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Moving to still

One characteristic of water is that it is always moving, albeit at very different rates.  Even ice moves.  Alice Outwater in her book Water: A Natural History, says that ‘A single water molecule making its way through a stream and forest ecosystem is on a biological Ferris wheel.  A raindrop may hit a leaf, trickle down to the bark of a branch, evaporate to come back down again as rain that flows into soil and is sucked up by a root hair and is transpired from a leaf – to become yet again a raindrop that comes down in a storm and runs overland into a stream’ (Outwater, p. 64). Continue reading

brisbane storm

Strange Objects for Strange Times

We live in strange times. Strange weather, strange financial markets, strange technologies are all about us, and anxiety is at high levels. The Great Acceleration of global change can leave humans stranded, feeling stressed and out of time. One of the ways we can respond to this is to slow down, rather than speed up, for survival.

Slow Media are increasingly important in strange and fast times. Museums are places where visitors physically spend slow time with special objects, perhaps with friends or grandchildren, perhaps in serendipitous conversation with other people whose curiosity has been stimulated by the same object in the cabinet. They are an important part of a Continue reading

fleming blog

Museums as Places for Imagining the Future of Cities

Dr Steven Fleming has been poking the hornets nest that is urban planning for over a decade, with his mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, politicians, designers and academics. Together with his colleague Professor Angelina Russo, he has been holding a series of provocative workshops around the country to get people thinking about the potential for bicycles to change the shape of our cities and the way we live.  What’s different about these workshops is that they are being hosted by museums and will be run in conjunction with the National Museum’s Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia exhibition.

So why are Museum’s the best place to re-imagine the physical and cultural fabric of our cities? I’ll hand over to Dr Fleming, for his point of view…….. Continue reading

An artistic interpretation

One of the most interesting aspects of working as a curator is observing how different people interpret objects in different ways. Some people may look at a writing box and see a functional object made to serve a specific purpose, others may view it as an object which tells the story of a person, place or event, and some may even experience an emotional response. Last week, I was privileged to gain an insight into how a contemporary artist is interpreting some of our collection through his camera lens. Continue reading

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Helpful to harmful

Remember Goldilocks? She was the girl who liked her porridge not too hot, not too cold but just right. When it comes to water, humans are just like her. Too much water is just as bad as too little, and it has to be just right.

Water is so essential to human endeavour that it is hard to keep this brief. On the helpful side of the equation, water is essential to maintain physical health, it’s an amazing solvent and cleaner, it provides beautiful places to recreate and extinguishes fire. On the harmful side, lives and livelihoods are destroyed in floods, damp conditions can affect crops and water can provide the right breeding grounds for organisms that impair human health.  In this blog post I use two Continue reading


A tale of extremes

There are few substances on the planet more changeable than water.  As ice, water, and gas, water impacts almost every aspect of our lives. This blog post looks at places in Australia which have very distinct climates because of water’s ability to change form, from gas, to water, to ice.  In particular, it looks at places where the extremes are reached.  Welcome to the watery edge. Continue reading

New Goulbourn Weir.

Domestic to industrial

Water enables so many tasks in the world that sometimes, we can forget how essential it is. At the domestic level we use water to drink, cook with, clean ourselves and our clothes and to keep our gardens growing.  Industrially, water is a vital input to many industries but perhaps the most well recognised is the agricultural industry.  This post takes a look at two objects, relating to the home laundry and the development of large scale agriculture, as a means of exploring this spectrum of domestic to industrial.

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Introduced to native

The history of water includes the history of gardening. Different species have different water needs, reflecting their place of evolution. When European settlers arrived in Australia full of images of lush meadows and verdant trees, based on their lived experience in many cases, a kind of cognitive dissonance happened. The old environmental reality and their new reality didn’t match up. This gap has been slowly closing over time, and we can see this in action through the history of gardening. These Continue reading