Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture Archive

Dr Volkerling was the founding Director of the Museum and Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University, an Executive Director of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Director of the Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand). He made a huge contribution to the arts, culture, and heritage in New Zealand over a 30-year period.

This lecture series is run in partnership between National Services Te Paerangi, Te Papa, and Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington.

Cultural Policy at a time of Uncertain Everything

Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture 2022

Julian Meyrick, Professor of Creative Industries at Griffith University, offers some insights into Australia’s latest National Cultural Policy consultation process. Rejecting the trend towards data-fied methods of evaluating arts and culture, Meyrick argues for a meaning-focused approach that captures how people are changed by their cultural experiences and who benefits.

Museums and the Citizenship of Hate

Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture 2021

Kylie Message, Professor of Public Humanities in the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, reviews the role that museums play as sites of cultural and political exchange, focusing specifically on the relationship between museums, citizenship and political reform movements in the last two decades.

Professor Message asks how museums today might respond to articulations of citizenship that go against the majority view of acceptable ideology and behaviour, to engage with what she calls a ‘citizenship of hate’

What is the future of museums post-Covid-19?

Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture 2020

Covid-19 has forced museums across the globe to close temporarily or permanently, forcing a re-think of its expensive model of physical buildings holding vast collections. It is not just the pandemic; our world is also facing climate change, population growth and mobility issues that are forcing us to question the received idea of a ‘museum’.

Veteran museologist Ken Gorbey and museum consultant Elaine Heumann Gurian discuss the possible museum of the future in this new landscape. When governments have to prioritise health and well being, how can we justify the expense of maintaining buildings, ever-growing collections, staff and costly exhibitions? How do museums help us live in the present and face the future? Can museums serve their communities better by becoming more ‘ubiquitous, distributed, and integrated into daily life’?

Class, art and culture in a settler colonial society: Researching contemporary Australian culture

Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture 2019

How are our interests and tastes in the visual arts affected by our social class? How does our social background – gender, education, and family – shape how we look at and think about art? How are these art tastes related to other aspects of our cultural tastes and interests – in heritage, music, and literature for example?

Tony Bennett, Research Professor in Social and Cultural Theory at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, shares insights from a recent national survey of Australian cultural practices which has thrown much light on these questions. The lecture also considers the ways in which non-Indigenous Australians from different social backgrounds engage with Indigenous art and culture, and in turn how Indigenous Australians engage with different aspects of Australian culture.

Imagining an Australian museum

Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture 2018

The South Australian Museum holds one of the most important collections of Aboriginal material culture in the world. What we do with such collections, and what we don’t, defines us. Not only as museum professionals or culture workers, but as a people. This is the great challenge of contemporary custodianship in museums, and in this lecture Professor John Carty, Head of Humanities at the South Australian Museum and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Adelaide, examines the South Australian Museum’s response to it.

Over the past two years the South Australian Museum has undertaken a comprehensive rethink of its policies and practices and the politics of both. The Museum has had to transform the way it works with Aboriginal communities and custodians, and has been transformed in response.

This is not simply a question of how collections are displayed or exhibitions are developed. The museum is rethinking the terms of its custodianship, revisiting the concepts, values, language and categories that underpin Museum practice, and trying to imagine a different kind of Australian Museum that could evolve around renewed cultural foundations.

New Zealand has been through this process, with Te Papa and other cultural institutions. In Australia there have been a few false starts. But as major proposals are again being developed to build ‘National’ cultural institutions focussed on Aboriginal people, history, culture and art, it is timely to reflect on the cultural landscape of Australian museums, and the urgent work that lies not only ahead of us, but around us every day.

The resilience values of Mātauranga Māori: Addressing climate change impacts through art and design on coastal farming

Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture 2017

Visual artist, academic, and former exhibition curator Dr Huhana Smith discusses her involvement with major environmental and kaitiakitanga projects. She explores how art, design, and mātauranga Māori can combine to help communities tackle complex environmental issues.

In her lecture, ‘The resilience values of Mātauranga Māori: addressing climate change impacts through art and design on coastal farming’, Dr Smith examines the use of art and design as a bridge between Māori knowledge systems and traditional science.

Since 2010, she has been a part of teams working with iwi and hapū to research the impact of freshwater decline on Māori water and land holdings. More recently, the research focus has turned to the impact of climate change on the coast from Horowhenua to Kāpiti.