A museum meant for all

Western Australian Museum chief executive Alec Coles is excited about the impending construction of a new museum building. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d402866
Western Australian Museum chief executive Alec Coles is excited about the impending construction of a new museum building. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d402866

Mr Coles could not provide exact details about the design of the almost $430 million museum to be built on its current site but said the vision for the museum was to become an international attraction.

‘There is a lot of drama about Perth being an isolated city, but that is kind of nonsense,’ he said. ‘In this day and age, the world’s kind of a small place so there is not any reason why, if we create something good enough, that people shouldn’t come to Perth.’

Mr Coles, who has travelled extensively throughout the state since arriving in 2010, said the museum should be as impressive as the State’s landscape.

‘The Pilbara is such a defining area for WA, you start thinking red, rocks and the Burrup Peninsula,’ he said. ‘You would hope that those sorts of things influence a building, so when people came to Perth, they see a site they wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world.’

Mr Coles said the new museum, expected to be finished by 2019, would be more integrated.

‘The museum has a key role in the Perth Cultural Centre,’ he said.

‘So much about this building, historically, is about keeping people out.

‘The museum needs to be very permeable, something that people can drift in and out of.

‘We have 430,000 visitors to this site. Just think what it will be like when we get a new one.’

The museum recently launched one of its public engagement strategies on WA Day, inviting people to record a video explaining why they were proud to be West Australian. Mr Coles said the initial 2500 responses vindicated his belief that West Australians were proud and less cynical than others.

‘There were a lot of people who said they were really proud to be West Australian because it is becoming such a diverse and multicultural society,’ he said. ‘This is about West Australians owning their museum.’