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AMaGA Vic Museums & Galleries Awards 2021

Victorian Museums and Galleries Awards 2021 – Winners 

The 2021 Victorian Museums and Galleries Awards online presentation was held on Tuesday 5 October by AMaGA Victoria. The night was hosted by Patrick Watt, including a special address by Danny Pearson MP, Minister for Creative Industries

The Victorian Museum Awards, now in their 28th year, celebrate the wonderful achievements of the museum and gallery sector. This year three individuals and four organisations were recognised with Victorian Museums and Galleries awards.  The Awards also included the presentation of the  Roslyn Lawry Award For Excellence in Cultural Heritage & Museum Studies, Deakin University and Victorian Collections Awards.

2021 Victorian Museums and Galleries Awards Recipients

Judith Kershaw
Image: Judith Kershaw, courtesy of Port Fairy Museum and Archives.

The AMaGA Victoria Award for Excellence (volunteer)

Winner: Judith Kershaw, Port Fairy Museum and Archives.

Judith Kershaw was nominated for this Award for her 25 years of commitment as a volunteer at Port Fairy Museum and Archives. Judith’s love of history was evident from the time she joined Port Fairy Museum and Archives society in 1994. She has guided many projects for the Archives including grants, storage projects and publications. She has had broad impact on the organisation and is a well-loved, respected and passionate member of the community.

The judges recognised Judith’s 25-year commitment to volunteering at Port Fairy Museum and Archives. Her passion for history and being a strong community leader. She is an all-rounder and has demonstrated strong community outcomes through her passion for her work.

Highly Commended: Dr Ian Buckland, Beleura House and Garden. The judges gave special commendation to Dr Buckland’s work in extending the industry and raising the standard of the organisations work.

The AMaGA Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael Aitken
Image: Michael Aitken, photo credit Chelsey Seamer.

Michael Aitken was honoured with a AMaGA Victoria Lifetime Achievement for his work with the Cyril Kett Optometry Museum. Michael Aitken has been volunteering as an archivist to help organise and catalogue items of historical interest to the profession of optometry since 1961.  Starting from small beginnings, the collection became formally established as the Cyril Kett Optometry Museum and Archive in 1971. Since that time over 4000 items and artefacts including spectacles, optometric instruments and equipment, books, art works and ephemera has been donated or acquired, all researched and catalogued by voluntary archivists. Michael has served continuously as an archivist over the 50 years and has been the primary force behind the acquisition and the cataloguing of the collection of items and rare book holdings, while building up a team of volunteers over the years.

The judges commended Michael’s contribution to the organisation in every way possible – financially/philanthropically as well as through collection management and cataloguing. He has contributed significantly to the resource levels of the organisation and his impact has been recognised internationally as well as through several awards.

Martin Hallett Award for individual contributions to community heritage

Clare Gervasoni
Winner: Clare Gervasoni, Ballarat Heritage Services and Federation University.

Clare is a longstanding and leading user of Victorian Collections since it began in 2010. A leader in her region, she has enabled lots of skill transfer to volunteers and believes strongly in the digitisation of material as a preservation and interpretation tool.  She has instigated cataloguing and best practice in many Victorian collections, including work with the Federation University library team to catalogue on the system, as well as working for Ballarat Heritage Services. Clare has been a clear and vocal advocate for small and regional community organisations that use Victorian Collections to decision makers.

The judges commended Clare on her Victoria Collections cataloguing practices, her involvement in training individual and groups in digitisation, and sharing outcomes on a range of platforms, from Facebook groups to wikis, exhibitions to digital stories. “Clare is the consummate champion of preserving and making accessible grass roots community collections using Victorian Collections”.


The Roslyn Lawry Award For Excellence in Cultural Heritage & Museum Studies, Deakin University

Isabelle Meister
Image: Isabelle Meister, courtesy of Deakin University.

Winner: Isabelle Meister

The Archival Survival Award for volunteer-run museums/galleries (up to 1 EFT paid staff)




Unmasked exhibition
Image:  Unmasked exhibition promotional image, courtesy of Her Place Women’s Museum Australia.

