Postcard Connections

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To coincide with Seniors Week, the Port Macquarie Museum will host a very special exhibition, called Postcard Connections. Debbie Sommers from the museum is one of the exhibition curators, and she explains the various collaborations that made this exhibition possible …

Hi Debbie. There’s a special exhibition in the pipeline, Postcard Connections, that will celebrate seniors – coinciding with the NSW Seniors Festival (4th – 15th April). How was the idea for this exhibition conceived?

Hi Jo. The idea for this exhibition came about last year after we began working on some other projects. One was a Hands-On-Heritage pilot program led by Creative Ageing Practitioner, Lisa Hort, with clients of local aged care facilities, and the other was a small exhibition showing works by Port Macquarie U3A textile artists for the inaugural Hello Koalas Festival.

Lisa Hort has been working on programs such as Timeslips, Arts in Health and a Postcard Art Swap project for a number of years. Together, we were keen to trial a heritage and art creative program using our collection. Similar programs have been operating successfully overseas for years. We and our visitors were also very impressed with the U3A textile artists’ work, and we were keen to connect with them again. We put our heads together and came up with Postcard Connections.

Who are the key parties involved with the exhibition?

The exhibition will be the culmination of collaborations with a number of different groups both here and overseas. The exhibition is a heritage inspired, community art project with international connections. It will feature creative works by Port Macquarie U3A textile artists, clients from Omnicare’s Greenmeadows Respite Care Centre at Port Macquarie, and residents and staff from Good Samaritan Christenson Village, Gibson, Canada.

The exhibition will also include objects from the Port Macquarie Museum’s collection. The Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives in Gibson, Canada provided objects for the creative works completed by our overseas contributors. My co-curators for the exhibition are Lisa Hort and Sue Martin from Port Macquarie U3A. They are both extremely talented, and it is a pleasure to be working with them.

The theme for this year’s Seniors Festival is “Let’s Do More Together”. How do you feel the exhibition highlights this message?

This exhibition is demonstrating that it is possible to actually do more together and not just talk about it. As a dementia friendly community and organisation, it is important that we don’t just work ticking the boxes, but rather that we think of ways to connect with one another and work together. A visit to a museum or handling museum objects can become a stimulus for imagination and creativity, irrespective of memory. This exhibition demonstrates that age does not constrain creativity and that creativity can take many forms.

Describe some of the works that will be on display … I believe both postcards and textile works will be featured?

Yes, both paper and textile works will be featured; some are even three-dimensional. We didn’t want to constrain creativity with too many rules! The paper postcards have been exchanged with our Canadian collaborators. They include an artwork and message on front and back, one from Australia and the other from Canada. The textile works are mostly done by sewing machine, and what these artists can do with a sewing machine is amazing. There are also some textile postcards.

How were objects already held in the museum’s collection used to stimulate these artworks – can you give us an example of one or more of the objects used for this purpose?

Over the past year we have been working with Lisa Hort on a Hands-On-Heritage pilot program. The program uses objects from our museum’s collection to stimulate conversation about the object itself or experiences, memories and even imagination. Participants are then encouraged to draw or paint the object or something they have associated with it.

The textile artists went through a similar process with a visit to the museum and some hands-on experiences. Objects that will feature in the exhibition include a colonial key, a banjo mandolin, a ginger beer bottle and pottery shards from an archaeological study.

What are the exhibition dates; and is there anything special planned for the opening?

The exhibition will be on show from Wednesday 4th April until Monday 30th April. Seniors have free entry to the museum for the NSW Seniors Festival from 4th April until 14th April. The exhibition will be officially opened by Leslie Williams, Member for Port Macquarie on Thursday 5th April at 5pm. The opening event will be a great opportunity to publicly acknowledge the artists in the presence of their friends, families, peers and where applicable, their carers too.

The NSW Seniors Festival celebrates its 60th anniversary this year – so it’s a “senior” event in itself! The Port Macquarie Museum has also had a long-term involvement helping to promote this festival locally. How rewarding is it for you and other museum staff/volunteers to work with and support our older residents?

The Port Macquarie Museum does have a long-term association with the NSW Seniors Festival, and we are proud of that. We are also proud to say that most of our 60 volunteers are seniors, so we understand and value the important role that seniors have in our wider community as well as at our museum. Supporting older residents to live, work and engage socially and meaningfully with the whole community underpins what we do.

Where can we find out more info about Postcard Connections?

The best way to find out about the exhibition is by coming to see it. People can also find out more on our website http://portmuseum.org.au/exhibitions.php by giving us a call on 6583 1108 or by calling at our stall at the Sensational Seniors Expo on 9th April. That day we will be giving away Seniors’ free passes to the museum.

The Postcard Connections exhibition is supported by a NSW Seniors Festival Grant from the NSW Government.

Thanks Debbie.

Interview by Jo Robinson.

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