Behind the scenes: Making history exhibitions

Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 05:00 PM



Event contact

Alicia Cerreto



Behind the scenes: making history exhibitions


How do museums create exhibitions about histories? What happens behind the scenes? And what really is the role of an exhibition as a form of history ‘made public’?

Making history exhibitions can be a complex task: agreeing on topics, gathering resources, selecting stories and themes, using collections and even leaving space for change. Stakeholders are many and varied; opinions strong but disparate; and spaces, schedules and resources are always challenging.

Drawing on recent exhibitions from Museums Victoria as well as international examples, this seminar will explore some of the approaches, drivers, processes and ongoing conversations behind making history exhibitions, where various tensions raise interesting questions for us to consider: whose histories are we telling; and how; and to whom?


Deborah Tout-Smith is Senior Curator, Home & Community, in the History & Technology Department of Museums Victoria. She curates Museums Victoria’s Home & Community and Military History collections, and co-curates its Clothing & Textiles and Childhood collections. She has curated major exhibitions including World War I: Love & Sorrow (2014) and co-curated The Melbourne Story (2008) with Liza Dale. Deborah is an Executive Board member of the International Council of Museums; Board Member of the History Council of Victoria; and Advisory Board Member at the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage at the University of Melbourne.


Tracey Taylor is an Exhibition Producer at Museums Victoria. She has previously worked on the development of numerous exhibitions for major museums and heritage institutions around the world, including for the Design Museum, the Museum of London, National Museums Northern Ireland and Battersea Power Station. Tracey has also lectured in narrative-led exhibition and experience design at the University of the Arts London.


This event will be chaired by Margaret Anderson, Director of Old Treasury Building and Board Member of the History Council of Victoria.



The seminar is part of an ongoing series, Making Public Histories, that is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. Each seminar aims to explore issues and approaches in making public histories. The seminars are open, free of charge, to anyone interested in the creation and impact of history in contemporary society. Click HERE to learn about other events in the series.

We thank the series sponsors, Monash University Publishingthe Monash University History Program and the Old Treasury Building.


Posted by on July 18, 2023

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The History Council of Victoria Incorporated (HCV) is the peak body for history in the Australian state of Victoria. Its vision is to connect Victorians with history and to inspire engagement with the past, their identity and the world today. The HCV champions the work of historians and the value of history. It recognises that history can be written about any place, any person, any period. The HCV advocates why history matters.

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Our calendar lists all upcoming public events arranged by the History Council of Victoria (HCV), plus events in Victoria, Australia, that are added by our Friends and Members.

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As the peak body for history in Victoria, the History Council makes submissions on current issues. In doing this, the HCV Board is guided by its Advocacy Policy and by the Value of History, a statement developed co-operatively by the HCV and the History Councils of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.

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The HCV was formed as an advisory body in 2001 and incorporated in 2003. It comprises representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.

As the peak body for history, the HCV has both ‘outward-looking’ roles (including advocacy and representation to government and the wider community, consultation, community education, and networking with allied interest groups) and ‘inward-looking’ roles (including member support, information dissemination, and networking between members).



The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342