Friday, November 17, 2006

[News] Proposed merger for Austrailan Museum and Powerhouse Museum

Museum merger sparks international concern (ABC Science News)
It appears as if the NSW Government is looking to integrate the Australian and Powerhouse museums under one board, and at a "functional" level - basically, to try and save the government some money. As someone who's visited both these museums enough times, it's simple for me to recognise this is a bad idea from not only a visitor's perspective but also a behind-the-scenes perspective. Looking at the responses in the article linked above, it seems like the major concern is the possible loss of scientific research at the Australian Museum (in addition to people being concerned that a merger just wouldn't work because of the different histories of the museums and their vastly different collections). I've visited both museums a number of times, not only when I was growing up, but also in recent memory. While it's true that the AM could benefit from the quality and turnover that the PM displays, I don't think that this would be a result of the two museums merging - rather, that existing resources would have to be shared and stretched, more than likely not improving the AM's chances at all.

I visited both museum's websites to take a look at their vision statements and whatnot - here's what they are currently:

Australian Museum
Our Purpose
To inspire the exploration of nature and cultures.

Our Vision
A beautiful and sustainable natural world with vibrant and diverse cultures.

Our Values
As the Australian Museum, we strive to embody distinctly Australian values and qualities. We seek to be:

* egalitarian and fair minded
* willing to use humour and not take ourselves too seriously
* inquisitive and explorative
* creative
* outgoing
* respectful of the rights of others

Powerhouse Museum
The Powerhouse Museum develops collections and presents exhibitions and programs that explore science, design and history for the people of New South Wales and beyond.

The Powerhouse will further its reputation as a museum that celebrates human creativity and innovation in ways that engage, inform and inspire diverse audiences.

The Museum believes in engaging its diverse audiences, promoting scholarship and presenting its collections and programs in ways that captivate the intellect and challenge the human spirit to excel. We place high value on nurturing the abilities of staff and volunteers, and fostering community partnerships.

On the whole, I don't think their values differ too much - they're worded a little differently but are in the same spirit. However, when you compare the purpose/mission and the vision statements it's apparant that it would take a restructure of one or both museums to have a merger work at an even basic level. These are the things that inform the way the museum operates and what it provides and does - the Australian Museum is a very typical natural history/anthropology type museum while the Powerhouse has a focus on society, design and physical, rather than biological, sciences. What I gather the government is doing my proposing a merger is aiming at downsizing the amount of staff and operational costs - I doubt that the spirit and aims of both museums would be untouched and uncompromised.

If there's a positive way for this merger to happen, i'd love to see it. However, these are two large museums with niche research and exhibition objectives - I don't think a plan for unified board and operational structure is taking this into account. It'll be very interesting to see where this goes - and if it does happen, how they'll manage it practically.

No comments: