We know the Melbourne Museum for many things: the giant blue whale skeleton inside its entrance, the endless warren of exhibits, experiences and crawly creatures contained within, and its striking post-modernist silhouette against the city skyline. Lesser-known is its invitation to tap into the organisation’s massive brains trust.
Last year Melbourne Museum did just that with a series of lectures that ran from educational and conversational, to funny and plain weird. Held in the museum’s theatre, the series featured guests and in-house experts holding court on everything from astronomy to film, restoring telescopes and the history of Syria.
The museum’s new series brings in new experts, new outlooks and new discussions every month. The most recent session saw the museum’s senior curator of South Eastern Aboriginal Culture Kimberley Moulton host The Intersection of Art & Historical Collections: First Peoples Women, Creative Practice and the Museum. The talk discussed some of the significant works created by Aboriginal women, how women work with historical collections, and gave insight into how those collections are given new relevance for the living cultures of First Nations people.
Looking ahead at the program to come, we caught up with Fiona Kinsey, the museum’s senior curator of images and image making, to talk us through a selection of what’s coming up.
*Reframing Colonial Histories: Re-contextualising Collections Through Contemporary Art
Artist and researcher Lisa Hilli works with the Melbourne Museum’s collections to create new work discussing gender and body adornment. Recently Hilli has been working with the team redeveloping the Te Pasifika Gallery, home to the museum’s Pacific collection.
In this talk she’ll be discussing the impact of colonialism in Papua New Guinea, from the 19th century to now. “It’s going to be a real reflection on historic collection practices and what it means to communities,” says Kinsey.
Wednesday August 8, 1pm–2pm. Get tickets.
Citizen Science: People-Power Building Knowledge of Nature
In honour of National Science Week, three very different researchers will talk about the concept of crowdsourcing science. Di Bray tracks sightings of rare and displaced marine species, Erich Fitzgerald digs for fossils, and Karen Rowe analyses nature sounds. Each relies on the work of citizen scientists and enthusiastic amateurs who collect data for the greater good.
“There’s a huge resource of people out there, mostly untrained, who do this work as a hobby,” says Kinsey. “It’s incredibly important work. People employed to do it just can’t do it by themselves.”
This lecture will discuss – and celebrate – the difference a community can make.
Wednesday August 15, 1pm–2pm. Get tickets.
*The Problem With Plastics
There’s a lot of talk about plastic lately. It’s everywhere, it doesn’t break down and it destroys the environment. But museums are also interested in the other side of the problem – the unwanted aspect of it breaking down before its time.
Twentieth-century design was rife with plastic, and objects such as toys, clothing, cameras and cars, are slowly falling apart. “Plastic hasn’t been around as long as other materials, and we’re just starting to realise it [can degrade prematurely],” says Kinsey. “It can be a major issue. At home, you might just throw it away, but we also have a mandate to protect and preserve, to stop the decay.”
Conservators Petronella Nell, Julianne Bell, Alice Cannon and Karina Palmer will discuss the issue of how to preserve the plastics we want. “This one is quite nerdy, but very fun,” says Kinsey.
Wednesday August 22, 5.30pm–6.30pm. Get tickets.
Other lectures in the series through September and beyond include Making Futures, which sees a cabal of scientists, humanities scholars, writers, artists and more, responding to ideas about how humans impact the environment. In October, a panel of climate scientists will look at the changing oceans in Climate Sea Change, asking, “Can we save the reef and still eat fish for dinner?” In November, experts will chat about migrants’ impact on TV production in Australia across the past six decades.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Museums Victoria. See the full program for their lecture series here.