Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

ACMI’s Katrina Sedgwick on rethinking

ACMI at Melbourne’s Federation Square. “It really is going to be amazing when we reopen,” Katrina Sedgwick says. Justin McManus.

Katrina Sedgwick, Rethinking meeting places when everyone is stuck at home, The Financial Review, 4 August 2020

The Australian Financial Review has invited Melbourne business leaders to write about how tough lockdown restrictions are affecting their lives and work.

Katrina Sedgwick OAM is the director/CEO of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)

ACMI CEO and director Katrina Sedgwick says a silver lining of the pandemic has been time for creative thinking. Kristoffer Paulsen.

ACMI CEO and director Katrina Sedgwick says a silver lining of the pandemic has been time for creative thinking. Kristoffer Paulsen

It is hard to believe it was only in early March that we began to sense that what we thought would be managed overseas, away from Australia, may indeed directly affect us.

By March 23 we had closed our office and our 135 staff had begun working from home.

I have to acknowledge the devastating impact that is being wrought by COVID 19 – particularly across the arts and cultural sector. So much of what we do is about gathering people together in a shared space to explore ideas and share stories.

But as a state cultural institution, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image has been fortunate.

It was a shock to have to work from home – but we had the systems in place to keep being productive as our team dispersed and our programs moved online.

When ACMI was fully operational, we would welcome 1.5 million visitors annually through our museum of screen culture in Federation Square for exhibitions, screenings, workshops and talks exploring everything from movie blockbusters to video games to video art.

But in such fortuitous timing, we were funded by the Victorian government in 2017-18 to undertake a $40 million transformation, and we spent two years planning for the closure of our museum site in May 2019.

ACMI at Melbourne’s Federation Square. “It really is going to be amazing when we reopen,” Katrina Sedgwick says. Justin McManus
It has meant we didn’t have the same trauma as our peers of an abrupt closure. Our team has been busy shaping our new museum offer, building bespoke digital products and delivering off-site programs.

Our education team created brilliant virtual lessons for families and schools and the 70-year-old Melbourne Cinematheque program transformed into the Virtual Cinematheque, streaming a weekly movie into people’s homes.

I think it’s been great for us all to feel that we are sitting on a treasure. It really is going to be amazing when we reopen and will be such a wonderful resource for our community. It’s given me and, I think, our whole team a real sense of purpose.

Working from home

There are some lovely things about working from home – my boys are in year 9 and 11 and home schooling has given me a proximity to them I never would have had otherwise. They are also teenagers who do not want parents involved – “I’m on top of it, mum!” – so it is possible to have focused work time. And I’m really strict with myself to stop working when the working day is over.

We have breakfast together, sometimes lunch, and now that lockdown is back again (and we all have really felt knocked around this time) my husband Chris and I are trying to plan special, in-home occasions to look forward to.

We celebrated Christmas in July a couple of weeks ago and surprised the boys by putting up the Christmas tree with presents underneath (Lego sets dug out from the back of a cupboard!), and even found old crackers. It was very daggy and fun, finishing with a viewing of Die Hard 3.

The extended restrictions are tough and I really feel for businesses that were just gearing up to have to be closed again – but I am so glad to be living in a country that is dealing with this crisis head-on.

With the simplicity of my life now working from home, with all the travel time and extracurricular busy-ness pulled out of it, I’ve found that I have the time and energy to think constructively and imaginatively about new ways to meet the changes the pandemic is driving. It has been a surprisingly creative time at work.

If there is a silver lining to all of this, I hope it will be that we start to really do some things differently as a society, in how we support and care for those who are marginalised and vulnerable.

 

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2020
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