The 2016 Victorian Museum Awards were held on Thursday 14 July in the Village Roadshow Theatrette at State Library Victoria. Hosted by the multi-talented performer, writer, producer, and director, Diana Nguyen, the Ceremony also featured special guests Martin Foley MP, Minister for Creative Industries, Kate Torney, CEO of State Library Victoria, Michael O'Leary, Director, Agencies and Infrastructure, Creative Victoria, and Sylvia Admans, CEO of R E Ross Trust.

The Victorian Museum Awards celebrate the wonderful achievements of the museum and gallery sector. This year the evening kicked off with drinks and canapés in SLV's Courtyard. The night was also a celebration of our Museum Accreditation Program (MAP) reaching 100 participating organisations, and to mark this extraordinary milestone we launched both a short film about the program and a new mobile-friendly geolocation map of museums in the program.



Phillip Maisel AOM of the Jewish Holocaust Centre received the MA (Vic) Individual Award for Excellence (Volunteer). Photo by Simon Fox, Deakin University.

Museums Australia (Victoria) Individual Award for Excellence (Volunteer)

Winner: Phillip Maisel
Phillip received the Award for his outstanding contribution over 27 years to the Jewish Holocaust Centre's Testimonies Project. Since 1989, Phillip has been volunteering four days a week overseeing the project and has collected 1300 interviews capturing important stories from remaining Holocaust survivors. Phillip has inspired the next generation of museum professionals to engage with this important aspect of museum work by sharing his experience of the project with Museum Studies and oral history students from several universities, as well as a range of overseas archives and academics. Over his 27 years at the helm of the Testimonies Project, Phillip has trained over 50 volunteers, and at 92, he continues to work with a team of five interviewers to collect more testimonies. The judges commented that his was an amazing story from a standout nominee. They were very impressed with Phillip’s adoption of self-taught digital technologies to deliver an extraordinary project. “Phillip has resources as a volunteer that no one else in Australia, paid or volunteer, would have, and demonstrates expertise, ingenuity and entrepreneurial ability in his work.”

Highly Commended: Christine Ball, The Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History.

Museums Australia (Victoria) Individual Award for Excellence (Paid Staff)

Winner: Dr Robin Hirst
Robin received the Award for his outstanding contribution over 35 years in the sector. Starting his career at the Planetarium in 1981, Robin progressed through roles at Scienceworks before moving to Melbourne Museum to manage programs and operations across Museum Victoria. In his senior management roles at Museum Victoria, Robin has worked on developing the State Collection, securing long-term exhibitions of international standing, and developing policy across a range of museum activities from education and research through to customer service and exhibitions. The judges commented that his was “an impressive career over 35 years with achievements across many cycles of museum practice from fiscal and collection management, through to significant collaborative research programs and policy development.” The judges were impressed with the breadth of Robin’s expertise, and his leadership and engagement with the wider museum community.

Museums Australia (Victoria) Individual Award for Lifetime Achievement

Winner: Martin Hallett

Martin received the Award for his outstanding contribution over 40 years in the sector. Martin was instrumental in the merging of the Science Museum and the National Museum into the Museum of Victoria in 1983 and a key participant in the development of Scienceworks. In his Arts Officer role at Creative Victoria, Martin has developed key database systems leading to 52 museums and 600,000 collection items being available online in 1998. In the past decade Martin has worked on the establishment and launch of the Culture Victoria website and has been instrumental in gaining support for the Victorian Collections website. The judges commented that his was “an impressive career of over 40 years, dedicated to creating access to collections and research through specialised online portals.” The judges were impressed with Martin’s leadership and vision for connected portals between the state’s collections that ensure public enjoyment of museums and cultural collections throughout Victoria.


Representatives of Bonegilla Migrant Experience receiving the Archival Survival Award for Small Museums from Angela Henrickson of Archival Survival. Photo by Simon Fox, Deakin University.

