Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery has a vision for igniting interest and repeat visitation. Picture: Kim Eiszele.
Janet Carding, Talking Point: Capital city museum and art gallery forever on the move, The Mercury, 6 October 2016
It is school holiday time and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is full of children.
Families are visiting the museum in droves to enjoy what is on offer, including performances in the Central Gallery, which has been transformed into the magical Prospero’s Library as part of TMAG’s latest major exhibition Tempest.
We have received positive feedback about this space since the exhibition opened as part of Dark Mofo in June, with visitors loving the flying books and wood-panel walls.
Tempest is a demonstration of TMAG’s vision for igniting interest and repeat visitation.
Like other museums and galleries around the world that are shedding the image as static repositories, these programs and exhibitions are part of turning TMAG into a dynamic organisation that changes regularly.
This way we encourage locals to come back frequently and see collections with fresh eyes, and always have a new hook to interest interstate and overseas tourists.
Tempest is a wonderful example of this because the exhibition’s many themes have created enticing connections across TMAG’s zoology, cultural heritage, and art collections. It has provided the opportunity to present natural history specimens alongside historic works of art, and our visitors have responded positively to seeing collections in different spaces, and surprises such as pairing pirates and parrots together.
The Central Gallery at the heart of the museum is regularly brought to life through public programming, such as monthly family days, school holiday programs and evening events. This space, created as part of the broader redevelopment of the museum completed more than three years ago, is essential to TMAG’s ability to respond to the changing nature of museums and our ability to do things differently. In July, we had choirs during the Festival of Voices, and next month Blue Cow Theatre will present Shakespeare’s The Tempest in this evocative space.
TMAG’s recent family exhibition, Pattern Play, is another example of how we are doing things differently. We are putting families at the centre of our public program.
Alongside the kaleidoscope of colour, spinning mandalas and interactive activities in the Jemima Wyman: Pattern Bandits display, TMAG used its own rich natural science collections to explore the patterns. TMAG’s first Children’s Festival, supported by the City of Hobart and delivered in April, reflected the pattern theme with special events, displays, programs and activities for and by children. We were helped by our new children’s reference panel, a group of 7- to 14-year-olds who told us what children want from a day at TMAG.
Successful programming, particularly activities designed for families have contributed to the growth in visitation at TMAG we have seen over the past year. TMAG’s visitor numbers grew by 6 per cent in the 2015-16 financial year compared with the previous year.
These goals of a dynamic museum and involved community are at the heart of TMAG’s new Strategic Plan that was launched in June.
Over the next five years we aim to enrich, inspire and educate local and global communities by connecting them with Tasmania’s unique journey and place in the world.
We are now in the first year of implementing our goals within this new Strategic Plan.
One of the first actions will be the introduction of seasonal opening hours. We will reinstate Monday openings in the busy summer season from Boxing Day until the end of March each year, and the museum will open on every public holiday Monday year-round. This combination offers a balanced approach and ensures the museum is able to meet community expectations in the busy summer season, and at the same time is able to maintain quality programming and deliver on the broader objectives established in the strategic plan.
The biggest challenge for TMAG over the next five years is to put the state’s collection online. By digitising our collection, we hope to make it possible to share this incredible resource and our curators’ expert knowledge with a much wider audience to encourage engagement, generate more conversations, and gain more knowledge.
In future we hope that you will be able to dive deep into the collection as part of your visit to TMAG, but also access it from wherever you might be, across the state and beyond.
As we have shown with our children’s reference panel, we want the community to help shape their museum by providing chances for our visitors to tell and share their own stories in our projects, including oral histories.
TMAG’s exhibitions opening in December provide two more chances for involvement. kanalaritja: An Unbroken String is a national touring exhibition celebrating Tasmanian Aboriginal shell stringing practices. It is the result of a huge involvement by the local Tasmanian Aboriginal community during the development phase, including provision of beautiful, delicate and rare works evidencing the stringing skills of the local community — in the past, present and the future.
One Hell of an Inferno: the 1967 Tasmanian Bushfires will gather stories from the community through oral and visual history as well as through poignant artefacts. It will strengthen TMAG’s role as the primary place where Tasmanians of all ages come to learn about, participate in, and create the cultural identity of their island state.
TMAG has adapted many times over its 150-year history, each time balancing old and new to delight its visitors. My aim is that the children visiting this week seeing Terrapin’s talented performers bring our objects to life will become our next generation of passionate advocates, and will one day bring their children to TMAG.
Janet Carding is director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.