Large, small, different
The first thing I wrote in my notebook when I attended the recent Museums Australia Conference in Adelaide was ‘I feel large, small, different’. Was this going to be an Alice in Wonderland experience? From the opening ceremony to the closing plenary the conference encouraged me to reflect on this museum and its place in the museum world.
Cupcake in hand and my head banging against the ceiling I felt that our museum was large. It is in a large heritage building with spacious halls and chambers, hundreds of rooms and a generous parkland setting. Over 80,000 students stream through our doors to participate in education programs each year. Cup of tea in hand I was soon feeling small. Our collection, which comprises over 20,000 objects, is very small in comparison with some other museums—particularly natural history museums with their numerous and fascinating flora and fauna specimens. We are also young in years being just over three years old—quite a revelation when other museums with international reputations were recovering from their 150th anniversaries.
Green with envy, I listened to some museums planning how to use the cool million dollars from a well-heeled benefactor. However, we are fortunate to receive donations of objects from people who actually worked in this heritage building. And there lies our difference. We are a museum in a heritage building—not a museum in a purpose built contemporary building or a converted heritage building. A very large percentage of our collection is on display and much is from this very building. That is special. That is our special large, small, different museum.