How many things,
Files, doorsills, atlases, wineglasses, nails,
Serve us like slaves who never say a word,
Blind and so mysteriously reserved.
They will endure beyond our vanishing;
And they will never know that we have gone.
Thinking about museums is always thinking about things – objects – and how they behave in the world, the memories and stories that are embedded in them and how they will bear witness in the future.
On the Shore has been a record of random thoughts and ideas as I tackled my first year as director of the National Museum. The blog will now be archived and I am closing with a quote from the marvellous sonnets of Jorge Luis Borges from a poem entitled ‘Things’.
When I think about what we do in museums, the three spheres of activity – song (or storytelling), thought and memory – are all parts of the way we perform in the world. Of these memory is the most important in defining our relationship to the past, to history.
The quote is from a talk I gave recently to the Music Council of Australia. It was an opportunity to think about the important role of music in the Museum and the common roots shared by the worlds of music and museums.
I have had a lot of feedback from the opinion piece I wrote in response to the National Cultural Policy Discussion Paper recently released by the government. I’ll be having more to say in coming months about museums and their role in fostering cultural literacy in this country.