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Magical History Tour

Magical History Tour

Everything old is new again for Museum Victoria CIO Tim Hart.

Tim Hart is easy to spot among the crowd gathered in the cavernous foyer of Melbourne Museum; he is one of the few people in the room tall enough to reach the counter at the ticket desk.

An astonishing 45 percent of all Victorian schoolchildren pass through the museum's doors each year, and although the facility hosts thousands of students on educational excursions every day, this day is obviously reserved for the smallest youngsters. As Hart greets CIO, he stands knee-deep in a sea of children.

Outside on the museum's front steps, Melbourne's Lord Mayor, John So, has just finished launching a new urban transportation initiative, and politicians are posing for photographers from the local press. Next door, Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building - also Hart's responsibility - is preparing to host 2000 guitarists who will join together to play Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water. They are gathering to raise money for cancer research as part of the Guitar-a-thon Guinness World Record Challenge - one of the many strange, one-off events held at the World Heritage-listed venue.

It is just another routine day at the office, according to Hart, who was appointed director of Information, Multimedia and Technology at Museum Victoria in 2001, about a year after the $290 million museum building that we are walking in first opened its doors.

"This is a wonderful role because it is very varied," he says. "On any given day you might see the launch of a new dinosaur or a new exhibition, or the launch of a new Web site or IBM might hold a function here. It's never the same day twice."

Later, when taking CIO on a tour of the museum's labyrinthine corridors and vast backroom storage areas, Hart motions to a large blue plastic container in the corner. "Guess what's in there," he says.

"A giant squid!"

It does not take long to realize that Tim Hart is a guy who really digs his job.

Museum-ology

Before Hart made the leap to his current position at Museum Victoria he spent 17 years at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, starting out as a volunteer the day after he graduated from the University of Sydney and eventually working his way up to CIO 14 years later in 1999.

Hart moved into his role at Museum Victoria just as the heated debate surrounding the construction of the new Melbourne Museum was finally beginning to cool down. Budgeted at $250 million, the cost blew out to $290 million amid many complaints - both economic and aesthetic - from nearby residents and other concerned citizens. Nevertheless, the state-of-the-art building, designed by architects Denton Corker Marshall, went on to receive several architectural awards, including the coveted Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings in 2001.

Controversy or not, the CEO and the Museum Board of Victoria had a clear mandate for Hart: he was expected to create a new Information, Multimedia and Technology division and serve as its director. Hart would be responsible for Museum Victoria's information technology and knowledge management infrastructure and systems, plus all Web sites and digital publishing. He would also be charged with the development and management of the museum's multimedia installations.

Luckily, that is exactly what Hart had done during his tenure as CIO of the Powerhouse. "I set up the division of knowledge and information management there [at the Powerhouse], and I also established this division here, so I've done that twice now at two different museums," Hart says.

"And what that does - what CIOs everywhere do - is focus things into one group so you can get more traction within the organization."

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