Gertrude St/Nicholson St (Melbourne Museum)
Having mastered my commute to a tee – with now just the odd tram ride taking an unexpected turn, my time at Melbourne Museum has almost come to an end. Despite only having had a few weeks getting to know the ‘Ten Pound Pom’ project that I am working on, and I am by no means an expert, I feel like I already have a good idea of how much potential the project has for becoming an exhibition that will provoke a relatable and no doubt, emotional experience for its visitors. The project looks at Post World War II British Migration from 1947 – 1982, when British citizens could go to Australia for just £10. Over a million people emigrated in that period – and who could blame them when a couple cups of coffee would cost you the same today. Seeking sun, adventure and the chance to escape post-War austerity in Britain, these migrants and the stories that I have had the chance to sift through relay an array of contrasting experiences – some very positive, and others heartbreaking.
Giving a presentation to the humanities department during my final week has provided an opportunity to reflect on both my work on the project, and more broadly on my experience as a Museum Victoria intern. All of the work I have been doing on oral histories from the period was brought to life on a Saturday trip down the Mornington Peninsula – just one of the many examples of Victoria’s staggering landscape – where I got chatting to a woman at a bus stop. She had picked up on my British accent, and asked me where I was from. She explained, with a twinge of Bristolian still evident, that she had left Britain in 1973 and hadn’t been back in over 40 years. I couldn’t resist asking, and as it turned out, I had found my very own Ten Pound Pom! Getting the chance to spend a bus journey hearing about her experience in person has solidified for me just how many people will be touched by this exhibition. I gave her the museum’s details and hope that she will get in contact to share her story – the chance meeting has been a really meaningful way to round off my involvement with the project.
With the project being in such early stages, I have gained so much insight into the complexities of getting an exhibition up and running. The battle for funding and the need to ‘sell’ an exhibition idea are essential processes that any museum must go through. To give me a look at the other side of exhibition development, I was given the opportunity to shadow Dr Deb Tout-Smith for a morning, the lead curator of the WWI : Love and Sorrow exhibition that opens at the end of August to mark the commemoration of the centenary. In full-on installation process, I got to see curators, project managers and collection managers in action, all mucking in to get the exhibition ready for its opening. I was most struck by the handling and positioning of artefacts. The placing of each object is so particular, with only those with a real eye for detail capable of achieving perfection; the process was fascinating to watch.
In applying for Global Challenge, amongst other things I was looking to learn as much as I could about exhibition development in particular. I think it is safe to say I could not have squeezed in an ounce more information if I tried; it’s been an extremely positive experience which has definitely confirmed my pursuit of a career in the arts no matter how much uncertainty lies ahead – I guess that’s all part of the fun.