This week I had the pleasure of talking to a PhD student in cultural heritage from Deakin University. She came to look at the Adelaide Lithuanian Museum and in particular to find one object, which she will look at the history, display etc. I enjoy these types of talks as it often leads to different perspectives on things. We spoke of the history of the museum and how things have changed over time.
Initially the Museum was established to teach children of Lithuanians in Adelaide about their heritage, it collected all things Lithuanian, everything was in Lithuanian. I can understand this, as being an occupied country there was a real fear of loosing touch with their heritage. Slowly the Museum has changed, their is a need for text to be in two languages, second and third generations no longer have a strong command of the Lithuanian language. Visitors are interested in their families past as it relates to the community here, rather than the country.
The museum relies on donations, this also has changed over the years. Since Lithuania's independence more community members have returned to Lithuania and are bringing back souvenirs, brochures, badges, stickers from the country, items that weren't available before. The Museum is a community museum, the community has the ability to dictate what it wants displayed. Its a very tricky thing to refuse a donation, but do these items tell the communities story here? Yes and No. Does the community understand that they have the power to dictate how they are displayed? I doubt that.
Another point that came to light was that all the Curators in the past had been men with no museum training. Men like military items and so the Museum has a good collection of uniforms and badges. Having limited understanding of how museums work also means we get whatever is donated, displayed. It doesn't matter that we already have two pairs of clogs, another pair will line up beside them.
One question the student posed was, how does the community see the Museum? There were alto of umms, I think the Lithuanian born generation are generally proud of the museum, any new person to Lithuanian house always gets a tour. The younger generation may see it as 'old' and dated.
If anyone has visited the museum, I would love your thoughts on how you perceive it. There are plans to make changes over the next few years, new display cabinets, interpretive panels etc. It still is a community museum and I would like to portray it how you want it.