Interior of the Chau Chak Wing Museum

UMAC 2023

A week of truth-telling and learning from Monday 28 August until Friday 1 September 2023
The Chau Chak Wing Museum hosted the 2023 International Council of Museums Committee for University Museums and Collections Conference.

UMAC 2023 was held on the lands of the Gadigal people, part of the Eora Nation. The UMAC organising committee recognises and pays respect to the Elders and communities – past, present, and emerging. For thousands of years, they have shared and exchanged knowledges across innumerable generations for the benefit of all.

Activities associated with UMAC 2023 began on Monday 28 August with the official Welcome to Country and full program taking place from Tuesday 29 August to Thursday 31 August. Special on-site tours, workshops, and offsite tours were arranged for delegates on Friday 1 September, with a chance to explore some of Sydney's most vibrant art galleries and cultural institutions over the weekend.

Truth-telling through university museums and collections

UMAC 2023 brought delegates to Sydney, Australia to explore the conference theme of ‘Truth-Telling Through University Museums and Collections.'

As the operating environment of higher education is changing, museums and collections can play a significant role in helping to shape an institution’s identity and narrative. Museums provide an opportunity for the dialogic engagement of diverse audiences with history, academic endeavour and contemporary issues, while being an active space for innovative research and practice.

UMAC 2023 examined the relationships between museums and collections and their institutional hosts, their relationship with the tripartite missions of teaching, research and engagement, and their relevance to global issues in both higher education and broader society.

Three keynote speakers began each day of the central conference program, offering unique perspectives on the theme. 

Conference themes

A discussion on how university museums have engaged with broader debates about community involvement and evolving concepts of ‘stewardship’.

An examination of institutional collecting and other policies and changes that are fundamentally reshaping the operations of cultural institutions on campuses.

What role do boards and leadership have on the governance of university museums in positive discussions towards using collections for truth-telling?

An examination of the way university museums confront the challenges of legacy collections. This session invited a wide range of perspectives on the ways that collections have brought out historical collections for creative conversations.

A discussion on how university administrations view university museums and collections within broader university policies and activities, and what the sector can do to better represent institutional values across university activities.

Discussions about repatriation from community perspectives, this session focused on communities of origin who have worked with university museum repatriation projects.

A session on contemporary practice in university museums and galleries.

Discussion of how university museums have developed formal learning experiences for tertiary students, school students and adult education groups, and of experiences in providing informal learning opportunities based around social interaction. Can students use university museums for social action?

Discussions of proactive examples of the ways university museums have worked towards greater accessibility and inclusion. What have we learnt from our success and failures?

Academics and teachers from non-traditional museum-using disciplines present how they have worked with university museums to use collections for research and teaching, and those from traditional museum-using disciplines present how they have introduced new approaches.

An examination of examples of sustainable exhibition design and museum architecture to create experiences for students and visitors.

What role do university collections have in acknowledging past injustices? How do museums promote restorative justice and truth-telling? How can laws of cultural ownership, ethics and rights responsibilities be enacted through university museum protocols?

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