Monday, 23 November 2020

AMaGATasmania 2020 Christma Party-meet one of your tour guides

QVMAG is hosting our Christmas get together
 2pm Friday 27 November 2020 
Don't forget to RSVP to  

Guests will meet key QVMAG curators as you tour Estuary: below the surface (underwater photography exhibition of the Tamar) and Natural Visions (historical landscape photography of Tasmania).  We've heard from David Maynard, Senior Curator Natural Sciences in the past so we thought it would interesting to learn more about Jon Addison, QVMAG's Senior Curator of Public History and Natural Visions' Curator. 


Tempt us with your favourite anecdote about the exhibition.

Natural Visions is full of interesting stories and anecdotes, so it's hard to focus on just one. I think an interesting one is the mystery of how HJ King managed to sign the Waldheim Visitors book at Cradle Mountain on the same day he flew over and took the first quality aerial photograph of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain (on display in the exhibition)! Given there is nowhere to land a light plane at Waldheim, it is unlikely that he was actually there. It turns out that his brother was visiting Waldheim at the time, and at the point at which King and his pilot Catain Huxley flew over, he signed Herbert's name in the book as well, given he was 'there', if not on the ground.

Were you destined to be an historian? For example were you the child that actually listened to family stories?

It was my sister who had the real passion for family stories. My interest was in any story, real or fictional. It's for that reason that I think I enjoy working in museums, as I am able to indulge my passion for discovering and telling stories or all sorts - not just those relating to me and my family, but stories relating to a huge range of people and events.

You have been working with QVMAG for 12 years. Do you remember how you felt when you first saw the public history collections?

I was amazed at the depth and breadth of QVMAG's collections. I had been working in museums in Scotland and England for five years before I came to Tasmania, and had seen and worked with some pretty amazing collections, but I was completely blown away by the size and quality of the collections here. From dealing mostly with subject-specific collections in other museums, I finally got to work with collections that covered a huge range of topics. The possibilities were amazing.

 QVMAG history collection spans from 1842 to the present day and includes photographs, personal items, archaeology, comparative cultural collections and large industrial technology. Do you have a favourite object?

Choosing a favourite object is a pretty hard call. However I think I might have to nominate the brown corduroy convict trousers from the John Watt Beattie Collection. These are one of the few surviving items of convict clothing that are not in 'magpie', or parti-coloured. They raise a whole lot of fascinating questions, and tell an amazing story. Firstly, the fabric they are made from shows a transition from corduroy being the 'fabric of the King', to representing the working man, and finally their use in convict punishment! The construction technique is fascinating, as they are removable without taking off leg-irons. Also adding confusion and nuance to the story is the possibility that this style of trousers were also used by workers as over-trousers, and so may not relate to leg-irons after all. Beattie's records are what links these to convicts. There is also even a potential link to William Cuffey, a black convict political prisoner who trained convict tailors to make garments and use new sewing-machine technology.

Why do you think it is important to have such a collection?

Museum collections are a tangible link to the past. What we know about past societies is not fixed - our ideas, theories and knowledge change all the time. These collections serve as primary sources to help build a more nuanced and accurate picture of the past.

The larger museums are like ancient guilds with people who hold very specialist knowledge and skills. How do you  work across these areas?

It is impossible to be an expert in all areas QVMAG covers. However by building up a network of knowledgeable people in various fields, it is possible to get access to the latest ideas, research and specialist knowledge. Subject specialists are usually very happy to share their knowledge, and with more and more research becoming available online, it is now possible to find information more quickly and easily.

Do you have any tips for those with a passion for history working in one of our smaller museums and building their collections?  

Having a solid collection policy is the key in smaller institutions (as well as larger ones). Without a proper collection policy, it becomes hard to properly shape your collection to tell the stories that are important to tell, and to instead just collect everything that is offered to you. Also, when it comes to display, less is quite often more. Don't try to have your entire collection on display at one time - not only will this damage more delicate items, but will confuse viewers. Have a clear idea of what you want to say, and represent it with well-chosen objects and minimal, focussed text.

Thanks so much Jon. I'm sure everyone is looking forward to meeting you this Friday--and you too David (of course!).

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Collecting Tasmanian experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic

Kirstie Ross, the Senior Curator of Cultural Heritage at TMAG has contributed this piece about her institutions' response to documenting COVID-19 in the collection.

     A sanitiser reminder outside a South Hobart pizza restaurant. Photo by K. Ross

During the first few weeks of the pandemic lockdown, I started documenting its impact on and for myself, as I walked through my neighbourhood each day last autumn.

