Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Children explore human rights

Building a shelter for toys, Museum of Australian Democracy.  Source: ABC News  Photo: Kathleen Dyett.

Kathleen Dyett, ‘Children’s exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy explores human rights’, ABC News 18 November 2014

Children have taken control of an exhibition space at Canberra’s Old Parliament House, as part of a new program giving them the freedom to play and explore the issue of human rights.

The Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) spent months consulting with children about what they wanted in their own dedicated space.

The result was the museum’s new Play Up exhibition with a focus on human rights, including chalkboards, building blocks and a graffiti wall sprawled across a large, colourful space.

Its official launch on Tuesday coincided with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The museum’s manager of lifelong learning Glenda Smith said the exhibition focused on children’s right to play and had been about 18 months in the making.

“This exhibition is about children and it’s about their rights and it’s about their voice,” she said.

“It’s play up, muck up and enjoy, so it’s creative, it’s fun.”

Artists have used audio-visual displays and locked doors to explore aspects of the convention to children exploring the space.

Ms Smith said it challenged children to reflect on their own rights and their ability to speak out for the good of others.

“They have those rights but there’s also responsibilities with them,” she said.

“So they look at the wonderful ways they can express themselves and the responsibilities that go with that.”

A ‘redefinition of a museum’

UNICEF Australia partnered with the museum in setting up the space and chief executive Norman Gillespie said it offered children an important opportunity to be heard.

“They have some tremendous insights from a perspective which doesn’t carry any baggage or any preconceptions and you get some tremendous and innovative thoughts,” he said.

“This is a redefinition of a museum. It’s not somewhere you come with too much reverence and not touch. Everything here is for touching and playing with.

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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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