MATTHEW Smithies wants to see National Trust Tasmania become a contemporary heritage management organisation.
Mr Smithies, who replaced Chris Tassel as the trust’s managing director in December, said the organisation had not always excelled in good governance and financial responsibility.
He moved here from Sydney six years ago, after two decades in senior heritage management with several institutions.
Among them were the Australian Maritime Museum and the Queen Victoria Building, with partnership programs with the Australian War Memorial, Sydney Opera House and Art Gallery of New South Wales .
He was also a New South Wales government cultural heritage adviser and established Sydney After Dark.
In his five years with the state’s National Trust, he has overseen numerous projects including the Tasmanian Heritage Festival.
‘‘The last museum I was at was the Sydney Jewish Museum, which was an absolute eye-opener for me,’’ he said. ‘‘They represented the Holocaust, it was a commemorative site, and it turned my view on heritage site management on its head.
‘‘I had been trained fairly traditionally, and when I went there it was all about impact.
‘‘It wasn’t about trying to get huge numbers to the site: success was measured by what impact the experience had on the visitor.
‘‘I found that a fascinating way to measure success in a cultural institution.
‘‘That’s the philosophy I’m trying to overlay with the National Trust in Tasmania.’’
Mr Smithies, who lives just outside Lilydale, has established a hazelnut plantation and runs a rare breed of Irish Dexter cattle.
He works out of Youngtown’s historic Franklin House and said that Tasmania had a tremendous heritage product.
However, he said more needed to be done than just present the buildings, collections and objects. ‘‘It’s presenting it in a way that has direct links with community,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s all about impact and pulling together heritage activities that have relevance to our community, otherwise heritage is actually at arm’s length and it’s not obtainable or accessible.
‘‘Heritage doesn’t need to be tired, boring and mausoleum-y: it can be actually really interesting and dynamic.
‘‘We are also taking every opportunity at the National Trust to engage with younger generations to get involved with heritage in management – they’re our future and have a huge amount to offer.’’
In December 2006, following a period of administration and restructure, a new National Trust Act was proclaimed by the Tasmanian government.
National Trust Tasmania operates 10 sites including Franklin House, Clarendon homestead at Nile, the Old Umbrella Shop, Oak Lodge, Runnymede, the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site, Penghana and Mount Lyell mine offices.
Mr Smithies said it was his responsibility to oversee all aspects of the operation and future development of the National Trust.
‘‘I’m also a people trafficker – I see my role as actually pulling together the right people to create dynamic, interesting, innovative teams – that’s 80 per cent of my role,’’ he said.
‘‘And making sure that all fits within the strategic plan of the National Trust.’’
Mr Smithies said heritage had a key role to play in the state government’s target of attracting 1.5 million annual visitors by 2020 and beyond.
Tourism Tasmania research showed that heritage was a main driver and reason why people came to the state.
National Trust Tasmania last week presented to the Legislative Council Government Administration Committee ‘B’ Sub-Committee Built Heritage Tourism in Tasmania Inquiry.
‘‘Has heritage always got the attention that I think it should have got? I think you could only answer that as no, it hasn’t,’’ he said.
‘‘We have in the past and still do to a certain extent pay attention to food and wine – that is one area of what Tasmania has to offer.
‘‘Every year I try and get out of Tasmania to broaden my horizons and see heritage management somewhere else in the world.
‘‘I think the National Trust in Tassie can set some fantastic new benchmarks and develop some new and interesting heritage management capabilities, which is really exciting.’’