Highlights from a study into understanding audiences’ interests, prior knowledge, attitudes and feelings associated with gold. This research was undertaken in conjunction with Sovereign Hill Museums Association in 2001.

What images came to mind when thinking about gold?

  1. Personal memories:
  • Exploring old mines
  • Panning for gold in local creeks as kids
  • “Reminds me of my father…”
  • Billy Butterfly’s treasure
  • Mullock heaps
  1. Wealth & Status:
  • It keeps its’ value
  • ‘Being the best’
  • Ostentatious
  • People kill for it
  • Money
  1. Community-maker:
  • Ballarat, Kalgoorlie
  • The Chinese
  • Emigration/immigration
  • Effects on families - poverty and wealth
  • The Gold Rush
  1. Gold as mineral:
  • Minerals & mining
  • Hot, hard work, toil
  • Metal detectors
  • Technology & tools
  • Destruction
  • Uses of it – gold teeth
  • Geology
  1. Evocative aspects of gold:
  • Beauty
  • Obsession, lust
  • Hope, despair
  • Gold Fever
  • Adventure

What would they expect in an exhibition about gold?

  • The whole story from extracting the gold from the earth to a finished object using relevant, everyday examples such as wedding rings
  • They expect real gold…and lots of it: beautiful, precious objects
  • To show the diversity of gold in form and colour and in the uses of it
  • A global perspective to give context
  • Gold in many civilisations is of interest: both contemporary and ancient and the significance of it and long history of use and value. We are all fascinated by it, across time and across cultures

They expect that an exhibition on gold would be an experience evoking strong moods and feeling, dramatic and tasteful in design and engaging all the senses, especially through touch – ‘feel the texture and shape of the nuggets’

Real gold objects or will replicas do?
Visitors don’t expect real objects:

  • They understand that museums can’t necessarily afford them, but need to use them where feasible especially where they know the museum has collections
  • Replicas must be of excellent quality, which is very important when juxtaposed with real objects because they can look tacky and really fake
  • Objects should be labelled when they are replicas, but no need to over-emphasise this as visitors really don’t care