Media: Museum conference coming to capital (Canberra Times, 19 May 2012)

Museum conference coming to capital
By Megan Doherty
City Reporter

National Museum director Andrew Sayers announced yesterday a major conference would be held in Canberra next year, attracting up to 700 delegates. It was his first official duty after being named national president of Museums Australia, the umbrella organisation that advocates for museums and galleries across the nation. 

Both announcements were made on International Museum Day, with Mr Sayers saying he wants to shine a light on the breadth of the cultural resources held in the institutions. "One of the things I would like to focus on is the fact that Museums Australia represents an extraordinary national collection if you bring it all together," he said.

Mr Sayers said the theme of next year's conference, "How Museums Work: People, Industry and Nation", would  include looking at the museum workforce and also its vast numbers of volunteers, trying to quantify its contribution.

He said the recent allocation of almost $40 million in extra funding in the federal budget for collecting institutions and the announcement in the West Australian budget this week of a new $428 million museum for Perth were signs that the sector was valued.

Museums Australia ACT branch president Carol Cartwright said Canberra put in a bid early to ensure it hosted the
conference during the national capital's centenary year. "When visitors come to Canberra, they [can visit] all of those national institutions and some of the smaller ones as well. The Canberra Museum and Gallery. . . is a lovely small museum." 

Ms Cartwright said about 2000 people worked in museums and galleries in Canberra, with many volunteers also  helping out. She said museums and galleries, more than ever before, had to be run as businesses, generating money from sources other than government funding. But she doubted the big institutions would ever institute general entry fees outside special exhibitions.

"I certainly hope not and I don't think that's a direction any of them want to go in," she said. "Free entry for all is a really important part of what we're about. It's about education and interpretation and engagement. People just have a good time at a museum."

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