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Emotional Hearts at the Eternity Gallery

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I recently met someone special under very serendipitous circumstances and am now experiencing the joys of a long distance relationship.

So it was only natural that I was drawn to Mary Donaldson’s story of chance at the Eternity Gallery in the National Museum of Australia.

Although I doubt that my new romantic interest is about to reveal he is a Tahitian prince, or that our future rests on my ability to speak a language other than my mother tongue, I did feel an affinity to the Australian born Princess of Denmark’s story. Her chance meeting with Frederick and their ongoing story with its resulting long distance aspects struck a resonant chord in me.

An ability to feel an affinity with the stories of others is, I feel, a major attraction of the Eternity Gallery. There is always another’s experience to feel a connection with, regardless of the mood I am in, or whichever event may be taking centre stage in my life. I remember also being drawn to objects associated with darker, deeper stories on other visits, as when a portion of the dashboard from Lindy Chamberlain’s car was displayed.

Refreshed regularly, the Eternity Gallery reflects the ‘emotional heart of Australia’ through ten themes: thrill, loneliness, joy, hope, mystery, separation, devotion, fear, chance and passion. For each theme, 50 individual Australian lives are presented by displaying an object which embodies the unique experiences of each. Life stories with supporting videos and photos. This combination interweaves examples of the diversity of the people, while simultaneously evoking an enjoyable feeling of solidarity with fellow Australians.

The display of stories and objects induces feelings reminiscent of being a child given the run of a candy store. After Princess Mary’s story I was torn between The Wiggles’ jumpers; a coffin with a blue mermaid; or a red motorbike painted with roses and butterflies (and why is the last under the theme passion?) I appreciate the intimate access this Gallery gives to the objects, the freedom to go to the theme that calls to me first, and the chance to indulge in all the stories available, or just to take a few bites here and there.

Another favourite object of mine this time was a costume from 1993’s Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney. It was initially the colour that drew me in, but what really resonated was the video that showed Ron Muncaster’s thrill at being part of the event, and grasping the meaning that day holds for him as he remembers friends lost to AIDS.

This gallery is the very essence of what I love about collections. An exhibition which allows someone to see an object, and from it tease out a life and a whole history is impressive. The fabric of an object seems to soak up the essence of a person and through visitors interacting with it, enjoying it, appreciating and respecting it, the stories are released back to the world.

The Eternity Gallery does not demand every label be read or a stop to be made at every object to appreciate the full exhibit. The space can get a little noisy and can feel slightly disjointed if there are several of the videos playing at once, but the resulting noise also adds to the atmosphere, allowing many stories to swirl and whisper around you. Ripe for the taking, the Eternity Gallery offers you everything and only asks that you follow your feet to find what your emotional heart seeks.

the essentials

The Place: National Museum of Australia
Where: Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula
When: Open daily from 10am to 5pm, entry is free.
Contact: Call 1800 026 132 or email information@nma.gov.au
Web: www.nma.gov.au

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4 Responses to Emotional Hearts at the Eternity Gallery

Anthea says: 12 August, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Hi Christie,
It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the Eternity gallery (particularly that you’ve made repeat visits.) I’m one of the curators that has worked on the gallery and I’ve also enjoyed discovering connections with different stories and objects over time. I’ve linked to the Museum’s webpage on the ‘Passion’ theme as it has a bit more information about Alan Puckett and the Harley Davidson – the Museum commissioned him to paint the motorcycle as he was one of the artists associated with airbrush art and ‘passion’ for customised panel vans and bikes that emerged in the 1970s.

Christie says: 27 August, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Thanks so much for your comment!
I really like it when an object is placed under a certain theme and my curiosity is sparked. It’s a great way to encourage visitors to engage with an exhibit and learn more about the objects.

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