“The beginning of 2020 suggests it’s going to be a year we will long remember,” the Australian War Memorial’s new director Matt Anderson said in his first newsletter after taking up the reigns at the iconic national institution.
CAPTION: Director of the Australian War Memorial Matt Anderson. AWM photo.
By the time I commenced in April, the Memorial had already been closed to the public for three weeks due to precautions against COVID 19.
It certainly wasn’t a situation any of us wanted, however, we had plans in place, and the team swung into action.
They quickly developed a strategy – Anzac at Home – to meet the challenge of performing our time-honoured duties in new ways.
On ANZAC Day we hosted a small, made-for-digital-broadcast Commemorative Ceremony as part of our broader ANZAC at Home campaign.
We conducted a ceremony attended by Their Excellencies the Governor-General the Honourable David Hurley and Mrs Linda Hurley; the Prime Minister the Honourable Scott Morrison MP and Mrs Morrison, the Leader of the Opposition the Honourable Anthony Albanese MP, Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell, Her Excellency Dame Annette King, and the Chairman of the Council of the Memorial Mr Kerry Stokes and Mrs Simpson Stokes.
We encouraged the nation to gather in spirit, rather than in person, and they did.
The take-up was remarkable.
The Memorial’s website was visited more than 1.64 million times; at its peak, we were hosting 4,000 visitors per minute.
During the National Commemorative Ceremony, 84 percent of visitors were using mobile devices, suggesting they were, perhaps, streaming the service while standing at the letterboxes, farm gates or front porches as part of the light up the dawn campaign.
But we won’t stop there.
The Museum at Home is a new initiative to bring stories of courage and determination to you at home.
I encourage you to explore the Hudson Bomber and the Mark IV tank via virtual reality and digital scans.
We are in the process of scanning more of our iconic collection items to encourage E-visitors to look inside, outside, turn them upside down and inside out, and then click through to veterans’ stories.
As with every item in our collection, the power of the objects lie in the people who drove them or crewed them or flew in them.
I’m pleased too that schools and our educators are still delivering content aligned to the National Curriculum despite the public programs closed for school excursions; family historians are able to continue researching family members who have served.
And of course we have blogs, podcasts, videos, and all manner of content on our website.
I encourage you to take the time to explore Museum at Home.
And I thank you for your support in these uncertain times.
‘Here is their story in the heart of the land they loved, and here we guard the record that they themselves made…’