OHAA National Conference – Migration Museum Tour

Whose history? a program at the Migration Museum, Friday 20 September at 2.30 pm, 82 Kintore Avenue, Adelaide

Resize of Migration Museum tour1This was a tour of the Migration Museum.  The title “Whose history?” was meant to show us different perspectives of the museum.  We were initially taken through the museum by one guide and we were instructed to listen, not ask questions, interject or make comments during the tour.  About five minutes in to the tour, most of our group had realised the purpose of this tour.  We were asked to see the museum and its exhibits through the eyes of people who would have seen the museum in about the 1950s or earlier.  For example, the aboriginal people were depicted as savages who were saved from their simple lifestyle by the white people who colonised the area.  They were given rations of white flour, sugar, tea and tobacco so they would no longer have to scratch around in the dirt to find food nor hunt for it.  They became “civilised” and were not driven from their homes as they were in the eastern states.  The colonisers built fences to keep their crops and livestock contained, not to keep the natives out.

This was interesting and confronting for us as people in 2013 to listen to this “perspective” but we understood the point the guide was making.  We then returned to the entrance of the Museum to be taken on the same tour with a different guide, but this time from a 2013 perspective.  She explained the purpose of the previous tour and then showed us the same exhibits giving a more “truthful” interpretation.  For example, the rations given to the aborigines were not healthy alternatives to the food they had taken from their environment.  The change in diet produced serious health issues.

Some of us who participated in the tour discussed how we felt about it later.  The first tour was confronting and purposefully so and the second gave us a different insight into the change in attitude towards our history, particularly regarding aboriginal people.  We thought this tour method might be controversial and perhaps not always acceptable to some people.  It was certainly designed to promote a lot of discussion.
Suzanne Mulligan