Blog Archives

Valuing shared learning at Herberton Mining Museum

Community collaboration has always been central to my work as a MDO. And, in our current climate, with the restrictions that COVID-19 is placing upon travel and gatherings, I thought I’d tell you about a recent training series I ran at Herberton Mining Museum,

Creating workshops for collection policies and collection management procedures aren’t the easiest topics to be creative with. Just how much fun can you have with a Deed of Gift or a Loans form?  And how do you convince volunteers wary of change that a bit more paperwork and process is a good thing? My challenge was to develop comprehensive AND accessible workshops that made sense to the participants.

Funded through a Community Heritage Grant from the National Library of Australia, the workshops bought together a total of 12 people from six different museum groups: Herberton Mining Museum, Loudoun House Museum, Tolga Museum, Millaa Millaa Museum, Malanda Dairy Centre and Ravenshoe Visitor Information Centre.

Participants in the CHG training at Herberton Mining Museum. (Two missing from Tolga).
Photo: Sherrie-Ann Cockell, Herberton Mining Museum.

Participants congregated (yes, face to face) at Herberton Mining Museum for three weeks of two day training sessions. The first day of each week involved an overview of the principles and examples from the industry. The second day was dedicated to practical reinforcement, and the challenge of adapting perfect museology principles into day to day reality.

The value of people being able to articulate their experience of managing the museum, and outline their successes and frustrations regarding donations, acquisitions and procedures in a collaborative environment is immeasurable. We heard stories about wayward items appearing on museum doorsteps, anonymous donations, lost databases, misplaced loans and cataloguing triumphs.  These helped create a sense of inclusion and camaraderie, and injected a bit of humour into the discussion. Some of the comments on the workshop evaluation forms highlighted the ‘priceless’ nature of shared learning experiences, and the opportunity of hearing from groups struggling with similar issues.

Jo Wills revving up one of the cataloging groups during the training.
Photo: Sherrie-Ann Cockell, Herberton Mining Museum.

Some said the chance to come together helped them ‘regain their mojo’ as they felt cataloguing and some of the processes had been overwhelming them until they heard from others. Benefits were also gleaned from spending time with people they don’t normally work with.

One of the most salient lessons from the training was the need for organisations to have clear volunteer induction procedures. It is reasonable, we decided as a group, that new volunteers understand that volunteering in a museum means you engage with objects and that this has certain responsibilities and requirements.

Groups are now working on developing up policies and procedures, adapting some of the templates I provided as part of the workshops, and reflecting on their induction processes. They are also enjoying the archival and collection management materials that were made possible as part of the grant.

Rob and Helen Fuller and Stacee Hillyard receive archival supplies as part of the training.
Photo: Sherrie-Ann Cockell.

Thanks to Herberton Mining Museum for hosting the training and making everyone feel welcome.

Anticipating Anzac: upcoming exhibition on the Atherton Tablelands

Anzac Treasures_logoAre you Anzac-ready? Or busy working on an Anzac-related project? As museums and historical societies across the state continue preparations for a suite of Anzac projects for the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, let’s take a sneak preview of a project underway in far north Queensland.

Anzac Treasures from the Tablelands is collaborative exhibition between museums, historical societies, libraries and visitor information centres from the Tablelands Heritage Network. They are working with the FNQ MDO to pull together and curate the exhibition.  It is funded through the Federal Government’s Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program in the Kennedy electorate, via the Friends of the Atherton Chinese Temple, and with the support of Tablelands Regional Council.

Tablelander Article Anzac Treasures Workshop Jan 2015The exhibition aims to highlight the work volunteers do to protect the districts heritage, as well as commemorate the First World War and its impact in the region. Part of the project has involved the volunteers participating in a series of exhibition workshops which explore the process of putting an exhibition together – from developing a concept and identifying objects to organising space and writing labels. Over the next few weeks, groups will be busy framing images, finalising labels and preparing their contributions prior to installation and the exhibition opening.

This is the first collaborative exhibition the Tablelands Heritage Network have worked on together. It has been a lot of fun, as well as an informative and engaging process. Participants have been sharing resources and ideas, and comparing their own local knowledge of this topic and the region during the war period. At a recent workshop, volunteers presented a range of objects for inclusion in the exhibition, some previews of which are included in this article published in a recent edition of the Tablelander newspaper. Click on the newspaper to read.

Anzac Treasures from the Tablelands opens on 2 April 2015 at the Post Office Gallery at Atherton Chinatown, 86 Herberton Road. It run will run for two months. Inquiries to Atherton Chinatown: 07 4091 6945 or info@houwang.org.au

Now and THeN … using Skype to link community museums and education specialists

With learning programs playing an important role in the contemporary museum sector, organisations need to have an understanding of the Australian Curriculum. But for many volunteers and non-education specialists, the process of wading through the curriculum can be overwhelming.

Tony Coonen and Janelle Insley from Cobb and Co Museum present to the Tablelands Heritage Network via Skype at Malanda, Far North Queensland. Photo: Gwyneth Nevard.

Tony Coonan and Janelle Insley from Cobb and Co Museum present to the Tablelands Heritage Network via Skype at Malanda, Far North Queensland. Photo: Gwyneth Nevard.

To help museums and interpretation centres on the Atherton Tablelands de-mystify the new curriculum, education staff based at Queensland Museum’s Cobb and Co Museum campus in Toowoomba recently participated in a Skype-based workshop run as part of the Tablelands Heritage Network (THeN) meetings.

Tony Coonan, Education Officer, and Janelle Insley, Learning Programs Manager, outlined a range of strategies to help local museums and interpretation centres connect with schools in the area. This included searching Queensland Education’s database to create a geographically relevant contact list. Check it out here.  Most of the groups in TheN have collections that reflect local history and technology, and Janelle and Tony were able to focus on topics that draw specifically on those areas. Have a look here.

Object-based learning was also central to the discussion. Community museums, with their special association with “real things”, are perfectly placed to help students’ develop interpretation, interrogation and research skills.

With limited resources to run specialised, face-to-face education training, Skype facilitated the community’s much needed access to QM staff. The response from THeN members has been enthusiastic and they will now focus on developing education materials for museums in the network.

(THeN is an group of museums, historical societies, visitor information centres and collecting organisations that meets three times a year. It is facilitated by staff at the Tablelands Regional Council with assistance from Queensland Museum’s MDO for Far North Queensland.)