Bridget's cover image

Bridget SULLIVAN (Now Arkless)

Year of Award: 2001 Award State: Tasmania None > Museums, Galleries And Libraries
To study furniture and design museum collections - UK, Germany, Italy, Finland, Denmark

‘To study furniture and design museum collections – UK, Germany, Italy, Finland, Denmark’ is how my Fellowship is listed on the Churchill Fellowship website. However, I altered my Fellowship, with approval, as I changed employment between applying for it and being granted it. (From the time of my Fellowship until 2005 I was Curator of Art, Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, (QVMAG) Launceston. I am currently the Curator of 20th Century Australian Art at QVMAG.)

I returned to Australia inspired by my profession and the colleagues I met on my travels. I felt that the cultural and community value of art had been affirmed, especially the educational value of art museum experiences for young people. During my three months of travel in Europe I was exposed to a wide range of museums, diverse in size, content, style and methods of communication. Visiting three countries in quick succession – England, France and Italy – provided a chance to compare and contrast different approaches to the presentation of art museum objects. Importantly, it also provided a unique opportunity for an intense and focused period of looking at works of art and assessing and comparing their presentation and interpretation.

The sheer size and scale of European museums – their collections, buildings and visitor numbers – was also a highlight.

Australian museums face similar financial challenges to European museums. Finding the resources required to adequately operate art museums in a sustainable manner continues to be a challenge, with many interesting income- generating strategies experienced during my travels. The powerful emotional and intellectual experiences possible in an art exhibition context cannot be underestimated. Institutional resources need to be dedicated to high-quality exhibition research and development. The most innovative art museums are those that have education, in the broadest sense, at the very centre of their activities. They integrate different learning styles and strategies as a central tenet of their exhibition planning.

I continue to draw on my Churchill experience years later as I curate exhibitions, publish research, build the QVMAG’s art collection and contribute to the cultural life of my community. Undoubtedly there has been a realisation that here in Tasmania the activities of our art museums, and our cultural life more broadly, are often of world standard. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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