Personal Comment: What is a museum when it has no scientific staff?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not an expert on museums. That said I have been going to the Australian Museum since I was two. I have endured  visits during refits, politically over correct displays during the 1990’s  and the ruination of  classic galleries. But I have always found something positive about my experience (unless you bring up the admission charge). Now that I have established my credentials….

It would be impossible for a major art gallery to exist without its curators. The people who know and love its art. Whilst it’s good to have marketers, shop assistants and directors, if the bomb hit tomorrow  galleries could go on quite nicely if their works and curators survived. In the same breath museums need their scientific staff, the people who are committed to the institution’s core values. Whilst artefacts are nice, it is these people that give them relevance. Please Australian Museum, correct me if I am wrong but to hear the rumour that you no longer have any in house science staff brings me to tears. Who’s looking after the shop? Or is that the person looking after the museum? Arts institutions walk a dangerous line, when they focus on their periphery. The classic case is of the legendary Geological and Mining museum at the Rocks. In the 1990’s it became the Earth Exchange. A revamp in favour of an “edgier” look, left the organisation with little space for scientific staff, so they were moved off site. Disconnected from the science on which it was based, the Earth Exchange soon ran into trouble. It arguably became an “entertainment centre” whose later exhibitions were critiqued for their lack of focus and accuracy.An earthquake simulator was not enough to coax the public to believe in the Earth Exchange and it closed down in the 1990’s. Ironically some of its collection is now in the Australian museum. As I write this we are in the early days of December and the Christmas season, perhaps a visitation by Marley’s ghost from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to the Australian Museum is in order?  Just a POV, no offence intended.

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