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International Museum Day: Museum collections making connections

2014 International Museums Day Poster

2014 International Museums Day Poster

Every year, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) celebrates International Museum Day on or around the 18th of May. The theme for 2014 is: Museum collections make connections.

This year’s theme aims to promote the way museum’s contribute to the development of society through the use of shared memory, community and cultural heritage storytelling. It reflects the desire for museums to create links between visitors and the objects in collections, and rejuvenate an understanding of the traditional methods museums use to involve their communities and stay relevant.

Right across Queensland the MDOs are working with museum volunteers and collecting groups on projects that reflect this theme and the associated goals. Here a just a few of the inspiring projects that museums are working on in Far North Queensland:

  • Cairns Historical Society are in the process of re imagining displays for Cairns Museum, and working with the community to ensure their relevance.
  • Cairns and District Chinese Association (CADCAI) are preparing to undertake an oral history project to capture community memories of the Lit Sung Goong Temple.
  • Gordonvale’s Mulgrave Settler’s Museum is planning a new community-based competition to boost it’s public standing.
  • Menmuny Museum at Yarrabah is working to update and rejuvenate displays.
  • Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council is hoping to undertake a significance assessment of its collections.
  • Carpentaria Shire Council is working on the interpretation of significant heritage buildings along its main street.
  • Cape York Heritage House in Coen and James Cook Museum in Cooktown are developing displays to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Queensland Police.
  • Ravenshoe Visitor Information Centre is opening a new Ravenshoe Heritage Gallery to showcase the region’s photographic material culture.
  • And regional councils, museums and historical societies in Cape York, Torres Strait, the Atherton Tablelands region and the reformed Mareeba Shire and Douglas Shires are planning a range of projects to commemorate the centenary of World War One.

Museums are a great industry and community to be involved in!

The theme for 2015 is: Museums for a sustainable society.

Total solar eclipse and contemporary collecting…

Cairns 2012 Solar Eclipse Glasses

Sales of eclipse viewing shades and glasses have skyrocketed in FNQ over the last week or so. And, for about half an hour this morning, those without them would have been cursing themselves for not being able to witness the spectacle of a total solar eclipse.

Cairns Solar Eclipse Viewer

But viewing glasses are not the only ephemera and items that have been produced  to herald this astronomical event. Preparations for the total solar eclipse have been underway for years. The Eclipse 2012 Festival at Palmer River, for example, has drawn thousands to a remote locate for seven days of art, entertainment and healing. Port Douglas is holding the Solar Eclipse Marathon and its own five day Solar Eclipse Festival. And outrigger canoes slipped into the water at CliftonBeach near Cairns early this morning and paddled up to Palm Cove to celebrate the eclipse and finish with a tropical breakfast. The list goes on…

How can we, or should we, collect material from this major event and integrate it into our museum collections? Does it fit within our understanding of tourism, of entertainment, of revelling, or of stargazing over the years? Can we document how local people celebrated the event or collect from the various festivals that have been held? And can we capture, through photographic and intangible culture, the “being there” moment, that collective gasp we all took as the moon finally slid over the sun, when the light dimmed, the temperature dropped and when the birds went suddenly silent?

Cairns Solar Eclipse from Machan’s Beach, Cairns. Photo: Michael Marzik

Flotsam and jetsam or contemporary collections?

Could some of the thongs collected during the annual Chili Beach Clean Up be considered significant and included in contemporary collections and stories about tourism, environmental management and community on Eastern Cape York Peninsula? Over 4500 thongs, as well as other marine debris, were collected by Portland Roads residents, Lockhart River residents and environmental volunteers this year in their quest to keep this strip of coastline clean and healthy. The area is renown for its marine eddy’s which bring flotsam and jetsam into shore.

Of course, not all of this maritime material is collectable. But the thongs keep on arriving and have now become synonymous with the yearly event. Strung up in the palms trees that line the beach, they are now representative objects that reflect the activity undertaken by locals to care for sea and country.

One of the “thong” trees on Chili Beach near Lockhart River, Eastern Cape York.