The Butterfly Effect: The Natural History Museum, Visual Art, and the Suspension of Disbelief

By L. Michael Goldberg.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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

The Butterfly Effect was produced for the Australian Museum in January 2005. It was the third in series of installation projects that Michael Goldberg has curated in sites of historic significance in Sydney. The exhibition, featuring sculpture, video, audio and interactive computer works, comprised the contributions of 13 artists: Brook Andrew, Tom Arthur, Michele Barker, Leon Cmielewski, Jackie Dunn, Michael Goldberg, Joan Grounds, David Haines, Nigel Helyer, Joyce Hinterding, Anna Munster, Josephine Starrs, and Louise Weaver. The Australian Museum, founded in 1827, is the country’s oldest museum. This was its first exhibition on this scale involving artists responding to and intervening in its displays. The paper deals with the inclusion of artists in the curatorial strategies of ‘non-art’ institutions such as ethnographic and natural history museums, and public responses to the presence of art in these venues. The relationship between art and science is central to the paper’s theme, and the subject is teased out through a description of The Butterfly Effect project and its relationship to the host institution.

Keywords: Visual Art, Natural History Museum, Intervention Art, Curatorial Strategy, Public Response, The Butterfly Effect

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.343MB).

L. Michael Goldberg

Senior Lecturer, Sculpture, Performance and Installation, Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Michael Goldberg is an artist, curator and academic living in Sydney, Australia. His site-specific installations critique the presentation and staging of historic heritage sites. His complex intervention and situation artworks examine post-colonial monopoly systems such as real estate cartels and global financial markets. Earlier work explored the conventions of museum display with a focus on sites of historical significance in the Sydney region. The installations addressed an alternative view of historical issues, those usually avoided or sanitised by cultural institutions that operate within a limited and prescribed framework. Curatorial projects are also of prime interest. ‘Artists in the House!’ and ‘Swelter’, featuring a number of prominent Australian artists, were produced for the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, respectively. Goldberg is a Senior Lecturer in Sculpture, Performance and Installation at the University of Sydney’s Sydney College of the Arts. Further details are available at, the artist’s website.


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