Designing a student showcase with Sydney Living Museums

by | 1 Aug, 2018 | 0 comments

Sarah Jane Jones (Visual Communication Design Lecturer) takes us through the process of a successful collaboration and student showcase between Visual Communications and Sydney Living Museums, and putting the Indigenous Graduate Attribute into practice.

Feature image: from left to right, Julie Yeonju Kim, Kristy Gan, Wendy San and Kimberly Luo.

About the project

The student project was an Environmental Graphic Design brief for Sydney Living Museums, Historic Houses Trust of NSW (SLM). It was part of the students’ professional practice within the subject 87832 Design Practice, a third year (final year) undergraduate core subject. Eighteen students opted to partake in this professional practice-based project which ran over a six week period.

Nerida Campbell (Curator – City Museums Portfolio, SLM), and Aiesha Saunders (Assistant Curator, Aboriginal Interpretation Projects, SLM) both attended the final class presentations. Impressed by the high standard of the students’ work, Sydney Living Museums then hosted a session on 3 July at The Caroline Simpson Library at The Mint, where the top four students presented their projects in front of Robert Campbell (Director, Curatorial & Museums, SLM); Ian Innes (Director of Heritage and Collections, SLM); and a group of curators and design staff.

Robert Campbell Director, Curatorial & Museums, Sydney Living Museums, Historic Houses Trust of NSW giving feedback to the four students who presented.

Robert Campbell Director, Curatorial & Museums, Sydney Living Museums, Historic Houses Trust of NSW giving feedback to the four students who presented.

The brief

The public recognition of what’s important about two significant Australian sites – The Museum of Sydney on the site of first Government House & The Hyde Park Barracks Museum – may not be being effectively communicated. The forecourt areas of each Museum are spaces that some people currently find hard to understand and interpret. The brief for the students was to provide people with a digital or physical storytelling experience situated in the forecourt area of each Museum. The students at the Museum of Sydney worked with a cultural narrative written by Aiesha Saunders, Coordinator Aboriginal Interpretation Projects, and the Hyde Park Barracks Museum students were briefed by Ian Innes, Director of Heritage and Collections at SLM. Nine students were allocated a brief for the Museum of Sydney, and nine for the Hyde Park Barracks Museum:

The Museum of Sydney
‘Buried beneath the modern forecourt are the remains of first Government House [1788–1845], a building where far-reaching decisions that shaped modern Australia were made. It is a place where early contact and cross-cultural exchange between Aboriginal people and the British occurred and decisions that had enormous impacts on Aboriginal peoples were made. As a nationally significant site with an important story to tell about Australian history it should be recognised by all Sydneysiders. This isn’t always the case. People hurry across the forecourt often unaware of the complex history of this site.
How could design help Sydney Living Museums share this important story?’
Nerida Campbell, Curator–City Museums Portfolio at SLM

The Hyde Park Barracks
‘Operating as the central hub of the penal colony of NSW between 1819 and 1848, Hyde Park Barracks was a crossroads for convicts, who after leaving its gates could take a path to liberty or ruin. An estimated 50,000 convicts passed through the site, and after them, another 50,000 immigrant and elderly and destitute women who lived here when the site was converted into an immigration depot and asylum. Potentially millions of Australians are descended from these people, but most don’t realise they have a family connection with this World Heritage listed place. Built to keep convicts in at night, the high stone walls and imposing gates on Macquarie Street might have been effective during the convict era, but now they create a barrier, uninviting for passers-by who could become visitors to our museum. Some Sydney-siders say they didn’t know ‘that old building opposite Hyde Park’ was a museum. Others tell us that they thought it was a military barracks, confusing it with Victoria Barracks in Paddington, and have no idea of its importance in Australia’s convict story.
How could design overcome the barriers to understanding the importance of the stories of this site?’
Dr Fiona Starr, Curator–City Museums Portfolio at SLM

The IGA

The project was developed with The UTS Indigenous Graduate Attributes underpinning the project and was co-led by Indigenous leadership and guidance. The students were guided through an Indigenous perspective through the briefing by Aiesha Saunders at The Museum of Sydney, through working with her narrative (the re-writing of the forecourt area of the Museum of Sydney) and through the guidance and teaching by Daniele Hromek, a Budawang woman of the Yuin nation who co-taught in the project with me. The project aligns with the UTS Indigenous Graduate Attribute values because it acknowledges that Indigenous Australians are the first peoples of their land and their culture contributes to the richness of the nation.

The Indigenous knowledge was a grounding element of the project which gave voice to Indigenous perspectives ensuring that those voices have their own agency within the project and that was well-respected by the students. The guidance by Aiesha Saunders and Daniele Hromek gave the students a strong base so they didn’t overstep cultural boundaries.

Getting it started

This was a collaboration/engagement between UTS Visual Communication Design and Sydney Living Museums. The collaboration started as a conversation between myself and The City Curator, Nerida Campbell and quickly became a student project brief. Staff from Sydney Living Museums briefed the students at each site.

The project was then left in the hands of Sarah Jane Jones and Daniele Hromek as the studio leaders for the next six weeks, with The Director, Rob Campbell kicking off the project with a Guest Lecture focusing on Design’s role within Museums in front of the whole 3rd year cohort (180 students).

Going forward

The students responded incredibly positively and with great enthusiasm to this kind of project. They spent considerable time at each Museum and in the Caroline Simpson Library researching and forming ideas and concepts.

Rob Campbell is keen to run a similar project again next year and congratulated the students on their creativity and professionalism, mentioning that they surpassed the level of expectation and presented very real ideas that could be executed. He also praised them for the professional manner in which they presented. Sydney Living Museums wish to run the same project or a similar one next year and continue a collaboration/engagement with UTS Visual Communication Design and are keen to explore ways to to continue partnering with the Faculty of Design.

“We were all hugely impressed by the beauty, thoughtfulness and clever solutions the students presented. They were on a par with commercial pitches and briefings we receive from our suppliers.” – Robert Campbell (Director, Curatorial & Museums)

“The students engaged with our sites and their stories in dynamic and unexpected ways. Their responses were well-considered, sensitive and thought provoking.” – Nerida Campbell (Curator–City Museums Portfolio)

Take a look at the student work on show

See the apps in action with these videos of the works by Wendy, Julie and Kimberly.

The teaching into this project was a collaboration between Sarah Jane Jones (Lecturer, UTS Visual Communication Design, Faculty of Design) and Daniele Hromek, a Budawang woman of the Yuin nation.

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