Museums are defined by the International Council of Museums as institutions, generally housed in one or more buildings, primarily engaged in the collection, acquisition, conservation and exhibition of the material evidence of people, their culture and environment, for the purpose of education and enjoyment by the general public and/or specialists. Conceptually, museums include art museums and historical theme parks, such as Sovereign Hill, but exclude commercial art galleries as they are regarded as retail outlets. However, in the discussion below and in tables 12.4 and 12.5, museums and art museums have been treated as separate entities.
In many cases, State museums and art museums were established many years before their national counterparts. As a result, a number of notable national collections are housed in museums operated by or through State Governments, rather than in the national institutions. The main national museums, art museums and cultural institutions are the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Australian War Memorial, the National Science and Technology Centre (Questacon), and the National Portrait Gallery. There are over 1,700 museums and art museums operating in Australia.
An on-line national access program, Australian Museums On Line (AMOL), has a database of information on over 1,000 museums. The site aims to offer access to information about every item held in museums in Australia. AMOL is an initiative of the Heritage Collections Council, which coordinates national approaches to caring for, and promoting access to, Australia's heritage collections. More detailed information on AMOL is shown in the section Multimedia.
Museums Australia, the peak industry association, has a membership base comprising those who work and contribute to Australia's museums and public galleries. The association's primary role is to advocate for the industry and provide a range of professional services to its members. The services are offered at a national, State and interest group level, and include professional development and training opportunities, newsletters, advocacy and representation.
Museum and art museum attendance
The 1999 Survey of Attendance at Selected Culture/Leisure Venues revealed that 3.0 million people, or 19.9% of the Australian population aged 15 and over, had visited a museum at least once in the previous 12 months. A total of 3.2 million people (21.2% of the Australian population aged 15 and over) had visited an art museum (table 12.4).
Museums and art museums industry
The ABS conducted a survey in respect of the 1999-2000 financial year of organisations operating enclosed areas storing artefacts, artworks and museum objects and which were open to the general public.
At the end of June 2000, there were 2,049 museum establishments comprising 249 art museums/galleries, 411 historic properties and 1,389 other museums (e.g. social history, natural history and science museums) (table 12.5). The majority of these establishments (58.0%) were operated on a volunteer basis. More detailed information from this survey is shown in Service industries.
The 78 museums with 100 or more employees averaged 121,300 admissions each (34.4% of museum admissions) in 1999-2000. This compares to an average of 34,800 admissions for museums with 20-99 employees, 29,100 admissions for museums with 5-9 employees and 7,100 admissions for museums with 1-4 employees. Museums which were operated solely by volunteers had an average of 4,200 admissions in 1999-2000.
At the end of June 2000, there were 61.6 million artefacts, artworks and museum objects located in museums, of which 16.1% were on display.The majority (59.3%) of these artefacts, artworks and museum objects were in the 78 large museums with employment of 100 or more. These large museums displayed only 1.6% of their artefacts, artworks and museum objects.
12.4 ATTENDANCE(a) AT MUSEUMS AND ART MUSEUMS - 1999
|Sex -|| || |
|- Male |
|- Female |
|- Total |
|Age -|| || |
|- 15 to 24 years |
|- 25 to 34 years |
|- 35 to 44 years |
|- 45 to 54 years |
|- 55 to 64 years |
|- 65 years and over |
|Birthplace -|| || |
|- Australian-born |
|- Overseas-born |
|(a) Attendance in the 12 months prior to interview. |
Source: Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues, April 1999 (4114.0).
12.5 MUSEUMS, Summary of Operations - 1999-2000
|Museum/gallery establishments at end |
|Artefacts/artworks/museum objects at|
end of June 2000
|Employment at end June 2000|
|Volunteers for the month of June 2000|
|Source: Museums, Australia, 1999-2000 (8560.0). |