The South Australian Museum was closed in 1999 for refurbishments. The aim of these renovations was to work with aboriginal operators to develop aboriginal products, in order to enhance consistency and accreditation of this experience. This case study will analyze how the Aboriginal Cultures Gallery (ACG) at the South Australian Museum was able to promote aboriginal tourism by making use of spaces and objects.
This purpose of this case study is to evaluate and analyze the impact of the aesthetic placement of objects. For this purpose, the structure and the facilities offered by the ACG would be reviewed and a relation between the recent successes, in terms of turnover, would be formed.
South Australia always blessed with a wide variety of Aboriginal culture and heritage. For many years, missionaries, traders, government workers, anthropologists and expeditionary have made Adelaide their base to bring back numerous artifacts of the Aboriginal culture. However, representing the state’s indigenous history in a respectful and sensitive manner to attract local and international Aboriginal tourism has been a problem. According to a statistic out of the forty per cent of international tourists coming to South Australia to take part in Aboriginal tourism activities, only six per cent fulfill their purpose.
Steps were taken by the Museum of South Australia to rectify these statistics and new strategies were adopted to increase the popularity and representation of the Aboriginal culture in that region.
Analysis & Discussion
The Museum’s anthropology department strengthened with knowledgeable recruits and began a passionate planning period to promote the aboriginal culture in the museum. The proposal got an approved in 1998 and the refurbishments at the museum were completed early in the year 2000. (Megaw, 2001, pg. 115-120)
The museum had a wide variety of object, which could have been placed at the ACG but the think tank of the museum did not just want to condense the contextual information for viewers. So they decided to give the aboriginal people a voice by interpreting the stories behind the objects in terms of space.
The total space occupied by the ACG in the Museum is two floors. The gallery consists of eight regional case studies, six cultural theme modules and eleven technology modules. The eight regions illustrate the Adelaide Plains, Cooper Diamantina, Tiwi Islands, Kakadu, Kimberley, MacDonnel Ranges, South East and Western Cape York. The transformation from one region to another is as subtle as it could be. Even the main entrance of the gallery has a breakaway void, purposely designed to present a view of the above floor.
The viewer’s journey from one region to another also lets her experience the technologies that have been masterfully honed to establish an appropriate lifestyle corresponding these environment. The comparative difference between the themes in these environments have been managed by the addition of relevant edited anthropology films with an object illuminated in the space behind, while the film is being screened.
The presentation of these objects has had a significant impact on explaining the concept of relatedness in aboriginal societies. The educative and refreshing experience provided by the gallery demonstrates that there is not a single voice of authority or a single narrative to view the pathway. The viewer’s entrance and exit channels solely depend on the direction, in which she is coming from. The difference in entrance does not compromise on the general experience of the viewer; however, a return may provide her with a multiple number of experiences.
The museum had an abundance of objects that competed for a space in the gallery. With over 30,000 objects, the officials at the museum carefully selected only 3,000 of the most interpretative objects to be placed in the ACG. Each of these objects placed has a supportive video with it that helps the visitors of the gallery to understand the context of the object better. In addition to the screening of films, benches are placed at different areas of the gallery, where a bundle of touch-screen monitors are placed. These monitors contain the data-base of storylines that corresponds with the context in which the object is placed in the gallery.
A small space of the gallery is reserved for an Indigenous Information Centre, which is staffed by the knowledgeable employees of the museum, in term of indigenous cultures. This centre is tasked to provide the visitors with any further information need to gain accurate knowledge about the objects and the themes.
Analysts believe that the interactive experience of object and space by the ACG make it stand apart from other exhibitions of aboriginal culture, as its primary function is to demonstrate the achievements of the indigenous customs, as opposed to the material culture. Keryn Walshe, senior collection manager at the museum, said that the current design of the gallery not just provides an overview of the aboriginal culture but lets the viewer understand the intellect and the knowledge behind an object.
The methods adopted by the anthropology department at the museum have tried to achieve a dynamic culture in the field of indigenous representation.
This case study represents how objects and space can be converted in themes to exhibit the aboriginal culture. The structure and the placement of the gallery is as such to expose philosophical issues, while providing a portal, which can be used to perceive the Australian heritage in new light.
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The gallery, even though maintain a smooth flow, is divided into eight regions. Each of these regions illustrates a different aspect of the aboriginal culture. The placement of objects, structure of the gallery and the informative material available on the objects makes this exhibition an interactive process for the gallery’s visitors.
These changes have lead to an increased interest in the aboriginal community and the numbers of visitors have increased. The ACG is a prime example of how space and objects can combine to enhance the value of an exhibition for a viewer.