Though This be Madness: Heritage Methods for Working in Culturally Diverse Communities

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John Petersen


In 1998, the NSW Migration Heritage Centre was conceived by the NSW Government as a virtual heritage centre to help ageing former migrants tell their stories. Migration museums and other organisations interested in heritage are grappling with how to identify, record, preserve and interpret the heritage legacy of migration and settlement in their communities. The distinctions between museum and environmental heritage practices have diminished during the past decade in Australia. The Centre’s methodologies are based on historic method and thematic and typology studies, better known for their application to heritage place identification and archaeological artefact studies than for their more recent use by some Australian museum curators for the survey and documentation of collections and community participation in heritage. The ‘virtual museum’ has enabled the Centre to break away from the centralised museum concept, with the associated trappings of venue management, to pioneer a decentralised and dispersed museum model that works almost entirely in collaborative community history research partnerships to document culturally significant collections, and associated migration memories, held by communities and private individuals. The work is centralised on the Centre’s website as a virtual collection of objects, places and associated memories. They are presented in online exhibitions for student research and as a destination for the mass audiences of the worldwide web.

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