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Understanding Museums - Australian Museums and Museology: Edited by Des Griffin and Leon Paroissien

Two people in front of an Aboriginal painting.Close up of conservator's hands usind a very fine tool to apply oil to brass clock parts.Two installation staff supporting the head of a giant puppet.

This web publication, Understanding Museums: Australian Museums and Museology, is a history of museums in Australia since the 1970s. It focuses on the changes that have taken place in Australian museums of all kinds and takes as a source of inspiration the Pigott Report on museums and national collection, which was published in 1975.

The contributing authors – all of whom are outstanding and most also longstanding museum practitioners – delve into the depth and breadth of Australian museum collections. They both reflect and reflect on an increasingly vital museum community, one that responds to Australia’s rapidly changing society, engages in important debates and contributes to lifelong learning. And in so doing, these authors not only examine the realised legacies of the Pigott Report but also describe developments that the Pigott Committee could not possibly have foreseen.

Combined, these essays promote the very real contribution that museums are making to contemporary Australian culture and society. They articulate the shared goals of the diverse sectors of the museum industry and reveal the essential confidence that museum people have in their collections, programs and audiences.

This book is for museum professionals, students of museology and anyone interested in cultural collections and heritage.

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Issues in museology

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Indigenous people and museums

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Museums and history

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Art museums

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Museums and science

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Regional museums

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Museums, education and visitor experience

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Image credits (left to right): Visitors in front of Kaapa Tjampitjinpa's 1975 work The Storm Water Dreaming in the Papunya Painting exhibition (2008); horological conservator working on a clock made in the 1700s for the Australian Journeys gallery (2009); installation of the giant Griffin puppets in the Landmarks gallery (2011). Photos: National Museum of Australia

Publication history: Understanding Museums was published in two tranches: the first in June 2011 and the second in October 2011.

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Cite as: Des Griffin and Leon Paroissien (eds), 2011, Understanding Museums: Australian Museums and Museology, National Museum of Australia, published online at
ISBN 978-1-876944-92-6