Inviting discussion around the myth, symbolism and memorialisation of Cook through art by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, this exhibition was a perfect platform for FUMA’s first virtual symposium, presented in partnership with the Flinders University College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and University of Tasmania Cultural Collections. The full-day event featured 22 speakers from Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Hawaii, and attracted over 200 participants from Australia, Asia, Europe and the USA.
“The exhibition was particularly well received by the immediate University community as a teaching and learning resource, as well as by secondary education audiences,” says FUMA Director Fiona Salmon. “And the symposium proved an excellent forum for deeper discussions with colleagues nationally and internationally while expanding our global reach.”
Take 5 was also introduced as an online initiative to provide a bi-monthly art hit for enthusiasts, shining a spotlight on hidden gems in FUMA’s collections.
Fiona says the transition to online programming was “not without its hitches”, but the overall experience has been “exhilarating”.
“It’s boosted our confidence and capacity in the digital space, expanded opportunities for collaboration, and connected FUMA with new audiences far and wide,” she says.
“Even though gallery visitors were inevitably down this year, we have engaged participants in greater numbers for our livestreamed events than we would have face to face.”
This is reflected in the significantly higher number of web visitors, with almost 27,800 in 2020, compared to just over 18,000 for all of 2019.
While FUMA’s public facing programs have clearly resonated with online audiences, the important work of the museum in education has also been amplified in 2020. As a result of disruptions to classes on campus, FUMA extended its support for collections-based teaching and learning, ensuring digital access to artworks, facilitating lecture recordings in the museum, and developing new resources for online delivery.
With more than 8,000 works, FUMA is custodian of one of the largest university art collections in Australia. These are routinely utilised as cross-disciplinary teaching tools. Our nationally significant holdings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, for example, comprise a vital component for a raft of Indigenous studies programs, across Art History, Education, Geography, History, Health Sciences, Literature and Social Sciences.
FUMA collections also support topics in Media Studies, Visual Art, Drama and Social Work, as well as a powerful program in Medicine. “Teaching Psychiatry and Medicine with Art” helps third-year students access and develop the qualities of self-awareness, reflection, empathy, cultural awareness and observation that are essential to their professional practice but not easily taught using more traditional medical school methods.
“This year, we saw significant growth in demand for FUMA’s education services,” Fiona says. “There were over a hundred object-based-learning (OBL) bookings, which is an almost 50 percent increase on 2019.”
This coincided with a new collaboration with the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health (South Australia and Northern Territory) on developing an online resource for Health Sciences students to refine and enhance their engagement with Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and experiences.
“The success of this year’s digital programs has encouraged us to continue expanding these offerings into 2021,” says Fiona. “But we also look forward to resuming programs in our physical spaces, as we know that art is its most powerful when experienced first-hand and engaging all our senses.”
The combination of digital and in-person programming is substantially propelling FUMA towards its 2030 vision to be a globally engaged museum, distinguished as a leader in collections-based teaching, learning, research and cross-disciplinary dialogue.
Our supporters play a vital and fundamental role in ensuring this is possible, by contributing to the development of our collection.
“The collection is a living, cultural document.” says Fiona. “Works speak to each other across time and space providing access to understandings of our world and of ourselves. And this is why the collection is such a valuable teaching tool: it helps us navigate big ideas, grapple with new knowledge and see things afresh.”
The FUMA collection is unique in Australia in bringing together four major collection areas: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art; European prints; Post-object and documentation art; and Australian political prints and posters.
Because of the deep, early interest of Emeritus Professor John Vincent Megaw AM, FUMA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works, in particular, represent a significant cultural archive including early 20th century examples from Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and Pukatja (Ernabella) as well as some of the earliest paintings from Papunya where the contemporary Aboriginal art movement emerged in the1970s. These works tell important stories about the rise and critical reception of contemporary Aboriginal art practices, about the intersections of art and culture, and about the experiences of Aboriginal artists and their communities since colonisation.
In its entirety, the FUMA collection charts aspects of three of the most important currents in contemporary Australian art and life: Aboriginal, European, and post-war US cultures.
FUMA has benefitted from many philanthropic gifts since its establishment in 1966 and is entirely reliant on the generosity of supporters to continue to grow this nationally important collection.
“Essentially, the development of the collection is in the hands of our supporters,” says Fiona. “Along with our curators, writers, lenders, organisational partners, and the artists themselves, they play an essential part in the FUMA ecosystem by shaping this important cultural document.”
FUMA was recently awarded funding from the National Library of Australia’s Community Heritage Grants Program to undertake a Significance Assessment of the entire collection. This will be conducted by independent curator Glenn Barkley and will provide key findings and recommendations regarding FUMA’s research, preservation and development.
In the meantime, our highest priority is to develop FUMA’s holdings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art to ensure a rich representation of First Nation voices that have emerged since the turn of the millennium.
Let’s all thrive together! To help shape this nationally significant cultural collection, please make a donation today.
FUMA is also registered to receive gifts of artworks through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program, and we are very grateful to receive pieces that align with our Collections Policy. Please contact FUMA Director Fiona Salmon for more information, ph: +61 8 8201 2531
We look forward to welcoming visitors to FUMA from Monday 11 January 2021. Find out more about FUMA’s upcoming exhibitions 2021 program.