NSW History

Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The branch owes its existence to those who, at the Australian and New Zealand Museums and Art Galleries Conference in Melbourne in 1936, resolved to form a professional association. Under the name, the Art Galleries and Museums Association of Australia and New Zealand, the association held its first meeting at Auckland in January 1937. The NSW branch of the Museums Association of Australia (MAA), as the association later became, was established in 1968. MAA became Museums Australia in 1994. Here are some of our milestones.


  • The Museums Association of Australia originated in a resolution at Melbourne in 1936 at the Australian and New Zealand Museums and Art Galleries Conference. Under the name, Art Galleries and Museums Association of Australia and New Zealand, it held its first meeting at Auckland in January 1937.  The name was altered, in 1958, to Museums Association of Australia. [Source: NSW Branch annual report 1984; see also further information on the development of the Association 1936-1968 in the NSW Branch Quarterly Newsletter no 15 March 1979].


  • The NSW Branch was formed as the first branch of the Museums Association of Australia at a meeting held on 2 December. Professor Frank Talbot, Director of the Australian Museum (1966-1975) chaired the meeting attended by a select group of 54 people. An interim committee was established pending formal establishment. At a meeting to mark the 10th anniversary in 1978, Oliver Chalmers remarked: “Had the NSW Branch not been formed in 1968, the MAA as a Federal body would have been a very minor association, if it had continued to exist at all.” [Source: NSW Branch Quarterly newsletter no 15, March 1979].


  • The Museums Association of Australia formally approves establishment of Branch in April.
  • The first official meeting is held 14 April, with the first branch committee comprising Oliver Chalmers (President), John Reeves (Vice President),Charles Turner (Secretary) and committee members Pat McDonald, Norm Harwood, Harold Thomas and Denis Colsey.


  • Membership grows from 50 at the foundation of the branch to 117 members 


  • The branch publishes Quarterly Newsletter no 1, September 1975, the precursor of Muesum Matters.


  • Richard Wesley appointed first executive officer of the branch, a position he holds until 1987. 


  • The branch has grown to 350 members, including 114 paid workers, 145 unpaid workers, 4 associates, 5 fellows and 74 institutional members. Four regional subdivisions have been set up - the South West, South East, Illawarra, and Mid North Coast chapters. The branch publications includeQuarterly NewsDisplay Technology for Small MuseumsSeminar Proceedings; NSW Museum Yellow PagesGuide to Museums, Art Galleries, Zoos and Historic Sites in NSWRichard Wesley notes that “To create ...‘museums of the future’ that are adequately staffed, funded and housed, will not be easy. It will be the development of a genuine spirit of cooperation between the community, local and state government and the profession itself.” [Source: Branch annual report by President John Hodge, Executive Officer Richard Wesley, and Secretary Mary-Louise Williams]. 


  • Mary-Louise Williams appointed director of branch.


  • The branch inaugurates the Westpac Museum of the Year Award, based on evaluated submission in the following categories: best museum with voluntary staff only and best new project for the year (educational initiative, exhibition etc).


  • The branch publishes Museums in NSW: a Plan for the Future [and] a Strategy for the Sustainable Development of a NSW State Museum Network, prepared by Shar Jones, Julie O’Dean and Anne Brake (Sydney: Museums Association of Australia Inc (NSW) and Museum Studies Unit, University of Sydney, with support from the NSW Ministry for the Arts). It includes sections on development, roles, support and recommended structures and levels of support for local and regional museums in NSW.


  • Brenda Factor appointed director.
  • NSW Minister for the Arts Peter Collins announces establishment of Museums Advisory Council to address issues relevant to smaller museums (one of the recommendations of the branch report Museums in NSW: a Plan for the Future.
  • The branch publishes Museum Matters Vol 1, no 1, appears as a quarterly publication, replacing Quarterly News.


  • The NSW Branch of Museums Association of Australia (MAA) becomes Museums Australia Inc (NSW) following MAA’s amalgamation with the Art Museums Association of Australia and Museum Education Association of Australia, a process assisted by the Council of Australian Museums Association. The amalgamation increases NSW membership to about 700 [Source: Museum Matter vol 2 no 1]


  • NSW state conference held.
  • The branch moves from the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to the Gunnery in Woolloomooloo.
  • The NSW Ministry for the Arts calls for tenders for a research project to develop a database of information about every museum in NSW.
  • The branch annual report highlights increased funding from the Minstry for the Arts to $280,000 and $30,000 from the Department of Planning and increased staffing levels from five to eight.
  • The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts announces consultancies December 1995-June 1996 for the development of an Australian Museums Information System (AMIS).


  • The branch publishes The Future of Collecting in NSW by staff and consultants Jane Varley and Meredith Walker. This reviews museum collecting policies, gaps in current collecting practices, management and conservation issues, and future challenges.


  • Kay Soderlund is appointed Director


  • The NSW Government redirects funding to a newly established Museums and Galleries Foundation New South Wales with responsibility for services previously provided jointly by Museums Australia (NSW) and Regional and Public Galleries NSW.


  • Community Culture & Place: A Local Government Handbook for Museums, edited by Shar Jones and prepared by the Museum Studies Unit, University of Sydney and Museums Australia (NSW), is published by the NSW Ministry for the Arts and Local Government Shires Associations of NSW. “It is our hope that the publication will lead to greater involvement of councils in this important area.”