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Interpreting the heart of Central Australia's Aboriginal history and art

Northern Territory Government

The Northern Territory Government was seeking a whole of site Interpretation Plan which would include the design and development of static and mobile interpretation technology for the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct in the Ntaria Region, Alice Springs.

  • In this project
  • Heritage interpretation

  • Brand identity

  • Visual design

  • Prototyping

  • Web development

  • Drupal CMS

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Art of Multimedia partnered with frequent collaborator and heritage experts, Navin Officer Heritage Consultants and Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation to develop an Interpretation Plan.

The Northern Territory Government was seeking a whole of site Interpretation Plan which would include the design and development of static and mobile interpretation technology for the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct at Ntaria, west of Alice Springs.

The Precinct is one of only five sites in the NT included on the National Heritage list and is one of the Northern Territory’s and Australia’s most important heritage places. Established in 1877 on the traditional lands of the Arrarnta people, Hermannsburg Mission also known as the Finke River Mission was the first Aboriginal mission in the NT and the longest continuously operating mission in Australia. Today the Precinct welcomes 20,000 visitors each year.

The site offers a multitude of historical and cultural layers, including pre-European Aboriginal occupation, the post-European settlement including the establishment of the Lutheran mission, the surrounding occupation of pastoral lands and the extensive missionary and art movement, including the Albert Namatjira story. The artistic traditions established at the mission continue today with an active artistic community including painters, the renowned Hermannsburg Potters and the Hermannsburg Choir as well as established and emerging individual music artists.

It was important that the plan and any designs and development options were developed in consultation with the Aboriginal Community of Ntaria and that best practice interpretive principles, including the Burra Charter: Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (AICOMOS 2013) were followed.

The Hermannsburg Historic Precinct is recognised across Australia and internationally as a place where Aboriginal people, and the Lutheran Missionaries who settled there, built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust, a place where Aboriginal creativity has flourished through art, pottery and song. It is recognised as a place where scholarly advances were made in the fields of anthropology and linguistics and as a place where Arrarnta people have maintained and sustained their connection to country and acknowledge, celebrate and share their history.

Art of Multimedia and Navin Officer Heritage Consultants partnered with Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation to develop an Interpretation Plan. Through a collaborative process working with the local Arrarnta community and with and an extensive list of project stakeholders we developed a vision for the Historic Precinct at Hermannsburg.

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A sustainable and vibrant tourism experience

The Interpretation Plan was developed in order to see this vision realised and to deliver a sustainable and vibrant tourism experience, respectful of the values and connections of multiple stakeholders to this place. These connections are held by the Arrarnta people, especially the community of Ntaria; and the Lutheran community, including the descendants of the families that lived and worked there.

This Interpretation Plan goes much further than the usual plans and includes the Final Report as well as a suite of Appendices which cover the following:

  • Interpretation principles and policies to help guide the future development and implementation of heritage interpretation at Hermannsburg Historic Precinct.
  • An agreed Visual Identity Style Guide with iconography and colour palette for interpretation and presentation at the site.
  • Concept designs and layout templates for a suite of external and internal signs suitable for use at Hermannsburg Historic Precinct, as well as a multi-lingual brochure.
  • Concept design and functional specification wireframes for a new website and mobile application, as well as interactive kiosk that will provide the key platform for digital interpretation now and into the future. A range of community approved content including narratives, texts for signs, script for welcome video, brochure and a log of 427 community approved images for use in the interpretation media. These images have been sourced from a range of state and commonwealth archives and from descendant families represented amongst the stakeholders.
  • Principles and guidelines for tour guides and the development of guided tours at the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct.
  • Specific recommendations to guide future interpretation works at the site.
  • A fully costed implementation plan.
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A website based on the approved specifications was then developed by Art of Multimedia, with content written by Navin Officer Heritage Consultants, who also sourced the historic images, which colleagues at Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation worked with community elders to review and approve.

The website provides information to visitors planning a visit, and shares Hermannsburg’s stories with global audiences. While on-site, visitors can scan the QR codes found on signage around the precinct for direct access to the many historical and contemporary stories that add rich layers of meaning to their self-guided exploration of the Mission.

Although QR codes have been around for a long time, COVID has embedded their adoption into everyday life for everyone. They, therefore, provide a flexible marketing and interpretive tool for Hermannsburg's current stories and artefact collection.

As new content, such as oral histories and videos or local artist works are created within the community, they can be promoted globally, helping the Hermannsburg community maintain a connection with past visitors and build interest in visiting the site amongst future tourists.

The Ntaria Community and the Northern Territory Government are happy with the level of consultation, the creative and interpretive outcomes of this project.

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