A tale of two white houses
Before travelling more than a thousand miles across the Indian Ocean from the 155 island state of the Seychelles to Australia, my main source of information about the Museum of Australian Democracy was the information posted on the website.
The first time I actually laid eyes on the Old Parliament House I fell in love with its architecture. It is a remarkable piece of history and incredible also is the story of why I journeyed to Canberra.
It all started in 2012, when the Parliament of Australia invited the Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles as a guest to Australia. Amongst the amazing sights of Canberra, the Speaker, Hon. Dr Patrick Herminie, was impressed by what he saw in the Museum of Australian Democracy and was determined to have a similar one—but on a smaller scale, as part of the Library of the National Assembly of Seychelles.
His determination brought about the involvement of the Australian High Commission and then the generosity of the Museum of Australian Democracy to host me, a Research Officer from the Secretariat of the Assembly, for a five day research visit at the museum.
The primary aim of my visit was to collect as much information as possible about the different processes involved in creating and developing a museum. This meant meeting with a wide range of museum staff with diverse expertise including library staff, curatorial staff, exhibition installers, community outreach and education staff and also collection development and management staff to name a few. I also visited the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia and sat in on Question Time at the Parliament of Australia.
Touring the exhibitions and spaces at the museum made it really clear how the creativity and ingenuity of the staff shines through in the ways materials are displayed and conserved, the interactive technology is used and the ideas are put across. My mind was buzzing with practical ideas that could work in a small museum such as the one the National Assembly of Seychelles is aspiring to have.
I have to say that I am proud of the National Assembly Building in Seychelles. As white as the Old Parliament House in Canberra, it is also pretty imposing with its tall pillars and its big gallery, where the current 32 Members of Parliament go about their parliamentary business. Nevertheless, the size of the Old Parliament House with its 1500 rooms would leave an impression on any island girl like me. And the fact that it was once the Parliament and has become a thriving museum has made it the ideal location for my research.
It has been both a privilege and an honour to have had the opportunity to do this research visit on museum creation and development. As I leave Canberra, I have only fond memories of the Museum of Australian Democracy and I would like to thank everyone who has generously found the time within their busy schedule to share their experiences and expertise not only with me but also with the National Assembly of Seychelles. Continue to inspire!