A museum without a collection: National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

Imagine a museum without a collection or a conservation department. A museum that does not require a storage facility and has the luxury of being able to change its exhibitions every three months. A not-for-profit heritage organisation that financially is self-supporting. When curating its temporary exhibitions, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania (NAMT) treats its network of car enthusiasts as its collection, inviting car clubs to lend their cars and motorbikes.

Ford1928 A Model Ford (owned by Tasmanian bushwalker and photographer Frederick Smithies O.B.E 1885-1979)

Museum manager Phil Costello also relies on car enthusiasts who offer their treasures after visiting the museum. One Sydney man was visiting the Museum while on a driving holiday around Tasmania in his 1982 De Tomaso Pantera GTS and decided to offer his sports car as a short-term loan in the permanent display of 50 cars and 50 bikes. Within a few months, he decided to sell it through the museum. It is one of a few exhibits for sale where the Museum will take 2.5% commission.

Police1929 Harley Davidson J Model used as a New York Police Department vehicle

The Automobile Museum owes much of its financial success to merchandise sales in the shop. It has grown so much that a motorbike has replaced the display car and now there are plans to build a glass showroom to the west of the building and expand the shop presence. NAMT also relies on the admission fee and modest private donations. The only Government funding the Museum receives is the use of the building from the Launceston City Council.

This is an interesting example of how a museum can operate commercially and raises the question of the importance of holding a collection. For more information on how a museum likes this works, email Phil Costello.

BrockRichards1977 A9X Torana Hatchback

Temporary exhibitions in 2010
April – June: The Swinging Sixties
July – September: The Art of the Coach Builder
October – December: American Independence

VW1964 Volkswagen Samba featured in the Swinging Sixties exhibition

2 Responses to “A museum without a collection: National Automobile Museum of Tasmania”

  1. Bob Meade Says:

    I like the idea of the public contributing or loaning their items for display in a museum.

    This example reminds me of two others.

    The State Library of Victoria has an online section called Your Treasures where people can upload photographs and descriptions of their treasured items. The items are sometimes of museum quality and unique, some tell very personal or family stories and the prosaic. They are also categorised.


    Many years ago I saw an exhibition called New York Collects which was comprised totally of loan items from private New York collectors:


    I’d like to see more of this in Australia.

  2. admin Says:

    Hi Bob
    This case study shows how a museum has successfully tapped into a niche audience so that it can be virtually financially independent. Very impressive.
    Thanks for your thoughts and the links.
    Best wishes

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