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Couched in history: Queensland Museum heads to homes

Culture

Queensland Museum Network was forced to temporarily shut its doors last month due to what director of collections Peter Denham has described as a “hiatus of normal”, but after transforming its website into a constantly evolving digital museum, visitors now have more catalogue items at their fingertips than ever before.

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During the temporary closure, Queensland Museum Network at Home, which was launched last month, will be regularly updated with content including new videos, at-home activities, Q & As, and learning resources.

Queensland Museum’s team of scientists and curators, who are currently working from home, have also become “Couch Curators” during the temporary closure, and will be using the museum’s social media channels to engage with the public and encourage others to

Through the museum’s social media accounts, staff will also be calling on people at home to become Couch Curators by submitting photos or videos of interesting objects and biodiversity around their homes and yards, curating their own exhibitions at home, asking questions of the team and exploring the museum’s online collection.

“Because of COVID-19, everyone is stuck at home, and therefore it’s provided us with what I think’s a great opportunity – and you’ve got to look for opportunities in those weird times – to look at how we can connect, and stay connected to, our audiences,” Denham said.

“We really hit on ways to do more with our collection online and bring our online exhibitions and learning opportunities and resources together into the one place.

Denham said the Couch Curators initiative provided an opportunity to showcase “people who do research in the back end of the museum”.

“I thought, ‘hang on a second, they’re all working from home’, and that’s where we hit on Couch Curator as an idea.  Working from home is the new normal for people and scientists can do that as well.

“It also got us thinking about, how do we encourage people at home – kids who are at home. People are looking for things to do to keep busy and we thought that idea of the Couch Curator was one that people could really benefit from.

Denham said the museum’s learning team had also made a special effort to align some of the At Home content with the State Government’s syllabus to provide engaging content for students who were home schooling.

“When people come and participate and visit here, [education] is very much part of this process, and we have a whole lot of our learning activities online now at the Queensland Museum Network at Home.

“Our Spark Lab team are doing really fabulous experiments and, activities and so is the Discovery Centre, which is, the place in the museum that people can come and ask questions, where you can ask them online now.

“If you found something interesting in your backyard that you’re not quite sure what it is, you’ve got someone to ask, and you’ll get a response pretty quickly to what that is, so it’s a really good way for us to connect and to be relevant at these times.

Denham said despite the obvious setbacks of the temporary closure, there were some positives.

“I look after their collections and research team and this sort of hiatus of normal has really given them the opportunity to do some deeper research. So the curators and researchers are writing papers and doing research at home that they wouldn’t have got that clear space to do, and the collections teams are looking at updating information so we can further share that on our collection online.

Denham said the At Home program also offered site visitors from across the state the opportunity to engage with collections they would not ordinarily have the chance to see, pointing out there are

“I don’t think many people would have had a chance to visit all of our campuses because we have campuses across Queensland,” he said. “For example, we’ve got the Langley Diving collection at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville, which is an incredible collection looking at our maritime archaeology and the MTQ also the largest dry coral collection in the world.

“There is also The Tea House models rail collection out at the Workshops Rail Museum at Ipswich, which is a collection of over 10,000 models of locomotives carriages and wagons.”

Denham encouraged people of all ages to check out the collection, saying there was something to appeal to everyone in the collection, and that Queensland was “one of the most biodiverse places on the planet”.

“Through the museum, we can explore all of those different elements from our daily lives,  we look at our past, and how that has shaped our present and, what does that mean for our future.”

Visit athome.qm.qld.gov.au

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