Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

WWI events derailed

Ross Peake, ‘End of the road: Union labels end of War Memorial’s travelling exhibitions a ‘sad state of affairs”, The Canberra Times,  26 August 2014

Thousands of Australians will be robbed of the chance to participate in the commemoration of Australia’s history because of funding cuts that have halted the War Memorial’s travelling exhibitions, a leading union says.

The Community and Public Sector Union said the funding cut was a short-sighted decision.

Memorial director Brendan Nelson said late on Monday the shock funding cut had forced him to cancel the travelling exhibitions.

The exhibitions, including one to commemorate the centenary of World War I, were part of the memorial’s program to take exhibits to people around Australia who could not travel to Canberra.

CPSU deputy secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch called on the government to make up the shortfall.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when the National War Memorial has to cut such a loved and important program as this in a centenary year,” she said on Tuesday.

“This cut is going to rob thousands of Australians around the country of the opportunity to participate in what is a really important commemoration of our history.

“It’s a short-sighted and entirely unnecessary decision and we would call upon the government to step in and make up the shortfall.

“This decision shows the very real impact that this government’s cuts to public sector funding are having across the board.

“There’s a chain reaction – Veterans Affairs has its budget cut by almost half a billion over four years so it’s having to pass that on to the National Memorial. In the end it’s the community that loses out.”

The exhibitions being dropped include Remember Me: The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt, Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan, Nurses: From Zululand to Afghanistan, A Camera on Gallipoli and Reality in Flames.

“After 17 years of its co-sponsorship, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs informed the memorial last week that it has found it necessary to cease funding the travelling exhibition program effective immediately. There is no plan for it to be reinstated in the foreseeable future,” a statement from the memorial said on Monday.

The sudden decision comes as the memorial is revamping its World War I galleries and gearing up for commemorations for the centenary of WWI.

Dr Nelson said the successful travelling exhibitions program was established about 17 years ago, with exhibitions being displayed in museums and galleries across Australia.

“In delivering travelling exhibitions to the Australian public, particularly in regional and rural areas, the memorial has told the story of Australia’s military history with support of the memorial’s extensive national collection,” he said.

Current travelling exhibitions will return to the memorial once they conclude at their present venues.

Read more here.

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