Museums & Galleries Qld

Museum Development Officer Program, Queensland Museum, and The Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich, honoured in 2013 Gallery and Museum Achievement Awards

Posted on: 20 December 2013

Museum & Gallery Services Queensland (M&GSQ) proudly announced the recipients of the 2013 Gallery and Museum Achievement Awards (GAMAA) at a special event hosted by Museum of Brisbane on 22 November. Guest presenter, Hon. Ian Walker, Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts presented the winners with specially-commissioned trophies created by Queensland artists, Charlotte Beeron, Theresa Beeron, Ethel Murray and John Murray, represented by Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre.

We bring you the stories on each of the Winners and Special Commendation recipients of the 2013 GAMAA in five categories. In our final article, we announce the GAMAA recipients in the category, ‘Organisations: Staff of 4 or more’:

WINNER – Museum Development Officer Program, Queensland Museum for their 2013 Queensland Museum MDO Flood Response

SPECIAL COMMENDATION – The Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich for their exhibition, I’ve Been Working on the Railway


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The Museum Development Officer (MDO) program is a regionally-based professional museum service run by Queensland Museum. Officers are located in Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Ipswich and Toowoomba and work with communities across all Local Government areas in Queensland.

In early 2013, floods devastated regions of Queensland, in particular around the Wide Bay/Burnett area. After surveying organisations and their immediate needs, the MDOs developed a first response program to address immediate concerns regarding collection safety, conservation and in response to requests from the community. Within 24 hours, two MDOs were leaving from Ipswich and Toowoomba, and shortly afterwards two more were leaving from Townsville and Cairns. The fifth MDO joined the team in Bundaberg after ensuring the collections and communities in Rockhampton were safe.

Preparation took into account the needs of local communities, emergency services and the MDO team. The MDOs were conscious of not using emergency resources or facilities needed for communities who had endured significant loss. This included accommodation, food and water, and fuel.  They were also aware of the communities’ need for privacy to come to grips with the devastation.  In order to achieve these principles, large campervans (capable of housing three MDOs per van) were hired from both Brisbane and Cairns.  Vans allowed the MDOs to stay outside of inundation zones, making room for emergency personnel.  They also allowed the MDOs to travel and respond between centres without the concern of accommodation, and respond to calls for assistance as they emerged.  Further, they ensured the MDOs could be self-sufficient, create a minimum impost on communities and so ensure vital supplies from shops were accessible to those in need. The vans also enabled the MDOS to purchase and transport conservation and cleaning equipment used during the emergency response.

The MDOs worked with volunteers and staff at each location to ensure that any major decisions regarding the damaged collections were made jointly. Conservation and museum disaster procedures were demonstrated on site which allowed for limited, but practical training to be undertaken.

On site support from the MDOs also ensured professional and emotional support could be provided through reassurance that their community collections could be rebuilt, and that their response efforts were supported.  This support, often as important as the care of the collections, was necessary to ensure that volunteers and staff did not burn out or become overwhelmed with the situation. It also meant that the MDOs could help volunteers navigate and access emergency services and council resources, and help make decisions about where to start with the clean up process. MDOs were also able to take responsibility for allocating tasks to members of the public who volunteered to assist at the Railway Museum.

The MDO Blog played an important role in the dispersal of information and informed peers and the general public of the work that MDOs were doing.

The MDOs developed a professional relationship with these organisations based on mutual respect and understanding. They returned to Gayndah in October where they assisted in the conservation of the paper and photographic material that had been frozen immediately after the flood event. The MDOs were able to train the volunteers, thus allowing them to complete the process of first response action right through to reinstating the collection and its ongoing management.

In choosing the 2013 Queensland Museum MDO Flood Response as the Winner in the ‘Organisations: Staff of 4 or more’ category, the judges acknowledged the MDO’s outstanding leadership in harnessing their training and knowledge to provide front-line support to communities in recovery. Their demonstration of best practice, and the creation of a learning environment for all involved (including themselves), resulted in a streamlined approach to the care and safeguard of collections at risk. The judges also recognised not only the professional support provided to these organisations by the MDOs, but also the personal commitment – living in campervans and working side by side with affected volunteers and staff in the midst of mud, water, mould and debris.


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The Workshops Rail Museum in North Ipswich is part of the Queensland Museum Network. It explores the rich heritage and culture of the Australian rail story at the birthplace of rail in Queensland.

In 2012, the Museum developed I’ve Been Working on the Railway, an exhibition exploring a little-known Australia-wide story of the thousands of Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal people and Australian South Sea Islanders who have worked on the railways, and the Museum’s first exhibition co-created with these communities.

Presenting a social history of these communities, from a positive, self-told perspective, I’ve Been Working on the Railway provided a compelling insight into what it was like to be an Indigenous rail worker in the mid-twentieth century. Recounting individual stories and exploring railway camp life, work life and family life through the use of objects, photographs and audio-visual material, I’ve Been Working on the Railway highlighted the different places and ways in which these communities supported the development of the Australian rail network.

The exhibition examines the restrictions associated with the work and movement of Indigenous people in the mid-twentieth century, contrasting ideas about “safe places to work” and diaspora, alongside fresh, contemporary perspectives about work in, and on, the railways for Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal people and Australian South Sea Islanders.

The exhibition had an emphasis on social history, and provided appeal to diverse audiences (including enthusiasts, tourists and families with children). A unique mix of objects and presentation styles were used to illustrate the themes, including: didactic exhibition panels; objects, photographs and documents; audiovisual material; and public programs.

The exhibition attracted over 19,000 visitors, and the Museum has now secured funding to tour the exhibition nationally in both a full-version for museums and a ‘light’ version for smaller and non-climate controlled environments, to enable wide access to these histories, including communities where the stories originated.

In awarding The Workshops Rail Museum a Special Commendation in the ‘Organisation: Staff of 4 or more’ category, the judges commended the Museum for developing a high-quality exhibition that was stimulating and innovatively designed, and which presented stories that have had little public exposure to date. The Museum’s success in forging new collaborations and stakeholders in the processes of research and engagement, and the sense of pride and ownership it provided for both individuals and the communities, were significant outcomes for the project.


The 2013 GAMAA was presented by Museum and Gallery Services Queensland. This prestigious annual event is designed to celebrate the outstanding achievements, professional excellence and innovation of Queensland’s museums and galleries. The Awards recognise the valuable contribution our State’s museums and galleries make to enriching their local and wider communities, and honour the extraordinary commitment and talents of paid professionals and volunteers working in the industry.

For a full list of winners and photos of the event, and to see what the GAMAA Judges said, go to the M&GSQ website at

The 2013 GAMAA were proudly sponsored by Museum of Brisbane, Brian Tucker Accounting, Brandi Projects, Archival Survival, Regional Galleries Association of Queensland and Museums Australia Queensland.


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Museums & Galleries Queensland

122 Gerler Rd, Hendra QLD 4011

Phone: 07 3059 9740

Museums & Galleries Queensland is the peak professional body for the public museum and gallery sector in Queensland.

Museums & Galleries Queensland promotes, supports and provides services to foster excellence in museums, galleries and keeping places. We strive to ensure a future where museums, galleries and keeping places are relevant, accessible and valued by their communities.

M&G QLD Staff

Rebekah Butler, Executive Director
Debra Beattie, General Manager
Melissa Fletcher, Information Officer
Deannah Vieth, Training and Professional Development Manager
Leisha Walker, Training and Professional Development Program Officer
Donna Davis, Exhibition Program Officer
Bonnie Melrose, Exhibition Program Officer
Andrea Higgins, Exhibition Program Officer

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