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Matthew Flinders marine chronometer 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 4 July 2020,

The news overnight feels mixed: on the surface, the announcement to retain the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is a good outcome — but the implications of (yet another) sudden, and at best only partially considered, decision are more challenging.

On the (significant!) upside, there stands a brand new opportunity to respond to and consider the myriad of positive suggestions put forward by visitors, staff, commentators, experts, inquiry submissions and other passionate members of the MAAS community on how to get this change right.

Investment in MAAS since the Powerhouse opened in 1988 has been dwindling. This isn’t unique to this Museum, or indeed the cultural sector— policies of Government across all political stripes and jurisdictions have played a similar tune of ever expanding efficiency dividends. …

Note: I started writing this pre-COVID and have completed it through the ‘lockdown.’ NGV closed to the public on 16 March and will reopen to the public on 27 June 2020. Collecting Comme has been extended to the 30 August. Do go! This started as reviewing two exhibition design approaches, and after catching a virus, has turned into some other kind of beast where I also explore the notion of virtual exhibitions…

In a bit of an experiment — I’m going to take a look at two exhibitions in parallel — because they used very similar exhibition techniques, but also because their subject matter is also intertwined. …

The State Library of Victoria has just finished their latest major renovation, bringing to a close more than five years of work that has significantly upgraded the public facing spaces of the Library.

At the heart of Vision 2020 was the refurbishment of the Library’s incomparable heritage spaces, the creation of innovative new spaces for children and teenagers, and the reinvention of our services as we embrace new technologies and promote digital literacy and creativity for all Victorians.

The ambitious program has ensured that the Library continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our vibrant, diverse community, both in Melbourne and in regional Victoria, today and into the future. …

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The Getty Center under construction. Description: A complex boxy unclad array of rectilineal steel, a view over Los Angeles can be seen in the background. Credit.

This is a film that dispels the “burst of inspiration” notion and all the bull about the artistic process. — Maysles

As part of my ongoing exploration of how major cultural facilities actually get built, this 1997 documentary was recommended to me by David Reeves. Tracking down a copy to watch was another matter.

I should not have been surprised that an independently produced niche documentary, entirely funded by the Getty Trust about their own project, made 22 years ago, may not just be at the end of a Netflix search.

It is not available to stream anywhere I could locate. Less legal channels were not forthcoming. There were eight copies on Amazon second-hand, starting from $80. Trove uncovered six copies in Australia: three DVDs at the Australian Museum, Uni SA, and Uni WA. Three VHS copies at UTS, SLQ and Melbourne University. …

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William Kentridge The hope in the charcoal cloud 2014 (detail) Collection of Naomi Milgrom AO © William Kentridge [Description: Three pages from what appears to be a dictionary have been drawn on. Each black and white drawing shows a large older man in black pants and white shirt progressively balancing while stepping onto a small chair]

The website landing page for each of AGNSW exhibitions doesn’t offer much, the below description is pretty much all you get online about the show:

William Kentridge emerged as an artist during the apartheid regime in South Africa. Grounded in the violent absurdity of that period in his country’s history, his artworks draw connections between art, ideology, history and memory.

Curated by the artist, this exhibition encourages viewers to trace visual and thematic links between diverse aspects of his practice, from his engagement with opera to his interest in early cinema, from his inimitable animated drawings to sculpture and works on paper. …

Museums dedicated to individuals are not exactly my favorite kind of museum. House museums often tend to lean towards this kind of thing; and while recognising important or interesting people can be a great way to connect us to the past; I generally find them fawning (eg. Casa Azul) ; dull (eg. Mary MacKillop Museum); or working out how to deal with the realities of aggrandising colonialism in the contemporary age (eg. Monticello).

Of course, there are the rare exceptions to the rule. On this same trip, while in London I revisited the John Soane’s Museum — but it’s a very different affair: he built it effectively as a shrine to his own brilliance; and the layering of material, real, fake, with a healthy dash of bravado is part of what makes it sing. …

Note to reader: This review was first drafted in January 2018, but wasn’t published until July 2018. Obviously my attempts to focus on writing this year are going really well…a series of notes have been added to bring some of the references up to date with more recent events.

The new Australian Music Vault opened in December 2017. The team at Arts Centre Melbourne describe it as:

“…a celebration of the Australian contemporary music story — past, present and future. Created in collaboration with the music industry, it features a free, permanent exhibition, interactive and digital experiences, iconic objects from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Performing Arts Collection and an ongoing calendar of live performances, education programs and public events.” …

Not that this is meant to be a competition…

On show for a limited time only, Inside Out is a rare and surprising museum experience. Let’s call it a love song to Museums Victoria’s mostly unseen collection of more than 17 million objects. It’s a diverse arrangement of our most beautiful, intriguing and downright bizarre collection items, dusted off and dressed for show. A team of curators has lovingly selected 370 extraordinary items from our vast storerooms, many on public display for the first time. Each artefact has been reimagined with unique presentation and captivating storytelling.

While I love a marketing team with a healthy dose of hype and bravado, there is one hackneyed’s “dusted off”. It goes along with all of those articles that make you cringe as a museum professional — you know, the ones that talk about the amazing item ‘discovered’ in the dusty archives. …


Michael Parry

Cultural infrastructure, design and technology. Traces of typography. Previously @maasmuseum @create_nsw and @acmi currently @Creative_Vic pronouns: he/him

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