what will the museum of the future be like?
CAN is only online by the grace of the Powerhouse (thank you Dawn and Seb) - Australia's Cultural Network (ACN) and Collections Council of Australia (CCA) are closed down and the rumors are that Cultural Ministers Council itself (CMC) will be disbanded - is the Federal Government sending our sector a message or are they just sweeping the old away to make room for new initiatives? - Lets have a discussion on the merits of government support for these online projects.
From my view point if CMC is disbanded the last formal lines of contact for State based organisations to Canberra will have been severed - does it matter? I think it does and will dramatically deminish the communication and cooperation we now take for granted across the Australian cultural sectors.
I hope the new Arts Minister Simon Crean and his new department have a plan to fill the void created by closing so many cultural online assets in such a short time.
Thanks for this Tim.
I've been deeply disturbed by this announcement, particularly as it hasn't been accompanied by any discussion of what might replace CAN. In 2010 The Cultural Portal and Collections Council were also disbanded. It suggests that the collection sector is not seen as central and immutable within our contemporary society. I wonder whether new forms of participatory communication enabled by social media have had ANY effect on the ways in which our organisations are viewed by policy makers. I guess we will have to wait and see as I have yet to find any forum where questions are being asked as to what might replace these initatives.
I agree that this is alarming and am heartened Tim by your suggestion that we have a conversation about the meaning of this. I would go further tho and suggest that there needs to be a proactive response from the sector rather than a reactive one.
I have been watching the #museumadvocacy campaign currently underway through AAM and wonder if this is not a model that might be considered?
Perhaps though that is putting the cart before the horse...are CAMD and MA in contact with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet/Crean's office...has a representative group been lobbying for the sector and an Arts policy? If this is happening they are being awfully quiet about it. Do we need to create a netowrk to do this?
Let's not wait and see...Angelina - let's create that forum.
For a short time I have two days a week that I can put energy into this...do you want to work on a proposal/framework?
Something I have been thinking about for a while in terms of my own organisation, but also something that i think goes sector wide is how well we communicate the value, worth and outcomes of iniatives within museums. I wonder if CAN is a victim of the sector's inability to talk to government in a way they understand and show the value of what is being done. I know, and I'm sure most CAN users know that CAN was far more than a job network and 'chat forum'. It is an invaluable resource and information sharing tool for regional and remote museums, connecting them to the state and national institutions and people with professional expertise and knowledge.
As Sophie mentioned, there are several campaigns happening internationally to try and raise awareness at government level of the value of museums. UK has got #savemuseums and now in the US the #museumadvocacy campaign. What are we doing here to show our governments that museums, and the resources that support museum workers (like CAN) are important tools for cultural and societal capital?
I think we need more feedback from MA as to what they are doing to advocate the sector, but also what we can do. Having CCA cut, now CAN and potentially the CMC is very worrying and we need to stop this erosion of the sectors voice at a national level.
Thank you, Bronwyn, for the posting and question as to what MA is doing - and thanks to Tim Hart for frank mobilisation of concerns as to how progressive Commonwealth government decisions have impacted (increasingly negatively) on colleagues across the museums sector in Australia, squeezing delivery to the general public and the local communities they serve.
MA is doing persistent and advancinge work on advocacy and interface with government, the federal government especially.
There has been a progressive stream of collegial and advocacy work emanating from the MA Futures Forum work in 2008 (around six themes relating to the government's 2020 Summit). This work flowed on into tailored and changing work on government policy directions (with none of the six FF themes let drop, but rather developed further, with progressive documents carrying the themes forward and responding to some new opportunities).
The momentum was carried again in the development of a submission to the Commonwealth consultation process on a National Cultural Policy (MA prepared a detailed set of arguments, introduced by 13 solid Recommendations for NCP attention, in May 2010). Details are available through MA website and our 'maNexus' social media site (below), complementary to 'Museum 3.0'.
In all, MA has made some 15 advocacy submissions to public Inquiries, mostly set up by federal government bodies, in the last two years.
Most recently, the government's National Broadband Inquiry (closed 25 February) enabled MA to gather up and move a lot of work around 'Charting Digital Futures' (an MA Futures Forum theme of 2008), while also including work on education; community cultural development; 'closing the gap' for Indigenous communities; health isuues supported by cultural amentities and life-long learning; museum amenities for an ageing population; research advance on digital platforms for an innovative society; the changing natural environment and sustainability; museums and tourism; and other topical concerns for government policy directions).
To jump to last week: MA organised a very successful meeting under the banner of Advancing Common Ground (version#2), 4 March 2011, bringing together a broad range of museums-sector bodies and related organisations that span the cultural heritage field. This built upon a first Common Ground meeting organised in 2009, hosted by Museum Victoria.
An action plan is being implemented out of last week's Common Ground meeting, with MA's further work and facilitating support. It aims to continue targetting a National Cultural Policy, which - all bodies generally agreed - is still an objective worth pursuing collaboratively.
Contrary to many indications that have been weakening optimism about federal commitment across the museums sector nationally, MA believes that the cause of a National Cultural Policy is NOT dead, and there is good reason to keep pressing forward, seeking interface with the Commonwealth government until this is achieved. Other common-cause goals revolve around that target, and will also be pursued.
