ACT News


Treasures, living and otherwise

Canberrans don't need reminding of how close we are to some of the country's most fascinating - and valuable - treasures, but how about the many visitors the city is expecting throughout the centenary year?

Enter Betty Churcher, living national treasure and one of the country's greatest proponents of the richness of the national collections housed here in Canberra.

The former director of the National Gallery has teamed up with Canberra artist Lucy Quinn to produce a book highlighting some of these collections.

And - this is 2013, after all - the book is coming out alongside a map and a smartphone app, to give visitors a taste of what's inside each of the 10 institutions featured in the book.

Due to be published next month, Treasures of Canberra is a ramble through some of the pair's favourite items in the National Gallery, the National Film and Sound Archive and the Parliament House collection, among others.

Churcher, who was gallery director during the 1990s and presided over some of the institution's most successful shows and acquisitions, told The Canberra Times she would never tire of telling people about art and objects.


Although she is now in her 80s, she said it was "never a slog for me writing about art. It's funny, I get quite excited and I want to make out why it's unique to Canberra and why it's unique to Australians at large, why it's more appropriate to a national gallery than a state gallery."

Quinn, who works as a learning facilitator at the National Portrait Gallery, is also passionate about making art accessible, and said she jumped at the chance to work alongside Churcher.

"One of the fantastic things about Betty is she's really down to earth and she makes things very accessible without dumbing down the content - an incredible and valuable talent, and very important to these institutions," she says.

"These are public collections that actually belong to everybody. I've worked in learning and access for years, and if you talk to anyone who works in that section, their desire or their passion is about people being able to access, to understand, to appreciate, enjoy and find links."

She said it was also important for people to feel free to dislike objects or works of art.

"It's the fact that they actually have the right to come in and see and experience, whatever conclusion they come to."

The free Centenary Treasure Map and smartphone app will both be available next week, before the book.

The map will be widely distributed to the national institutions, visitor centres, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

The app, available from Thursday January 17 from the Treasures page on the Canberra Centenary website, is a digital version of the map, with the same information.