It has been quite a while since I sat down to write my last CEO blog and that is because our team has expanded yet again! With the addition of new staff and the creation of new roles our team have found even more stories for us to share and that has meant that you don’t have to see or hear from me alone anymore!
To find my last blog I had to go all the way back to October and in that piece, I talked about the Museum re-opening after the long lockdown. Rather than focus on the trials that the closure brought I emphasized all of the great things that have taken place this year because our team have achieved some amazing things in 2021.
Now two months on since that last blog I feel an even greater sense of pride.
Since re-opening I am pleased to say that our visitation has been strong and the feedback to our changes inside some of the exhibits is incredibly pleasing. With the Museum busy once again we had to look at how we utilised our staff and volunteers across all of the Museum’s key areas.
Though we maintain the same operating budget that we always have, our team have had to think outside the box to make the most of what we have and reassess our expenditure across the board. Even though visitation is up, which obviously means more money coming through the door, the extended closure has had a lasting impact that will take a very long time to repair but in tough times our ingenuity plus our creativity has seen us through.
The last two months have been amongst the busiest ever for the Museum’s team as many projects that were put on hold by COVID came back into play and new opportunities presented themselves. Since the easing of restrictions and the return to work of our entire team we have attended, hosted, or participated in numerous activities, some of these included:
These have included hosting All Chrysler Day with the Chrysler Club NSW, Halloween Rocks at the Museum (a scavenger hunt for Halloween weekend) and our first Heritage Day since February (and of course it poured with rain the entire day, yet we saw lots of families visiting which was heartening and reinforced the Museum as a great rainy-day activity).
The Museum was also the venue for the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce end of year event which saw the team open up the Museum in a unique way for the event and this was on the back of a number of other activities taking place on the grounds at the same time. Our team have proved 100% that they can tackle any task put before them, especially when it comes to utilising the grounds and museum space! (Pictured Below)
Our most notable change of 2021 has got to be the facelift to the fire engine that sits atop the pole on Castlereagh Street at the entrance to the Museum (see photo at start of blog). Our volunteers did such an amazing job to undertake much needed restoration work on the vehicle and thanks to local company, Debner Cranes it was able to be taken up and down with little hassle. I’m very proud of this project as it signifies all of the changes taking place within the Museum.
The Museum’s new-look heritage team also worked tirelessly to have the heritage book and associated pieces ready for an event at Manly Fire Station earlier this month as we celebrated the re-opening of the station after major renovations and 100 years of the heritage listed building. I enjoyed being able to get back into stations to represent the Museum and see the fruits of our labour as the creation of these heritage works are a true team effort. (Photos from event below)
Back at the Museum our heritage team and the newly formed engagement team continue to work to update a number of the exhibits, most that will be officially opened or revealed in the new year. As well as these works, they have been busy installing the 2021 Museum of Fire Art Competition Exhibit that will be on display over summer.
This year we made some changes to the conditions of entry which has seen a lot of smaller works submitted into the Museum’s competition. This has meant that a new feature has been able to be added to the exhibit and it asks visitors to contribute to the exhibit during their visit.
The theme of the 2021 competition was resilience and the works of all of the children who entered show just how relevant this topic is to our youth. Unfortunately, our team were able to shortlist just 27 entries but the work of all children who entered are to be commended on their efforts. Our judging panel have cast their votes and the winners will be announced at a ceremony in January. The People’s Choice Award is back again, and we invite visitors to vote in the Museum and for those who can’t attend the Museum online voting will be open from Monday 10th January to Friday 14th January 2022.
With so much always happening at the Museum I am sure I’ve missed listing many of our milestones and successes from not just the past few months but the last year! I cannot express how proud I am of our growing team and how much I have enjoyed watching those who have been with us for many years developing their skills and helping to enhance the Museum as not just a cultural institution but as a small business.
To meet the evolving needs of the Museum we have developed some of the roles of our senior management team. Since re-opening we have welcomed two new ladies to our senior team, these are Natasha who joins us as our new Heritage Manager. Natasha comes to us from the National Parks and Wildlife Service however she has been a member of the Museum team in the past, firstly as a volunteer and then later as an Intern during her Master of Museum and Heritage Studies with the University of Sydney. Natasha is a great asset to the heritage side of the Museum and her skills as a manager are evident in the volume of work that those working in the curatorial/collection and research sides of the business under her leadership have been able to produce since she assumed the role in November.
The other key new member of our team is Olivia, and you may recognise her from some of our social media over the last few months. Olivia applied to the Museum for the position of education officer back before the lockdown but after we-opened and looked to fulfil the position we realised that she had another set of skills that would be an asset to the Museum. For this reason, Olivia came on board as the Education and Digital Officer. Over the last three months she has proven herself to be an invaluable member to our team and I am very excited to say that in 2022 she will be joining us as a full-time staff member overseeing the engagement team that is fast coming into their own (which is why I haven’t had to pen so many blogs lately given we now have so many others keen and able to share the Museum’s stories)!
If a year ago you had told me that 2021 would be harder than 2020, I would never have believed you and yet from both a business and personal perspective this year has challenged me in ways I never knew it could. The Museum would not have survived this year were it not four our amazing team of staff, volunteers, our Board of Directors and of course the support of Fire and Rescue NSW.
In 2021 we have proven that working together, our small team can achieve big things. We are stronger for what 2021 has faced us with and so in 2022 only the sky is the limit!
Our Year on Social Media
It would remiss of me to end a year review without talking about one of the biggest changes and adaptations that our team has had to make in 2021. When the Museum was forced to close its doors at what was to be our busiest time, to say we all despaired would be an understatement.
Rather than dwell though one thing I felt was essential was that we increase our social media and online presence, which I am very pleased to say we have been able to do successfully. We came up with new ways to engage with audiences online and one of our first hits was our online photographic exhibition that we hosted on Instagram. Through an increased focus on Instagram we were able to grow our audience dramatically and we've found that post-lockdown it is paying off with many visitors learning about the Museum through this platform.
After we re-opened the team continued to nurture our online content and we've received great feedback from both long time supporters as well as new ones. This new focus has allowed us to reach new audiences and to see this being reflected in our visitation is great! It really makes it all worthwhile!
Below are the most popular posts from throughout 2021 on the Museum's Instagram account. To learn more about the stories behind these photographs you'll have to visit our Instagram account (many of the stories can also be found on our Facebook and Twitter)! Follow this link for Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mof_sydney/
It wasn't just on Instagram that our team engaged but across all social media platforms so if you are not already doing so I encourage you to check out our accounts and I look forward to seeing you in the Museum in 2022!
Wishing you a safe and prosperous New Year!
-Belinda McMartin, Museum of Fire CEO