Archival Survival Award for Volunteer-Run Museums

Winner: Stawell Historical Society

The Society received the Award for their outstanding dedication over eight years to a major redevelopment of their facilities. The Society collection was located in the Old Court House that provided inadequate space for storage and working with the collection. Volunteers at this Accredited museum capitalised on a $100,000 bequest made in 2008 by Stewart Bradley, a former Stawell resident and long-term member of the Stawell Historical Society. Volunteers worked with the Shire Council to find further funding for a new multi-purpose building and were successful in securing $500,000 from the State Government and $400,000 from the Northern Grampians Shire. The new space at the rear of the Court House opened in April 2016 and has climate-controlled storage areas for the collection, a resource centre, community gallery, and a meeting room. The Judges were impressed by the persistence of the volunteers over many years to bring about a comprehensive development of their site on an extraordinarily challenging budget. They commended their “stand-out” nomination, careful planning, and success in gaining a great resource for Stawell.

Highly Commended: Foster & District Historical Society for the exhibition 'South Gippsland at War 1914-1918'.

Archival Survival Award for Small Museums

Winner: Bonegilla Migrant Experience

Bonegilla Migrant Experience received the Award for their outstanding dedication over three years to developing and implementing a master plan to create a Welcome Centre for visitors, an interpretation strategy and branding, conservation works, and commissioned public artworks. The Bonegilla Migrant Experience is a cultural heritage museum in north-east Victoria and a national heritage site of significance that commemorates the history of post-war Australia. The Centre originally comprised of twenty-four blocks with its own churches, banks, sporting fields, cinema, hospital, police station, and railway platform to accommodate the 300,000 migrants that passed through it between 1947-1971. The judges were impressed with the scope of the project and in particular with the use of first-hand interpretation from people’s experiences. The judges admired the well-strategised planning that extracted unhurried, good quality information across the site. The judges commented that Bonegilla Migrant Experience “has achieved a great outcome with a strategic directional plan that has been broken into stages to benefit a really important historical site.”


Jane Walton of the Koorie Heritage Trust accepting the MA (Vic) Award for Medium Museums. Photo by Simon Fox, Deakin University.


The Museums Australia (Victoria) Award for Medium Museums

Due to the outstanding quality of nominations, two Awards were given out this year:

Winner: Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village
Flagstaff Hill received the Award for their remarkable, Middle Island Maremma Project, a world-first environmental project that uses Maremma dogs to protect the threatened Warrnambool Little Penguin colony from foxes. In 2011, the Warnambool City Council was considering withdrawing funding for the program when Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village successfully submitted a plan to fund it through public programs and fundraising, with provisions for the welfare of the site and the animals. The project is maintained by public programs, tours of the island, and a crowdsourcing campaign that raised $25,000. The story of the Maremma dog program was developed into the popular Oddball movie. Released in  2015, the movie has generated public interest and lifted visitation to Flagstaff Hill by 34%. The project has involved multiple groups of interested parties, from university staff and students to local businesses. The judges were impressed with the magical quality of this project, from the discovery of the protective qualities of the Maremma dog breed by a local farmer, through to the story being developed into a popular feature film. The judges commented that “Flagstaff’s involvement demonstrates an outward looking approach that engages with the present. This was an innovative and crazy idea that has had a huge impact with international reach.”

Winner: Koorie Heritage Trust
The Koorie Heritage Trust received the Award for their relocation and outstanding development of programs and access to their collection. The Koorie Heritage Trust is the oldest community-owned and run Aboriginal cultural centre in Australia. In July 2015, the Trust relocated to redeveloped premises at Federation Square. Responding to community feedback, the relocation focused on making the collection accessible by creating innovative visible storage throughout the building. Trust staff worked with conservation students from the Centre for Cultural Materials to relocate the collection of over 3,900 artworks and artefacts, over 50,000 photographs, 2,000 oral histories, and a reference library of over 6,000 items. Object relocation allowed records to be updated on the digital catalogue. The entire collection is onsite with over 100 items on display and changing over about every three months depending on conservation requirements. The judges were impressed that the new location gives the Trust a central location that emphasises its role as a meeting place. The judges commented that the "display storage is an interesting concept that is beautifully realised at the Koorie Heritage Trust, and its new premises at Federation Square make it a cultural icon and meeting place for Koorie and non-Koorie communities alike.”


