Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Regional Museums

Arms of Australia Inn Museum. Source: MGNSW

Gina Fairley, Are our museums fit for the future?  ArtsHub, 22 May 2015

As NSW local governments face impending restructures, how will remote and regional museums limber up for the change in culture?

In one of the opening sessions of the 2015 Museums Australia Conference, Dr Sally Watterson tackled a topic raw and real, and one dwelling in everyone’s mind especially with last week’s budget announcements.

Titled Paucity and plenty: reflections on regional spaces in a changing world her paper looked at the relationship between government and remote and regional museums.

Watterson who, through her own consulting firm and in various institutional capacities, has been what she described as a ‘translator’ between local government and museums.

‘What I learnt was there were two languages and they didn’t connect. My job was to understand government language and bureaucracy and to understand Museums and volunteer culture and broker communication between the two,’ said Watterson.

A decade on she admits that it is still not easy dealing with local government.

She used the moment to promote the Museum Advisor Program, which has run over the past fifteen years to assist volunteer-run or small museums find and reach their goals. ‘You can approach M&GNSW to partner you with an expert capacity builder or museum professional to work with you to build the areas you want to build, usually co-funded between Arts NSW, devolved through M&GNSW, and your local government,’ said Watterson.

Watterson offered the point: ‘You need to rethink your regional and remoteness – it is not that hard; it is not that bad.’

She said that in our current economic climate we, as museum professionals, have to be a bit more nimble in how we think about improving our museums and keeping ourselves going. Local government relationships are a good place to start.

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