Leaked document shows proposed museum gallery overhaul

The Opposition says a leaked document shows SA Museum management planned wholesale changes to gallery spaces, despite state government denials.

May 08, 2024, updated May 08, 2024
Opposition Leader David Speirs and Deputy Opposition Leader John Gardner talk about the museum document on Wednesday. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

Opposition Leader David Speirs and Deputy Opposition Leader John Gardner talk about the museum document on Wednesday. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

The Opposition today said it had received a leaked “Reimagining the Museum” document which it said confirmed sweeping changes had been planned, despite Labor recently branding such claims as Liberal misinfomation.

The most notable changes proposed in the “commercial in confidence” document seen by InDaily include “relocation of the Museum’s temporary exhibition space to the larger Mezzanine space” and the “conversion of the current temporary exhibitions gallery and World Mammals Gallery into a learning hub”.

Other proposed changes include a new “Kaurna Welcome experience”, expanding and relocating the Museum café, a reconfiguration of the Museum shop, a potential new event pavilion on the Armoury lawns, the redevelopment of the Museum’s attic into a venue, and a possible donors and member’s lounge.

Deputy Opposition Leader John Gardner says the document was approved by the Museum Board in September last year and approved by Arts Minister Andrea Michaels in December.

In February, InDaily reported museum management planned to axe all 27 positions in its Research and Collections division, to be replaced with 22 new roles focusing on curatorial research.

SA Museum CEO Dr David Gaimster told InDaily in February that he wants to reimagine the 1856-founded site as a “dynamic contemporary museum, addressing not only the issues and questions of the past but the big challenges of the future”.

But the proposed changes led to a backlash from the community and members of the scientific community, leading to Premier Malinauskas announcing a Premier’s Review into the proposed restructure in April.

The proposed restructure includes the axing of 27 research positions. Image: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

In an April press release following the announcement of the Premier’s Review, the Labor party said that “[t]here has been misinformation about the proposal for the Museum in the community, much of it peddled by the Opposition”.

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“There are no plans to get rid of the Egyptian Room or the Mammals Gallery, nor will the Repatriation of Ancestral Remains program stop,” they said.

Gardner today called on Labor to cancel the proposed “reimagining”.

“These leaked documents show that despite Peter Malinauskas’ denial the Labor Government had planned a total overhaul of the SA Museum,” he said.

“The new curatorial approach clearly shows that cherished galleries such as foreign mammals, the Polar collection, the Egyptian room and more are set to be on the chopping block.

“FOIs of Board Minutes, along with evidence given in the Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee, show that the Museum sought and received Ministerial approval for their changes late last year, and that they sought and received support from Peter Malianauskas’ own department for an ‘experienced change management resource’.”

Premier Malinauskas said this morning that the restructure had been put on hold for the Premier’s Review.

“We don’t want the Museum to be a museum of museums; every museum changes displays from time to time,” he said.

“The Museums has got a lot to display and we want to get as much on display as possible, but the real issue was around the scientific work that sits behind the Museum.”

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