Tag Archives: exhibitions

7 Free things to do in Canberra over the Spring school holidays

Our two weeks of school holidays start today!  The children definitely need the break, and their mother isn’t complaining either!  While we have a camping trip planned for the second week of the holidays, for the first week I thought we might explore a bit more of the city we live in, rather than sitting at home with eyes glued to screens.  (Wish me luck!)

There are some amazing classes, programs, and activities available during the holidays, and my children have a long wish list.  However money is a little tight, and I realised that it was probably time for us to craft a list that focussed on things that don’t cost a lot of money, but will be really enjoyable.

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

1.  Floriade.  Yep – it may be clichéd but the huge floral displays are open throughout the holidays, are free to enter, and provide lots of different opportunities for being involved.  There is a different program of activities every day.  The tips I gained from head gardener, Andrew Forster, were to check the program first thing each morning before planning your day.  There are great things in the ‘Fun for Kids‘ section, including potting their own plants, attending Bunnings workshops, a circus playground with workshops, and more!    (And Bindi Irwin will be at the inspiration hub giving talks one day.) If all else fails, take a picnic and let the kids run around on the big grassed areas.

2. Arboretum.  The national collection of plants is free to enter, and roam around.  In addition to the wonderful wooden pod playground, there are also open spaces for picnics and running around, and amazing photographic opportunities.  There is a free creative corner during these holidays, plus a program of workshops ranging in prices from $10 – $30.  My personal plan is to pack some food and take the kids there with their cameras/iPods etc and run a family photo competition.  If it works I will publish their entries here for you to enjoy!

National Archives of Australia |a little bird made me

3. National Archives of Australia.  You might remember that I enjoyed a tour of the National Archives as part of the discovery phase of the Human Brochure.  I have been wanting to take the children there ever since, and with the opening of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize this week, the timing is perfect!  Entry to the archives is free, and there is a great range of exhibitions that I think my children will enjoy exploring – including one of ‘banned’ material that I think will appeal to my son!!

Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

4. National Gallery Sculpture Gardens.  I suspect that taking my active children (well, let’s be honest, my son) into the Gallery could be a recipe for stress, but I think that exploring the Sculpture Gardens, with reflective sculptures, floating heads, and my favourite, the James Turrell installation “Within Without’, could be much less stressful!  I might even include that in our family photo competition!

5. Geocaching.  We have been a little slack in our geocaching for about a year (oops) but the upside of that is that there will be lots of new caches around town that we haven’t discovered.  If you aren’t aware of geocaching it involves looking for hidden caches/containers that contain a log book, and occasionally swap-able  or track-able items, using GPS coordinates.  You can download a free version of the app to your phone, or use the GPS from your car (or go really rustic and use a compass!) and search for different caches hidden in public spaces, and logged on a website so that others can look for them.  I like to pick a geographic area, park the car and then go for a walk with the kids to find as many as we can before someone gets tired and complains!

6. National Museum of Australia.  The museum is always great for an interactive experience with kids, and these holidays they are running free drop in workshops in their Discovery Space, including one where you can make your own wire sculpture.  (Wonder if the kids will realise that I am there to do it for me, rather than to entertain them?!)

7. National Library of Australia.  On 2 October the Library has a story time session and a movie for children, both of which are free.  But the thing that appeals to me for my children is the Library detective – a free ‘find it’ trail of discovery.

Handmade Markets | a little bird made me

Plus one more.  Handmade Markets.  Entry to these amazing markets (no I am not at all biased) is free!  Of course it won’t end up being truly free as the temptation to buy so many of the beautiful products there is hard to resist, so I haven’t included it in my list of 7 – but wanted to remind you that it is a great day out!  4 and 5 October at the National Convention Centre!  (I won’t have a stall there but will be there helping out anyway!)

There are many more things to do in Canberra over the holidays, but this list will keep us going I think!  What ideas do you have for free activities these holidays?

Being a brochure – Part 5 – National Treasures

Warning – Images that I have included in my photographs include images of Indigenous Australians now deceased

You may find a bit of a theme appearing in my posts about the Discovery Events I have attended as part of the Human Brochure.  Me thinking that something I was about to attend might be a little ho-hum, naff or dry, and then being more than pleasantly surprised and quite blown away by how awesome it has been in reality.  It does mean that I have been gushing a bit about my experiences to anyone who will listen.  It also means that I probably need to raise my expectations a bit!  The next event definitely falls into the category of me gushing about it afterwards.

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) occupies an old building in the Parliamentary Triangle (as the precinct is known), along with various concrete bunker type buildings in the various light industrial areas of town.  My main experience with the National Archives has been applying the archiving rules to my work as an employee of the government, so that my files are saved, destroyed or a combination of both, in accordance with the rules set down for such things.  In the back of my mind I guess that I had thought that the NAA was in charge of all those files and bits of paper, and that it involved lots of dry and dusty paper piles.  Of course, as usual (it appears) I was wrong!  (Seriously, how much humble pie can one blogger eat in a series of posts?!)  What hadn’t occurred to me is that government records are more than just paper files produced by public servants.  Government employees have taken photos and videos, items have been owned by the government that form part of the records, and our country’s history, from the very beginning, is held in government records.

