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Talking Difference at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

by Sam Boivin
Publish date
16 September 2015
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Friday 28 August - Monday 23 November 2015

Back in August 2014, I gave a presentation on Talking Difference at a forum called Just Encounters: Bringing Together Education, Arts and Research. This forum was presented by the Minutes of Evidence (MoE) project.

Also at the forum, and hearing me talk, were staff members from the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, who were planning an upcoming exhibition, Oil Paint and Ochre: The incredible story of William Barak and the de Purys, which explores the complexity of first-generation negotiation between Aboriginal and European people in Australia.

As part of the exhibition's complementary public programming, researchers were looking for an engaging and interactive way to bring the story right into the present – to show and remind visitors that the exchange and negotiation across cultures is ongoing in Australia, and to allow any issues or thoughts raised by the exhibition to be voiced and explored. They remembered my presentation at the Just Encounters forum and contacted me about a possible residency for the Talking Difference Portable Studio, for the duration of the exhibition.

The Talking Difference Portable Studio The Talking Difference Portable Studio at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

On Friday 28 August I travelled east to the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum and set up the studio. A workshop was then held with fifteen local year 8 students. Many of the themes Talking Difference addresses were discussed, including personal identity, judging people based on outward appearances, and why making jokes about another person’s race or skin colour is not okay. The students demonstrated a good grasp of the workshop ideas and a lot of empathy. At the end of the workshop, students came up with some questions that were then recorded in the Talking Difference Portable Studio for members of the public to respond to:

  • How do you identify yourself?
  • Have you ever felt like you had to change part of your identity? Why?
  • How do you feel if someone tells you that they are a different religion to you? Why?
  • Have you ever been ashamed of your culture or race? What happened? How did it make you feel?
  • Have you ever stereotyped someone? How do you think it made them feel?
  • Have you ever been teased because of who you are? How did it make you feel?
  • Is it okay to tell a joke about someone’s race or skin colour? Who gets to decide if the joke is funny?

Talking Difference Talking Difference as viewed from the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum exhibition galleries.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

The Oil Paint and Ochre exhibition presents objects and stories from the de Pury family collection, including diaries, letters and artefacts. I was lucky enough to be given a walk-through preview of the exhibition, and found the stories and content quite moving, especially in the use of intimate snippets of the forty year exchange between two cultures. The exhibition represents a great opportunity for Talking Difference to reach a historically rich part of Victoria and to add to its growing collection of community responses to questions about identity, belonging, racism, and the other themes that Talking Difference seeks to address.

Oil Paint and Ochre: The incredible story of William Barak and the de Purys, is running from Saturday 29 August - Sunday 22 November, 2015 at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum: 33 Castella St, Lilydale VIC 3140. The Talking Difference Portable Studio will be in residence for the duration of the exhibition.

I belong - do you?

by Jareen
Publish date
5 May 2011
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When do you feel like you belong? This question is central to the new exhibition Identity: yours, mine, ours that opens at the Immigration Museum on 11 May. We took this question to the streets, setting up an open photo shoot in Little Collins St at the end of March. These photos are now in the Identity at the Immigration Museum group on Flickr and the overview video below.


If you’re on Twitter, we'd love to hear your #ibelong story, too. We want you to tell us “I feel #ibelong when...’  We'll put selected tweets up on a screen at the exhibition launch and during the opening weeks of the exhibition, we’ll be giving away tickets for some of the best #ibelong tweets. You can also follow the #ibelong tweets via the Immigration Museum Twitter account.


Identity: yours, mine, ours website

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.