Fall in love with the Australian Museum again, says new director Kim McKay
Museum is not a dinosaur: Kim McKay, the new director of the Australian Museum. Photo: Janie BarrettFor more than 25 years, Kim McKay made blokey adventurers, explorers and scientists famous, and she ensured Oprah Winfrey and Jessica Watson dominated the popular culture landscape.
Her media and marketing expertise marshalled politicians, corporations and the public to place their enthusiasm and dollars behind an individual, movement or big event, whether it be Clean Up Australia with Ian Kiernan or Tim Jarvis’ re-enactment of the Shackleton expedition.
Now the NSW government wants Ms McKay to take on the Australian Museum, appointing her as its first female director.
Arts Minister George Souris said Ms McKay brought a strategic expertise and significant experience to the task of increasing the museum’s funding base and visitor numbers, while championing the core science role of the institution.
”Sydneysiders need to fall in love again with its natural history museum as a regular meeting place,” said Ms McKay, a former museum trustee, who also held senior international roles with National Geographic as well as promoting national and international scientific research.
”To borrow someone else’s words, this museum has some important things to do, like telling the narrative of a young country, where we engage with science and natural history but also entertain.
”I use the word ‘entertain’ because I recognise that families have a limited budget. Where every child is poring over an iPad, we are competing for entertainment time and the entertainment dollar.”
The natural history museum, established in 1827, is regarded as one of the country’s most important but troubled cultural institutions.
Ms McKay, who has no formal scientific qualifications, said she would wait until taking up her appointment in April before addressing the criticism of cutbacks at the museum and reduction in staffing.
This ill feeling at the museum culminated in the revelation during a dinosaur exhibition last year that it no longer employed a fossil scientist.
Frank Talbot, the only Australian to have led the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC and a former director of the Australian Museum, was among the critics voicing concerns. On Wednesday, he hailed Ms McKay’s appointment as ”an excellent idea”.
”Her dynamism and knowledge and communication skills will make up for any shortcoming in formal academic qualifications,” he said.
”If she listens and uses her scientists, she will address the problems of the museum.”
Science commentator Robyn Williams, a former museum trust president, said the failures at the museum had been embarrassing but believes the new appointment was an ”inspired” choice.
”She will put science first and foremost,” he said. ”And she knows how to tap into widespread concerns and lead the community into voicing them through big events.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.