Talk about a light bulb moment!  This means that the exhibitions at the NAA are rich, diverse, and unique.  To have a private tour of two of the three current exhibitions was a very special privilege for me.  I think that all of us who attended were touched in different ways by the exhibits that we saw, but my reactions were definitely based on my own personal experiences.

We could choose two exhibitions to see during our visit.  I decided that I didn’t need to see the exhibition on researching my family, given that I am the immigrant in my family (which I may have told people a few too many times on the night!).  Instead the first exhibition I saw was the permanent exhibition, Memory of a Nation, with the extremely wonderful privilege of also being able to visit the Federation Gallery.

Larrakia Treaty

Larrakia Treaty

In the Memory of a Nation exhibition I saw video taken by ASIO of the Communist Party, a whale tooth, the briefcase carried by Harold Holt, (an Australian Prime Minister who disappeared while swimming in the ocean and was never found) and the contents of the briefcase.  The original Larrakia treaty is on display,  as are the travel documents required for non-white Australians to travel.

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The good, the bad and the ugly of our past is on display.  The application of the White Australia Policy, the way we as a nation treated the indigenous owners and inhabitants of this country, our involvement in war, the development of political parties, and government photos of people with no names, dates, or locations recorded.  I need to go back and spend more time looking at the displays in more detail.  Each new case I looked in had me shaking my head in wonder.  I want to take my children there to show them the history of the country they live in, to see the full story.

01071b43cb4995f14f459bf72ce240aea5f536e6e1One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is that there is a wall full of black and white images, called ‘Faces of Australia’.  These are all images taken by government photographers, mainly in the 1950’s and 1960’s to show Australia as a prospering nation.  Members of the public are invited to examine the images and identify themselves, family members, locations etc.  We heard a few stories of people who had done that and once again, the personal entering the story made it easy to connect with the items on display.

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01dd156ee6f4f7279bc5eff7cb5dbaaeae95fb6b0e01f5f7345d655b4ad6f284f42a258aaf226fc29807For me, with no real history in Australia other than my own, the section of the display that really captured my attention was the bit that I could relate to personally the most.  There is a section devoted to the justice system.  It includes photos of the members of the High Court, a wig worn by one of the judges, and various other documents and images.  I was able to share with my group that wigs are still worn, and that when I first started out as a lawyer in the 1990’s there were Supreme Court and District Court judges in Sydney who would refuse to allow a female solicitor or barrister to appear before them while wearing trousers.  A couple of women I was speaking to were quite shocked by this and it reminded me just how far we have come in some regards in a relatively short time.

The highlight of this exhibition, though, was being able to enter the Federation Gallery and examine the documents that are housed there.  These are the documents that establish Australia as a colony, and as a nation.  They have Queen Victoria’s signature on them, 0110cc65ef4646241f8708ba035cd9dcbb3a9a446dand bear her seal. 01a7b2cc481c7f6839b74e0bccb47912b8f8581da7 I had never previously contemplated that bearing a seal might be more than a stamp on a piece of paper.  These seals are large medallions made of silver, with the rope coloured and woven symbolically that attach the medallions to the paper.  They really do ‘bear’ the seal – if it was all held up the weight of the seal would rip the paper I suspect!  For the purposes of conservation photography of these documents is not allowed, but the NAA staff had very kindly arranged for a facsimile of the main document to be available for us to photograph. (just in case you thought I was being very disrespectful!)

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Curator Amy Lay

 

 

After that wonderful experience we moved on to the second exhibition of the evening.  I had chosen to visit the exhibition called “A Place to call Home”, 0120404c3130bb7c443064973c008a4ed6cc3587e4and we were very fortunate to have the curator of the exhibition, Amy Lay, to talk to us about how the exhibition came to be.  This collection tells the story, through photographs, of the migrant hostels in Australia from the 1940’s through to the 1980’s.  The images were all taken by Immigration Department photographers during that time, and again, most did not have the details of the locations, people, or dates recorded.  Given that this was the time that my father’s family migrated from Europe to New Zealand, the images certainly struck a cord with me.  Amy explained that many had been taken as a form of propaganda, to show the Australian public that the migrants were ‘just like them’, and to encourage acceptance of them.  01f3bc3c99d4ce183023bc54b0830e1a97cf57de57Many of the migrants were displaced people following the wars in Europe.  Many of us commented on the differences with how the current arrivals of displaced peoples are treated, and how the expectations of the Australian public are managed.  (For the record, my personal opinion is that our government policies (from this and the previous government) that address the treatment of people claiming refugee status are inhumane kneejerk reactions to a problem that is nowhere near as dire as the media would have us believe.  But that is just me.)01ab0f20cf7f9dbb8dd5ae7ecd7ce4615eb1ff1cce

There is a larger exhibition planned for later in the year that will include items from the migrants and the hostels in addition to the photographs.  I will be visiting that exhibition too.  Migrants are an important part of this country’s history, and how we treated them in the past, and treat them now reflect on our society in important ways.

Do you get the feeling that this event roused all sorts of memories and emotions in me?!  It really did.  I can’t believe that prior to this the closest I had come to the building was to use the carpark if I had a meeting at the Attorney General’s Department or Prime Minister and Cabinet, and had forgotten to book a car-spot!  So much richness sitting just metres away!

What I didn’t see, and what I want to go back to examine a bit more, are the collections of items that were previously banned in Australia under censorship etc.  Now that should make for some interesting tales!