Local stories, state-wide support: Museums & Galleries of NSW

Regional galleries, professionally-staffed and volunteer-run museums, and Aboriginal cultural centres are among the 500 places and spaces supported by Museums & Galleries of NSW.
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Parramatta Artist studios, image courtesy of M&GNSW. 

Michael Rolfe is passionate about the home-grown stories of regional NSW. As CEO of Museums & Galleries of NSW (M&GNSW), Rolfe oversees the support of 500 cultural organisations across the state, with 66% of them based in non-metropolitan areas.

These organisations play a crucial role in bringing communities together, and are often the first port of call for visitors. As a not-for-profit organisation predominantly funded by the NSW Government, one of M&GNSW’s major roles is supporting the state’s diverse small-to-medium gallery and museum sector through research, professional and skill development programs, the provision of resources and touring exhibitions as part of the National Exhibition Touring Support (NETS) group. 

While each type of museum or gallery requires different support, there is a unifying aspect to M&GNSW’s work. ‘Everything we do is about helping those places improve the visitor experience, be that through skill and professional development opportunities, exhibition touring programs, or the small grants programs that we run on behalf ofArts NSW. All these programs are about improving exhibitions, knowledge, availability and access for communities and visitors in the places we work with,’ said Rolfe.

For those travelling through NSW and wishing to discover these experiences for themselves, M&GNSW’s website and monthly e-newsletter are ideal ways to find out what’s happening in the state’s regional cultural centres. The mobile-friendly, geo-locational website offers public program and visitor information tailored to wherever and whatever you’ve chosen to explore that day.

He said, ‘The state’s museums, galleries and cultural centres…are producing most of the content themselves. It’s about local stories, local collections, local artists and curatorial nous. The volunteer-run museums alone house an extraordinary array of objects, ideas and stories that are unique to the towns they’re in. It’s a wonderful resource’.

The website also offers those working the sector access to a variety of resources including live broadcasts of professional development events, fact sheets and discussion papers. Rolfe explained, ‘Given that internet access in regional areas is improving, the website is an important way for us to provide advice and opportunities for regional and remote NSW. We can reach a broader audience than if we delivered on the ground.’

The hard work is paying off. Rolfe reflected that in 2013 ‘in NSW, the sector that we work with recorded 5 million visits. 25% of those are people visiting from other places. That’s a significant indicator of the tourism potential and the economic benefit these organisations can provide to the communities in which they’re based.’

‘When people travel it’s human nature to want to meet the locals and it’s through cultural interaction that this happens most effectively,’ mused Rolfe. ‘We facilitate that – it’s about discovering local stories and having conversations.’

Reason enough to get on the road and have your own unique visitor experience in the cultural centres of regional NSW.

For more information visit M&GNSW

Chloe Wolifson
About the Author
Chloe Wolifson is a Sydney-based independent art writer and curator who works across artist-run, commercial and public domains. chloewolifson.com
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