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At its Annual General Meeting during the National Conference in March 2002, Museums Australia - the peak industry association and professional body representing museums in Australia - adopted the following definition of ‘museums’:
Museums Australia recognises that museums of science, history and art may be designated by many other names (including gallery and Keeping Place). In addition, the following may qualify as museums for the purposes of this definition:
(a) natural, archaeological and ethnographic monuments and sites, and historical monuments and sites of a museum nature that acquire, conserve and communicate material evidence of people and their environment;
(b) institutions holding collections, and displaying specimens, of plants and animals, such as botanical and zoological gardens, herbaria, aquaria and vivaria;
(c) science centres;
(d) cultural centres and other entities that facilitate the preservation, continuation and management of tangible or intangible heritage resources (e.g. living heritage and digital creative activity); and
(e) other institutions that the Council of Museums Australia considers have some or all of the characteristics of a museum.
Australian Museums and Galleries On Line (AMOL, formerly known as Australian Museums On Line), is a web site providing access to a database of information on over 1,500 national, state, territory, regional and local museums across Australia. Information about items held by museums is accessible through a range of search options, such as region, collection type and collection strength. AMOL is an initiative of the Heritage Collections Council, which coordinates national approaches to caring for, and promoting access to, Australia's heritage collections.
Museums Australia has a membership base comprising those who work and contribute to Australia's museums. 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, territory and interest group level, and include professional development and training opportunities, newsletters, publications, advocacy and representation.
The 1999 Survey of Attendance at Selected Cultural and Sporting Events and Venues indicated that 21.2% of the Australian population aged 15 and over (3.2 million people) had visited an art museum at least once in the previous 12 months (table 12.4). This is similar to the attendance rate of 22.3% (3.1 million people) determined when the survey was run in 1995. The attendance rate at museums other than art museums was 19.9% (3.0 million people) in 1999, compared with 27.8% (3.9 million people) in 1995. This large fall in attendance can be partly explained by the temporary closure of some large museums in the more recent survey period.
The ABS conducted a survey of museums in respect of the 1999-2000 financial year. Museums were defined for the purpose of the survey as 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. Museums with employees also rely on the services of volunteers. The 861 museum establishments with employees, at the end of June 2000, had a total of 6,956 employees or working proprietors and 15,393 volunteers.
The 78 museums with 100 or more employees averaged 121,300 admissions each (or 34.4% of total museum admissions) in 1999-2000. This compares with an average of 34,800 admissions for museums with 20-99 employees, 29,100 admissions for museums with 5-19 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. More information from this survey is shown in Service industries.
Commercial art galleries
The ABS conducted a survey of commercial art gallery businesses (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art centres) in respect of 1999-2000. Commercial art galleries were defined as businesses whose primary activity was the display and sale of artworks. Auction houses and businesses where artists sold artwork directly to the consumer were not included.
At the end of June 2000, there were 514 commercial art gallery businesses operating in Australia, comprising 31 which self-identified their main activity as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art centres, and 483 other commercial art galleries. These 514 businesses operated from 573 locations (table 12.6).
The average wages and salaries per employee for all commercial art gallery businesses was $22,600 in 1999-2000. The larger businesses (10 or more persons employed) had average wages and salaries per employee of $16,400, compared with $27,700 for the smaller businesses (0-2 persons employed). At the end of June 2000, there were 1,409 persons employed by commercial art gallery businesses, comprising 435 working proprietors and partners, 389 permanent full-time employees, 337 permanent part-time employees and 249 casual employees.