Suitcases and Stories: Objects of Migration in Museum Exhibitions

By Eureka Henrich.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper provides a comparative historical perspective of how Australian museums have exhibited stories of migration over the past three decades, with a focus on the use of objects. The pioneering of community access spaces, collecting of oral histories, innovative use of art-as-object and the development of theatrical recreations or props are all features of these exhibitions. Recent critiques have suggested that early migration exhibitions were uncritically ‘multicultural’ and represented only the “external markers of ethnicity”; however, this study reveals that curators in fact challenged and changed museum practice in negotiating these difficult histories. Examples are drawn from archival research and interviews with past and present curators of Australian museums, including the Migration Museum in Adelaide, the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, and the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

Keywords: Museums, Migration, Multiculturalism, Exhibitions, Objects, Australian History

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.71-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 604.746KB).

Dr Eureka Henrich

PhD Candidate, School of History and Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Eureka is in the final year of a PhD in History at the University of New South Wales, under the guidance of her supervisor, Dr Grace Karskens. Her thesis, titled ‘Whose Stories are we Telling? Exhibitions of Migration History in Australian Museums, 1986 – 2001’, is a cross-institutional comparative history of immigration exhibitions over the past three decades. She holds a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Arts with first class Honours in History, both from UNSW.

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