Lise Marsden and Brett Dunlop (right) of Sovereign Hill Museums Association receiving the MA (Vic) Award for Large Museums from Michael O'Leary, Director, Agencies and Infrastructure, Creative Victoria. Photo by Simon Fox, Deakin University.

Museums Australia (Victoria) Award for Large Museums

Winner: Sovereign Hill Museums Association

Sovereign Hill received the Award for their sustainability initiatives across their site. In 2015, the Association became the first museum in Australasia to sign the Green Museums Accord, securing its position as a community and sector leader on sustainable practice. The Green Museums Accord is a pledge to be environmentally responsible by considering ecological impact as an integral part of all operations and to involve staff, visitors, and the museum sector in sustainability initiatives. The Association has implemented significant infrastructure procedures including recycling, energy saving, pest and waste management, storm water, and solar capture. Education programs on their pastoral property, Narmbool, which is visited by 100,000 students annually, deliver information about environment protection and land management through practices and improvements made across the site. The judges were impressed with the implemented environmental savings across the site. The judges commented that “they are teaching that story and the work that they have done shows leadership in the museum and broader community.” The judges hoped that this Award would incentivise other organisations to do more in environmental sustainability.


This year three Victorian Collections Awards for Excellence in Museum Cataloguing were given out. These Awards acknowledge the hard work undertaken by organisations that are cataloguing their collections online using Victorian Collections and are judged on the number of artefacts catalogued, the proportion of items catalogued with accompanying photos, the quality of the records, the depth of historical research involved, and the percentage of records made public.


Members of the Geelong RSL Sub-Branch with the Victorian Collections Co-Managers and Tim Hart, Director, Public Engagement, Museum Victoria. Photo by Simon Fox, Deakin University.

Victorian Collections Award for Excellence in Museum Cataloguing (Volunteer-Run Organisations)

Winner: Orbost & District Historical Society
The Orbost & District Historical Society was chosen as winner of the Award for their thorough catalogue records that include thoughtful significance statements, fantastic item descriptions and well-researched and written historical information.

Highly Commended: Warrnambool & District Historical Society

Victorian Collections Award for Excellence in Museum Cataloguing (Organisations with Paid Staff)

Winner: Federation University Australia Historical Collection 
(Geoffrey Blainey Research Centre)
The Federation University Australia Historical Collection was chosen as winner of the Award for their records which contain good provenance and stories, wonderful clear photographs, and a great range of items across their collection.

Victorian Collections Award for Excellence in Museum Cataloguing (Military Memorabilia Collection)

Winner: Geelong RSL Sub-Branch

The Geelong RSL Sub-Branch was chosen as winner of the Award for their work photographing all of their objects, the quality of their research, and commitment to sharing their collections with a broad public audience.



Dr Jacqueline Healy (Centre) and Mark Cook of the Medical History Museum with Martin Foley MP (right), Minister for Creative Industries, Sylvia Admans, CEO of the R E Ross Trust, and Michael O'Leary (left), Director, Agencies and Infrastructure, Creative Victoria. Photo by Simon Fox, Deakin University.

Martin Foley MP, Minister for Creative Industries, presented their certificate to one museum who has completed the gold-standard Museum Accreditation Program this year: the Medical History Museum.


Congratulations to all Awards and Accreditation recipients, to all Highly Commended individuals and organisations, and thank you to all our fantastic nominees. The outstanding quality of the nominations received this year testifies to the extraordinary vitality of the Victorian museum and gallery sector. 

> Download the 2016 Awards media release

> Go to our Facebook page to browse the Awards photo album

For all media enquiries please contact:
Raphael Fiorese, Communications Manager, Museums Australia (Victoria)
Laura Miles, Executive Director, Museums Australia (Victoria)