Saturday, 1 July 2017

Bursary Report 2017

Image: Illuminated Brisbane sign at Southbank with Brisbane City backdrop

The Museums Australia (Tasmania) Committee offered its members the opportunity to apply for a bursary to attend the The Museums Galleries Australia National Conference 2017. Amy Bartlett from the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery was one of the two recipients. This is her report. 

The Museums Galleries Australia National Conference 2017, with the theme Museums & Galleries in their Cultural Landscapes, was the first MGA conference that I had ever attended. As Senior Conservator at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, I have frequented many conservation specific conferences or workshops and attending a general museology event was an excellent professional development opportunity. I was fortunate to be awarded a Bursary from Museums Galleries Australia (Tasmania) and I received support from my workplace in order to go to the conference.

The Regional and Remote Day was held at the State Library of Queensland on Sunday 14 May 2017. The plenary session about young people in museums presented by Dr Dea Birkett (Creative Director, Kids in Museums) was full of energy and was an inspirational start to the conference. A number of programs were described and the comment 'small changes make a big impact' has resonated with me. Other interesting talks included exhibition delivery with minimal resources and collection management systems. A presentation on de-accessioning attracted an audience of many with professionals sharing stories about collections and storage during question time.

Image: Chair John Waldron (President, MGA QLD) at the Regional and Remote Day

The first event in the social program was the Welcome Reception at the Queensland Museum. Songwoman Maroochy of the Turrbal People performed the Welcome to Country and we saw a number of noteworthy performances. The evening also provided an opportunity to meet other museum professionals face to face that I work with on projects with such as inward and outward loans.

Image: Museums Galleries Australia National Conference 2017 Welcome Reception

The main conference was held from Monday 15 to Wednesday 17 May 2017 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The plenary speakers on each of the three days were well chosen and I found the morning tea breaks interesting with attendees excited, full of discussion, and ready to take back suggested improvements to their respective workplaces. I found all of the sessions to be educative with key messages from museum professionals and artists about how important stories are in order to connect people with collections. In addition, the importance of data and the appropriate use of technology in today's changing sector were highlighted.  

I made sure I immersed myself in the unknown during the concurrent sessions as this was the perfect learning landscape to discover the inner workings of the myriad of behind the scenes roles that take place in the cultural sector. Due to my interest in co-curating an exhibition next year, I attended sessions on exhibition design, curatorial decisions, and collaborative curating. I found myself taking notes on how the examples given, often from institutions much larger than my own, could be massaged to work for our exhibitions. I also attended education and learning talks and those on digital access to collections. The importance of allowing visitors to lead the museum experience was expressed, how education programs can give participants a voice, how the physical environment impacts the sense of belonging, and how digital collections and technology can be used successfully.  All factors in some way led us back to the fact that stories are paramount to the success of the physical museum and digital realm. Stories make collections come alive!

Overall, the conference was stimulating and educational. My main objectives in attending were to broaden my knowledge on other roles within the sector, develop some skills in project/exhibition management, network and create contacts for inter-institutional activities, and see how professionals Australasia wide are responding to changing environments. These goals were achieved and I have gained a significant number of ideas which I hope to translate into practice during my upcoming role as Conservator and Co-Curator in 2018, in addition to my day to day work.

Image: Snapshot of MGA TAS Facebook post about attendance at the conference - MGA TAS 2017 Bursary recipients Amy Bartlett and Erin Wilson
 My attendance at the Museums Galleries Australia National Conference would not have been possible without the generous support from the Museums Galleries Australia Tasmania branch and support from my workplace. It was a fantastic opportunity and I am grateful. During the conference I submitted a photograph of myself and Erin Wilson, as state division Bursary recipients, for posting on the MGA Tasmania Facebook page to express our thanks. 

While I was in Brisbane, I made my way to a number of the cultural institutions and spent a considerable amount of time in the Queensland Museum and Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art. This provided a chance to examine contemporary display methods and signage that I could take back to my colleagues in order to evolve procedures for continuous improvement. I also enjoyed looking at the exhibitions and wandering the cultural site.

All of this information will be delivered to other Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery staff during a joint presentation in July, with Katrina Ross who also attended the conference. In addition, I will be discussing the conference with fellow Tasmanian Conservators from around the state at the upcoming Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material Tasmanian Division branch meeting. These presentations will enable me to share my professional development with others. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Amy Bartlett

Senior Conservator, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery

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