IMAGinE Awards 2015

The 2015 IMAGinE Awards produced by the Jam Factory. Photo: courtesy Museums and Galleries NSW.

The 2015 IMAGinE Awards produced by the Jam Factory. Photo: courtesy Museums and Galleries NSW.

As many readers will know the big event in our Museums & Galleries of NSW calendar is the annual IMAGinE Awards.

This is the night when organisations and their staff are formally acknowledged for their commitment, creativity and sheer hard work throughout the year.

This year the celebrations were held at the Justice and Police Museum, one of Sydney Living Museum’s premier Sydney properties, continuing the tradition of alternating museum venue with gallery venue. Despite a wet and humid night, inside the courtroom winners and runners up huddled and congratulated each other warmly.

Standouts on the night included in(visible) from Lake Macquarie which won the first prize in the Galleries Exhibitions category (3-10 staff) and Energies: Haines & Hinterding from the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney (MCA) taking out the same in the 11+ staff category.

In(visible) in particular represented an ambitious yet sensitively managed project involving new portrayals of Aboriginal servicemen viewed through the lens of the Anzac Centenary. Their savvy Indigenous Reference Committee was fully on board and demonstrated outstanding preparedness to engage with contentious social issues by facing and managing potential adverse reactions. In doing so they showed acute understanding of their community.

In the Museums Exhibitions category Our Rivers Our History won a guernsey which M&G staff were pleased about as we’ve been using this project as a case study since it was launched earlier in the year. Flood! At Hawkesbury Regional Museum also won gold for its exhibition about what it’s like to live on a flood plain, simultaneously contributing to community understanding of the issue while providing high-impact, yet simple before-and-after graphics.

Several great projects fought it out in the Engagement category. Digi-Vol the Australian Museum’s citizen science project would have to be singled out as a model for how museums have embraced audiences and welcomed them as legitimate and knowledgeable community. For the first time ever the award for Engagement (3-10 staff) was split between two very different but equally deserving projects. Neural Knitworks from Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre blended art and science to promote brain health while City of Plenty from Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest created a miniature city out of donated foodstuffs, distributing them into the community at the close of the exhibition.

Competition is most intense around individual achievement awards, and it’s here where judges are often torn. Joe Eisenberg, long-time main man for Maitland Regional Gallery proved impossible to beat given his recent retirement from a long and dedicated career across two regional galleries and his inexhaustible commitment to building regional collections. Four volunteers from small museums were nominated, with Theodorus Bollen from Griffith War Memorial Museum coming up trumps. It was tough competition and the judges chose to also Highly Commend the gracious Lyn Hall from Berrima Museum.

Read more about the categories, winners and their projects on the website.

The IMAGinE Awards were originally envisioned as a way to bring the industry together and have been running since 2008. They are assessed independently of staff by a panel of four industry specialists. These adjudicators look for exceptional projects and programs, innovative approaches to attract audiences and solid processes in presenting material. They commend new ways, economical ways, fun ways of curating stories, and they look for the careful preservation of the state’s resources including collections, monies that fund activities, and of the physical environments they exist in.

The judges assure us these things are abundant across Aboriginal keeping places, small community-run museums, major city-based organisations and the 40 or so thriving regional galleries scattered throughout NSW. And that’s worth a big ‘woo hoo.’

Over the last few years M&G expanded the audience and outcomes of the Awards. It’s a good news story that’s worthy of more noise. Much more. We want the public to know—we want mums and dads to know, grandpas and stepdads once removed to know. We want your neighbour to know and her circus-performer spinster aunt to know, because we want them to come and visit your exhibitions and participate in your programs.

This year M&G launched Inspired, a new magazine to profile some of the great activity behind the IMAGinE Awards. As the nominations came in they were themed and grouped roughly into regions before commissioning some of our Roving Reporters to go into the field and find out more. Compiled as a digest rather than a survey, Inspired is designed to provide background to the way organisations work together and with their communities.

We’d love you to share Inspired, to send it around to people you know regardless of whether your project is represented. Share it with the belief that no matter where an audience is from or what their interests are, museums and galleries in NSW have something to inspire everyone.

M&G NSW is a not-for-profit organisation that receives core funding from Arts NSW, with additional funding from project grants. M&G NSW is also assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory board.

M&G NSW is located at The Arts Exchange in The Rocks, Sydney. 

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Published: 18 November 2015