Creative Spaces: Reframing University Museums and Collections


Friday May 13, 2016

The University of Sydney – Fisher Library

Start time: 9.30am 

Limited Spaces – RSVP now closed

Full Program CAUMAC-UAMA
CAUMAC logo Arboreal image


University museums and collections are often seen as serving the tripartite institutional mission of teaching, research and engagement. While they can certainly be integral to all three, they can also be:-

  • A training ground for future professionals
  • Can be  places of experimental and innovative museum practice
  • Can be a template for interaction with multiple audiences

As the operating environment of higher education dramatically changes, universities are seeking to leverage every advantage from the full range of intellectual and physical campus resources.

Museums and collections can play a significant role in helping to shape an institution’s identity and narrative.  They serve a number of different purposes and represent, individually and collectively a significant asset. They are uniquely placed to utilise the great diversity of intellectual resources available within the host institution.

There are many examples around the world of universities achieving creative results by using their museums and collections in innovative through new forms of student, research and community engagement. The utility of collections for research training, object-based learning and cross-disciplinary programs is being explored and exploited by more and more in higher education.

Yet despite this potential some universities still marginalise their museums and collections, even keeping them out of the mainstream of campus life

This seminar therefore poses the questions: –

  • Are museums and collections part of the DNA of a university?
  • Can university museums and collections be the central drivers of cultural production in higher education?
  • Can they be considered as core university business?
  • What professional standards should we expect from university museums and collections?

We are interested in hearing from anyone who wishes to participate in addressing some of these topics. It can be a formal 15 minute paper presentation, a brief update (2 or 3 minutes) of developments at your university, a panel discussion, live debate or performative interpretation (see contact details below).


Institution and sector perspectives

Confirmed speakers:

Prof Hugues Dreysse: Vice President, University of Strasbourg. Hugues is the current chair of the University Museums and Collections Group (UMAC) an international committee of ICOM. He will talk of the networking of university museums around the world.

David Ellis: Director of Museums and Cultural Engagement at the University of Sydney. He will speak on the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum Project that will bring the museums of the university together to form a new multi-disciplinary facility, funded by significant philanthropy.

Prof Ted Snell: Director Cultural Precinct, University of Western Australia. He will speak on the special role of university art museums in Australia. Since their establishment 150 years ago, universities in Australia have commissioned and collected artworks to enrich their cultural millieu and ensure their graduates develop as fully rounded individuals with a balanced education that includes a knowledge of the arts through contact with their own and other cultures. Additionally, universities have acknowledged their responsibility as as agents in building civic responsibility and social capital, helping communities to better understand and celebrate their cultural heritage. That two-fold mission of providing a centre for teaching and research while concurrently enriching community life continues to guide the development of programs within university based museums and galleries.

Philip Kent: University Librarian and Executive Director of Collections at the University of Melbourne. He will speak on Engaging Collections: recent strategic changes at the University of Melbourne. The University of Melbourne has endorsed an ambitious Engagement at Melbourne 2015-2020 strategy to provide a new lens through which teaching, research and external relationships may be developed. In seeking to provide greater public value, a key ingredient will be a more deliberate and nuanced approach to cultural engagement. Guided by sectoral developments overseas, the university will create new partnerships and programs to contribute distinctively to the cultural life of Melbourne and its regions. The brief presentation will outline these strategic developments and the contribution that museums and collections can make to this new perspective.

CAUMAC Uni Melbourne strategy Philip Kent

Hakim Abdul Rahim: is a recent Honours graduate of the Heritage, Museums and Conservation program at the University of Canberra with a research interest in university museums and collections. He is the curator / conservator of the Australian National Museum of Education and Chair of the University of Canberra Collections Committee. His talk is entitled Why Cinderella didn’t make it to the ball, a look into the legacy and effect of the Cinderella Collections reports at a small, young regional university. He will talk briefly on collections at UC and how the report has become a fairy-tale, no longer effectively aiding the preservation, care and engagement of university museums and collections in Australia. He will identify key areas of concern that require action to improve the care and preservation of university museums and collections in the long-term and touch on how the material culture of museums and collections can help preserve the cultural landscapes of a university.

CAUMAC Why Cinderella didn’t make it to the ball Fri 13 Hakim Abdul Rahim

Mirna Heruc & Anna Rivett: are the Director and Collections Officer of the University Collections team at the University of Adelaide. Mirna and her team look after and promote the collections, running a public program of events to showcase the creativity and expertise of the academic cohort and engage with the broader community. They will take us on a whistle-stop tour of 42 collections at the university, resulting from their most recent collections audit, each one revealing facets of the university’s history.