 Winner: Her Place Women’s Museum Australia for ‘Unmasked’ exhibition

Unmasked is an exhibition marking the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in 2020 and pays tribute to the nurses and midwives of Victoria and beyond. The exhibition draws on midwifery and nursing’s vast history and contemporary stories to acknowledge the immeasurable and collective contribution of nurses and midwives to Australian health care.

The judges acknowledged how moving the exhibition was, it made them cry. The exhibition had a “clear curatorial premise, good exhibition outcome and design scope”. It was well researched and presented using lived experience as well as scholarship. It demonstrated excellence in research, curation, and programming.

Highly commended: The Australian Queer Archives, ‘A History of LGBTIQ+ Victoria in 100 Places & Objects’ project and website. Judges commended such a worthwhile project that sees this important archive develop further.


The Archival Survival Award for small museums/galleries (2-7 paid staff)

Image: Charmaine Clarke, Songs of the Bones (still), 2021; What do you see when you see me? (still), 2021. Filmed and edited by Tiny Empire Collective. Animation by Lee Arkapaw. Commissioned for Poyeempa WAG, 2021.

Winner: The Warrnambool Art Gallery, for their WAG Maar Nation Gallery and Aboriginal-led Legacy Initiative.

The Warrnambool Art Gallery was recognised when it received the Archival Survival Award for small museums/galleries for their WAG Maar Nation Gallery and Aboriginal-led Legacy InitiativeThe WAG Maar Nation Gallery and Aboriginal-led Legacy Initiative provides the First Nations people of South West Victoria with a central place for the interpretation of history and culture through exhibition. It also provides a meeting place for education, passing on knowledge, sharing stories and showing contemporary culture to many young people and the greater community.

The judges were impressed with the gallery’s initiative in community building partnership. They commended the organisation for developing a new Indigenous curator’s role and collaboration between gallery and the local community. The judges thought that the initiative “clearly demonstrates outstanding work and best practice in First Peoples agency and engagement.”

Highly commended: The Beechworth Burke Museum, The Burke Museum Online Cataloguing Program (BMOCP). The judges commended the museum for successful adaptation to COVID and creating a good partnership project that strengthens skill levels in the sector.

The AMaGA Victoria Award for medium museums/galleries (8-50 paid staff)

On the Land: Our Story Retold, National Wool Museum, photo credit Mike Dugdale, National Wool Museum and City of Greater Geelong.
Image: On the Land: Our Story Retold, National Wool Museum, photo credit Mike Dugdale, National Wool Museum and City of Greater Geelong.

Winner: National Wool Museum for ‘On the Land: Our Story Retold’ exhibition

On the Land: Our Story Retold is about the past, present and future of Australian wool. It is about people and places and how we have settled the land. It is the first major exhibition on Australian wool for over two decades. It begins with a major new exhibit on the Wadawurrung people – the Traditional Owners of the Geelong region.

As the name suggests, On the Land: Out Story Retold is all about this rich and bountiful land. But there is an underlying tension implicit in this exhibition. How do we reconcile the rich and bountiful social and economic history of the wool industry with the drastic environmental and cultural impact of the industry over the last two centuries? This question is constantly in tension at all moments throughout the experience.

The judges commended the National Wool Museum for developing such a complex and detailed, well researched and considered permanent exhibition on a budget. The exhibition bravely engages with communities and audiences, confronting frontier stories to bring balance to the celebration of wool as an economic and cultural phenomenon across regional Australia, including in the Geelong region.

Highly Commended: Grimwade Conservation Services, the University of Melbourne, CostumeLAB – Conservation in Action HC The judges recognised the potential of the project, how it educates the public about conservation in a dynamic programming context.

Highly Commended: Geelong Gallery, Rone in Geelong exhibition design The judges acknowledged this exhibition as significant design and audience development achievement for Geelong Gallery that repositions it as a destination for new audiences.

The AMaGA Victoria Award for large museums/galleries (50+ paid staff)

Image: ACMI’s centrepiece exhibition, ‘The Story of the Moving Image’, photo credit Gareth Sobey, courtesy of ACMI.

Winner: ACMI for ‘The Story of the Moving Image’ exhibition.

The Story of the Moving Image is ACMI’s new, free, centrepiece exhibition. It spans more than 1600 square metres, taking visitors on an immersive journey through the past, present and future of the moving image across film, TV and videogames.

