Until very recently, urban planners, ethnographers, and socio-political theorists rarely mentioned ‘The Museum’. Exclusively the preserve of academics and esoteric, faultfinding industry journals for so long, it’s unquestionably obtuse that ‘The Museum’ was lacking in our discussions surrounding the sociologies of education, collective identity, leisure and urban planning. Meanwhile, our other municipal structures (banks, memorials, schools, churches and government buildings) barely failed to garner amassed sociological clout. But, in what is undeniably a much welcome ideological and pedagogical turn, the relevance of museums in our lives has dominated discussion surrounding our communities’ consensus or core values. Now fully apparent in our thinking around inequality and internecine conflicts, ‘The Museum’ figures heavily in our investigations on how culture (‘ours’ and ‘theirs’) is visually and ideologically presented: what is shown, how it is framed, who displays it, who consumes it, what is curated (and what is censored).
Speaking so much to who We want to be, ‘The Museum’ is an active participant in Our struggles of becoming. Currently, Perth is leading the charge in redefining the place for museums in our collective consciousness. Opening in 2020, The New Museum for Western Australia at the heart of the Perth Cultural Centre is participating in these lively debates surrounding architecture, public space and collective identity. Committed to sharing the stories of the people and places across the State, the New Museum is designed to reflect the extraordinary history, inimitability, creativity and diversity of Western Australia.
Contemporary is proud to announce that one of the brains behind this exciting addition to WA’s cultural scene has joined forces with Contemporary Wine In Design as an Official Ambassador.
Alec Coles OBE is driving the New Museum initiative, aspiring to create a museum that is owned and valued by all West Australians and admired by the world. As the current CEO of the Western Australian Museum since 2010, he oversees all branches across Perth, Fremantle, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Albany.
With a distinguished pedigree in developing and demonstrating the public value of museums across the world, Coles was previous Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums in North East England, as well as lead officer of the North East Regional Museums Hub.
While in the United Kingdom, Coles was a member of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Expert Panel and an executive member of both the National Museum Director’s Conference and the Museums Association. Prior to that, he was CEO of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, a wildlife conservation charity in North East England.
Certainly one of the busiest men around, Coles balances his commitment to the Western Australian Museum and the development of the New Museum with an Adjunct Associate Professorship in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia. And if all this would not be enough to take up all of his time, his generosity extends further to providing his services as an Executive Member of the Council for Australasian Museum Directors and Chair of ICOM Australia.
Undoubtedly, such community-oriented generosity deserves accolade. As such, Coles was recognised for Services to Museums in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010, being made an OBE.
On October 15th for Contemporary Wine In Design, we could think of nobody better positioned than Alec Coles OBE to weigh-in on our inaugural seminar – Design Democracy: ! or ?
The way the public perceives design is often very different to how the industry perceives it. This comes as no shock whatsoever. With huge projects like the New Museum or the revamped Perth Stadium on the cards, the design discussion in WA is not in the studio: it’s on the street. What does designing for the public sphere actually mean? Is this sphere the only public? Meanwhile, in Europe, there is heated debate on the designer-side too. With landmark legislation that attempts to finally do away with ‘the replica’ democracy in design has come full circle to include the producer side as well. When we talk about democracy in design, just how far-reaching are the ramifications?
Contemporary would like to thank Alec Coles OBE for joining forces to bring the biggest design event of the year to Perth. Be sure to register now to be part of the action.
Western Australian Museum
Words by David Congram.