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.

Read More »

#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 »

Life of an 1850s Teacher

Teaching from the Catechism
Teaching from the Catechism

Since the start of 2014 I have been working as a teacher in the Sovereign Hill Costumed School, a shift from my previous role as an Education Officer.  Since April 2014, marking a year now, I have been full time as the Ma’am in St. Peter’s Denominational School.  This role sees me running a 2-day costumed role-play experience for Year 5/6 students twice a week, with one day spent on administration/organisation.

It’s been an easy move in some ways, a big shift in others.  Most notably I have moved from focussing on innovation and social media to working, predominately, with technology of the Victorian Era, such as the slate board (which is eerily similar in shape and size to the iPad!).  I love living the past.   I was also fortunate that my previous role had equipped me well in terms of background knowledge, thus enabling the role-play to come more easily.  But I still continuously find gaps in my knowledge that makes it hard to be respond to some situations authentically – such as knowledge of country names, boundaries and rulers as they were in 1854.  It is motivating to keep learning contextual information about the era.

Read More »

16th International Symposium on School Life and History Museums and Collections – A reflection

I was delighted to be involved with the planning and delivery of this Symposium.  It is the first time it has been held outside Europe.  The program ran from Wed 25th – Sat 28th March on site at Sovereign Hill.  During most of Thursday I was teaching a visiting school group for Day 2 of their 2 day 1850s school immersion experience.

On Thursday afternoon I presented my paper In their shoes: children comparing their experiences to those before themThis paper was a discussion about our costume school program and how, through personally experiencing a recreation of history, are able to develop an appreciation on the context in which historical events occurred.  I suggest that we create disbelief in the children which leads to cognitive dissonance.  To resolve this dissonance and create resonance they need simply to develop the understanding that people believed and behaved differently in the past.

My Prezi is available online here.

Read More »