On a wide field of policy fronts, MA seeks to champion the value of museums, galleries, sites etc. across the cultural heritage horizon, and to prove that museums have long 'delivered' across a huge range of government policy portfolios. They are sadly being increasingly starved of resources to deliver better on what they have well-proved they can achieve for public benefit, enriching audiences and museums alike. This is the nub of advocacy to be pursued with government. MA will not let the cause drop.
More information on MA's work and actions around advocacy can be found on the maNexus discussion site at:
Check out the story in the Australian - Regional museum web unravels.
Thnx for your feedback too Bernice, but I don't think MA have had success in what has been mentioned above - using social media and our own advocates (ie our substantial audiences!) to rally support.
We desperately need leadership in this area and I don't know where it's coming from. I'm wondering what leadership role the bigger institutions are taking? What is CAMD doing??
Lynda, I suggest this posting on advocacy failure locally is not helpful in combating the conditions faced by the sector in Australia. It diminishes regard for work being pursued and deepens the conditions of our pitiful fragmentation of resources and effort nationally.
The posting (and conversation so far) does not take due measure of the Australian context as very different from a strong US lobbyist culture politically, which goes also with a tradition of lack of state funding and ownership of museums and many other public utilities that we, in our context, continue to expect our governments to fund and drive developmentally. The Australian situation is distinctively different from the USA.
I believe there is a serious underestimation of the tasks of advocacy for the museums sector at Commonwealth and State/Territory levels in Australia. The museums and cultural heritage sector here has long been characterised by scattered, multiple identities and disunited advocacy (often one part of the sector disregarding or even lobbying against another for short-term gain).
The feedback I had from a commentator in the bureaucracy some years ago was that our sector is characterised by fragmentation, disunity and often mutually competitive goals that fail to present any united front to government (it was said that only universities manifested worse behaviour at the competitive level – however they are more powerful as individual entities when aggregated through their VCs).
The Commonwealth perceives little pressure to take our various cultural heritage/museums bodies seriously as a sector, with common-good goals, when we fail to behave as such.
CAMD and CAAMD meet separately; neither meets with Museums Australia. The Collections Council of Australia (while it existed) had no place for a Museums Australia representative on its board, although Museums Australia is, and has always been, the only large national association with a large and diverse membership of both individuals and institutions representing the geographical spread of museums and galleries across the country.
Our museum registrars and conservators are distinct bodies sitting apart from the rest of the museums sector and looking after their specialist areas – not affiliated to Museums Australia or other body. The Australian Council of National Trusts, Australia-ICOMOS (encompassing monuments and sites), various heritage bodies and historical societies at state/territory levels, the Australian Institute of Architects, large capital city museums and national/ state galleries: all have separate goals and tend to pursue their interests individually. Blue Shield Australia is the newest significant body to spring up in our midst and is seeking independent support from government to fund a secretariat – so far knocked back (while all of good will know Blue Shield needs such secretariat resources to perform well). The point here is: fragmentation and division equals weakness.
By contrast, various scientific areas, and the research projects needed by the medical profession, have been advanced through a strategy of cementing differences around some agreed goals and high-ticket objectives for advocacy with government. Astronomers, for example, have been distinctively successful in arguing out differences privately, forming common cause publicly around key projects (with millions of dollars of funding entailed), and achieving significant support from the Commonwealth to advance astronomical technology and infrastructure in Australia.
Advocacy needs to be long-range informed, focussed and concerted if it is to achieve success – including creating and seizing opportunities of the moment.
Museums Australia has pursued some consistent strategies around advocacy for the last few years.
On the last point: Museums Australia has organised two ‘Advancing Common Ground’ meetings, in 2009 and again in March 2011, precisely to encourage common cause around advocacy to government. Action is proceeding out of the most recent meeting.
Pulling back out to history and context: There needs to be clear-eyed understanding of the hard ground that has formed over many years through successive Commonwealth governments that have not perceived reason to give the museums and cultural heritage sector a high priority in government provision.
Australia has never had the vast lottery funding dedicated to cultural development in the UK, which resourced extensive museum capital works developments in Britain, though often failing to produce recurrent running costs needed to sustain programming and staff development of those projects.
Australia is decisively different from the USA, with that nation’s unique tradition of funding museums and taking charge of their development as private institutions through philanthropic effort – witness the statistic (from the American Association of Art Museum Directors) that 90 per cent of art museum collections in the US have been formed through private donation and gifts.
Even so, there is national funding in the US to support development of the museums sector. The AAM-driven museum advocacy effort undertaken in February, mentioned in this thread, was pitched around support for the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services). The IMLS has considerable resources. $233 million funding is currently provided through federal budget appropriations for the IMLS annually, with minimum amounts of grant funding pre-set for dispersal equally across all states of the US, ensuring some equity of distribution at a base level of state and local support for libraries and museums. Nothing like the IMLS or such federal provision exists in Australia.
