I have now turned into one of those odd sorts who stay up reading the Hansard report from Parliament House. Recent transcripts were interesting, not only because of Marriage Equality (Yay!), but also some comments by the Honourable Julie Owens MP about the Parramatta Female Factory:
“ The Parramatta Female Factory deserves and needs to be World Heritage listed. The national heritage listing provides protection for part of the site, but the New South Wales state government and UrbanGrowth, its development arm, are intent on developing thousands of units up against the walls of the factory. To join the campaign, I urge people to sign the Parramatta Female Factory Friends petition calling for World Heritage listing so that the community and future generations can enjoy this fantastic piece of history right in the heart of Parramatta. The oldest female convict factory, a Greenway building, right in the heart of Parramatta deserves World Heritage listing.”
Deserves and needs to be World Heritage listed? I’m not sure that holds up entirely. It’s an incredible site but is it of World Heritage standard? I would certainly describe it as nationally significant, which is why it absolutely deserves the National Heritage listing which it already has. And should we be using Heritage listing as a primary method of ‘rescuing’ places?
Sites on the World Heritage List are places of outstanding universal value. Admittedly, for the committee to find a place to potentially of value, it only needs to meet at least one of the selection criteria. Having read back over the available criteria to choose from, I’m not sure it would fit into any of the world heritage list categories. The criteria that marks it as Nationally Significant - women/children’s lives and convict history - is not necessarily of universal significance.
I’m not a huge fan of the emotional push for a building to be listed to ‘rescue’ it. ‘Rescuing’ a building takes a siginicant amount of emotion invested in something other then the evidence of whether a building deserves to be listed. It becomes a case of good-guys vs developers/government. In addition, it means that instead of choosing to list buildings which naturally fit into the selection criteria, the information is sometimes stretched in a bid to contribute towards saving the building. The emotional connection that we have to historic buildings can’t be denied, but not everything should be rescued. Much like museums, there is only so much space and money, and concentration should be placed on the buildings that truely deserve higher recognition.
I popped into the Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre last week and was totally blown away by their WW1 displays!
Having tackled fake food in a heritage house in the past, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can find items that don’t look a bit shoddy in someway. The last batch I bought were not too bad, but I still ended up with some very dubious looking carrots. Hall School Museum decided to make their own! A skilled volunteer led the process and has created some very edible looking food.
Beyond the awesome fake food, there were a couple of extra impressive pieces of museum design. The current exhibition space is a permanent zone for the display, but it started as a temporary exhibition for the WW1 anniversaries. Public reactions to the display were so strong that they decided to move the display into a permenant area which is slightly smaller then the temporary exhibition space. To achieve this, the museum has employed a couple of very clever tactics. The one that blew my mind was changing the wall panels into a swinging display a visitor could flip through in their own time. There is some brilliant design going into this small community museum, and it is certainly well worth a visit!
I often can’t help but compare the retail experience to museums. It likely wrapped up in my work history, but I often see myself still as a sales person - it’s just that I’m selling history now. Today I stumbled into a shop called The Cool Hunter, which according to its byline is ‘Internationally Curated’. Beyond the industry argument of what constitutes as curated (lets face it, cricket pitches were being curated before museums were), I thought the shop used scarcity theory extremely well and presented it in a fascinating manner.
Scarcity effect is a theory that when you present an item/event as being rare or limited, it’s considered value rises. So if I present a sock knitted in WW1 in a case and talk about how millions of these socks are made it’s perceived value would be low. But if I displayed the same sock and the same story, and added in a section about the person who knitted the sock and who received it and the epic romance that bloomed from that sock, it’s value would increase. This is due to the sock suddenly seeming less like a knitted thing, and more of a one off love story found in a parcel to a WW1 soldier. Museums are kind of lucky, because most things that are displayed already have a scarcity effect applied to them. Museum curators create exhibitions of rare items and wrap narratives around the items which are more common.
For retail, rarity is often made through limited editions or events. As an example, Games Workshop will often release a model that will only be sold during a specific event, increasing it’s perceived value. T2 will have member only sales, which are by invitation, and increase the assumption that these are very special prices. These tactics are retail 101. What I appreciated about the Cool Hunter was that it is creating a museum like experience to sell their collection of items.
Plinths! Items are displayed on plinths, with stock hidden away behind lush (velvet?) curtains. The items are gathered together in a snippet of experience - the perfume stand in the right hand photo below was an excellent example of gathering together a collection that felt like it might fit into a noble ladies dressing room. The pictures are hung as if in a gallery. The book section displayed the items with their covers facing front. Each facet of the store felt as if you might have been buying items from a museum of ‘now’ and potentially ‘cool’. The lack of products made everything feel very exclusive, and for all I know perhaps some of those items were very limited, and most important that felt valuable. Then of course, there is the use of the word curated, presented proudly at the entrance. From the moment that you walk into the store, the message is that the items are hand picked for their importance and ‘cool’ factor. Less cool from the 90s, and more the ‘cool’ that you feel from Audrey Hepburn drinking coffee in Paris. The store was incredibly impressive and I look forward to visiting regularly to see what their curation team is selling next.
I briefly popped into a small exhibition on Joseph Bank’s Florilegium last night at the Australian National Library. Banks was a British naturalist and botanist, well know for his travels with Captain Cook. After his voyage around the word in 1976-1771 he returned with over 1300 plant species that to fully document. The Florilegium is the collection of those works and is widely held to be both beautiful and incredibly accurate. ANU is displaying a small collection of these works in preparation for a new book being released by David Mabberley. I took a couple of photos of the works, mostly of tiny snippets of the works. The details are just a glorious thing!
Museum working, game playing and dog loving geek. Tune in for musings about the GLAM sector, and generally geekiness.