ACMI Re/new

A major redevelopment of ACMI – the world’s most-visited museum celebrating film, television, and video games – has long been in the works. The Melbourne museum’s previously insular layout saw a valuable loss of pedestrian traffic (from what should be a prime Federation Square location), leaving many passersby unaware of the exhibitions and facilities on offer.

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“ACMI was in a space that wasn’t really purpose-built for the museum,” explains ACMI CEO and director Katrina Sedgwick. “It felt like a series of parts, rather than a whole.”

At the same time, the main exhibition was tired after almost 10 years of use – nearly a lifetime in the world of the moving image.

“The best evidence was a sign in one exhibit that said ‘1991-present’ and next to it was a glass dome with an iPhone 3 inside,” Sedgwick says.

When Sedgwick joined the museum in 2015, she initially hoped the redevelopment would occur sooner rather than later, but this ended up coinciding with the pandemic. While the various Melbourne lockdowns caused major delays, these ultimately facilitated a better museum.

Some new ACMI concepts were already in the works prior to the pandemic, such as The Lens, which feels tailor-made for a museum in the post-COVID world. This free handheld, take-home device allows visitors to ‘collect’ artworks from the museum’s new centrepiece exhibition, encouraging further exploration online upon their departure.

Other ideas were born out of COVID, including the creation of a video on demand online ‘cinema’, in addition to the two cinemas on site. There’s also a new online gallery, which joins the permanent exhibition, and three spaces for temporary exhibitions inside the physical museum.

15 new commissions have been installed, of which are 70 per cent by Indigenous artists, and 60 per cent feature women in a lead creative role.

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Visitors to the renewed ACMI are encouraged to spend the whole day exploring the free main museum, seeing a film in the cinema, eating in the new cafe, shopping in the gift shop with direct street access, attending a workshop, or working from the building’s social spaces with free WiFi.

Among upcoming films showing is Aalto, which explores the life and work of modernist architecture and furniture design pioneer, Alvar Aalto.

Arts and culture are at the core of Melbourne’s appeal and economy, being host to the most-visited museum (ACMI), gallery (National Gallery of Victoria) and library (State Library Victoria) in the country. Sedgwick says it’s these institutions, especially those with accessible and free exhibitions such as ACMI, which are critical for revitalising Melbourne post lockdown.

“Our cultural institutions are going to be at the centre of our recovery, our city, and attracting not just our own citizens, but visitors around the country, and eventually the world,” Sedgwick says. “We’re really excited to be part of it.”

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Two Four Nine by Cera Stribley © 2021 – hello@twofournine.com.au