17 June 2022, Sydney: The Australian Museum (AM) was today announced as the overall National Winner of the 2022 Museums and Galleries National Awards (MAGNAs) for its ground-breaking Unsettled exhibition. In addition to being selected as the overall National Winner from a competitive line-up from institutions from across Australia and New Zealand, Unsettled also took home the award for best temporary exhibition in its category.
Along with the MAGNAs, the AM also won a Museums Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Award (MAPDA) for the How we are Unsettled: Unit of work (Digital Learning Experience MAPDA Category) and received a highly commended accolade for the Unsettled exhibition Digital Twin Experience (Virtual Tour or Exhibition MAPDA Category).
Members of the Australian Museum Unsettled team, including curators Laura McBride and Dr Mariko Smith, accepted the awards at the national ceremony held today at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre as part of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA) National Conference. This national recognition builds on two awards the Unsettled exhibition team won at the 2021 IMAGinE awards presented by the Museums and Galleries of NSW.
Director and CEO, Australian Museum, Kim McKay AO, congratulated McBride and the AM team for their continued achievements for this award-winning exhibition.
“We’re so proud to see the Unsettled exhibition continuing to receive recognition – this time at a national level – for its powerful truth-telling about Australia’s foundation,” McKay said.
“Understanding our past is the key to creating a better present and a brighter future. This is one of the most important responsibilities cultural institutions have today: encouraging the public to critically reflect on history and how it influences us today,” McKay said.
“This is why, with the reopening of the AM in November 2020, we included on the wall of Hintze Hall in the centre of the AM, a statement of reflection: ‘As a trusted source in the community, the Australian Museum is committed to presenting scientific evidence and cultural truths derived through our research and collections and First Nations Peoples traditional knowledge.’”
“And, despite closed borders and COVID-19 lockdowns during the exhibition run, the AM saw a huge increase in new visitors to Unsettled, highlighting that through ambitious exhibitions, the AM contributes to current critical debates,” McKay said.
“The physical exhibition closed at the end of January, but visitors can continue to experience the exhibition through an online digital experience, available on the AM’s website. We are also looking for ways to integrate parts of Unsettled into the AM’s future plans, as we know many more people would like to opportunity to experience and learn about this history,” McKay said.
Laura McBride, Wailwan and Kooma woman, Director, First Nations at the AM, said these awards affirm the AM’s leadership in First Nations curation.
“I am so proud that we won the overall National Winner award for Unsettled, one of the most significant exhibitions in the AM’s nearly 200-year history,” McBride said.
“The First Nations team at the AM has now won the state and national award for the two exhibitions it has developed since having an Aboriginal curator and support from the leadership team to be self-determining – GADI in 2019 and now Unsettled. This is hugely significant,” McBride said.
“I’d like to thank Kim McKay and the entire Australian Museum community for supporting us in delivering this ground-breaking show. This leadership is what allowed the Unsettled exhibition to happen and succeed,” McBride said.
The awards were selected by a team of volunteer judges who offered their time and expertise for this year's awards.
“The curators of this exhibition are to be very highly commended for seeing opportunity and going for it. Changes in the museum's structure, led by the brand-new role of First Nations Director and above, provided ground for taking what could have been another exhibition about Cook and shifting the focus 180 degrees to foreground the experiences of past and present First Nations people in so-called Australia,” the judges said.
“They were especially innovative in their community consultation, which was early and wide-spread, and the genuine accommodation of feedback. This project sets the new standard for First Nations representation and participation in exhibitions. A powerful and important exhibition from the Australian Museum,” the judges said.
The AM was also shortlisted for a number of other MAPDAs, including for Explore Magazine: First Nations dedicated issue (Magazine MAPDA Category) and Australian Museum Brand Identity (Identity MAPDA Category).
Unsettled was made possible thanks to the support of The Balnaves Foundation, IAS Fine Art Logistics, Reconciliation Australia, Ashurst, DLA Piper, Gilbert + Tobin, and ABC Radio Sydney. The acquisition of cultural materials for the Signal Fires section of the exhibition was funded by a grant from the Australian Museum Foundation.