Screens at the heart of reimagined museum

By: Georgina Russell   |   ACMI Director of Development   |

After the year that was 2020, we have been able to reimagine what the ACMI Museum can be.

Australian Centre for the Moving Image's (ACMI) national museum of screen culture, has reopened after more than 18 months of building-wide redevelopment. The visionary $40m transformation has been delivered through the support of the Victorian Government, along with our generous corporate and philanthropic partners. ACMI has been transformed architecturally, programmatically and technologically. Our renewal has enabled ACMI to continue to expand the impact of our museum in a changing world, enabling us to deliver rich experiences and educational opportunities both onsite and through our digital channels.

ACMI's renewal: take a tour through your museum of screen culture.

After the year that was 2020, we have been able to reimagine what a museum can be. In a strange stroke of timing, when COVID-19 hit in March 2020 we were closed for our redevelopment and although our construction was slowed it was able to continue and we delivered our brand-new museum in 2021. However, audiences have been able to experience ACMI’s transformation since we launched the first stage of our multiplatform museum last October – a rich digital offer including an online incarnation of our centrepiece exhibition The Story of the Moving Image with dozens of stories, essays, videos and images to explore, plus talks, on demand film screenings, internet art exhibitions, public and education programs.

While closures across the arts saw organisations adapting to connect with audiences online, ACMI’s multiplatform museum was the result of five years of planning our transformation, to provide audiences an interconnected physical and digital experience. ACMI visitors can now navigate the wonder of the moving image on site at our Fed Square museum, or wherever they are, on any device.

COVID-19 reinforced our purpose as people used screens more than ever to connect to one another. Collectively, we can be united by the stories we see on-screen and as the Australian museum of screen culture, we know that what we see on screens can change how we see the world.  This cultural shift validated our focus on, and investment in, the technology and screen culture that will drive our museum into the future. Our project had a wholistic approach with the visitor’s experience at the core of our planning. The architecture, exhibition experience, physical and digital content has all been considered and connected in new ways, to deliver a richer, more multi-faceted, contemporary interaction with our audiences.

Alongside new and inviting public spaces, the revitalised ACMI is anchored by a free, 1,600sqm centrepiece exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image, which takes visitors of all ages on an interactive journey through the past, present and future of the moving image. Featuring over 900 objects from around Australia and the world this superbly designed exhibition is interactive and experiential.

When visitors enter the exhibition, they receive a Lens - a free handheld device that allows you to collect artworks and objects you discover throughout the exhibition. What you collect is then curated into a personalised online assemblage, that you can review when you get home, as well as delving deeper into stories and ideas and discovering new films, TV shows, videogames and art to watch, play and experience. This technology is underpinned by our new XOS operating system, developed in-house, allowing physical and digital content to connect in ways not yet seen in an Australian museum. Via a combination of technology and expert human curation, the knowledge and information held by ACMI will be accessible to visitors wherever they are.  An outcome we had always planned to deliver, has become much more relevant in a COVID-normal society.

Our success in realising this ambitious project is due to the very generous support from our partners and collaborators and it is important to mention the major philanthropic partnerships with trusts and foundations that helped us to realise this redevelopment project.

ACMI continues to have education as one of our key pillars of programming. Thanks to a generous multi-year Flagship Grant, Gandel Philanthropy is supporting us to improve access to learning outcomes for students and teachers in regional areas and onsite at our museum, enabling young people to explore the skills and creativity needed for the jobs of their future. This grant has also supported the complete revamp of our two revitalised education studios – the Gandel Digital Future Labs – where students and teachers can access the latest technology and creative tools to create their own moving image works.

In partnership with Naomi Milgrom AC and the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, we will commission and present major works across an international moving image art series, building on ACMI and Naomi Milgrom AC’s experience of supporting, commissioning and presenting leading artists working with the moving image globally. The first in our series is Oskar Fischinger’s Raumlichtkunst, a reconstruction of his multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and restored by the Center for Visual Music (CVM) in Los Angeles.

The 6a Foundation in collaboration with Ricci Swart has generously supported the Moving Australia section of The Story of the Moving Image. Located at the heart of the exhibition this section celebrates the ground-breaking films, programs and talent that reflect Australia’s unique stories, breathtaking landscapes and national identity, aligning ACMI and the Foundation’s mutual interests in the arts, access, education and Indigenous life.

Support from the Sidney Myer Fund has enabled us to commission new work by Gunditjmara artist Vicki Couzens.  Visitors to our permanent exhibition are greeted and farewelled by the site-specific multi-part artwork Yanmeeyarr (2020), referencing how ochre markings on the body capture and reflect light during ceremony, creating a centuries-spanning connection between traditional First Peoples storytelling and the contemporary moving image.

Thanks to the incredible support and generosity of our partners and donors, ACMI is now one of the most innovative and digitally transformed museums in the world, providing a unique and sophisticated experience, and educational opportunities, that truly captures what a modern museum can be.


Feb. 23, 2021

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