Immigration to increase community engagement, the Museum is

Immigration is a natural,
instinctive activity, which has been the center of controversy for over a
century. Although humans have moved around the world since the Late Stone Age,
immigration has a rich, extensive history. With terrorism on the rise, the
world’s most desirable countries to immigrate to have become focused on
creating strict policies regarding vetting, countries of origin, and capacity. For
this reason and others, it is particularly intriguing to explore the history
and culmination of Australian Immigration. With the help of Melbourne’s
Immigration Museum, there is much to be discovered through its extensive
exhibits and interactive displays. The museum poses a thought-provoking
experience and answers a variety of questions about hardship, diversity, and
identity. This Field Report will examine the history of the Immigration Museum,
assess my experience as a visitor, and evaluate the depiction the Museum
portrays of Australian Immigration itself. 

According to the
Immigration Museum, its purpose is to showcase the history of Australian
Immigration and celebrate the diversity and culture that encapsulates Australia
today. First opened in the “beautifully restored Old Customs House” in 1998, the
Museum’s location seemed to be the perfect fit due to the sentiment of the immigrants
who had passed through decades ago. Working to increase community engagement,
the Museum is proud to “collaborate with culturally and linguistically diverse
communities … in order to …  develop
strong and sustainable relationships within Victoria” (Immigration Museum,
2018).  In the true respectable fashion, the
Museum’s staff and board legitimize its intended purpose outside of
exhibitions. According to Dr. Moya McFadzean (2012), “genuinely desires to be
relevant and responsive to changing visitor demands, changing social, political
and cultural environments and changing museological communication techniques.” Without
this factor, it would be extremely difficult for the Museum to foster authentic
relationships within the community.

Within the walls, the
contents are filled with vast amounts of information and eye-catching
collections to educate visitors in creative ways. “Museum facilities and
activities include a discovery centre, community gallery, touring exhibitions
and public and educational programs, including community festivals, exhibitions
and many community engagement activities” (McFadzean, M., 2012). The
Immigration Museum is considered to be In fact, the exceptionally modern and
technologically advanced. Patrizia Schettino, a Multimedia Design and Visual
Communication Expert, has published a case study identifying “Successful
Strategies for Dealing With New Technology in Museums” using the Melbourne
Immigration Museum as an example. Here she states, “new technologies not only
have an impact on visitors, but also on museum staff as they have to deal every
day both with visitors and the digital interactive object itself.” Patriizia
refers to a specific exhibition designed by Profs. Sarah Kenderdine and Jeffrey
Shaw, titled “PLACE-Hampi” where visitors entered an immersive environment
allowing them “to explore 360° digital panoramas in an interactive way.” The
results of the exhibition were incredibly useful to the Museum’s staff in terms
of learning about their customers. Here, they “recognized different types of
visitors: those who liked to be guided and those who preferred to explore …
and … learnt how to
better engage with cultural diversity from their mistakes” (Schettino, 2016). Considering
the following, it’s easy to affirm the Immigration Museum is constantly looking
for ways to improve their facility as well as the visitor’s experience.

As a first time visitor,
nearly all aspects of the Immigration Museum blew me away. When my classmates
and I first approached the courtyard filled with random toys for children I
immediately felt welcomed. The back entrance of the museum was through an
enclosure covered entirely by glass; this area included café tables and board
games for young kids, although shamelessly, we had our fun with the games too. As
I reflect upon the entrance, with a large looming tunnel leading to the first
exhibit, I can’t help but ponder the feeling of walking out of the tunnel into
the courtyard. I believe this was strategically constructed to replicate the
feeling of an immigrant becoming into Australia and being greeted by the warm,
bright sun as they stepped out of the Old Customs House. 

Throughout the museum there
were several exhibits and galleries where I learned about immigrant vetting,
the history of Australian immigration, and culture-identity crisis. One of my
favorite features was in the permanent exhibition, “Getting In.”  Within the exhibit is “an interactive theatre
experience whereby visitors find themselves in the role of a government
official charged with the responsibility of interviewing people applying to
migrate to Australia, and discovering whether or not they ‘get in” (Immigration
Museum, 2018). This experience was one of the most emotionally draining and
educating experiences I’ve had in my life. Sitting with my friend by my side,
we were truly immersed in our roles as immigration agents, with the life of a
hopeful Iranian refugee in our hands. We carefully listened to the
interrogation and paced back and forth the room, plagued with the tough decision
to accept or reject the applicant. Evidently, our emotions got the best of us,
and we chose to accept, which was the incorrect decision due to many
contradictions in the applicant’s testimony. He was formally rejected by the
system and our hearts sank. The look of defeat in the man’s eyes induced
overwhelming sadness. We walked away nearly in tears, warning others to be wary
of partaking in the same experience. It was an unsettling realization that
policies and extreme vetting of applicants can squander chances of the
opportunity for a prosperous and safe life. Nevertheless, I understood the
importance of such measures to ensure peace and neutralize threats, however it
did not make me feel any better. Undoubtedly, I’ve never been to a museum with
such an exhibit that left such a lasting impression with me.

The Immigration Museum
carries a particularly important duty; to preserve the countless stories of
migration and highlight issues in the past. The museum depicts these stories in
various ways, such as writings, audio scraps, videos, art, and everyday items.

Dr. Philipp Schorch (2014), a Marie Curie Research Fellow, has remarked that
the stories tell a lot more than just the experiences of migrants; “the
empirical evidence emphasizes that the humanization of migration through
stories and faces renders possible an understanding, explanation, and critique
of sociopolitical contexts through the experience of human beings.” As visitors
walk through the museum, stories are spotlighted based on their personal
culture, hardships, or past. Every visitor’s experience in the Museum is likely
singular because each visitor emotionally connects to the stories uniquely. Dr.

Schorch continued his analytical study about the Immigration Museum stating the
group, “shifted …  its focus from the
“stories of migration” to the ” ‘issues associated with
migration’ ” (Schorch 2014).

Thousands of people each
year visit the Immigration Museum of Melbourne. There’s no doubt that most leave
with a lasting impression, filled with emotions, and an extensive understanding
of the history of Australian Immigration. 

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