For FUMA, the move online was heralded by the launch of Talking Art and Ideas, a program of long format conversations between artists, academics and FUMA staff, livestreamed and recorded via Zoom. Presented alongside FUMA’s exhibition program, the first of these – “Hands-on” – featured body art pioneer Stelarc, who once grew a human ear on his forearm, and world-renowned palaeontologist and Flinders University Strategic Professor John Long. Reaching a whopping audience of more than 1200, the program got off to a very encouraging start.
Subsequently, Talking Art and Ideas included – “Tall Ships” – featuring Mirning artist Dr Ali Gumillya Baker in conversation with Associate Professor Catherine Kevin; a segment with South Australian artist Ray Harris led by FUMA Collections Curator Nic Brown; and another with revered Australian photographer Robyn Stacey, hosted by FUMA Exhibitions and Public Programs Manager Madeline Reece.
In the realm of online exhibitions, FUMA debuted with an ambitious project drawing from its collections to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Lieutenant ‘Captain’ James Cook’s Botany Bay landing and the launch of the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan. While the temporary lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in Adelaide enabled the show to be installed in the gallery as originally intended, In the hold: Decolonising Cook in contemporary Australian art (2 Jun – 6 Oct) was also adapted for the web, providing virtual access to the works and interpretive texts.
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.