Candidate for: CHAIR

Andrew Simpson

Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

ICOM No. 38944

Nominators: Marta C. Lourenço (Portugal), Dominick Verschelde (Belgium)

Biographical note

1984-1999 Museum Curator, University of Queensland

1995 PhD University of Queensland

1999-2005 Museum Education Officer, Macquarie University

2005-2014 Museum Studies program, Macquarie University

2014-present Professional, academic and consultancy work

2016-present Editor University Museums and Collections Journal

2016-2019 Ordinary member, UMAC Board

2019-2022 Vice Chair, UMAC Board

2022 Research Affiliate, Chau Chak Wing Museum, The University of Sydney. Link to CV.

Qualifications for the position

One of my earliest jobs after gaining science qualifications was in a small university science museum. The relationship between a museum and its host university is always a vexed one, but I experienced a transformative moment when, in attempting to design an exhibition, I was faced with the dilemma of selecting a small number of specimens to represent the full sweep of 4.6 billion years of Earth history. This awakened new interests in how people communicate in spaces with objects, what it means for different audiences and how collecting organisations can play a broader societal role.

This was the start of a long career in higher education in both professional and academic staff positions with university museums in four different Australian universities. The work has been highly varied, as is the nature of the sector. It has involved exhibitions, public programs, strategic planning, policy development and curriculum design. In two different appointments, I was successful in securing research funding to develop projects on policies and standards for university museums. I have also undertaken specific research projects on university museums and collections through consultation services.

During my earlier working career I was a member of CAUMAC (Council of Australian University Museums and Collections) and served in various capacities on their committee. This included a period as president that involved revitalizing the group through attracting new members with a series of seminars in different Australian cities. I have also been the President of the NSW branch of Museums Australia and chaired the national conference planning committee of that organization in 2015 co-edited a volume of essays from that conference.

I have an association with UMAC from 2002 and have been a part of the UMAC Board on a number of occasions, most recently as one of the two Vice Presidents from 2019 to 2022. In the previous mandate I took responsibility for the UMAC Journal and have transitioned it from being a series of conference proceedings to being a journal about museology in higher education. I was also worked to support UMAC’s two most recent projects on restitution and return of items from university museums and a project on the pedagogy of the university museum. I have made previous contributions to the development of University Museums Training Week at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and been involved with the organization of recent conferences such as our 2021 joint enterprise with Universeum and our 2018 joint enterprise with AAMG. I have spoken with many groups around the world on the subject of university museums and believe I have a sound understanding of the value they bring to the enterprise of higher education tempered with an understanding of both the history and contemporary dynamism of the sector.

These experiences mean I have a great enthusiasm for the work of museums and collections in higher education and some ability to articulate positive arguments in support of our work.

Main goals of candidacy

I believe the unique institutional setting of the university museum is central to academic – civic discourse and an essential component of higher education’s social contract. The nature of collecting in the academy, like the academy itself, is highly variable across the globe. Nevertheless, no matter where you are located, the creative use of collections in higher education can play a positive role in society. I therefore seek, through my candidacy, to support and advocate on behalf of those engaged in such work. While the strategic plan of the next Board will be shaped by the membership, I believe it would be worthwhile for UMAC to work towards the following eight goals:

  • Stabilizing and growing membership with a focus on young professionals.
  • Continuing to deliver a vibrant, engaging and professionally valuable annual conference.
  • Facilitating and supporting the development of regional networks. This should include areas such as Africa and Asia where UMAC currently has few members.
  • Improving the quality, reach and recognition of the University Museums and Collections Journal.
  • Developing a global object-based learning community of practice.
  • Promoting and building on the outcomes of previous UMAC projects on restitution and pedagogy.
  • Engaging in new projects through creative partnerships with other groups (international committees, national committees and/or groups external to ICOM).
  • Building the number of entries in the UMAC database and exploring new functionality for UMAC’s online presence.