Australia is also crucially different from Europe, where governments have long recognised cultural heritage as a central responsibility of the state. (A small morsel for comparison: While the Australian government has been steadily squeezing our National Museums for years with a cruel efficiency dividend, cutting now into the very flesh of their programs and public delivery, President Sarkozy’s response to the GFC impact on French museums two years ago was to allocate state funding to provide loans to help France’s museums through hard times.)
We need to focus on our particular cultural and social context and understand why it is such a tough environment that we face in museums advocacy. This begins with our British colonial origins and later our federal system since 1901, entailing a complex relationship between states and federal government.
It was a Commonwealth review of Ministerial Councils last year that downgraded the Cultural Ministers Council as superfluous to key priorities federally. What have the State/Territory cultural ministers, with all their resources for lobbying, to say about their exclusion from the Commonwealth agenda of cooperative purpose and heritage care nationally, and the further downgrading of museums? Where does the distributed national collection sit in this picture? – for it is certain that our national heritage resides in a vast range of state and locally funded institutions stretching back to the 19th century, and not only in our recently created, fine ‘National museums’.
We need to understand what has been singularly lacking in the last thirty-six years that has restrained the development of the museums sector – in comparison with the flourishing of the arts sector and the rise in popularity and public recognition of all our creative artists and ‘creative industries’.
One answer is our lack of a single organisation and structure through which to channel many disparate but related bodies’ voices and interests towards government, bringing diversity into a unified perspective around interconnected needs.
Since the Australia Council Act of 1975, we have lacked a parallel body to the Australia Council for the Arts. The Australia Council has all this while supported distinct art-form boards, each with their own staff, directors and chairs – which all feed into the superstructure of the Australia Council itself (as a board), shaping a common advocacy voice and interface with the federal Minister for the Arts.
The Collections Council of Australia was a very different body, constituted around collections alone rather than the full range of activities and programs that characterise museums and galleries today. It had a tiny staff; no membership; and gave out none of its Commonwealth funding in grants to other bodies. After 5/6 years of effort and millions of dollars of outlay, CCA was summarily defunded without warning. That is how precarious the landscape is for the museums sector.
By contrast, look at the current strength of the Australia Council. The Australia Council in 2010 received $172 million from the federal government; spent $12 million on staffing; applied $ 7.3 million to various contractors as ‘suppliers’ of services; and dispersed $165 million on grants and programs for Australian arts development. Just apply a multiplier factor backwards over 36 years to estimate the OzCo’s impact on Australian culture and society!
That is what being ‘a sector’ can mean when there is a provided structure through which to advocate causes and shape development long-term. Extrapolate this picture of more than 36 years of consistent development of the arts with Commonwealth support and you can understand how contemporary Australian arts have come from the neglected margins (where they were in the early 1970s) to the centre stage of public consciousness.
The single most important development the museums and cultural sector could achieve (even at a fraction of the outlay provided for the Australia Council) would be the creation of a Cultural Heritage Council. In one move, this would decisively change the placement of all bodies that make up our sector. And it would for the first time shape a coherent whole. It would at last bring our care for heritage, history, sites, collections and their public communities into direct relationship with creativity and ongoing cultural development nationally.
Only through such a structure and approach could we begin to bridge the disabling divides between large capital city institutions and the disastrously neglected and struggling regional museums sector across Australia – which is where this conversation (triggered by the defunding of CAN) began.
Regarding the Collections Council of Australia Ltd, and Bernice's suggestions that it outlaid "millions of dollars", and that the source of these millions was the Australian Government...
Lest anyone's imagination be tempted to add too many zeros, I can advise that the CCA's funding came from three sources: operational grants from Cultural Ministers Council ($2,167,106); project grants from various government and philanthropic sources ($411,251); and donations by individuals ($1,650). One of the project grants came from the Commonwealth, and it funded publication of Significance 2.0. The total from all sources across 6 financial years was $2,578,357.
The CCA was not mandated - or funded - to distribute grants.
The constitition of its Board was based on consultation with the collections sector (including archives and libraries as well as museums and galleries) in 2003 -2004. The sector was always represented on that Board through the chairs of the four 'industry councils' - CAMD, CAAMD, NSLA and CAARA.
That same 2003 -2004 consultative process recommended strongly that a membership model would not work for a new peak body for the collections sector, because that would compete with the many existing membership organisations already operating. Several reviews of the CCA also appeared to confirm the sector's reluctance to contribute directly.
A lot of my time with the CCA (I was its CEO from Feb 2005 to April 2010) was spent explaining to others that the organisation was funded by ALL governments of Australia (national + states + territories) through the Cultural Ministers Council, and not by the Australian Government alone. It was a complex message, and probably made the CCA sound very remote.
The challenge of advocating for the sector is pressing and real. It's good that this discussion is happening. It's important to build new models and processes on accurate awareness of what's been tried previously. (Defining the 'sector' is an ongoing challenge! - and probably a worthwile topic for a separate discussion.)
Good luck to those with contacts in the right places and who are speaking up for cultural heritage in all its forms.
Hi all -just forwarding something from CAN's Twitter feed earlier today, can't see any more detail on either the CAN lists or the website as yet:
"Good News - the Powerhouse Museum and DSEWPC have entered into a license agreement to enable CAN to continue operations from 28 Feb"