Provoking thinking about 19th century gender roles

In the recreated 1850s classroom where I teach, I immerse modern students in an experience of what school and life may have been like for children on the gold fields.  We aim for historical accuracy as much as possible, but also make accommodations to meet the contemporary needs of children, as well as modern legal and moral rights.

Gender roles and discrimination in education are something that very quickly become apparent as children step into the role of 1850s children.  They are divided by their gender for clothing, lessons and rules.  In my school, the girls are not allowed to run or squat on the ground to play marbles.  They must learn needlework while the boys learn technical/mathematical drawing.  They are also excluded from discussions about jobs for their future, due to its irrelevance to their expected future roles as wives and mothers.

Interestingly, not being able to run seems to elicit the loudest protests and mutterings of disbelief.

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Children, Museums and Play – Melbourne Museum Children’s Gallery

Over the holidays I took my own two children to the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum.  It was a first-time visit and long overdue!

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Awe and excitement on arriving at the Children’s Gallery.

The space was joyful, playful and engaging – my pre-school aged children had an absolute ball.  We didn’t even get to spend much time in the outdoor space, as it was particularly hot, but the indoor space kept them endlessly engaged.   I spent the entire visit playing and exploring along with my children while simultaneously reflecting on the space from a professional perspective.  Particularly around engaging young children and the importance of play.

This is clearly an example of a large project – but I think there are things to learn for small and large organisations alike.  Some of the things I noticed particularly were: Read More »

Accuracy and reality in historical interpretation – a reflection on ideas of inclusion, representation and relevance

I can still clearly recall my excitement when I travelled to Melbourne, from my job teaching in Katherine (NT), for my second interview at the State Library of Victoria, where I was to be offered the position of Education Officer – Medieval Programs.  I had met a range of interesting and inspiring future colleagues, I had been taken through the amazing maze of buildings that made up the Library and I had even handled a Medici Manuscript.  Before I had even begun, I was completely sold on this new professional path I had taken.

I have a great personal interest in Medieval History and I was delighted to be able to spend my working hours playing the role of storyteller to others.  I loved finding the fascinating, obscure and shocking stories and capturing children’s interest by retelling them with as much drama and intrigue as I could muster.  What’s more, this role opened to me a new avenue to use my skills in Education and open the minds of children to new ideas, an idea that had romantically motivated me to enter the teaching profession in the first place.

At the conclusion of the State Library’s Medieval Manuscripts exhibition, my role became more focused on Victorian and Australian history, and other programs relevant to the Library’s collection and services.  I was enthusiastic in delivering the mission to make students feel like it was their library: relevant, useful and accessible to them.  I also considered myself progressive and willing to share the difficult and uncomfortable stories as well as the fun and happy ones.

But since those first months working in the cultural sector I have travelled a path of my own personal and professional learning and now, 11 years on, while I still love and believe in the sector I work in, I have a more complex and less romantic idea as to my role, responsibility and influence.

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#MGAConf2018 – Day 3 Recap

The last day of the 2018 Museums Galleries Australia conference.  There were some great ideas and discussions and museum education had some shining moments…

 

Opening Plenary – The arts of disruption and diplomacy

Angelita Teo – Director, National Museum of Singapore

Angelita began the day sharing stories from projects at the National Museum of Singapore.  She talked about the museum’s capacity to shape collective memory and the challenges of presenting war history, particularly when it is still raw and complex.  For war history exhibitions they presented stories from living veterans who were heavily involved in the process.Read More »

#MGAconf2018 – Day 2 Recap

After a few days reflection I have returned to my notes to review what I learnt during the Museums Galleries Australia Conference.  Here is the summary of presentations I attended during Day 2.  More reflections to follow in later posts…

Plenary – Simon Chaplin and Brian Lobel, Shake the Foundations

Day 2 opened with a joint presentation by Simon and Brian sharing stories from a collaborative project The Sick of the Fringe commissioned by the Wellcome Trust (UK).  The Wellcome Trust supports scientific research and medical advancements.  Simon is the Director of Culture and Society and Brian Lobel worked as a Wellcome Trust engagement fellow.Read More »

#MGAConf2018 – Day 1 (Afternoon)

Feeling challenged, inspired and encouraged after the morning’s sessions little did I know there was some serious brain-bending ideas to come.  I was looking forward to hearing from Genevieve Bell after I heard colleagues rave about her presentation at the MEET day on Monday, but I didn’t know what to expect.

Prof Genevieve Bell, ANU – Artificial Intelligence

Genevieve began by challenging our understanding of what AI is and what it means for our future in this industry.  AI is not a ‘thing’ but rather a range of technologies and fields.

AI is the steam engine of the 21st Century.

I know all about steam engines – the 19th century kind at least!

The beginning of a much larger conversation.  Not an end point.  The larger question is what will the metaphorical railway look like?  She gave us 6 areas to look at in order to develop a readiness for the arrival of the ‘train’.Read More »

#MGAConf2018 – Day 1 (Morning)

It’s been 6 years (!!!) since I attended a MGA Conference.  Last time I was at the height of my digital engagement and working on defining a digital strategy for Sovereign Hill.  Two periods of Parental Leave and a move to the Costumed Schools has altered the framework of my knowledge.  This blog has sat mostly dormant while I have diligently played the role of an 1850’s School Ma’am – find out more about my role and our unique program.  But after getting stuck in the day-to-day operations of our program I was looking for an opportunity to pull back and look at the big picture – so here I am at #MGAConf2018

AGENTS OF CHANGE

The conference theme excites me.  I am in the GLAM sector because I like the challenges and opportunities it has for making meaningful connections, providing unique experiences and challenging the status-quo.  This may sound strange coming from someone who diligently recreates the past.

But it is the contrast between the then and now that draws out questions about what has changed, why it has changed and what still needs to be changed.

Robin Hirst opened the conference with some poignant reminders:  while we need to be commercially viable we need to resist the temptation to be so commercial that we forget who we are there for in the first place.  He also encouraged us to make the most of this conference because without inspiration we can’t move forward.Read More »