Discussion on the Women on Farms Gathering project
Liza-Dale Hallett , Senior Curator, Sustainability, at Museum Victoria and Marian Quartly, Professor of History, Monash University, discuss the Women on Farms Gathering project.
The Perpetual Banner, a material record of each annual gathering, is also is featured, as the patch for the 2006 Hamilton gathering is sewn on.
-The thing that's been challenging for me is that I've had to really redefine how I work.
-So I'm not just working with things. I'm working directly with community and the meaning that that community holds. The objects that we're collecting are still alive, and the women who created and helped organize the Hamilton gathering last year are coming in to sew this on to the perpetual banner.
-I'm Sally, and this is Ann, and we've come down from Hamilton.
-The "Hats off to rural women," slogan actually celebrates the role that women play in the community. The four hats that were chosen for the logo, the first one being the akubra, and that represents the agricultural contribution that women make to the agricultural industry. The helmet is actually representative of the emergency services, and certainly, community service that women participate in. The academic hat is obviously representative of their qualifications and the education that they had participated in either a paid or voluntary role. And the fashionable hat, representing their social interaction and their personal life.
The color purple probably doesn't necessarily represent rural, but it's a nice--
-It is a nice, feminine color, the lavender and the purple. But as we said, we were pleased with the result. And once again, we could have certainly put a lot more hats on the hat stand if we were to represent all the roles that we women play in the community.
-The banner is made up of-- each previous year's been represented by an image, with usually a statement. So they use both imagine, and word, and symbols.
-And they're very clear really about the layers of meaning that they want to build into that.
-Yeah. This is pretty precious. This is from the Numurkah gathering.
MARIAN QUARTLY: Is it really the real cow pat?
-It is the real cow pat that they had at that gathering, and it was a bit of an afterthought from the stories that we've collected. The actual icon, it's a jewel icon, the cow pat, and an irrigation shovel. At this particular gathering, the minister for agriculture, at the time, gave a very-- well, it was one of those patronizing speeches. So on the formal handing over ceremony, which is part of the rituals associated with these icons, someone added the cow pat as a sort of symbol of what had happened.
MARIAN QUARTLY: Foolproof.
LIZA DALE-HALLETT: It's a very powerful.
-And it's very political, because it does definitely say, we don't quite like your approach to the minister. The whole process is a communal one in which people work together, and they make their meanings as they go. Now, that's hard for the museum, isn't it? It's not just hard for the museum, and they're just taking in an object, which has got to change under its hands, as it were. But it's also hard, because the museum has to grasp the fact that these women continue to claim the right to make the meaning for these objects.
-My interpretation of the value of this material is shared with the women. And we come in it from different angles. And just like your interest, it comes from another angle again. So in a sense, we've got not only the diversity of the women themselves, but we're opening up the possibility that there's a lot of different ways of valuing this material.
-And there's a lot of different histories in the material in exactly the same way as you're going to have to struggle with persuading the museum that affects can carry meanings that are not determined by the museum.
-A lot of historians of beginning now to come to terms with the proposition that their sore spaces, their collections of documents and things, may actually need comment coming in from the people who are the subjects of those. And it really is going to change that sense of any fixed history or any determined authority of history.
-And it keeps evolving. And I suppose the other thing that really, I think is I suppose one of the areas that I'm interested in is the way in which these women have identified themselves through symbols, because if you think back to the museum's practice, we collect things. And usually, those things have an intrinsic value. The value and the essence of this collection is that it resides beyond the tangible. It's beyond the object, beyond the perceived value.
We've got everything from a magic wand to a cow pat. These things have no intrinsic value in the sense of what they are. But they have through the symbolism that they represent. The other interesting thing too is in a sense, the community's taking the leadership here. They've actually, quite separately to the museum, assigned their own significance, have articulated that these things are important to them, that they want somehow to preserve them and locate them somewhere that makes sense of them.
And that empowerment, that sense of not only participating in it, but making meaning, and then creating some other outcome is pretty exciting, like the women's involvement in the various conference presentations, and talking about it. It's not just me as the curator. And then it becomes more like a community curatorial process.
-It allows community ownership of a communal memory.