Workshops, Wallabies, And Wonder: What We Learned At Australian Museums

Last year, tour guide Dustin shared with us his whirlwind Adventure Down Under working with the Queensland Museum, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the Museums Australia Western Australia (MAWA) conference.

Kelly and Dustin grab a quick #QuokkaSelfie

This year, Dustin headed back to Australia with fellow tour guide Kelly to work with even more museums.

Designing A Dino Disco

Dustin and Kelly’s adventure began at the Western Australia Museum (WAM) in Perth, where a new exhibit kicked it back to the Cretaceous.

Dinosaur Discovery: Lost Creatures of the Cretaceous featured over 23 moving, life-size models of dinosaurs that roamed the earth up to 145 million years ago. The exhibit was sure to be a hit with families, and a dedicated activity zone helped ensure kids would feel engaged immediately.

For hitting the millennial+ community, WAM reached out to us to engage, entertain, and educate. We customized a fun evening that we created to celebrate the content with a fabulous late night event complete with music, discovery stations, and dinosaur-themed trivia.

Inside the Dino Disco event

Our takeaway:

Taking Dinosaur Discovery to a late night Dino Disco was a great exercise in making a meaningful event to meet your mission. An event is the perfect way to draw-in and engage crowds to kick off a new exhibit or acquisition.

Good events have to uphold your mission, and still have an element of education — but this doesn’t mean a sit-down-lecture is the only way to go.

The way we consume educational materials, entertainment, and media is continually evolving, and as museum professionals, we can leverage this change to lead our visitors to new levels of engagement and understanding of what we’re presenting. Our event with the Western Australia Museum was a perfect combination of engaging all three ideas: education, entertainment, and media.

Next Stop: Sydney and the Australian Museum

In Sydney, the Australian Museum staff was put to the test during our training workshop. They wanted to learn more about creating tours in our signature style, hiring tips, and best practices. We worked with their staff to think about making a solid foundation for creating new tours, including new staff to bring in a different energy and ultimately bring in a new audience.

Dustin and Kelly modeled our style of tour in their space, showing off that you can use our 5 Elements of a Hack anywhere, in any collection. We broke it down to show what we look for in hiring our own renegade tour guides, our unique hiring methods, and how we train our staff.

With these new tools and some inspiration, the Australian Museum crafted a solid plan to create new positions in their institution to build up new offerings, and find the best hires.

Our workshop participants got super into it…like, really into it.

Our Takeaway:

At many museums, things are done the way they are because it’s the way they’ve always been done — and that isn’t really the best reason to do anything, if we’re being honest.

Everyone has seen those internal videos that spew the corporate mission, values and rules for new employees. These videos are almost always boring, ineffective, and sooo 1980s. Updating staff training, and casting a wide net for job applicants will help you find ideal candidates. Oh, and always worth mentioning — if you want to bring in millennials, hire them.

The South Australian Museum

Then it was off to Adelaide, where we challenged the South Australian Museum (SAM) staff to learn — and execute! — our storytelling strategies and activity design.

During our workshops, we often talk about what to do in the ideal — for the next time staff puts their heads together to create an event. This time, the SAM staff immediately put our strategies into practice, creating content and making actionable activities that would be used immediately.

SURPRISE! We’re doing it, for the public, tomorrow. Game on.

Our Takeaway:

We believe that workshops, whether facilitating or participating in them, can be an amazing tool for museum professionals in continually shaping the way they approach their careers and the museums they love.

Bringing together a workshop with different departments allowed all aspects of the museum to create one amazing event, where everyone could show off things they were passionate about, and brought more behind-the-scenes staff to the front line.

Combining the workshop and putting into practice the next day make the team focus and gave them a real tangible goal — and they pulled it off stunningly!


This article first appeared on on November 16, 2017

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