Tue 02 Jul - Mon 27 Jan 2020
Museums do a lot of exhibitions. This is the 80th exhibition since Newcastle Museum reopened after our move in August 2011. So why repeat this particular exhibition five years after it was first shown? Why not do a new one?
At the beginning of 2014, there weren’t a lot of people talking about the 25th anniversary of the Newcastle Earthquake. It was almost as if the 2007 Pasha storm had replaced the 1989 earthquake as the disaster we referenced as a city. Newcastle Museum with our designers, Headjam, and the assistance of the Newcastle Herald archives, decided to do a small photographic exhibition replicating photos from the time and asking the people in the photos what their earthquake experience was like and what had changed in their life in the past 25 years.
We had no idea of the resonance that the “simple little show” would have. It became something bigger than we expected. It generated national press coverage. The images are still brought out year after year in December by the media when talking about the earthquake anniversary. I spoke at Christchurch Cathedral’s revived commemorative service and we had a huge surge in visitors commenting about the exhibition and the changes in Newcastle since 1989.
But the real impact was that this show changed everyone who worked on it; the subjects, the photographer and the curator. It was so personal, so raw, so simple. It healed old wounds, reopened some and got people talking again. Luke, the photographer and I feel honoured to have been part of these people’s stories and I believe that this simple exhibition is the best that I have done in my career. It is the only exhibition that I have ever signed.
On the 30th anniversary of the 1989 earthquake, five years on, this exhibition’s stories are still what I believe that we as a city should remember.
Newcastle Museum Director