Collaboratively developed between Orange Regional Museum, Orange Regional Gallery and a network of 14 local primary schools, Regenerate was a communal creative exploration of how Australia’s bushland responds to fire. In addition to tackling the devastating experiences of recent bushfires, the Regenerate program was also delivered during COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns, requiring original plans for face-to-face workshops to be reshaped into online education kits, school holiday activity packs and social media content. The highly successful project culminated in an installation of more than 3,000 cardboard eucalyptus leaves decorated by over 2,500 students across 14 schools.
Learning from this experience, the Orange Regional Museum and Orange Regional Gallery together also created a Regenerate Toolkit, available to other museums and galleries that would like to run their own iterations of the project.
We spoke to Sally MacLennan (Public Engagement and Education Officer, Orange Regional Museum) to learn more about the Regenerate project and Toolkit.
M&G NSW: How did the idea for the Regenerate project evolve?
Sally MacLennan: The scope of the Regenerate project evolved naturally from the beginning of 2020. It was initially established as a way for school students across 14 local public primary schools to creatively explore the effects of bushfire, in response to the devastating Black Summer fire season, as well as a way for both Orange Regional Museum and Orange Regional Gallery to increase our engagement with school communities. The project was designed to involve part-delivery in classrooms (completed by mid-March) and part delivery in the Museum (planned from late March). However as COVID-19 emerged as a serious consideration and both schools and museums/galleries were shutdown, the project pivoted to online methods of engagement. We drew on resources originally developed for face-to-face workshops at the Museum to quickly develop education kits designed to be used in at-home learning, online activities and school holiday activity kits.
Realising the potential of Regenerate to be similarly resonant in other bushfire-effected communities where museums/galleries and schools were now adapting to additional impacts to public programming and exhibition schedules, the Museum and Gallery developed the Regenerate Toolkit in mid-July. This guide provides an overview of the project, and an approach to implementing Regenerate locally in other communities.
M&G NSW: How did the 2018 bushfires at Mt Canobolas affect the local community?
Sally MacLennan: The February 2018 bushfire spread quickly across Mt Canobolas and affected more than 70% of the mountain over 4 days. The fire was fought by more than 20 Rural Fire Service Crews, firefighting aircraft and crews from State Forests and NSW National Parks and Wildlife. The areas that had burned were blackened from the fire, and walking tracks were closed for over a year to allow repairs and safety checks to be done. The drought meant that regeneration of the bushland was slower than normal, however monitoring of the environment by NSW National Parks and Wildlife staff and volunteers had identified species of rare orchids and mammal populations recovering over 2018.
While Orange wasn’t directly affected by fires over Black Summer, we experienced the impacts felt across much of the east coast including suffocating smoke, road closures that cut our community off from Sydney and other parts of our region, and the anxiety and sadness felt by so many other Australians over those months. Regenerate was a way for us to explore this devastating nation-wide event, through the lens of a local and less severe bushfire experience.
The benefits of Regenerate were comprehensive for our students, staff and communities. The Regenerate project successfully partnered schools with the Museum and Gallery allowing us to build a framework for future collaborations.
– Kylie Toberty, SPARKE coordinator and Nashdale Public School Principal
M&G NSW: What was involved with creating the toolkit and were there any challenges?
Sally MacLennan: Regenerate was developed and delivered by Cecilie Knowles and me, the Public Engagement and Education Officers from Orange Regional Gallery and Orange Regional Museum respectively, in collaboration with the SPARKE Learning Network of public primary schools in the Orange area. The project was produced with a modest budget of under $3,000, and challenges like the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis also presented opportunities for us to trial new methods of engagement with our local community.
The Regenerate Toolkit draws together the approach and learnings made by our small project team in developing and delivering Regenerate between January and July 2020.
The toolkit is a comprehensive guide to adapting Regenerate to your local area and community. It includes guides to creating regionally specific project, working with schools, creating education kits, adapting the art-making activity, as well as an installation guide, indicative budget and evaluation survey.
M&G NSW: How can people access the toolkit?
Sally MacLennan: We are providing the toolkit for free to publicly funded museums, galleries and other cultural institutions who are interested in developing their own iterations of the project. If you’d like discuss the project and request a copy of the Regenerate toolkit, please contact Cecilie Knowles, Public Engagement and Education Officer at Orange Regional Gallery on 02 6393 8133 / firstname.lastname@example.org