In this age one of the challenges many community museums face is attracting new visitors. A wide range of activities such as sports, theme parks, shopping or community service all compete for potential visitors’ time and attention. Compounding this effect, people’s understanding of our collections and their meaning is diminishing. The items which were once commonplace in everyday life are now seen by many as unknown “things”, with little relevance to their understanding of the world.
And to be fair to the visitor, sometimes we don’t do the best job of helping them to understand what they are seeing and why (we think) it matters. Sometimes we simply leave them alone with these unknown, uninterpreted objects to try to make sense of what it all means. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised when it becomes all too hard and they don’t bother to visit. With this situation at hand, the need to produce quality exhibitions with engaging stories to make sense of our collections has never been more important.
With these challenges in mind, volunteers from Scenic Rim museums gathered recently at Rathdowney for an exhibition development and label production workshop. During the day, the groups explored the topics of exhibition components, concept development, structuring narrative, writing, and production methods. The afternoon saw a practical session, focusing on making simple yet professional foam core labels using a number of different techniques. After an enthusiastic afternoon brandishing Stanley knives, steel rulers and spray adhesive, the participants were well equipped with the background knowledge and skills needed to produce their own exhibition panels in-house. I can’t wait to see how they will use these skills to tell the fascinating stories from their region!
The Workshop was funded by the Scenic Rim Regional Council and Arts Queensland RADF Fund. The Regional Arts Development Fund is a Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Scenic Rim Regional Council partnership to support local arts and culture. If you would like to host a similar workshop for your museum, please contact the Museum Development Officer for your region.
With the Anzac Centenary Commemorations well under way, many organisations are working towards projects remembering their community’s contributions and experiences of the Great War. One such project
is the exhibition ANZAC: a day in the life of…The exhibition is a collaborative work by the Museum Development Office of South East Queensland, in partnership with the Scenic Rim Regional Council and Museums of the Scenic Rim Heritage Network. It is also part of a year-long program of exhibitions and activities focused on the War years in the Scenic Rim.
The exhibition aims to explore some of the stories of local identities associated with the Great War. With phenomenal enlistment and casualty figures for the region, it could only
ever examine a small cross section of some of the regions soldiers, pilots and nurses who served during the period. Amongst those featured were Corporal Bernard “Barney” Gordon VC MM, Corporal John “Jack” Evan Bartle MM DCM, Major Bertram Charles Bell DSO DSC, Private Charles Chesworth Burgess, Private Michael James Enright, Nurse Nita Selwyn-Smith, and Pastor Christian Seybold. It also provided a challenging look at some of the less prominent aspects and personalities of the regions WW1 history, such as
residents of German heritage, and those injured or incapacitated by their experiences at war.
The Scenic Rim region has had a large population of German and Prussian settlers, with quite a number of Lutheran followers. With a rise in anti-German sentiment after the outbreak of war, there were a number of incidents involving those of German descent. One such story was that of the arrest of Dugandan Pastor Christian Seybold who was later interned at the Holdsworthy internment camp in NSW and deported back to Germany. Seybold was accused of preaching pro-German sympathies to his congregation, allegedly encouraging them to pray for the success of the German army and decorating his church in black after the success of an allied battle. It is unclear if these claims were ever substantiated officially, or were the effects of overzealous patriotism tinged with xenophobia.
Another fascinating character affected by the war was returned soldier Private Charles Chesworth Burgess. Suffering from shellshock and other undefined physiological trauma caused by a severe gunshot wound to the head, Burgess returned home only to be denied assistance in resettling and treatment. He took up residence in a series of caves on his property, living a simple subsistence lifestyle and growing his own vegetarian food. He prescribed to principles of nonviolence as promoted by The House of David, an American religious movement, and grew his hair and beard long. His experiences at war and on return undoubtedly distanced him from his home community.
At the opening last Friday a fantastic evening of entertainment was held, with two-up games (for matchstick stakes, of course!) and good old fashioned sing song of period tunes, reminiscent of the patriotic balls of the day. Anzac: A day in the life of… will be on display at The Centre, Beaudesert, until the 27th of May 2015. An abbreviated satellite version will also be on display at the Boonah Cultural Centre.