BioFour years ago I took an opportunity to work at a national museum in the paradise islands of the British West Indies. After a year working in archives across southern Australia, I'm in the desert of southern California working to develop a desert museum in the middle of the desert - the only educational institution within a 25 mile radius.
TagsAAM archeology architecture Archives art artifacts books border issues community relations conference conferences conservation employer reference ethnobiology ethnography exhibit exhibits family food Fun Grants hiking international relations library mentoring museum museum events museums Native American sites nature networking new experiences new paradigm of museums new_experiences partners press professional development programming public relations scholarships sustainable_life travel university of Melbourne volunteers
In the 1970’s, Australia’s saltwater crocodiles were culled to a population of approximately 60,000. Today they are estimated at 200,000. There used to be “safe” watering holes in Darwin. Now, Northern Territory state-issued CrocWISE pamphlets warn that EVERY body of water should be approached with caution.
Darwin is in its wet season at this time of year. The Adelaide River is flooded. There is water everywhere. I had been on high alert for days; warily peering into every muddy puddle, under every mangrove tree, and scanning the beaches for log-shaped living dinosaurs. Even after we returned to the safety of Victoria, the unexpected sound of wind-stirred leaves by my toes set my heart racing.
I found it hard to imagine how people live with these lurking neighbors, so I did some pretty thorough investigating.
The evolutionary branch that spawned crocodiles began over 200 million years ago. They survived through the species-ending destruction of 65 million years ago and stopped evolving right there. Mother Nature deemed them perfect survivalists. During a bad dry season crocodiles can dig into the mud and easily hibernate for 12 months without a meal. The ability to slow their heart rate to 1-2 beats per minute and run on the heat of the sun makes them virtually indestructible in hot environments.
A croc’s only enemies are man and each other. Mostly each other since they became a protected species in 1974. Almost every large croc in the wild has lived long enough to loose a limb, usually from territory-expanding younger croc.
When this guy came out of his hiding spot on the bank, the tour guide pointed out that this wasn’t his territory and he must be lying in wait to attack. He came over for a feed off our tour boat. We all moved back a bit when he started to loose interest in the meat on the stick and started eyeing up the much-bigger pieces of meat in the boat.
At Crocosaurus Cove, in the heart of Darwin, you can dive with a croc in the Cage of Death. We did it. There was a lot of liability paperwork.
I feel like I discovered the real Australia this week: Trying to live in a city in 105 degrees – the trams are death traps, the beaches are full, the ice cold ocean feels like it breaths new life, and at the end of the day, after you finished your mad city traffic commute, a cold one tastes like a kiss from an angel.
I tried to stay out of the city. But when I couldn’t, I went to the beach.
Lunch and a dip at St. Kilda Esplanade, Melbourne.
Snorkeling at Brighton Beach, Melbourne (first snorkel since Grand Turk, I might add). We saw 3 different types of pufferfish, two types of starfish and an electric ray. Fish of the day:
Riding the waves, Ocean Grove, Bellarine Peninsula…except it was calm as the Bay.
In 1802, Flinders climbed this mountain to survey the Bay – which I did not know until I saw the sign below, posted at the top of a path with many, many stairs that went a long way up – 1.7k up a 147m grade or 1mi up a 482ft grade – just a lovely stroll.
In between heaving breaths, I managed to notice a few interesting things along the trails. There are many different types of gum leaves, ants work hard, this tree has spines:
There was plenty to observe because every single plant was foreign to me. The scenery was lovely, and the bay and Melbourne were visible along the horizon with yellow grass running all the way to the beaches.
Oh, AND, I got really excited because there was a huge sign that said “Geoglyph” and I thought I was going to get a travel “win” by seeing all three geoglyph locations in the world. Turned out it was a 2006 art project honoring the traditional land owners byAustralian artist Andrew Rogers. I watched several passer-byers start a conversation with their kids about why it was there. Heh, what do you know? Celebrating landscape through art.
Leaving the Achota Station. A delightfully written, completely believable, fiction about a poet growing into a man in Spain. (The male author did a Fulbright on poetry in Spain) I know a college-bound student who changed his outlook on life after reading this book. Note: we both hated Catcher in the Rye and loved this book.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead. Reached a time in your life when you can’t answer the question “why do you care?” I suggest this detective tale that is actually about a fictional detective manual that teaches its students to see the world they live in. It will remind you that life isn’t about having answers, it’s about enjoying the ride.
Conclusion: “This is a money maker”.
I’ll be able to say “I knew it when”. The small tiny museum always carried itself with the importance of “old money”, but looked like the cute, sweet, little, under appreciated treasure it was. In the last few years, the Gardiner reinvented itself as a posh hotspot with stimulating community spaces, increasing its events and activities, and creating more space for artifacts and staff. This new vision has a price, however, and it will be a long time before purists will forgive the destruction of Gardiner’s (DESIGNED BY?) carriage house. (Gardiner left strict instructions that everything in the museum must remain as she left it, but she also left some legal loopholes.)
Purist or not, what’s done is done and the result is… pleasing. Inside the building it’s the old Gardiner with treasures waiting to be discovered around every corner. In the new addition it’s a destination. You can dine, shop, read a book, see theater, or do an art project.
I was hardly able to enjoy the evening; I was too busy evaluating the impact of the new changes on my visitor experience. Museums are seeking relevance. Did the Gardiner hit the mark? I’d be very interested in studying the data that made this particular design seem like the right thing to do.
Today was the last day of the Californians Connecting to Collections Webinar on Outreach Activities for Collections Care, an initiative of Heritage Preservation, funded through an IMLS grant. Our team participated on a C2C on-site webinar on Grant Writing in 2011 and the growth of the program was palatable. This was a totally different experience for many different reasons.
Undoubtedly the best part of the webinar was the expert lecturers: professionals in fields that I wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to interact with. As an employee of a small museum what are the chances of me running into a museum professional who deals exclusively with media attention? A social media expert who deals exclusively social media? Slim to none: my boss would have to let me out of the museum far more than he is comfortable with. But I still perform all these functions at my institution. The C2C offered a real chance a professional growth. I can’t say enough about it.
Course details a: http://www.connectingtocollections.org/courses/outreach-activities-for-collections-care/