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Museums Australia National Conference
21-24 May 2015
Town Hall, Sydney

Be part of “the cultural cacophony” at Museums Australia National Conference 2015


Museums Australia’s national conference will be held in Sydney from 21-24 May 2015 at Sydney Town Hall. The sector has much to celebrate and the conference is being held in the largest and most exciting city in Australia. It will align with two key signature events for our city, the opening of the Vivid Festival and the Sydney Writers Festival.


The nature of the work we do in Australia’s museums and galleries continues to experience a tsunami of change. As the world becomes more networked, concepts of governance are reinvented, expertise is challenged, knowledge is democratised; in short, everything is contested. Some argue that these changes mean the very nature of museums and galleries as organisations is changing or has already changed. The only thing anyone can predict about the future is that more change is on the way!


The work we do in museums and galleries of any shape or size is impacted by unresolved tensions between the real and the virtual, the fixed and the mobile, the formal and the informal. Numerous new voices demand these spaces to tell their stories as they struggle to gain a foothold in the heart of the public realm. When everything is contested, how can we ensure that our museums and galleries and the work undertaken in their name represent civic responsibility, ethical practices and authenticity?


Sydney, as the site of the European invasion of Australia, has a significant history of contestation. It is also the site of the first museum in the Antipodes. Sydney has grown to be a big, loud, brash, global, networked, cosmopolitan city full of ideas and energy. The Museums Australia 2015 National Conference in Sydney will be the same.


We want you to be part of it. Consider the conference themes below and add your voice to the cultural cacophony.

Conference themes:

Medium - The Context of Cultural Production

What is the museum today and how is it changing? Are collections still central to the role of museums and galleries, or are they becoming increasingly irrelevant? What do collections represent, why are they important and how is this made relevant to both audiences and investors? Is there something special about the authentic object that cannot be captured by its digital surrogate? Museums and galleries come in all shapes and sizes, are there too many of them in Australia? Do the smallest birds make the prettiest sounds? Do smaller and larger museums and galleries collaborate effectively? Should the work of all museums aspire to the same sort of professional standards? Who will staff the museums of the future and what sort of work will be done there?

Message - People have Agency

There are many different voices demanding access to the heart of the public realm, who decides which voices occupy that space? The audience has been empowered in recent years, are we too obsessed with audience needs? Does the public expert still have a role in the modern museum or is the audience the new curator? How much of these changes have been driven by new digital technologies and how much has been driven by new socio-economic realities? Has our love affair with the audience divorced us from our collections?

Message & Medium - Contested Places, Dangerous Ideas

Do museums and galleries contribute to social good? Is this a reasonable expectation for any funding agency public or private? Is social good only measured in the generation of tourism dollars or are there other intangibles that can be measured qualitatively? Are museums and galleries really society’s safe places to debate contested ideas or are they merely amorphous structures for an acceptable public monoculture? Does every program in museums and galleries have to succeed? Where are the spaces to experiment, fail, learn from the experience and grow? Does the money that funds the public culture in our museums and galleries come with strings attached? Does deprivation stifle or drive innovation?

Regional, Remote and Community Museums Day

MA2015 will begin with a Regional, Remote and Community Museum Day on 21 May 2015. The day will be made up of a mix of presentations, seminar sessions and workshops. If you are from or have a passion for Australia’s regions, have a think about how the themes of the conference relate to the regional experience.

I look forward to welcoming you to Sydney, host of the Museums Australia National Conference 2015.

Andrew Simpson
NSW Branch, Museums Australia

Principal Partner


Key Dates