B. Manns, Army History Unit, Canberra, Australia
The Australian Army oversees approximately 40 museums and collections of movable cultural heritage. Personnel in these museums include members of the defence forces, as well as civilian staff and community volunteers. Many of these people have considerable knowledge of military history and techniques. Few, however, have any prior background in museum practice.
The Army History Unit works through its Army Museums Network to develop coherent approaches to collection development, management and display. Established training offered by the Network includes an introduction to preventive conservation, and a conference of museum managers. A noticeable gap in recent years was the basic training of entry-level personnel.
An introductory program now fills this gap. Developed by the Army Museums Network in collaboration with Deakin University, this intensive residential course is held annually. Both organisations contribute to the design and delivery of the course. The university setting encourages a new approach to learning for many of the participants.
This paper presents the aims and content of the course, ‘Introduction to Museum Practice’, and shares some of the findings from course evaluations in 2002 and 2003. The paper also refers to a secondary element of the collaboration, which enables experienced personnel to enrol in postgraduate university courses in Museum Studies.
Collaboration between the Army Museums Network, and Deakin University gives each partner the opportunity to contribute teaching and learning for Army museums and collections, and thus to make a difference to management practice for several important heritage collections.