Dr. Amareswar Galla (Amar), the then Chairperson of Asia Pacific Executive Board of International Council of Museums interviewed Dr George F MacDonald, the Chief Executive Officer of Museum Victoria, Australia’s largest public museums organisation, on 2 November 2000. The following are abridged reflections of Dr. MacDonald at the opening of the Melbourne Museum, the flagship of Museum Victoria. Transcribed text was approved by Dr MacDonald. Two decades on the museological wisdom in these reflections remains just as valid.
Amar: What does the opening of the Museum Victoria mean to museum development and re-development in Australia and within the museum world in general? What does it mean to George MacDonald CEO who oversaw the foundation of a major national museum in the world, i.e. the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, Ottawa, and now another major museum development on the other side of the world?
George: The thing that did strike me is that dates and events are very important, and they galvanise thinking and create thresholds and so on. I think the opening of Victoria Museum of this magnitude at this point in time as we enter a new millennium certainly struck me as being an opportunity to make a statement – To try and balance things a little differently than had been previously done. The more I thought about it the more I realised that what I was doing in Ottawa was to respond to a generation of visitors, which covered 80 percent of the people who were coming to the museum, raised in the television age from their very earliest memory. That generation were looking at the world through a television screen which is very different than looking at the world as you move around a village or a town or within your own experience frame of reference. Suddenly you were in this bionic electronic world that was being shown to you through a window that was global, and people accelerated their sophistication very rapidly. Now it has been about 50 years that television has been current in North America and in that 50 years people have become very sophisticated in a whole series of things such as how things work and the long sequences of history consistently recapitulated in television series. I thought that’s it, we are doing a project for a whole new generation of people and we won’t re-do it for some time. Read the full interview here.