone that could receive emails, all other staff have personal phones and no access to work emails.
·         Recorded the contact details of the Social Support hotline for staff
·         Contacted our security company to ask for extra surveillance during our absence
·         Contacted the cleaners.
·         Contacted our major sponsor MMG – to check on them and to let them know that our outreach programs in the west were postponed. At the time they were still mining and the FIFO staff were still coming in and out.
·         Cancelled exhibition deliveries and collections.
·         I cancelled two exhibitions, including one touring exhibition from Queensland in June and the flights for the guest speaker, Gail Mabo. She was relieved when I called.
·         Made signs for doors at the museum and gallery and shared all messages on social media/web about closures and cancellations including messages from the Mayor. I contacted the President of the Gallery Friends and asked her to share all messages with the Friends group.
·         Cleared all fridges and cupboards of food.

I went home on the 9 April confident I would be back at work on the 20th. At about 6.30 that evening I had a text message to say we would be stood down, as non essential staff, on the 22nd. I was sent a link to an app to connect my work email so that I could communicate with staff.  We were each sent letters on Tuesday 22 and told that as local government employees we were not eligible for JobKeeper but the council offered the equivalent payment once staff members had exhausted their personal/holiday/long service leave.  Nevertheless some staff are ineligible for this payment. We were also told that we were not able to access the buildings and the security alarm codes were changed. Scott Rankin, Tasmanian of the Year in 2018, talks about the lack of digital literacy in children in the northwest and I have to say that it is not only with children. There is a fear of sharing too much information with everyone too early, slow uptake of new communication technology and unease with access to enable staff to effectively work from home.   

So in lockdown in Penguin I have had time to think about several things but mostly how non-agile our organisation is and our status as “non-essential”.  How does this thinking extend to the value of art galleries and museums? While it is not a surprise, it certainly undermines my sense of what I have been working at for the last 30 odd years.  On the other side I have made contact with old friends and distant family members, made spiced crab-apple pickles, learned how to use Zoom, and developed a very close relationship with my fridge. I have also thought a lot about my future.

I would really like to work at making our gallery and museum much more mobile, much more resilient and able to handle whatever comes next. I am embarking on a strategy of how to do that so if you have suggestions please let me know via the Comments Section or directly to museumstasmania@gmail.com.


So not all bad. 

Dawn