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National collecting institutions
Storytellers for a nation?

by Michael Piggott

For almost a decade now, the terms ‘story’ and ‘storytelling’ have been used as a marketing and branding theme by many of Australia’s national collecting institutions. Curiously, everyone seems to assert the sum of the stories/objects they collect and tell add up to the national story. This paper examines some of the distinctive ways libraries, archives and museums exploit storytelling in Australia and, while noting the obvious benefits derived from the use of story, suggests there are grounds for reservation too.

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History on demand
Defining moments in Australian history

by Nicholas Brown

Launched on 29 August 2014, the National Museum of Australia’s Defining Moments in Australian History project centres on the proposition that the Australian story is punctuated by moments at which ‘something happens’ that serves to ‘move us in a different direction, or to transform the way we think about ourselves’. The project uses a mix of elements to capture this Australian story and extends a broad invitation to consider and contribute to a listing of such particular, decisive moments of national reorientation, rupture or reappraisal. In this paper, Nicholas Brown considers the origins and realisation of this project and reflects on its open challenge to museological orthodoxies. In appraising the project’s success in communicating with the nation, and its progress towards breaking free from the instrumentalism of the past, the paper offers some alternative ways forward.