Dr Leonn D. Satterthwaite: For nearly two decades, he had a dual appointment to the academic staff of The University of Queensland and the directorship of UQ’s Anthropology Museum, a museum that fulfilled all the roles of a fully functioning museum plus those placed on it by its being embedded within a university.  Because of severe resource constraints, it was necessary for us to achieve multiple ends in each of our activities—to kill several birds with each stone we threw.

One way we did this was with regard to teaching.  For nearly twenty-five years, he developed and taught a museum-based subject in Museum Anthropology.  The subject had as major objectives not only the doing of anthropology in a museum context (in which the students made a major contribution to the Museum’s work), but also the effective integration of theory and practice and the giving of students maximum latitude to exercise their own initiative, take responsibility for their own learning, and define and pursue their own personal and collective learning goals.  Because the principal outcome was an exhibition open to viewing by the public as well as by members of the University community, it was a serious undertaking and real-life experience for the students.  Furthermore, the way in which pedagogy and content were mutually reinforcing required effective interplay of the intellectual, the embodied, and the social creating a truly rich and authentic learning experience for the students, especially as transcultural interactions were a significant part of subject content.

None of this would have been possible had the teaching and learning involved taken place in the more conventional T & L setting.  Central to it all was the role that objects from the Museum’s collections played: They were critical elements of all that happened in and outside the classroom and of the relationships entailed in the materialisation of ideas that was crucial to the subject.

Dr Diana Young: Director of the University of Queensland Anthropology Museum will speak on the future of university anthropology museums in Australia. University museums have a unique capacity for leading intellectual explorations that are often both unavailable to, nor appropriate in, state run museums and art galleries. There is a (mostly) European trend to erase ‘anthropology’ or ‘ethnographic’ from museum names (O Hanlon and Harris 2013). Yet projects that are specifically anthropological in approach have much to offer Australia as it struggles with the politics of reconciliation and academic discourses of de-colonisation. Diana will explore the constraints and opportunities for carrying out such a remit in a contemporary university anthropology museum.

Object-Based Learning: The Power of Things

Fiona Moore: Co-ordinator, Object Based Learning and Collections Management, Arts West, at the University of Melbourne will present on the Faculty’s new home for the teaching of the Bachelor of Arts – Arts West.  Integral to the design and operation of Arts West is object based learning.  Fiona will provide an introduction to this new teaching space and discuss how the building has been developed to facilitate wider access to, and use of, the University’s Cultural Collections and to embed these collections into the curriculum of the Faculty of Arts.
Fiona Salmon: Director of the Flinders University Art Museum and affiliate member of the School of Humanities and Creative Arts. She will explore object-based learning (OBL) as an approach to embedding employability skills in higher education curricula. Working with academics across disciplines, it aims to develop an adaptive pedagogic model, suite of resources and community of practice to encourage greater use of Flinders University Art Museum collections in teaching practice. It is funded as a pilot by the Australian Government Office of Learning and Teaching.

Kim Goldsmith: Casual Academic staff, Sydney College of the Arts (Sculpture Department), The University of Sydney, and current MA Cultural Materials Conservation Student at The University of Melbourne. The title of her talk isInternational Museums and Collections Award 2016 (The University of Melbourne/The University of Birmingham):  A student perspective on the benefits of Object Based Learning (OBL) for emerging professionals.In January 2016, Kim spent four weeks at The University of Birmingham campus, shadowing professionals and acquiring skills across the museums, collections and archives on campus, as part of the U21 International Museums and Collections Award. In this talk she will share her perspective on the benefits of OBL for student career development, drawing from her experiences participating in the Making cultures: new ways of reading things OBL module at The University of Birmingham, and Engaging the senses: object-based learning study day, held a University College London (UCL) in February 2016.


CAUMAC presentation Goldsmith Kim Goldsmith

UAMA Panel: Creative research practice in the university art museum space

Chair: Prof Ted Snell (UWA)

Contributors: Dr Campbell Gray (UQ), Rhonda Davis (Macquarie), Suzanne Davies (RMIT), Fiona Salmon (Flinders).

This is a FREE symposium. It will be followed by a CAUMAC AGM and social function in one of the university’s museums. All welcome.

For more information contact:-

Andrew Simpson –

BOOK PROPOSAL: A book proposal on the creative uses of exhibition spaces and material culture in higher education is currently being developed.Those who are offering presentations of any type at this symposium will also have the option of contributing to the book project once the book is commissioned. Discussions with a UK publisher are well advanced.

Other contributions to the book project will be sought globally.


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