Bringing Our Past to Life; Troy Kippen Pieces Together the Fascinating Career of Tweed River Regional Museum Director, Judy Kean

Article excerpt

THE collection at Tweed River Regional Museum at Murwillumbah might seem to be a cluttered mess of odds and ends collecting dust, but to one woman every piece is a part of the tapestry that records a region's identity.

Museum director Judy Kean has spent a large part of her working life collecting stories, but the Tweed Shire Council's museum director has never had the inkling to collect herself.

a(Collecting) is a slippery slope. I have shown a lot of restraint not going down that path,a Ms Kean said.

aI suppose in some way working in collecting institutions you vicariously enjoy the public collection.

aI didn't find my way into this profession through any childhood obsession.a

She said it was difficult to maintain a collection when you were traversing the country to take care of public collections.

a(My career) was a long and mobile road,a she said.

aI went to art college originally and studied to be a potter and then I went to do an art history degree in Queensland.a

But it was in Darwin where Ms Kean started working with museum collections.

While in the Northern Territory, Ms Kean maintained Territory history, marine archaeology and Aboriginal history collections. It's where her work became her passion.

aMuseums are a way of making sense of how we live and what we value, what we choose to collect what we choose to keep and the stories we tell about it. That to me ... that's just a very rich way of telling how we be in the world and how we make sense of it,a she said.

aI just always believed that museums, galleries, artists, and people with an interest in history and the objects that you find in museum collections... help connect you to the past, to the people and their stories.a

So what makes a good collection?

aI think it varies greatly and it depends a lot on where you are and what you are set up to do,a Ms Kean said.

aMuseums aren't arks, you can't keep two of everything.a

Ms Kean said if museums don't keep good documentation about the items, then the story thread could be lost.

aIt's like Humpty Dumpty ... you can't ever put it together again,a she said.

aSome of the most powerful stories a and I think the Australian War memorial does this incredibly well a are because they have big stories to tell they will choose an individual whose life's path through circumstances takes in big events. They take those personal details and that's how they will take in a war, or a battle, or a tragedy and I think that is powerful.

aAnd we have the potential to do that with this collection, I think.a

One of the latest Australian War Memorial exhibitions was the story of aflying sistera, Beryl Mattock. …