Whose Museum, Whose History?

15th Annual Lecture presented by Alec Coles, Chief Executive Officer, Western Australian Museum.

 L-R Dr Jenny Gregory, History Council President, Alec Coles. CEO, Western Australian Museum, Helen Munt, History Council Secretary, Nick Drew, History Council Treasurer. Bobbie Oliver, History Council, Vice President

L-R Dr Jenny Gregory, History Council President, Alec Coles. CEO, Western Australian Museum, Helen Munt, History Council Secretary, Nick Drew, History Council Treasurer. Bobbie Oliver, History Council, Vice President

After the History Council’s AGM on Thursday 23rd of August Alec Coles delivered an excellent presentation for the History Council’s Annual Lecture.

Attendees were interested to hear how the new museum for Western Australia was progressing both in terms of the construction of the building and the plans for the various gallery exhibitions. The philosophy underpinning the new museum is that the museum will represent the heart and spirit of the community. There was reference to various other museums which reflect this philosophy such as the Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand, the Melbourne Museum and MONA in Hobart which have influenced the planning of the new museum in Perth.

Alec also discussed the other museums in Fremantle and regional West Australia, particularly the National ANZAC Centre in Albany which has had a significant impact on Albany’s tourism and economy. Also highlighted was the new Collections and Research Centre in Welshpool and suggested to all that a visit is a must.

Design of the new museum was the discussed and Alec presented various views of the new museum building which incorporates the heritage listed Hackett Hall and conservation works to this building have all been part of the project.

In terms of Whose Museum? Alec considered that contemporary collecting, activation of the museum, putting people first and emphasising why Western Australia is important are the key priorities. He indicated that recent collaborative projects such as the WA Faces Project, the exhibition for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the Collecting the West project have supported these ideas.

Alec went on to explain the approach to content in the museum which includes various interpretation facets as follows; it will be interdisciplinary and thematic, encourage public engagement and co-creation, Aboriginal content will be integrated, there will be participatory audience involvement, future focus to be on referencing the past and finally a safe place for unsafe ideas to explore challenging ideas with respect.

Alec also highlighted various other projects and the challenges faced by museum curators relating to what to collect in terms of how it will reflect the society of today. It was emphasised that there are always two sides to the story and presenting both allows the individual to make their own decision on how they interpreted the information.

The presentation was very thought provoking and the opening of the museum is eagerly awaited.