The exhibition sits at the heart of ACMI’s two-year $40 million dollar transformation and reflects the museum’s architectural, programmatic and digital transformation. Featuring more than 900 objects and artworks from ancient shadow puppets to original cameras, iconic costumes, interactives and contemporary artworks, The Story of the Moving Image traverses time, countries and cultures.

The judges commended ACMI for such a well-executed project. This major exhibition renewal for ACMI is built around technologically innovative displays and artist commissions to bring diverse voices into the telling of ‘The Story of the Moving Image’ – including giving voice to First Peoples. ACMI is a world-leading institution in its field and this project represents a consolidation of its status in Australia and beyond.

Highly Commended: State Library Victoria, The Rural and Regional Photography Commission Judges commended this project and how it contributes to the SLV’s photography collection and is an example of responsive collecting that meets the SLV’s mandate.

Victorian Collections Awards for Excellence in Museum Cataloguing

This year four organisations were recognised with Victorian Collections Awards. These Awards acknowledge the hard work undertaken by organisations that are cataloguing their collections online using Victorian Collections and are judged on the number of artefacts catalogued, the proportion of items catalogued with accompanying photos, the quality of the records, the depth of historical research involved, and the percentage of records made public.

The Victorian Collections Award for Excellence for organisations with volunteer staff

Winner: Kew Historical Society

Kew Historical Society founded in 1958, is committed to preserving the history and heritage of Kew and its environs. They have an active membership, which meets monthly, and working groups that manage the collection and undertake research. The society has a diverse collection which includes archives, artworks, audio-visual material, items of fashion and design, books, documents, maps and artefacts.

Search the collection at:

Highly Commended: Camberwell Historical Society

The Victorian Collections Award for Excellence for organisations with paid staff

Winner: The Beechworth Burke Museum

The Beechworth Burke Museum is one of Australia’s oldest museums, it combines traditional didactic exhibition settings, combined with modern technology and interpretative techniques to bring the visitor a unique perspective on Beechworth’s place in Australian History. The Beechworth Burke Museum are progressively digitising their significant 19th century taxidermy collection and making it accessible to the public via Victorian Collections. As well as natural history specimens dating back to the 1860’s (including the extinct Tasmanian tiger), the collection also includes a comprehensive collection of south-eastern Australian Aboriginal artefacts, many items relating to the discovery and mining of gold in Beechworth and the surrounding district, and material documenting local families and identities, including bushranger Ned Kelly.

You can search the collection at:

Highly Commended: Churchill Island Heritage Farm

The Victorian Collections Award for Excellence for war heritage organisation

Winner: Melbourne Legacy  

Melbourne Legacy is dedicated to caring for families of Australian Defence Force veterans who have lost their lives or health serving their country. Their collection serves as an archive of items representing the history of the Legacy Club of Melbourne and the services that have been provided to the families of veterans by Melbourne Legacy from its inception to the present time.

You can search the collection at:

Highly Commended: 8th/13th Victorian Mounted Rifles Regimental Collection

The Victorian Collections Award for Excellence for gallery and civic art collection

Winner: Wangaratta Art Gallery  

Wangaratta Art Gallery presents a relevant, diverse and changing visual arts program, consisting of national, state and regional exhibitions; including regional artists, touring exhibitions and joint ventures with the public galleries sector in Victoria and elsewhere. Established in 1987 Wangaratta’s unique regional gallery is housed in a heritage building located in the Cultural Arts precinct in Wangaratta.

You can search the collection at:

 Highly Commended: Bass Coast Shire Council Robert Smith Collection

Museum Accreditation Recipients

Two organisations, were presented certificates for completing the Museum Accreditation Program this year: the Charlton Golden Grains Museum and the Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum. The Museum Accreditation Program is now in its 28th year and the program aims to guide ongoing development and bring about positive change by supporting organisations to preserve and manage collections and enrich community experiences.

Congratulations to all Awards and Accreditation recipients, to all Highly Commended individuals and organisations, and thank you to all our fantastic nominees. The outstanding quality of the nominations received testifies to the extraordinary vitality of the Victorian museum and gallery sector.

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