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Title: Museums, History and Migration in Australia
Authors: Henrich, Eureka
First Published: 6-Oct-2013
Citation: History Compass, 2013, 11 (10), pp. 783-800
Abstract: It is easy to take the presence of migration histories in Australian museums for granted. After all, most Australians are descended from immigrants, Australia's cultural diversity is celebrated as a national strength, and museums must represent and explain that diversity in order to tell stories of the nation's past. However, it is only in the last 30 years that experiences of migration have become the subject of collections, exhibitions and even entire museums in Australia. In light of recent research and scholarly work, this article surveys how migration history is portrayed in Australian museums. It reveals that creators of migration exhibitions have constantly negotiated a tension between an inclusive and affirming ‘nation of immigrants’ story and the more difficult histories of conflict, difference and exclusion that characterise Australia's history of migration. Curatorial approaches to this tension have been shaped by changing political climates, public attitudes to migrants and multiculturalism, and community demands for representation in cultural institutions. International museological events, such as the opening of Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York in 1990, have also been influential. When located within these institutional, social and political contexts, exhibitions of migration history in Australia can be understood through three broad and overlapping phases. The earliest exhibitions, beginning in the mid-1980s, aimed to integrate minority migrant experiences into a pluralistic national story in order to overturn previous mono-cultural narratives of national becoming. A second phase of exhibitions, from the mid-1990s overtly democratised this ‘new’ migration narrative in an attempt to appeal to Anglo-Celtic Australians who did not identify with multiculturalism. While elements of both approaches remain, in last decade Australian museums have begun to look beyond migrations to the nation and towards an exploration of transnational networks, personal belonging and dislocation, and the idea of home.
DOI Link: 10.1111/hic3.12090
ISSN: 1478-0542
eISSN: 1478-0542
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Archived with reference to SHERPA/RoMEO and publisher website. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Henrich, E. (2013), Museums, History and Migration in Australia. History Compass, 11: 783–800, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Historical Studies

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