Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

NMA “Bridging the Distance” of Covid-19 by

National Museum of Australia director Mathew Trinca wants people to start sharing their stories for posterity. Picture: Rohan Thomson.

Sally Pryor, The National Museum of Australia has set up a Facebook page for people to tell their stories of living through this global pandemic, The Canberra Times, 6 April 2020

And experience has shown that when people have the chance to record their experiences, they eagerly take it up.

With that in mind, the National Museum of Australia has set up a Facebook group devoted to recording and sharing experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australians can join the group, Bridging the Distance – Sharing Our COVID-19 Pandemic Experiences, and take part in a national conversation around what will be a defining moment in the nation’s history. The museum will hold the content shared on this platform as a record of these times, and look to develop an exhibition based on the stories it contains.

Museum director Mathew Trinca said many people were keen to talk about their experiences, especially while they were living through a crisis.

“The story of this coronavirus calamity is still unfolding, but our memories and recollections of the pandemic will resound for many years to come,” he said.

“There are a couple of objectives [to this project]. One is to really help people when they need it, and give them a chance to express how they’re feeling, or what’s happening to them, and the second is to create a digital record, if you like, of what it means to be living through this terrible time.”

He said that as a custodian of Australia’s social history and cultural heritage, the museum was committed to recording the stories of a global event that was redefining the way Australians live, work, share and communicate.

“Whichever way we can, we’ve made an absolute promise to try and reach Australians wherever they are through this time, and we want to hear from them as much as give them content that we can share,” he said.

“People trust museums, they look to us for authority but also for a kind of stability, for an assurance, that comes from being these institutions that are always here, that offer a service to the public and are about ideas. And when you’ve got that kind of place in the public landscape, I think you’re required to think about what you can do at this time to reach out to people and say, ‘Your story’s important, and we’re a place founded on stories of Australia’.”

He said museum staff were already discussing at other ways the pandemic would be incorporated into the physical collection.

“In time to come, on the other side of this, we’re going to want to be able to reflect on it, we already think that we’ll be making an exhibition in the future, possibly next year.”

The Facebook group is part of a wider museum initiative to take its collection into people’s homes while its physical doors are closed due to the coronavirus.

In coming weeks, this will include transforming a major exhibition, Endeavour Voyage – the Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians, into an online experience marking the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s first landing on Australian shores.

The exhibition looks at both the view from the ship and the largely untold view from the shore, with stories told in parallel with the Endeavour’s passage up the nation’s east coast.

Visit nma.gov.au for details.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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