In the flesh: infrastructure and research access

Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Dr Vanessa Russ

The Berndt Museum at the University of Western Australia has a range of collections including archive and reference material, photographs, film, sound, objects and works of art, stretching from across Aboriginal Australia to Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Oceania. The Berndt Museum exhibit, preserves, loans, provides access, research and manages a vast amount of cultural content of national significance with limited resources. We are also currently located in a temporary facility, beneath the University’s art gallery, which provides for administration and collection storage, but does not provide for research access and although we enjoy a small exhibition space, it only caters to 0.5% of our collection. 

The need for infrastructure is highly understated and for many of our supporters it has been a long campaign, with the idea of a new purpose built stand-alone museum still to be resolved. The idea of digitisation as a solution to access seems too often to be the only solution and a solution that doesn’t take into account the cultural vulnerabilities, costs and community needs to online access or the depth and breadth of a collection like that housed at the Berndt. This paper argues for in-the-flesh access.