If you’re looking for my education and work history, etc. the quick way would be to visit my LinkedIn profile. For the life story, read on . . .
Once upon a time, I was a scientist. Then I decided the lab wasn’t for me. Not knowing what was, I decided to give Science Communication a whirl. That was way back in 1998, when I joined the Questacon Science Circus as part of the ANU’s Graduate Diploma in Science Communication.
Then, having been bitten by the travel bug, I packed my rucksack and headed to the UK. After a six month stint in Bristol I moved to Leicester, where I was part of the the exhibition development team for the National Space Centre.
By the time the Space Centre opened, I had been in the UK for a little over two years (which was how long I’d planned to be there). But I wasn’t ready to up sticks just yet – I was having too much fun, and the opportunities in the UK then dwarfed those available back home.
As luck would have it, when my contract at the Space Centre finished the company who had done the exhibition design for the Centre, Haley Sharpe, invited me to join their interpretation department. While at Haley Sharpe I worked on a range of projects, including historic sites in North America, a range of UK visitor attractions, and several museums in the Middle East.
One of the major projects I was involved with was the National Children’s Museum in Amman, Jordan. This project included some 150 interactive exhibits spanning 2100 square metres of indoor space and 3000 square metres of outdoor space in a specially-designed building.
It was a long time in the planning: I was first involved with the Master Plan in about 2002. This Master Plan formed the basis for an architectural competition for the museum building. Exhibition design then got underway in earnest in 2004, with the museum opening to the public in 2007. The exhibits span a range of topics including Technology, the Body, Jordanian natural & cultural history and Astronomy.
My time at Haley Sharpe saw me diversifying from purely science communication into heritage interpretation more generally. And it occurred to me that whether the topic is the Big Bang, the significance of a battle site, or the collection of a national museum, it’s a pretty similar challenge: all cultural institutions have a story to tell, and they have to do it in a way that captures the interest and imagination of their audiences. Getting a better understanding of these interactions between audiences, sites and stories has since become my professional passion.
I returned to my native Adelaide in early 2007, initially working as a freelance interpretation consultant and then spending two years with Exhibition Studios. This gave me the chance to look at exhibition production from a different perspective, seeing how exhibits are made and watching ideas come to reality in the ES workshop.
The highlight of my time at ES was being part of the team that developed Hands on Democracy, an exhibition for 5-12 year olds at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra. (There is a case study of the development process here.) This project was a great opportunity to look at participation and interactivity in a different context, and to develop exhibits in consultation and collaboration with designers, educators and children.
In February 2011 I commenced a PhD in Visitor Experience through the School of Tourism at the University of Queensland, exploring how visitors perceive and respond to exhibition environments. During my research I was based at the South Australian Museum, which was my main study site.
With the PhD almost done, in 2014 I founded Interactivate, a visitor experience consultancy based in Adelaide but willing to work anywhere!