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Mariea, Curator, Australian National Maritime Museum

Hello I am Mariea and I look after all the temporary and travelling exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum. We have a very busy program with temporary exhibitions. We usually have exhibitions that the maritime museum has created themselves, international exhibitions from overseas and travelling exhibitions that we take around Australia because we are a national museum and we want everybody to see our collection across Australia.

The challenges are time and money, you know that’s similar to everybody, so we work on a major exhibition like this, we work for about two years and it has to start off with negotiations — people overseas, will they let us borrow their precious material and bring it to this far flung place? Mostly people are very, very happy to lend us material because they enjoy the opportunity of coming to Australia and presenting their collections. Sometimes things are very expensive and I guess nobody talks about this, but just freight to either ship something by sea or fly the objects, all exhibition objects, very precious material, must come by air.

Practical things, too — do we have the staff? So we have to look at staff numbers to make sure we’ve got the right number of people, and because I’m focused on the Darwin exhibition and we have a lots of objects from overseas, we have to look at the practical aspect, meeting the conditions of the lenders — do we have the right amount of security? We do have lots of security actually, lots of cameras and lots of people in security — and also the environmental conditions, you know, it’s not just about being hot and cold, it’s humidity, so we have a very sophisticated system at the museum for maintaining the appropriate temperatures for objects as well as things like light levels — as you probably know when you were trying to film we all were saying ‘keep the lights down!’.

That goes through an absolutely rigorous process so we do have this book, it will tell you recommended length because we know that people are not going to stand and read a book in an exhibition, they want to get the information quite quickly and then go away and build on it through their own research and through our website which will offer them more. So the curator will write the initial label and then it goes through quite a strict process of editing. So we have an editing team who edit the labels, make sure it kind of says what it says really in a simple straightforward way. Sometimes when we work close to an exhibition you are very familiar with all the fact and figures but we know visitors just need something which is quick to understand and gives accurate information.

Because a lot of the things we have in this show will be your one opportunity to see them, they may not be on display for another ten years anywhere in the world so you’ll find out a lot of new facts that you probably won’t see it anywhere else and you’ll probably see a material demonstration of what Darwin and the people who came after him were working out in terms of the evolution of animals and people.