I also began asking myself, while working from home: How do you collect history while it is happening? Or more specifically: How do you preserve the impact of a huge global medical catastrophe unleashed by a tiny virus measured in microns – that is in thousandths of a millimetre? And what meanings and significance will the material collected during the heat of such an devastating event have in the future?

I was in the middle of devising a plan that would enable TMAG to do this when things in Tasmania took a turn for the worse. In April, the state led nation in the number of reported COVID-19 cases per capita – a record it held for 11 weeks.

To me, this intensified the need to collect the pandemic while it was unfolding. The first thing I did was propose a list of themes to guide the museum’s rapid-response. 

These were:

·         Medical care

·         Self-care/health and mental well-being

·         Business and work

·         Keeping busy and occupied

·         Border control and quarantine

·         Everyday life social-distancing

Covid-19 testing sign, Hobart waterfront. Photo by K. Ross

I began by collecting what was safe and close to home. Putting aside my own random ‘collection’, I emailed colleagues for ideas and donations. I also joined forces with archivist Jennifer Jerome at Tasmanian Archives so that we could streamline and extend the reach of the state’s official pandemic collecting.

Together, we hoped to document and collect selectively the things that mattered to Tasmanians during an extraordinary period of disruption, social-distancing and voluntary self-isolation. Playing to our strengths, TMAG would collect three-dimensional material plus the personal stories linked to them while Libraries Tasmania would collect writing, ephemera, digital images, and websites.

 Libraries Tasmania and TMAG collecting project webpage.

On a webpage hosted by Libraries Tasmania, we used a single brand and put out a combined call to action. We also employed a dedicated generic email address which would help us centralise information about potential donations.This approach has worked really well for each organisation. The majority of material offered has been for the archives, but has enabled Jen to forward offers of material more suitable for a museum directly onto me.

So far, TMAG has reached its minimum objective of 12 donations, with more items waiting in the wings. As a group, they capture the experiences of children and young people, the responses of local community centres, entrepreneurial innovation, the impact of the pandemic on international and interstate travel, the community provision of handcrafted PPE, and attempts by Tasmanians to find humour in the situation.

Johnson family’s superbugs. Photo by TMAG

Surprisingly, objects related to children’s experiences have been easy to locate. This includes the four COVID-19 ‘superbugs’ constructed by young Tasmanians Clara, Sophie, Willa and Xavier Johnson. Their donation came via their grandmother, a TMAG volunteer guide. Each superbug has a common and scientific name, as well as a description of the process of eradication. Sophie’s ‘Fire Wire’ (Ignisoculii) catches the Corona by putting it into a fire. And according to her sister Willa, “Coronavirus is like cake” for her ‘Spectrum Bug’ (Numerum Unico Pedecimex).

Also unique is the countdown sign made for a ‘virus burning’ event held at the end of July at the Longley International Hotel, 24km southwest of Hobart. Mimicking a fire warning sign, this one declared the build-up towards a ceremonial burning of a large wooden coronavirus effigy, replete with the distinctive SARS-CoV-2 protrusions.

Sign-maker David Dieckfoss and the author. Photo by D. Ross

As David Dieckfoss, the maker and the donor of the sign, told the ABC, the idea was that “if we could burn this dirty, big virus it'd be good for people, and good for the pub, and good for the community”.

TMAG obviously couldn’t collect the ashes of the effigy! But the sign, which I tracked down through pub’s Facebook page, was well worth acquiring because it showed how Tasmanians could still have a laugh despite the grave global situation.
The cuddly crocheted virus donated by Jenny Sprent is also at the light-hearted end of the collecting spectrum. Jenny, who used the ‘covid19stories’ email address to make contact, crafted several of these soft toys for medical colleagues just before she started her first nursing job – on the COVID-19 ward at the Royal Hobart Hospital!

Jenny Sprent’s crocheted coronaviruses. Unknown photographer

There is still official collecting to be done, of both literal and functional objects, such as facemasks and testing kits, but this will have to wait until Tasmania’s state of emergency is lifted. But from now on the subtle – and not so subtle – impacts of the pandemic on social interaction, public spaces, and everyday life will undoubtedly be factored into the way we collect history at TMAG.

Thankyou Kirstie. I hope this blog will be hearing from you again. Anyone wanting to write their museum story simply email us. 

Saturday, 26 September 2020

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


Richmond Bridge
Image: Tourism Tasmania & Nick Osborne

 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 (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.   


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.


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. (

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 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 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

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!